Boothbay Harbor + Damariscotta (+Wiscasset too!)
48 HOURS-July 2013
Photographs + stories by Maine magazine staff:
Leanne Ouimet + Sophie Nelson
2:30 p.m. @ Red’s Eats
I have driven by Wiscasset’s Red’s Eats more times than I can count but I’ve never stopped for one of its famous lobster rolls until today, on my way to Boothbay Harbor. I am blown away by how much lobster is stuffed into a golden brown, buttery hot dog bun. My friend and coworker Sophie and I are told that last year Red’s went through ten tons of lobster in its six-month season. With beautiful views of Wiscasset’s downtown on one side, and the ocean on the other, and the pile of fresh lobster meat and crispy onion rings in front of me, I can’t believe what I have been missing all these years.
3:30 p.m. @ Sylvan Gallery
Too full for the famous blueberry pie at Sarah’s Cafe, we continue on to Sylvan Gallery, where owner Rick Scanlan greets us right when we walk in. This gallery boasts 18 New England artists. I am drawn to the work of Robert Noreika time and time again. One day, I’ll be back to purchase a piece of my own.
3:45 p.m. @ Rock Paper Scissors
I’m a sucker for all things letterpress, so I’m immediately attracted to Rock Paper Scissors, a staple of Wiscasset’s downtown for 13 years. With Mother’s Day around the corner, and birthdays, special occasions, and graduations coming up, I stock up on beautiful greeting cards and thank-you notes. I’ll have to remember this store on my many drives through town during the summer.
4: 00 p.m. @ Treats + In the Clover+ Trifles
Sophie and I stop in to Treats, a local bakery and specialty market, for a hot cup of coffee. At In the Clover, located just across the street, we peruse the lovely clothes, jewelry, and bath creams displayed around the store. It has a soothing atmosphere and Sophie and I come out smelling great! We stumble upon Trifles, a unique and fascinating antique shop open on its first day for the season and chat with store owner Helen for quite a while. As we continue down side streets, across train tracks, and through fields, it feels like we’re on a small island in Maine—Wiscasset has beautiful homes and views of the ocean with such a relaxed atmosphere and close-knit community.
5:00 p.m. @ Linekin Bay Resort
Linekin Bay Resort isn’t far from the center of Boothbay Harbor but the drive is just long enough to feel like you’re getting away from it all; I sit back and take a deep breath. General Manager Mark Osborn greets me as I pull in and brings me to my room—one of six in a rustic, waterfront house on the resort’s property. It’s happy hour and Mark has arranged for a small get-together at the resort’s snack shack; his friends and family have gathered here to share stories, drinks, and lots of laughs. It truly feels like summer camp, where strangers become best friends in a matter of minutes. I don’t want to leave but pull myself away for dinner plans.
7:30 p.m. @ Boat House Bistro
It’s opening night for the Boat House Bistro this season and the bar is packed. I grab a table for dinner and wait for Sophie and Max to arrive. Everyone at happy hour raves about the bistro’s hot and cold tapas, so I order the stuffed tomato, corn salad, and goat cheese to start and a grilled salmon sandwich for an entrée. Everything’s delicious.
9:00 a.m. @ Red Cup Coffeehouse
I am useless without my morning cup of coffee and drive straight to Red Cup in downtown Boothbay Harbor. This is my favorite local coffee shop where you can get all different kinds of lattes, espressos, mochas, or a regular cup of joe. I love the breakfast sandwiches here as well, but decide on an iced dirty chai to go.
9:30 a.m. @ East Boothbay General Store + Ocean Point
Linekin Bay’s bartender, Melissa, suggested I try the best breakfast pizza in town at this area staple. The breakfast pizza did not disappoint and neither did the scenic drive around Ocean Point. I park on the side of the road and enjoy my breakfast while looking through a rain-coated window at the rocky shoreline and rough seas.
10:00 a.m. @ Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens
I just got my very first houseplant this year and am struggling to keep it alive. With that said, it doesn’t matter if you’re like me or a master gardener—the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens is one of the most magical places I have ever visited. Before I know it, two hours have gone by and I’ve walked to the outer edge of the gardens. I linger in the Meditation Garden, with panoramic views of the ocean beyond.
12:30 p.m. @ Bridge Street Cafe + Linekin Bay Resort I park near the footbridge and get a sandwich to go at Bridge Street Cafe. I ask for anything featuring their homemade cranberry mayo and get the roasted turkey club on toasted wheat with a side of chips. One of my best friends, Liz, is on her way to meet me here in Boothbay so I drive back to the resort and take this time to read and enjoy the view (and my sandwich) from the front porch.
3:30 p.m. @ Downtown Boothbay Harbor
Liz has been promised an afternoon of shopping and Boothbay Harbor does not disappoint. We start at House of Logan, where I find the perfect pair of pearl earrings and the coziest navy sweater. Just across the street, Dennis Gleason gives us a tour of Gleason Fine Art, where Liz and I are both amazed by Tom Curry’s work Glow and his many depictions of Chatto Island off of Brooklin. Liz runs into Coastal Maine Popcorn on Townsend Road for a large bag of dill-flavored popcorn for her mom; we can’t believe how many different flavors we have to choose from. At A Silver Lining we try on sterling silver Maine Bracelets with lobster-claw clasps. We admire the Sea Bags in Sweet Bay, and then venture to the Mung Bean, one of my favorite stores, where everything has been handmade in the U.S. For years I have admired my friend Janet Splaine’s “gurgling fish” water pitcher and know I’ll find one at Casual Interiors.
5:30 p.m. @ Orne’s Candy Store
Liz wants to stop for something sweet, so we head across the street and are greeted by owner John Webster. His knowledge of the store’s sweets, fudge, and chocolate is rivaled only by his knowledge of old-timey music and musicians, which he precedes to quiz us on while we try to decide what to get. I’m so entertained by John and his stories that I forget why I came in the first place.
7:30 p.m. @ Watershed Tavern
Brand-new to Boothbay, the Watershed Tavern has been many years in the making, thanks to owners Win and Lori Mitchell who founded Boothbay Craft Brewery last summer. I love the aesthetic here: exposed beams, handcrafted bar chairs, and a huge fireplace in the center of the restaurant. Liz and I are told that 90 percent of what’s served here is made from scratch, and I’m not surprised, based on the juicy cheeseburger and delicious pizza Liz and I share.
10:00 p.m. @ Linekin Bay Resort
Liz and I had high hopes to hit the town and listen to some live music at Mine Oyster, but we are exhausted from so much eating, shopping, and exploring. Our wonderful day ends by sharing some stories and laughs around a roaring fireplace with our housemates for the evening, the Gentiles and the McKees, who are visiting from Massachusetts.
9:00 a.m. @ Linekin Bay Resort
Our housemates have beat us to the recreation hall, where the staff at Linekin Bay has made a fire and laid out a great spread of pancakes, eggs, fruit, and bacon. Today is Mother’s Day and it is a true family affair. Our table is full and so are our stomachs—a great morning indeed.
10:30 a.m. @ Porter Preserve
Despite the light rain, Liz and I really want to get outside and take advantage of the amazing hiking trails in the area. Mike suggests Porter Preserve for a quick and easy walk along the water with scenic vistas every few hundred feet.
12:00 p.m. @ Blue Moon Cafe
I make it to Blue Moon Cafe just as they’re moving out of breakfast service into lunch. This is one of the only brunch spots in town and I’m hungry after my morning walk through the woods. Sophie meets me and we chat about our weekend and our impressions of Boothbay Harbor, just waking up from a sleepy winter.
1:00 p.m. @ Down East Gallery
No trip to Boothbay is complete without visiting my friends Brad and Danielle Betts, local artist and design manager at Knickerbocker Group, respectively. Brad has just opened his own studio right in their backyard, filled with mostly new work. I’m fascinated by Brad’s palette, filled with colors, mixes, and globs of paint. It feels nice here, with the Betts family in particular and in Boothbay Harbor in general. This is a place where you can get away from it all and relax. I can’t wait to come back.
On the drive from Wiscasset to Boothbay we could have pulled over to take pictures a thousand times before we do, on the Atlantic Edge Lobster pier, overlooking the boat-filled harbor and the clapboard cluster of Boothbay Harbor village beyond it. The weather is confused: where it isn’t foggy a hot white light erases the patches of water and sky. A trio of fishermen tease me for taking pictures, ask for their cut of the profits. Leanne and I finagle an introduction to one man’s strawberry blonde retriever who is pacing the back seat of a pickup. We’re from Portland, we say when they ask. They nod, unimpressed, outlined in a big swath of Atlantic Ocean.
5:15 p.m. @ Spruce Point Inn Resort and Spa “Spruce Point is the best we can offer you,” a local will tell me later in the weekend (I quickly find the use of the collective “we” to be a common Boothbayism). The view from my luxury suite in the Seabreeze lodge settles that, but with great curiosity I wander around the resort—past the restaurant patios overlooking Linekin Bay, the townhouses, spa, and tennis courts. With the season on the cusp of summer, I can practically hear the crickets and the smack of tennis balls, practically smell the food on the grill at Bogie’s. Families take off on day-sail cruises from the inn’s dock and at night moms and dads relax in the hot tub at the ocean’s edge while their kids roast marshmallows by the bonfire. Seriously—this is storybook summer stuff.
8:00 p.m. @ Boat House Bistro + McSeagull’s Restaurant
After meeting Leanne for dinner on the second floor of the Boat House Bistro (I recommend ordering from the tapas menu! Delicious!), Max and I walk across the street to McSeagull’s. The bar is Friday-night full and someone sings sloppy karaoke in the corner of the dining room. I feel as if I’ve walked onto the set of a movie I’d really like to watch.
7:30 a.m. @ Spruce Point Inn Resort and Spa
I’m up for a jog around Spruce Point’s nature trails and make it back to the Seabreeze lodge just as the rain starts. After showering I pick up a blanket and my book and join Max on the covered porch. In a thoughtful mood that welcomes rain, I move my Adirondack chair close enough to the porch’s edge to feel the drops tap on my toes.
9:00 a.m. @ Mama D’s Cafe Mercantile
We walk into this breakfast and lunch spot and receive a warm welcome from every patron, as well as from the proprietors. Made extra cozy by lamplight and knickknacks, this is the perfect place to tuck in on a wet morning.
10:00 a.m. @ East Boothbay Post Office + Trevett Country Store
I can’t resist taking a drive out to Ocean Point, an area so many are quick to recommend. We drive to the peninsula’s end, stopping to drop off letters at the quaint East Boothbay Post Office along the way. Next we cut across Boothbay proper and head to Barters Island to see the famous hand-crank bridge. On the way we pull over to watch ospreys circle and settle into their nest atop a pier; we take pictures of the Trevett Country Store and a big old boat run aground in a shallow inlet. I could spend the whole weekend just tracing these peninsulas.
11:30 a.m. on River Road
I love woodsy roads almost as much as ocean views. River Road offers both: thick, moss-coated forest with flashes of farmhouse and blue ocean. We pass the renowned Glidden Point Oyster Sea Farm in Edgecomb, with the freshest Maine oysters, lobster, and steamers, and an area favorite, the Newcastle Publick House, before reaching downtown Damariscotta.
12:00 p.m. @ Rising Tide Community Market
Beyond the town center we find Rising Tide Coop—the kind of grocery store you feel healthier just walking through. In addition to local produce and meats they sell organic pantry items and body products. Max stocks up on dried nettle leaves—we’re fighting a multi-front war on his allergies.
12:15 p.m. in downtown Damariscotta
We join the crowd (that’s right: a crowd! In a small-town bookstore!) perusing the stacks at Maine Coast Book Shop before Max settles down in the adjacent cafe and I continue exploring. Main Street is full of shoppers with Renys bags and people ducking in and out of the many stores and restaurants. I admire the original handcrafted pottery at Sheepscot River Pottery and the adorable King Eider’s Pub before stopping by River Gallery Fine Art. I already knew I loved John Neville’s dramatic, saturated oil paintings but I also fall for just about everything else I see in the gallery, right down to the oriental rugs warming the wood floors. At Crissy’s Breakfast and Coffee Bar I am unable to pass up an almond croissant. It tastes as good as it looks, and I happily nibble on it while walking down a petal-coated sidewalk toward the Stable Gallery. The barn itself is beautiful from the outside in, with a backyard fit for fairies and box stalls faced with gorgeous black walnut. The art lining the walls—the work of a few dozen talented artists—is impressive and varied. Artist Priscilla McCandless is a kind host, turning me on to details I might not have noticed and answering my many questions about the works that move me most.
1:45 p.m. @ Oxbow Brewing Company
Some of my favorite Maine beer is brewed on an 18-acre parcel of land in Newcastle. Knowing we’d be in the area, my friend Bree invites Max and me to join her to celebrate the Sasuga bottle release, a rice beer Oxbow made for Portland chef Masa Miyake. Representatives from Miyake’s restaurant Pai Men Miyake are onsite grilling Miyake farm products yakitori style. With a glass of beer and a skewer of unbelievably tasty meat in hand, I join my friend Avery and Tim Adams, the co-founder and head brewer, on a tour that passes shiitake garden logs and pigs, following old logging trails to the brewery. In the brewery I sample Tim’s favorite Oxbow creation: the Barrel Aged Farmhouse Pale Ale. Oh my, is it good.
3:00 p.m. @ Damariscotta River Grill
Many a Facebook fan recommended this restaurant and I’m so glad they did. With the vintage Lincoln Theater in view, a very hungry Max and I enjoy fresh, imaginative sandwiches and salads that absolutely hit the spot.
4:00 p.m. @ River Arts On the way back to Boothbay we stop by River Arts on Route 1. Again, I’m so impressed with the range of works that exceed and defy expectation. In this case the art describes dreams, fantasy, and more reflective moods, but summertime visitors can expect art around a more grounded theme: Maine Icons and Special Places, II, runs from July 19 through August 22.
7:00 p.m. @ West Boothbay + The Thistle Inn
Max and I meet our friends Chris and Courtney at Chris’s parents’ peaceful place in West Boothbay for happy hour conversation before heading back to the village for dinner. The Thistle Inn is the perfect container for my contentedness. The ceilings are low and the dark wood booths welcoming. Thankfully, the stewards of this former captain’s house have kept its nineteenth-century character intact. The meal is also classic: fresh food, beautifully prepared.
9:00 p.m. @ Knot Gray’s Wharf
Not ready to say bye quite yet, we make our way to the water. The walls lining the entryway to Knot Gray’s Wharf are tattooed with mermaids and a chalkboard sign welcomes the classic rock band Sweatin’ Bullets. Although summer isn’t in full swing, the bar is fairly crowded, and we’re lucky to get a turn at the pool table.
9:00 a.m. @ Baker’s Way + The Congregational Church of Boothbay Harbor
We swing by one of Chris’s favorites for (giant!) croissants on the way to the white steepled church where his mother, Sarah Foulger, is the reverend. We find a church filled with people who so clearly care for one another.
12:00 p.m. @ Red Cup Coffeehouse + Blue Moon Cafe + Ebb Tide Restaurant
Max hunkers down at the Red Cup Coffeehouse while I join Leanne at the waterside Blue Moon Cafe for a perfectly spicy bloody mary and a cup of buttery clam chowder. At the almost comically quintessential diner, Ebb Tide, Max enjoys the freshest fish sticks either of us has ever had.
3:00 p.m. @ Balmy Day Cruises
The sky blues just as we’re boarding Novelty, the boat that shuttles passengers between the village and Squirrel Island as part of the Balmy Day Cruises operation. After a weekend of seeing so much ocean I’m grateful to finally be on it, cruising toward more of it. The captain names islands as we pass them: Harbor, Mouse, Burnt Island with its lighthouse. At Squirrel Island the boat fills with families. The weekend is over, and they’re heading back to the mainland and on toward Monday refreshed. Me too.