Lovell in 48 Hours
Located next to the clear waters and dramatic Alpine vistas of Kezar Lake, Lovell is a place where Western Maine rusticity meets bygone-era glamor, making it a nostalgic spot for a weekend getaway.
Canoes and loon calls
Start your weekend by acknowledging that you may have overlooked Lovell on the map. That’s part of the charm—once you’ve been to the town, its rusticator-chic resorts and the lake it hugs, called Kezar, you get the feeling it was you who discovered it. Largely invisible from the main roads, there’s a cloistered feeling to Lovell, as if the storied camp scene has been carefully shielded by a pine-tree curtain. It’s a special place, as its residents are quick to say. But before you hit the road, do yourself a favor and download a map. Cell service is essentially nonexistent.
Book yourself a canoe at the Kezar Lake Marina and begin exploring by water. Day and week rentals are available and come with life vests and oars, though a dry bag for sunscreen and snacks is recommended. Push off from the marina and hang a right; paddle beneath West Lovell Road, through the narrows, and drift alongside lilies. Power on to Lower Bay, where you’ll coast to stunning views of Mt. Washington. Or hang a left out of the marina and paddle up-lake, where you’ll pass the private beaches of Middle Bay that belong to a handful of resorts, giving you an idea of the sheer scope of Kezar’s nine miles. The town of Lovell has four distinct sections: Lovell Village, Center Lovell, North Lovell, and West Lovell, all of which flank the lake. (“Don’t know what happened to East Lovell, or South Lovell…” the town’s website states.) Find a public beach to pull up on and take a dip. Make sure to stare down at your toes, visible through the pristine waters.
No doubt you’ll be hungry by now. Thankfully, the marina is home to The Loon’s Nest restaurant, where you can taste the famous Blobbster (think lobster bisque rolled in balls and fried—eerily good). Sit at a picnic table overlooking the marina on one of two decks, upper and lower, and eavesdrop. Many guests are welcomed by name.
After lunch, zip back down Main Street to the Charlotte Hobbs Library. Opened in 1908, the library is one of several gateways to the town’s archives, which are plentiful (another is the Lovell Historical Society). If you’re a history buff: ask about the Abenaki Chief Paugus and the Battle of the Pequawket. The conflict is also known as Lovewell’s War, from which the town gets its name (Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum in Warner, New Hampshire, houses some Abenaki artifacts found in and around Kezar Lake). You might also inquire about Lovell’s famous residents over the years, including Stephen King and family; crooner and teen idol, Rudy Vallée; and Marsden Hartley, the self-proclaimed “Painter of Maine” who, according to the Lovell Historical Society, once wrote of the place: “I know of no handsomer scene than when the leaves have fallen and purple October has covered the land like a long stream of smoke.”
Pull back onto Main Street and cruise through the towering trees until you get to Center Lovell Market, where you can pick up provisions for tomorrow’s hike and picnic, or go straight to the Firefly Gallery Art and Vintage, a sharp showroom of antiques and curios tidily presented against white shiplap.
Time to check into The Lodge at Pleasant Point. Originally opened in 1911, the lodge was given a tasteful update just a few years ago and is now the ideal axis for your Lovell experience. Tucked between tall pines facing the lake you’ll find a private beach, complimentary canoes and kayaks for guests, a wraparound porch and screened-in pagoda perfect for late-night games of cards, and stunning sunset views. When you check in, inquire about dinner reservations. The lodge serves dinner Tuesday through Saturday and does one seating a night, which makes the experience intimate and unrushed (and highly coveted).
Afternoon sunlight bathes the dining room of the restaurant at the Lodge at Pleasant Point, where, come sunset, the view looking out is a pink-tinted lake.
When the bar opens at 4:00 p.m., order a martini and lean into an Adirondack chair on the porch. Listen to chatter drifting across the water and the sound of kids shrieking with laughter as they dive off the docks. You might hear the performers at the Quisisana Resort next door, known for its world-class shows (opera! musical theater!) singing for guests on the lawn (and sadly, for guests only).
Find your table at the lodge restaurant and watch the room fill up as the sun gently sets behind the trees. Start your meal with an appetizer like kataifi shrimp, tightly wrapped in string filo and topped with a salty-sweet sauce, sesame seeds, and colorful vegetable garnish, followed by the ranch steak or blackened salmon, both of which come with a rain-bow of fresh garnishes and a dollop of sauce. Order with the dinner rolls in mind, because they’re soft and savory yet underscored by a subtle sweetness, which means they are perfect for ruining your appetite. No matter what you get, it’ll be good. The food here rivals any of Portland’s highbrow contemporaries.
Before bed, take an evening stroll on the beach and bask in a winsome concert of loon calls.
Seasonal goodies and mountain vistas
After a morning swim in the lake, seek out Craft Artisan Baking, a “one person micro-bakery” on Main Street where the French-style pastries are sold right off the baker’s stately porch. They sell out quick, so don’t dawdle. Next, head to Fly Away Farm’s stand, located in the Jordan Construction building, where you can pick up local goods grown and raised by solar power, including meat, vegetables, flowers, and breads. Tip: check social media before banking on either the bakery or farm stand, which are subject to weather and seasonality.
Time to shop. A mile up the road is stop one: the Harvest Gold Gallery. Opened in 1985, the award-winning collection showcases fine gold works by owners Bill Rudd and Lynda Rasco alongside a parade of local artisans’ wares: paintings, textiles, woodworks, and more. On Saturdays the gallery often hosts a painter working en plein air. On the weekend we visit it is abstract landscape painter Rebecca Klementovich working in the garden beneath the arching boughs of a tree, facing a manicured lawn that falls away dramatically before a post-card-perfect panorama of the lake.
Next, head over to the Thrift Shop for some bargain-hunting. Enter through a side door of the Lovell United Church of Christ and follow the Christmas lights downstairs to a trove of obsolete media (CDs and VHS galore) along-side kitchen wares, clothes, and books. You never know what you might stumble across—for example, a terrier-sized doggy life jacket.
Ready for a real outdoor adventure? Lace up your hiking boots, grab sandwiches and water, and head to the Sabattus Mountain Trail. The 1.4 mile loop is short enough for most of the family to manage (and pets are allowed), yet seemingly too short for the tremendous payoff at the summit, where overlooks show Kezar Lake, the rippling hills and valleys of Western Maine, and New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Tip: This is a major leaf-peeping vantage in the fall.
If you’ve planned well, you’ll have booked a romantic dinner at the Center Lovell Inn. If not, get yourself back to the lodge by sunset so you can catch golden hour on the porch, preferably with a cocktail.
Diners and designers
Time for eggs and potatoes (or avocado toast, if that’s your style) at The Common Loon, a.k.a. Rosie’s. A community nexus, this restaurant-slash-mercantile was long owned by Rose, but, as the menu now states, in rhyme, “Rose got tired and she chose to take a break / Now she cruises in her Mustang, around that Kezar Lake.” The new ownership left things seemingly unchanged, at least aesthetically. Eat breakfast soda-fountain style at a counter stacked with local periodicals and cake stands full of donuts and whoopie pies. Order a cheddar and spinach omelet with a cup of coffee.
Though you can’t see it from here, just up the road, past the lodge and a string of historic camps such as the Severance Club and Mudjekeewis, is the Hewnoaks artist residency, a stunning campus-like collection of cottages that could have been plucked from the Swiss Alps. Founded by artists Marion and Douglas Volk, Hewnoaks was initially intended for the Volks’ friends to visit, create, and retreat, in 1901—peak Hudson River School era. Though it was a tourist camp from the 50s to mid-2000s, it’s now in its tenth year as a bonafide artist residency under the umbrella of the University of Maine Foundation. As summer manager and artist Pamela Moulton put it, it is one of the quirkier communities in Lovell. If you’re lucky, Hewnoaks might be hosting a weekend event on its grounds, like the recent Wild Light Festival, “an afternoon of family-friendly performances, pop-up exhibitions, music, nature, and community.”
The garden at the Harvest Gold Gallery, with its art installations and manicured lawn set to a beautiful vista, is as worth a visit as the fine works inside.
A guest cabin at Hewnoaks Artist Residency could pass for a European alpine lodge.
If you’ve got the golf bug, book yourself a tee time, as Lake Kezar Country Club is open to the public. Whether you’re a golfer or not, be sure to stop at Ebenezer’s Beer Pub and Restaurant just off the far end of the green, said to be one of the greatest collections of beer in the world and owned by beer-scene MVP, Chris Lively. Park in the shaded lot next to the fairytale-esque sign depicting the arched figure of, presumably, Ebenezer—Kezar lake is named for one George Ebenezer Kezar, believed to have been the first European settler in Lovell; legend has it he killed a bear with a knife in a hand-brawl. The restaurant is a marvel of olde European splendor, with heavy dark wood beams and painted beer adverts. On offer are German and Belgian-style beers like De Dolle Oerbier, and lambics such as Boon Gueuze, as well as recognizable blond ales such as Bissel Brothers’ Baby Genius. The frites are fantastic.
On your way out of town, take a detour through nearby Sweden and stop in at Pietree Orchard, owned by locals Tabitha and Stephen King. Depending on the season, you can pick your own apples or berries for the road.
Ebenezer’s famous beer pub sits at the edge of Lake Kezar
Country Club so you can relax with a pint and some frites after tee time.
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