Rockland, Thomaston, Port Clyde + Tenants Harbor
Photographs + stories by Maine magazine staff:
Mali Welch, Art Director, The Brand Company
Mali Welch, Art Director at The Brand Company
I’m cruising Route One North in a truck with my new husband Derek, and we’re Midcoast-bound. Just before downtown Thomaston, I spot a familiar empty field. I can almost see the ghost of the Maine State Prison that once stood there. A while after they took it down, someone posted a big blank board on the edge of it that said something to the effect of, “What are your ideas for this land? Write them here.” Only in Maine.
5:00 p.m. @ Billy’s Tavern
Just behind the main drag in Thomaston, a simple blue building stands alone on the tar. Yellow porch light shines on a placard that reads “oyster bar.” Our friends Jason and Le Anna pull up and we duck in for a pop.
6:00 p.m. @ Trackside Station
We pull into Rockland for dinner at a train station that’s been refashioned into a pub. The crowd is lively, and we decide to eat family-style and share a bunch of appetizers. Outside, the Maine Eastern Railroad train sits for the winter at the end of its route, where customers can admire the silver passenger cars that carry visitors back and forth between here and Brunswick in warmer months. One of the car doors is ajar, and Le Anna and I sneak on for a better look at the vintage seats and chrome details.
8:00 p.m. @ Fog Bar and Cafe
I love the Fog sign, each letter is a row of lights that mirrors Robert Indiana’s EAT sign on the roof of the Farnsworth, just a few doors down. Inside, Fog’s ambiance is equally cool. A silent movie is projected onto the back wall, and an adjacent wall is wallpapered in customer art from a recent “Drink and Draw” night (which happens every Sunday). We order desserts before calling it a night. The genius that came up with the whole salted-caramel thing should get a medal.
10:00 p.m. @ Sailors Valentine Beach House
We are warmly welcomed into this gorgeous house (a Linda Bean’s Perfect Maine property) by a fire ablaze in the hearth. As we explore the rooms, we are awed by the thoughtful details and well-crafted comforts. I admire the impeccable woodworking, pianos, grandfather clocks, a Viking range, Wyeth prints, and I count at least twenty windows on the ocean-facing side. I feel as though I’ve stepped into an L.L.Bean catalog. We easily fall asleep on puffy down pillows to the sound of the tide rippling to and fro.
Port Clyde General Store
7:00 a.m. @ Port Clyde General Store
We get up early, as Mainers do. The drive to Port Clyde is worth it for many reasons, but blueberry pancakes are my mission today. This general store is great, stocked with home and boat provisions, complete with a breakfast and lunch counter. Ronnie cooks us their famous home-style cakes, which are delicious and have the thickest golden crust I have ever seen. Our friend Naomi, who manages the neighboring Seaside Inn, pops in to say hi.
8:30 a.m. @ Ridge Church and Port Clyde waterfront
We take a scenic drive past the beautiful Ridge Church, and along a dirt road that winds between bait shacks, piles of worn pot warp, and weather-beaten shingled structures that remind me of Wyeth paintings.
9:00 a.m. @ Tenants Harbor General Store
Living in Portland, I tend to forget that places like this still exist. Similar to the Port Clyde General Store, they each have a central seating area where people stop to pause–to slug a coffee or shoot the breeze. They have the patina of neighbors, family, and friends. They have what you need, and will get it if they don’t. We get the local scoop from Bill and Langdon on what to do this evening.
10:00 a.m. @ Chambers Jewelers
Walking the strip in Thomaston, we wander into this store, where we chat with Justin behind the counter for a good ten minutes before we figure out that I work with his sister, Ali. He tells us about Maine’s state stone, Tourmaline, and shows us some examples of its naturally occurring colors.
10:30 a.m. @ The Highlands Coffee House
I get a coffee from the barista, Ingrid. She is standing next to a full suit of armor when she takes my order. We run into our friend, Heidi who is having a meal with her family. From the looks of it, the food is nicely homemade. I also notice they have a selection of Maine beers on tap.
11:00 a.m. @ Ross Levett Antiques
We are greeted by a lovely girl named Freya and her father Ross, who show us around the gallery-like store which boasts an incredible collection of pieces, each carrying its own unique story. They even have a real Iroquois dugout canoe. The four of us talk for a long time about sailor’s valentines and grandfather clocks, and they show us a vase by Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei. This father-daughter team is soon headed to China together in search of more relics. It will be Freya’s first trip, and Ross’s 31st!
12:00 p.m. @ Fiore Olive Oils & Vinegars
We head into Rockland to visit Nancy at Fiore. I love this room lined with silver vats of olive oils and vinegars, all ready for tasting. I try a yummy toasted butternut squash oil, and a silky white truffle oil. Nancy lets us sample their new product, a balsamic jelly that her husband Pat recently brought back from Modena. We are honored to be the first to try this delicious spread. Before we leave, Nancy shares a secret cocktail recipe with us: The Fiore Peach Cocktail (one sugar cube, two teaspoons Fiore Summer Peach Balsamic, fill with Prosecco.) Don’t tell her I told you!
1:00 p.m. @ Distinctive Tile
Across the street we are enticed into Distinctive Tile where gleaming mosaics and geometric tiles line every surface. The girl working the floor, Jill, shows us her favorite natural stone tiles. We walk across a section of floor that looks like gorgeous hardwood but it is, in fact, tile.
1:30 p.m. @ Huston Tuttle
We walk through this great art supply store where I have stocked up on paints many times on the way out to the islands. The owner Patsy is there and she is just sweet as pie.
2:00 p.m. @ Dowling Walsh
Both Derek and I always enjoy this gallery. We find our favorite artists of the current display—Greta Van Campen, David Graeme Baker, and Colin Page, all masters of their own unique styles.
3:00 p.m. @ Rock Harbor Pub & Brewery
Our friend Dan invites us for a tour of the new micro-brewery he recently installed. It is great to hear that the brews are popular and flowing so fast that he has trouble keeping up with brewing. Dan’s wife Amy meets us with their adorable one-year-old Madeline. Congratulations to Dan on his two new babies—a brewery, and an actual baby!
4:30 p.m. @ Archer’s on the Pier
This is quite the location for a restaurant—built on the end of a pier surrounded by patio seating and a whole lot of ocean. We easily fall into conversation with the cool bartender, Jason who serves us crispy Thai wings and beers.
6:00 p.m. @ The Black Harpoon
Local pot buoys hang from the ceiling, marking territory in this Port Clyde pub. We see Langdon at the bar who introduces us around. The bartender, Erika buys us a drink, which is such a nice gesture. It’s obvious that people have a great time here—they even have their own signature punch called Harpoon-Tang (or something like that).
7:00 p.m. @ East Wind Inn’s Quarry Pub
Derek and I were married across the harbor last September and a lot of our family and friends stayed here and loved it. We are pleased to sit at the bar and make a few new friends; Randy, the owner, and Steve who knows my uncle, Nipper! There is a band playing in the corner, and the experience is great, both the food and the company.
Sailors Valentine Beach House
8:00 a.m. @ Sailors Valentine Beach House
I wake before Derek and take some time to walk the pier, beachcomb, and to soak in the ocean air. A few islands flank the view and I imagine summer’s saturation of color. I feel lucky for this weekend’s perspective on Maine, for its natural beauty, and for the wonderful people we always meet.
11:00 a.m. @ Miranda Cafe
Our friend Devon from Cellardoor Winery has set up a brunch date for us and I have been looking forward to it all weekend. We meet our friends inside the artsy-vintage-funky-cool Miranda Cafe in Rockland. The owner Kerry Altiero is there, and immediately I want to be his friend. He is funny and matter-of-fact, and tells me that the success of Miranda Cafe has everything to do with his awesome staff. The Bloody Marys are perfect, and my sandwich has a signature creativity that I am told is apparent in all the dishes here. We all stay for a good long time, and make plans to get together in the Midcoast again soon.