48 Hours on Pemaquid Peninsula
Rich with history, serene coastlines, and dreamy small towns, the Pemaquid peninsula is a quiet coastal escape in the midcoast
Coastal cruising, shoreside sunset, and dining like the locals
After a winding, peaceful drive through coastal towns, we arrive at The Chamberlain House in Round Pond, a village of Bristol. This recently renovated 1700s farmhouse-turned-bed-and-breakfast is rich with history, charm, and modern comforts. My colleague Emma Simard and I are greeted by Shari Cunningham, the innkeeper, along with the scent of baking cookies from the kitchen.
Our room is full of character, with hardwood floors, vintage furnishings, a comfy bed that I could cartwheel across, and a view of the garden and sprawling yard. The bathroom has a new tiled shower, clawfoot tub, and rustic wood sliding door.
We take advantage of the remaining daylight with a drive down scenic Route 32. The coastal route weaves past houses and inns perched on the water’s edge. Our first stop is at the Rachel Carson Salt Pond Preserve, where we walk past the tide pools and across the pebble beach. We hop back in the car for a quick drive to Pemaquid Point Light to take in the impressive and iconic vista. Next we continue on to Pemaquid Beach to watch the sunset. The beach, with fine white sand and clear water, is nearly empty. We chase seagulls and relax before heading to Newcastle for dinner.
Once seated in the dining room of Newcastle Publick House, we order ourselves a feast: a salad of fresh greens and house-made blue cheese dressing followed by oozy lobster mac and cheese with generous bites of lobster and accented by smoky bits of bacon. My favorite is a baked haddock special with panko bread crumbs, garlicky mashed potatoes, and broccolini.
Breakfast and storm watching
It’s a rainy morning, so we start the day with breakfast at the Chamberlain House. There’s hot coffee and a selection of juices to drink, alongside fresh seasonal fruit, homemade blueberry muffins, and baked eggs with ham, pesto, and cherry tomatoes. Everything is light, fresh, and delicious.
We’ve been told by locals that watching storms at Pemaquid Point Light is a must when the weather is foul. We climb the rocks and watch the rough surf batter the shore; it’s an immensely different scene from last evening. We also visit The Fishermen’s Museum at the base of the lighthouse. It’s filled with fascinating historical documents, photos, and nautical collections.
Small-town shops and snacks
We head over to shop the eclectic collection at The Good Supply, a barn storefront with products and art from local makers and artists, where we meet owner Catherine McLetchie. We’re particularly interested in her selection of decorative and functional ceramics. Emma buys a handleless mug from craftsman Jonathan Mess.
Next, we pop into The Cupboard Cafe in New Harbor for a quick snack of haddock chowder. While we wait for our soup we watch the staff restocking trays of massive sticky buns and cinnamon rolls. Post-snack, we drive a few minutes down the road to Fort William Henry. The fort’s history dates back to the late 1600s, when it was the largest fort in New England. It was destroyed four years after it was built and then reconstructed in 1908. We explore the grounds and take in views of Pemaquid Harbor from the top of the fort.
Ready for another bite to eat, we head to Que Rico in downtown Damariscotta. We order from the counter at the busy Mexican restaurant and grab a corner table. Our tacos—carnitas for me and chicken for Emma—are juicy, flavorful, and packed with meat. Our churros come out piping hot, coated in cinnamon sugar and drizzled with warm chocolate.
We cross the road for a stop in to the original Renys. We weave through narrow aisles crowded with shoppers before I buy a classic Carhartt beanie, and Emma lucks out with a pair of high-waisted corduroy pants. Before heading back to the Chamberlain House to rest, we drive to South Bristol. We stop at a picturesque private beach roadside at Christmas Cove on our way to Coveside Restaurant and Marina. After enjoying the view from the beach, we continue on to the waterfront for a Dark and Stormy cocktail.
Fine dining in Damariscotta
We arrive at River House, a small farm-to-table restaurant that opened this past summer on the water’s edge in downtown Damariscotta. It’s full of low light, exposed beams, and the buzz of diners conversing.
The menu is small and sourced from the surrounding region. We each order a glass of Grüner Veltliner and two appetizers: smoked bluefish with ployes, crème fraîche, caviar, and fresh dill, and blistered shishito peppers with sea salt and apple cider vinegar. We split an entree of roast chicken with jus and mushrooms and two sides: crispy smashed potatoes and corn with lime ricotta. We follow dinner with hot apple crisp and a scoop of maple-bourbon ice cream. Everything is superb—beautifully presented, expertly prepared, and so, so delicious.
Country store breakfast
After saying goodbye to our hosts, we head to S. Fernald’s Country Store in Damariscotta for breakfast. Fernald’s is a charming old-timey store, packed with old-fashioned candies and novelties. We share the Eggs Bigelow, two eggs in a hole with sourdough, bacon, and cheddar, and the Red Flannel Hash, an herby breakfast hash with perfectly runny eggs and buttery toast.
Antiquing across the peninsula
Our next stop is Nobleboro Antique Exchange , a goldmine of vintage furniture, jewelry, clothing, books, and decor sourced from dozens of vendors. We make a couple of loops to be sure we didn’t miss anything and head to Granite Hall Store, which is located in Round Pond’s town center. It has many charming Maine-themed gifts, along with toys, kitchenware, candy, and home goods. When we finish testing out kitchen timers, swooning over baby onesies, and smelling every candle we can find, we cross the street to The Art of Antiquing, which is lavish and packed with vintage art, furniture, and various antiquities. Downstairs we drool over a dreamy French Louis XVI–period sofa, marble-top nightstands, and a case of stunning British jewelry. Upstairs we’re tempted by more treasures: a twentieth-century crocodile handbag, a pristine tortoiseshell and sterling silver card case, and an emerald green bone and feather fan.
Ready for a shopping break, we stroll down Town Landing Road to rest and take in the views of the village. It’s a sunny day, and there’s a lot of activity on the two piers that stretch out over the dark water. Fishermen are offloading buckets overflowing with their catch, tourists snap photos, and locals are preparing their boats for cruising and fishing trips. It’s the perfect scene to bring our weekend on the Pemaquid peninsula to a close.