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While it’s fun to visit Maine by car, locals will tell you that the best way to see the state is by water. As someone who lives on a small island with water views from every window, I have to agree. And when I’m not on the island I’m often either on our own small boat, a canoe, or lecturing on a cruise ship traveling up and down the coast. One of these coastal Maine trips might be just right for you, whether you choose one of the mega-cruise ships or a smaller, more intimate one. Both have their advantages. Large ships have something going on 24/7, while smaller ones have the advantage of being able to dock in smaller ports and exploring venues that the big ships can’t get to. Whichever you choose, a Maine coastal trip is a great way to wind up the summer or early fall season.
Midcoast Maine is especially popular right now, with ships docking at, or mooring just outside of, beautiful towns like Camden and Rockland, famous for their handsome downtowns and windjammer fleets; funky Belfast with its art galleries and unusual stores; Castine, tiny in size and huge in history; and Boothbay Harbor with its attractive stores and shops and nearby Botanical Gardens. Some cruise ships bracket these stops with visits to larger towns and cities, such as Bar Harbor and Portland, giving passengers a good overview of the Maine coast.
The weather has been especially beautiful this summer and our fall season is always lovely. Much as I enjoy looking at the water from my island home, being out on it is even better. Hope to see you along the way!
My apologies for the delayed post, but it has been a happily hectic summer with lots of company, time in, on, and around the water, and plenty of fresh Maine lobster and Maine wild blueberries.
Visiting the quaint village of Castine is always a pleasure. It’s a tiny town of about 1300 people and home to the prestigious Maine Maritime Academy, a 4-year college that prepares students for careers in the merchant marine and other maritime careers. If you visit Castine, you’ll no doubt see the cadets walking around town in their uniforms.
The town itself was originally home to the Tarentine Abenaki Native Americans, now known as the Penobscot Nation. One of the earliest white explorers in the area was Samuel de Champlain in 1612. At various times over the ensuing centuries, the flags of France, Great Britain, Holland, and the US flew over Castine as they fought for control. When you visit, watch for the plaques along the sidewalks that tell Castine’s interesting story.
Today many people visit to view the lovely Federal and Greek Revival Homes and the stately American elms that shade the streets. On your way to Dice Head Light (you can walk around it, but not enter it) be sure to stop in at the little Wilson Museum, packed full of local artifacts. Castine is also home to the oldest US Post Office (built in 1814) in continuous use. It’s a handsome building, well worth a stop.
Back here on my small Maine island, life has settled down momentarily before the next wave of visitors. We’ve had some hot and muggy days, but with memories of last winter still in everyone’s mind, I haven’t heard a single word of complaint. We’ll enjoy every minute of summer in Maine, and wherever you travel here, I’m sure you will, too.
I’ve just returned from a long sail along the Maine coast and thought I’d share a few suggestions for those of you planning your own visit here. Acadia National Park, established in 1916, is on the bucket list for most Maine visitors, and with good reason. Its more than 49,000 acres are home to a wide variety of animals, birds and butterflies, and at least 160 varieties of plants.
Hikers will enjoy 1,528-ft. Cadillac Mountain and the panoramic views from the top (go on a clear day if you can). You can also take guided walks or carriage rides through the park, bike on many of the trails, or go kayaking or birdwatching among many other activities.
The park is located on Mount Desert (pronounced “Dessert”) Island, which also boasts the busy tourist destination of Bar Harbor. Here you’ll find shops selling everything from funky t-shirts to high-end jewelry and just about anything in between. Watch for unusual gifts like chocolate-covered blueberries, blueberry wine, Native American-made items, or tourmaline jewelry made from the official gemstone of Maine. Future college students may want to check out College of the Atlantic, a small liberal arts college. And no-one should miss the handsome Abbe Museum with its extensive collection of Native American artifacts. Walkers will enjoy the Shore Path that winds between several Bar Harbor mansions and the ocean. The glacial erratic (large boulder left by a receding glacier) shown in the photograph here is just one of the many interesting sights along the rocky shoreline.
So much to do, so little time! This barely scratches the surface of all there is to see and do in the area. I return year after year, always finding something new, and will be back again in the fall when I find the park to be especially beautiful.
In my next post I’ll take you to the quaint little village of Castine. But for now I’m content to be back on my little island, coaxing much-delayed flowers into bloom at last, and looking forward to the official start of summer.
August and July are, to my mind, Maine’s most beautiful months. Everything is lush and green, the ocean is cerulean, white clouds skitter across the sky, and outside, little summer creatures buzz and chatter all day long. Butterflies and hummingbirds visit my window boxes every day and it’s impossible not to slow down and take in the show. Maybe that’s what I like most about summer in Maine…it’s all so gorgeous that it’s impossible not to slow down, take it all in, and unwind.
I just returned from a long sail along the coast of Maine from Portland to Bar Harbor with lots of stops at small villages in between, among them, Boothbay Harbor, Bucksport, Castine, Rockland, Rockport, and Belfast. Each place has its own charm, so it would be impossible to pick a favorite.
All too soon summer people here on the island will be packing up for the trip back to wherever they spend the rest of their lives and the island will turn back into a quiet village of 100 souls who will start preparing for the fall holidays and then for a long winter ahead. But there’s time to think of that later. Right now it’s time to finish up the day’s work in my office, do a little weeding in the garden, pack a picnic, and head for the beach for a late-day swim.
Enjoy the fleeting days of summer, and if you have a favorite Maine vacation spot, please let me know and we can share it with other readers.
Maine by land is wonderful, but as many devoted sailors will attest, seeing it by water is truly something special. I’ve just returned from a lengthy trip along the coast from Portland to Bar Harbor, with stops at several small villages along the way. From bustling Boothbay Harbor, to tiny, historic Castine, each town has its unique characteristics.
It’s hard to choose a favorite port. Rockland, the lobster capital of the world and home to the incredible Farnsworth Museum, a great lighthouse museum, and a charming little museum devoted to puffins? Camden with its lovely park swooping down to the sea? Funky, artsy little Belfast where you can find Maine-made items you’ll be proud to have in your home? Who can decide? You’ll just have to sail the coast yourself. Whether you choose to sail aboard mone of the mega cruise ships that arrive regularly in Portland, a small ship that can slip into our most obscure ports, or arrive aboard your own sailboat, the coast of Maine will not disappoint.