August on a Small Maine Island

Botanical Gardens in Boothbay, Maine.  Photo (c) Karen Hammond
Botanical Gardens in Boothbay, Maine. Photo (c) Karen Hammond
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.

Life on a small Maine Island — July

A tranquil Maine harbor in summer. Photo (c) Nathaniel Hammond
A tranquil Maine harbor in summer. Photo (c) Nathaniel Hammond
July at last. It has always been my favorite month. The world seems to have come into its own with trees finally turned green, flowers in bloom, and birds singing from dawn to dusk. Very hot weather is rare in Maine, so even the occasional scorching day seems like a treat…especially after last year’s brutal winter.
Perhaps this summer you’ll travel to midcoast Maine and visit some of the islands that attract so many writers and artists. Monhegan, “the artists’ island” is perhaps the best known, with seasonal ferry service from Boothbay Harbor, New Harbor, and Port Clyde (in winter, there’s only service out of Port Clyde). But there are other wonderful islands to explore, including Isle au Haut, Matinicus, and several islands in Casco Bay, off Portland. Don’t expect big-city amenities, but do expect comfortable lodgings, New England comfort food, and a chance to see a part of Maine that many visitors miss. If you plan to stay overnight, do make advance reservations since hotel or B&B rooms are limited.
If islands are not your thing, try a drive along the midcoast region and explore some of the fishing villages like New Harbor and Tenants Harbor for a look at a traditional Maine way of life.
From my office on my own little island I’m looking out at glass-calm seas, with sailboats scooting along and lobster boats starting to come into port with the day’s catch. The little village is bustling — at least compared to winter when there are only 100 of us out here — and it’s nice to see summer residents and visitors in town again. By September most will be gone and the island will fold back into itself. Life ebbs and flows on my small Maine island, much like the tides that surround us.
I hope everyone is having a great summer thus far and one that will include a trip to this lovely part of the country. Enjoy!

February on a Small Maine Island

Snow falls on a tranquil island in Maine.
Snow falls on a tranquil island in Maine.

Winter is well underway here in Maine, with crisp, cold days followed by even colder nights. Definitely a time to tackle big projects inside, but also a good time to enjoy winter sports and scenery. I’ve been especially enjoying the sight of snow and ice sparkling on the trees. It makes shoveling a whole lot easier when there’s something pleasant to look at along the way!

I spent a recent weekend in Portland, a great foodie city–no wonder lovers of great food come from all over to eat there. Needless to say, I made the rounds–necessary research of course, since I write a lot about food–but it was also my birthday and therefore a good excuse to indulge. Hugo’s continues to impress–fabulous atmosphere, good wine list, fabulous wait staff, and excellent food as always. They are about to close down for remodeling–perhaps have already–and I’m sure it will be even better when they reopen in the spring. It’s always fun to eat at a place where everyone takes such pride in what they do.

It appears that writing about food and travel has been in my blood for a long time. I’m told that as a small child I constantly wandered off on “adventures” and had to be chased down by my worried parents and older sister. And by the time I was old enough to talk, I was demanding Grey Poupon mustard instead of the “yellow stuff.”  I guess it’s natural that I’ve always gravitated to places with great cuisine–Portland, Boston, Paris, Lyon, and Vienna are a few of my all-time favorites, but I’m equally  happy to buy a lobster fresh off the boat from one of the local lobstermen and eat it on the dock with melted butter running down my arm (but I’ll wait for summer for that!).


Leaf Peeping in Maine

Fall colors near Rangeley, Maine

Foliage is at its peak in northern Maine right now, with colors turning ever more glorious along the coast and in the southern part of the state.  I’ve just returned from my last boat trip of the season, a lovely sail from Portland to Bar Harbor and back. The fall colors really popped against the dark evergreens along the shoreline. Add autumn’s slanted light and it’s no wonder that  Maine has long attracted artists, poets, and writers. Here on my Maine island, days are comfortably warm and nights are crisp and cool — it’s a great time to visit anywhere in the state and take in some fall festivals, fairs, and church suppers.

Sailing the Maine Coast

Pleasure boats bob on their moorings in the beautiful harbor of Camden, Maine.

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.