When I heard I would be spending a weekend in the Belgrade Lakes I reached out to my old friend, river guide Taylor Steeves. Taylor has always had a passion for the Maine outdoors and a great sense of adventure, and I couldn’t think of a better person to help me chase down the best of this rustic region.
3:00 p.m. @ The Village Inn & Tavern
As we drive up Route 27 along the causeway that splits Great Pond from Long Pond, we make several stops to admire the waterfront camps and homes. We’re greeted at the Village Inn by our hosts, Kate Beales and Heather Pena. On a tour, we learn that Beales and Pena have worked tirelessly over the past two years restoring the inn, which was built in 1921. Newly installed wooden floors and furnishings give it the feel of a Maine fishing lodge with a newfound elegance.
4:00 p.m. @ Lakepoint Real Estate
Walking down Main Street, we come to a bridge where the ponds are linked by a dam and Great Pond spills into Long. Two fly fishermen cast lines into the water. We stop into the log cabin office of Lakepoint Real Estate and say hello to Carol Homer and Brent Krizo. The space seems less of an office and more like a cozy lodge. I learn that many realtors at Lakepoint have lived in the region their entire lives.
5:00 p.m. @ Day’s Store
If this small village has a hub, it’s without question Day’s Store. Owners Kerry and Diane Oliver have been serving the community for decades. As we walk in, we find them busy checking out customers and preparing sandwiches for locals and visitors alike. Day’s sells everything from fresh produce to gifts and fishing gear. Kerry spies us eyeing the fishing tackle and directs us to a map of Great Pond, where he points out his favorite fishing spots. We leave with bottles of craft Maine beer and a few lucky lures.
6:30 p.m. @ The Village Inn & Tavern
After freshening up we head down to the restaurant, excited for dinner. Appetizers come first: a plate of crispy zucchini fritti served with a smoky marinara, then a savory lobster dip and toasted bread. For entrees, we order the rack of lamb and a Village Inn classic, the 12-hour roast duck. Beales stops by with chocolate pots de creme and two glasses of 20-year-old tawny port, a divine finish to this incredible meal. Beales explains that she has been coming to the inn her entire life. “When I think about summer, I’m reminded
of playing cards and flashlight tag with a slew of cousins, and dressing up to take the family boat over to the Village Inn for dinner,” she explains. “When we bought it we wanted to keep the history and the old bones intact, but imbue it with a contemporary camp style.”
7:00 a.m. @ Day’s Store
We make a quick stop at the store for bait, beverages, and Italian sandwiches. Diane throws in some of her homemade whoopie pies, and she and Kerry wish us luck on the water.
8:00 a.m. @ Great Pond Marina
We meet up with Bill Redlevske, owner of the Belgrade Boat Shop, who has a friendly demeanor and a black lab named Hinckley who allows Taylor to pet him. Redlevske’s family history goes back several generations in Belgrade. His great-grandfather was a boat builder, his family previously owned Great Pond Marina, and this is his seventh season in business as owner of the shop. Redlevske provides us with a Scout Dorado motorboat for the weekend. He gives us a few tips for navigating the water and we’re on our way.
8:30 a.m. @ Great Pond
We cruise among the islands and enjoy the sunshine. Loons dive on either side of us, and families of osprey soar above our heads. We speed across the water before settling into a cove with the right habitat for fish and cut the motor. For the next several hours we make a methodical loop around the cove, casting from the bow and stern. We pull out several small mouth bass and white and yellow perch, and I even manage to haul in a northern pike.
1:00 p.m. @ Sadie’s Boathouse Restaurant
We tie up at the boathouse dock. A pair of golden retrievers is splashing in the water, and one of them turns out to be Sadie herself, the restaurant’s namesake. We walk inside and meet owner Sharon Horne, who is prepping the restaurant for the coming season.
3:00 p.m. @ Mount Phillip
We tie up the boat at the dock of the Village Inn and hop into the car. We find the trailhead for Mount Phillip in the neighboring town of Rome, and begin our ascent. Although rocky in some areas, the trail is well maintained and not overly difficult. The silence of the woods and subtle breeze make for a tranquil afternoon as sunbeams filter down through the trees. Once at the top we are afforded an excellent view of Great Pond from above.
6:00 p.m. @ 168 Main Wood-Fired Pizza & Bakery
Across from the inn is a gorgeous white colonial house and timber-frame barn overlooking Long Pond. We make our way over and introduce ourselves to Sam Wells, owner of 168 Main. While the restaurant is not officially open for the season, Wells is happy to show us his beautiful wood- fueled oven, which is fired up already and cooking a zucchini and fennel pie. He offers us some—it’s fresh, delicious, and exactly what we need to refuel after the hike. Everything at 168 Main, from the milled grains to the Adirondack furniture, is created locally. He explains that Irwin Arthur Bean, whose brother Leon Leanwood was better known as L.L., previously owned the house that his restaurant now occupies.
8:00 p.m. @ Wings Hill Inn
The soft yellow glow of lamplight leads us down a stone pathway to the entrance, where we meet chef Christopher Anderson. Our waitress, Sally, explains tonight’s multi-course tasting menu and we can’t resist. Each dish is masterfully prepared. After a myriad of fresh and savory courses, Anderson comes out to deliver our entrée, filet mignon accompanied by fresh fiddleheads and bacon.
9:00 a.m. @ The Olde Post Office Cafe
After a good night’s sleep, we drive to Mount Vernon and arrive at the Olde Post Office Cafe, situated on the edge of Lake Minnehonk. Sarah Chaisson tells us this is her fifth year as owner at the cafe. We choose a mug from the rack and help ourselves to some Maine-roasted coffee. We order fiddlehead omelets to enjoy beneath the natural wood ceiling beams of this historic spot.
10:00 a.m. @ Hello, Good Pie Co. Bakery
Upon returning to Belgrade we refuse to overlook Hello, Good Pie Co. Bakery, which is touted for savory biscuits, baguettes, scones, muffins, and pastries. Owner Shari Hamilton has been baking in central Maine her whole life, and loyal customers have followed her to several locations and businesses around the state. After one bite, we can understand why.
11:30 a.m. @ The Village Inn & Tavern
We stop at the front desk to leave our keys and say goodbye to Beales and Pena, who are getting ready for the day. We leave with full hearts and new friends. The beauty of the setting and hospitality of the residents make the Belgrade Lakes a place I will return to very soon.