Belgrade Lakes

48 HOURS-October 2013
Photographs + stories by Maine magazine staff:
Emily McConnell


Emily McConnell
Assistant Publisher

1:00 p.m. @ Portland I load my luggage, grab a hot dog from a food truck in Portland, and hit the road. This drive feels like going home—because for me that’s exactly what it is. I spent my childhood in Belgrade Lakes, and can’t wait to return home to vacation. Gaining new perspective on the place where I grew up is something I’m determined not to take for granted.

2:00 p.m. @ Center for Maine Craft  I make a stop at the West Gardiner Service Plaza to refuel, and decide to check out the Center for Maine Craft. This is such a gem, tucked inside a high-traffic rest area. Hundreds of Maine craftsmen are represented and I find some familiar work, plus lots of new stuff to admire.

3:00 p.m. @ Colby College Museum of Art I decide to stop by Colby because I’ve heard they’ve renovated their museum and have recently acquired a world-class collection.

3:30 p.m. @ Buen Apetito This cozy Mexican restaurant is conveniently located in the same building as Railroad Square Cinema, Waterville’s three-screen independent movie theater. I check out the showtimes, then order a classic margarita and guacamole. Each table is already stocked with fresh tortilla chips and two housemade salsas. It takes all of my willpower not to eat the entirety of the Michoacan verde salsa by myself.

4:00 p.m. @ Oakland, Smithfield + Rome The winding back roads that take me from Waterville to Belgrade Lakes are full of memories. Fresh eggs for sale on the roadside, junk shops filled with rusting odds and ends, sandwich boards advertising public suppers at unreasonably early hours, are all reminders of why I love central Maine.

5:00 p.m. @ Wings Hill Inn and Restaurant As I open the door to Wings Hill, delicious cooking smells drift in from the kitchen. Chris Anderson, the innkeeper, comes right out to greet me and show me around. I’ve been here for dinner a few times since he and his wife, Tracey, bought the property in 2001, but the inn was also the home of a childhood friend—as Chris shows me around I have vague memories of doing arts and crafts in the parlor. The room he’s picked out for us comes with a private balcony area, and I admire his landscaping after I unpack.

5:30 p.m. @ Belgrade Lakes Golf Club My parents still live in my childhood home in Belgrade, so I call my dad to meet me for a cocktail at the golf course. The Belgrade Lakes Golf Club opened after I left for college, so I’ve never been up to the clubhouse. After winding my way up, I’m met with one of the most breathtaking views I’ve ever seen. Great Pond is spread out before us, and a warm summer evening makes sitting on the deck and sipping a gin and tonic nearly perfect. Dad briefs me on his day at Hammond Lumber—it’s good to hear that the building business is picking up across the state.

7:30 p.m. @ Wings Hill Inn and Restaurant  My boyfriend, Sergio, arrives after wrapping up his workday. In addition to being an excellent bed and breakfast, Wings Hill offers arguably the best dinner in the area. Set up in two sittings, six and eight o’clock, the menu is prix fixe with your choice of three or five courses. Chris’s culinary talents are evident from the first bite—the entire meal is balanced and scrumptious. My swordfish is a standout, paired with asparagus, risotto cakes, and a saffron cream sauce. After our fourth course, Sergio and I decide we can’t eat another bite, and Chris offers to store our desserts in the common area fridge for us to enjoy later. We roll ourselves to our room and fall asleep almost immediately. Saturday

8:30 a.m. @ Wings Hill Inn and Restaurant  Our breakfast is charming. Menus printed with personalized greetings and the day’s forecast accompany our fruit and omelets. Sergio and I fuel up with plenty of coffee and head out to enjoy a perfect summer day on the lake.

10:00 a.m. @ The Village  Our first stop is at Day’s Store, to load our cooler with ice and other supplies. The site of my first summer job, Day’s is the backbone of the village—they carry everything from bait worms to made-to-order fresh-dough pizza. In the gift shop, we select beach towels with Belgrade Lakes stitched on them. We meander over to the Maine Lakes Resource Center, one of the newest additions to the town. Offering public docks, guest lectures, and other community events, the MLRC is committed to bringing people in its doors to get them excited about lake conservation in Maine. Next door, we visit Maine Made and More, fully stocked with T-shirts, glassware, and other tchotchkes to remind you of your time in Belgrade Lakes.

10:30 a.m. @ Wrap N’ Roll  The final item we need to pick up before heading out for the day is a delicious lunch to top off our cooler. This roadside food truck will fit the bill perfectly. Sergio crafts a wrap from roast beef, goat cheese, and greens. I opt for the chicken salad with cheddar and cucumbers. It’s hard not to dive right in, but we’re excited for a picnic later on.

11:00 a.m. @ Great Pond Marina  I called ahead to reserve a pontoon boat (or pahty bahge, as the locals call it) for our day on the lake. Deborah Gardner at the front desk is extremely helpful—she gives me a refresher course on the meanings of the various buoys that are sprinkled throughout the lake, and suggests spots that might be more protected from the wind. Our crew loads up—Sergio and I are joined by my sister Clara and her husband Peter, and our childhood friend Leigh and her boyfriend JR.

11:30 a.m. somewhere near Joyce’s Island, Great Pond  This might be our favorite spot on the lake. We’re sheltered from the wind, and the sun is shining. We slather on the SPF, and prepare to spend the afternoon laughing, sharing stories, and having a beverage or two. This is why people come to Belgrade to vacation—it’s Maine at its best. We even spot a mailbox attached to someone’s dock, and I remember that in the summer the mail boat offers rides around the pond while they make deliveries. The afternoon passes too quickly, and as we head back to the marina we all promise to do this a few more times before the summer ends.

5:00 p.m. @ Wings Hill Inn and Restaurant  Sergio and I get back to the inn and realize our desserts from last night are still in the fridge. We enjoy the delicious treat, then catch a quick disco nap before dinner.

8:00 p.m. @ Village Inn  Village Inn, famous for its roast duck, has been around forever. The current owner, Charlie Grover, comes over to chat with us about the view and make some menu suggestions. I’m delighted with my veal picatta, and Sergio’s steak is perfectly cooked.

10:00 p.m. @ Sunset Grille  The Grille does not disappoint. The drinks are the perfect way to end our evening. I notice they have a trivia night, and wish it was on Saturday so I could show off my skills. Sunday

9:00 a.m. @ Wings Hill Inn and Restaurant  Sergio departs early to spend the day with his son, so it’s up to me to enjoy French toast and honeydew melon while chatting with Chris. He makes a couple of recommendations for my final day, and I pack up my car. I’m immensely grateful for his hospitality—he’s the kind of innkeeper who really likes his work, even through the leaner times, and that dedication shows.

10:00 a.m. @ Belgrade Lakes Farmers’ Market  Founded in 2005, the farmers’ market brings fresh local produce, cheese, bread, and even ice cream purveyors to the village every Sunday. I’m amazed by the tomatoes and purple kohlrabi in one stall, the pots of honey and fresh bundles of herbs in another, and the variety of breads and rolls in a third. I stop at the Stone Fox Farm and Creamery ice cream truck and choose two pints to bring home for Father’s Day.

11:00 a.m. @ Antique Interiors By Janet  My last stop is an antique shop that I’ve driven past a million times but never stopped at before. It’s the best kind of antique place—packed with too many things to see in one visit. I fall in love with the twin vintage washing machines that flank the entrance.

12:00 p.m. @ Buttermilk Hill  Although my work for the weekend is done, I can’t leave Belgrade without stopping to see my parents. We have a great family afternoon—croquet on the un-manicured lawn, and chicken on the barbeque. I remember how lucky I was to grow up in a place like this—and how lucky I am to be able to come back so often.

Share The Inspiration