Insider Tips for Visiting Belfast
Belfast sits on the shores of the Passagassawakeag River where it meets the ocean in Belfast Bay, providing visitors with classic harbor views. Known for its funky vibe and walkable downtown, it’s a popular pit stop for travelers en route to Acadia National Park or the downeast region. We spoke with Kathleen Dunckel, co-owner of Marshall Wharf Brewing Company, to get her advice for how to best spend a day in the midcoast town.
To start your morning off, stop in at Downshift Coffee on Main Street where Dunckel recommends ordering a cappuccino and sitting next to the window to watch the world go by. If you’re an avid cyclist or looking to get into biking, be sure to check out CG Bikes, a bike shop at the back of Downshift that operates as a separate business. Whether you need a tune-up or just want to rent some wheels for the day, this is a one-stop shop to get you out on the roads and trails. Dunckel notes that visitors can bike along the waterfront paths if they want a more leisurely (albeit pedestrian-heavy) ride, or can challenge themselves by taking a spin on the newly built mountain bike trails close to downtown. If you prefer to keep both of your feet squarely on the ground, Dunckel recommends checking out the self-guided historic walking tours around town, managed by the Belfast Historical Society and Museum. Featuring a series of historic houses, churches, and commercial spaces, these tours are free to the public—visitors just need to pick up a map from the museum and walk the town at their own pace, finding an informative plaque at each destination. “It’s a great way to see the town and learn about the history,” says Dunckel. Another must on Dunckel’s list is to catch a ride on the Back and Forth—a traditional wooden lobster boat that offers various cruise options from Belfast Harbor—to Young’s Lobster Pound, where, if you BYOB, you can enjoy the state’s official sandwich with a tasty beverage while you take in the ocean views.
EAT YOUR HEART OUT
Consider yourself a foodie? You’re in luck: Belfast is known for its top-notch dining options. One of the most popular spots in town is Chase’s Daily (“Or, if you’re like me, Chase’s Twice Daily!” jokes Dunckel), a bakery, cafe, market, and art gallery that focuses on locally grown and sourced food, including produce brought in daily from a farm that is owned and operated by the Chase family. Dunckel also suggests tracking down The Moody Dog, a food truck/hot dog stand where you can order a gourmet hot dog, salads, and cupcakes among other delicacies whipped up fresh each day. If you’ve got little ones along for the ride who need some motivation to get moving, be sure to check out the Chocolate Drop Candy Shop and Wild Cow Creamery, two ice cream shops that have gotten the seal of approval from Dunckel’s children (who love the peppermint-flavored frozen treat in particular). If you’re in the mood for an adult beverage, look no further than Marshall Wharf Brewing Company, a community hub that briefly closed in 2019, only to be reopened a year and a half later by Dunckel and her husband, Dan Waldron, who wanted to carry on the business’s legacy in the Belfast community. With a friendly atmosphere, a waterfront beer garden, and over 30 beers on tap, here you’re sure to find a drink to fit the mood. If you’re looking for something with more of a pub atmosphere, check out Rollie’s Bar + Grill, where Dunckel and Waldron go when they want to watch a soccer or football game and catch up with friends from around town.
SLOW DOWN AND ENJOY
For visitors who like to move at a leisurely pace, wandering along Main Street never disappoints. Dunckel suggests checking out Brambles, a garden supply shop where you can find everything from seasonal seeds and plants to furniture to spruce up your outdoor spaces. Another of Dunckel’s favorites is Out on a Whimsey Toys, a toy store where adults and children alike can get lost for hours while letting their imaginations run wild. If you’re in town on a Friday between the hours of 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., the Belfast Farmers’ Market (located in Waterfall Arts on High Street April through October and in Aubuchon Greenhouse on Northport Avenue November through March) is always a treat, whether you have a shopping list or just want to browse. Dunckel notes that Maine-ly Poultry is one of her favorite vendors to visit, offering a selection of fresh chicken, chicken pies, and eggs that are hard to beat. If it’s raining or you’re in town for the evening, pay a visit to The Colonial Theatre, the town’s three-screen movie theater that has been operating as an entertainment venue for 110 years. In addition to its rotation of movies, the theater is occasionally used as a live music venue. Is it one of those warm summer evenings when you just want to lie on the grass and look at the sky? Dunckel suggests checking out Belfast Summer Nights, a series of live concerts from June through early September that take place out on the town green overlooking the harbor. The best part? They’re free and open to the public. Grab a blanket, pack a picnic dinner, and relax into an idyllic summer evening on the Maine coast.
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