Check out the Gardens’ Dig It! blog for more of my favorite road trips, perfect for an individual, a couple, or a small family. Every destination is within a 1-2 hour’s drive and can be stretched into a 2 to 3-day getaway; timing is based on a Friday-Sunday trip.
Disclaimer: There are a million things one might do here in MidCoast Maine, but I offer you a tour of places I have been to, worked with, and highly recommend. I encourage you to research with Yelp, TripAdvisor, VisitMaine.com, and travel apps like Roadside America; after all, planning is half the fun of any trip! Also, this trip was mapped pre-COVID. Be sure to call or check ahead to ascertain opening hours and general availability.
Whether you are parents thrown into the brave new world of homeschooling and itching for a well-deserved break or a young couple missing date nights, every couple has earned a Maine staycation to kick-start your summer. As someone who has fallen in love with (and in!) MidCoast Maine, I can attest that it is the perfect place for romance. Join me as I guide you through the Boothbay and Pemaquid Peninsulas – with an obvious stop at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens (get your tickets in advance, here)! I hope you fall in love with MidCoast in this couples’ getaway.
Start your couples’ getaway at the romantically beautiful Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. There’s no need to purchase your partner flowers for this trip—there are more than you could imagine here. A stop at the Gardens is perfect, no matter what time of the day you visit. Although on hold subject to COVID-19 restrictions, CMBG usually offers a one-hour guided walking tour daily at 11:00 a.m. With or without a tour, be sure to give yourself ample time to explore the 17 acres of cultivated gardens, 4.5 miles of coastal walking trails, and the many other sights to see. There is a breathtaking Gardenshop in the Visitor Center, packed with personal gardening supplies and gifts to bring back to your friends and family as you tell them all about your romantic MidCoast vacation. If you haven’t had lunch yet, check out the Snack Shack or Market in the Café building, both are stocked with handcrafted sandwiches and snacks made by our talented Garden Kitchen Café staff.
Once you’ve taken in all the sights, sounds, and smells the Gardens has to offer, it’s time to indulge your other senses with Maine Foodie Tours. A 5-minute drive down the peninsula will take you into the heart of Boothbay Harbor to meet your tour guide. Make sure you bring your walking shoes and appetite as you explore their Boothbay Harbor Afternoon Tasting Tour. This 2.5-hour tour explores the many wonderful restaurants and breweries Boothbay Harbor has to offer. Your tour price includes all food and beverages; you will be treated to tasty craft beers, lobster sliders and bisque, delicious crab cakes, and more! **
**Side Trip – You will most likely be stuffed at this point so give yourself a break and explore the Windjammer Emporium located on Pier 1 in Boothbay Harbor. Not only can you grab some souvenirs from your trip, you can take in the great maritime history of the harbor.
After you take in all that Boothbay Harbor’s downtown has to offer, it’s time for some amazing food. Built in 1861, The Thistle Inn, once home to a prominent sea captain, now has some the finest dining you will find in the state. Whether you decide to dine in the beautiful dining room or grab a lighter dinner in the pub, you will not be disappointed. The pub offers such fare as “the pub mac” – make sure you add lobster! The dining room is much fancier with items such as fresh cheese ravioli, complete with roasted sweet potato and kale & pistachio pesto. Try my favorite dish, beer braised short rib with buttermilk-mashed potatoes! I would be remiss not to mention the amazing cocktails that the talented bartenders prepare; each one is created with passion and care.
When it comes to romantic getaways, I have the hardest time choosing which of the beautiful inns in the Harbor suits best, so I am going to leave this one up to you guys. Newagen Seaside Inn is located a short drive down the peninsula on Southport Island. This inn offers breathtaking ocean views from its 40 rooms, suites, and cottages. This inn would be more fit to be called a resort with its abundance of offerings such as an onsite pub, tennis courts, nature trails, and saltwater pool that overlooks the ocean. They also lend out bicycles and row boats for you to explore all that Southport has to offer. Even in the worst of weather you can find something to do at Newagen; in their Pine Room they offer candlepin bowling, table tennis, billiards, and more!
If you prefer to stay closer to town, you will not be disappointed at Topside Inn. Upon arrival you can immediately feel the love that innkeepers Mark and Buzz pour into their inn – which is why HospitalityMaine named them 2020 Innkeepers of the Year. Whether you stay in the newly renovated (and breathtakingly beautiful) Windward Guesthouse or any of their 25 rooms and suites, you will experience first-class accommodations. After a restful night’s sleep you will be treated to a gourmet, locally inspired three-course breakfast. I am sure you will be so impressed with their cooking that you will purchase one of their cookbooks! With its peaceful accommodations, delicious breakfasts, and thrilling cocktail hour, Topside Inn is perfect for a romantic getaway.
If you elected to stay at Newagen Seaside Inn, get up early and enjoy the beautiful ocean sunrise, then head into Boothbay Harbor to Waves Restaurant for a scrumptious breakfast. This cozy restaurant is staffed with some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Order yourself a big plate of Maine blueberry French toast (calories don’t count during vacation) or Waves Bennie’s – YUM! If you’re feeling adventurous try the Chen scramble which comes with three scrambled eggs, Gulf shrimp, roasted garlic, and Swiss cheese. No matter what you order, you will leave full and ready for a full day’s adventure.
Now it is time to hop over to the next peninsula to explore MidCoast from the water with Maine Kayak. The beautiful drive to New Harbor will take you through the quaint villages of Newcastle, Damariscotta, and South Bristol. Whether you are interested in a two-hour wildlife tour or a half-day sea tour, enjoy your time together paddling on high-quality kayaks. The guides at Maine Kayak are as intelligent as they are kind. If the two-hour wildlife tour is more up your alley, you can get some incredible views of the Gulf of Maine’s many birds, fish, and mammals. If you are lucky, you may get to see a seal or two! If this is not your first kayaking trip, you may be up for more of an adventure. The half-day trip gives you a chance for a leisurely view of Pemaquid Lighthouse from the ocean!
Following all of the fresh air and exercise, swing over to Shaw’s Fish & Lobster Wharf for some great locally sourced food! I mean it—so locally sourced that the lobsters could practically hop off the boat and crawl up the ramp to Shaw’s! One of MidCoast’s best-kept secrets is Shaw’s, with its beautiful deck that overlooks the water and its delicious, freshly prepared meals. I highly suggest the seafood casserole in lobster bisque, complete with haddock, scallops, and Maine shrimp! If you want the authentic experience, you cannot go wrong with turf & tail – an 8 oz. rib eye & lobster tail. For a lighter fare, if you’re still full from breakfast, try the Southwest veggie burger. Once you have relaxed and taken in everything Shaw’s has to offer, it is time for exploring!
A short drive to the end of the peninsula will bring you to Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Park, and if you did not get to see the lighthouse from the water you will be in for a treat. This 1827 lighthouse, commissioned by John Quincy Adams, is picturesque. You could spend an entire day exploring everything the park has to offer! There is a Fisherman’s Museum in the Keeper’s House to explore before you climb to the top of the lighthouse tower. There is also an art museum, learning center, and picnic areas to relax in. Make sure to (carefully) walk down on the rocks in front of the Keeper’s House to get a picture of the iconic lighthouse.
While Pemaquid is well known for its lighthouse, the real gem of the area is the history packed into Fort William Henry, which is on the site of 17th century Colonial Pemaquid. Visiting Colonial Pemaquid in the midst of a pandemic is humbling. While it is very easy to get caught up in the inconveniences this year has brought, imagine what it would have looked like back when news traveled slowly and disease traveled fast. Explore the 1908 replica fort, where the 1692 original Fort Charles once stood. Take in all of the history of the Fort House, museum, and graveyard (with markers dating back to the 18th century!). Once you have captured all of your selfies and learned a few new facts to bring back to your friends, it is time for dinner!
What better way to end a great day, than with a great meal? You will find that and more at the historic Bradley Inn, with its beautifully crafted food and enthusiastically friendly staff and innkeepers. The second you step foot on this property, you will be inspired to plan your next trip to the area to stay in one of their exceptional rooms. The big, rustic dining room is the perfect venue for a romantic dinner. The farm-to-table dinners are extremely well-crafted; try the grilled salmon – complete with chimichurri sauce and wild rice pilaf. If you are like me and always pick the adventurous item on the menu, the roasted and deep fried pork belly tossed in sweet chili sauce is right up your alley. For a healthier option after a day of exercise, try the mixed greens topped with Maine blueberries. After your great dinner, head back to the Inn for a restful night together before your last day in MidCoast Maine. **
**Side Trip – If you are not in a rush to get back to the Inn, take a stroll through the quaint village of Damariscotta. The downtown stretch has an array of historic buildings and businesses; such as the 1875 Lincoln Theater, the 1949 first Reny’s Department Store, and the 1807 St. Patrick’s Church – which is the oldest Roman Catholic Church in New England!
Any good couples’ getaway ends with a relaxing day together. Grab breakfast at the Inn or any of the other great restaurants in Boothbay Harbor like The Blue Moon Café or Baker’s Way. Then spend the morning strolling through the shops and art studios. Leave time to take a walk across the 1901 historic footbridge that attaches the east and west sides of the harbor. Once across, turn right and walk up to Browns Wharf Inn to get a selfie with Captain Brown, the giant old salt fisherman.
Finish your Boothbay Harbor tour at the scenic Pier 6 where you can board the boat, Bennie Alice, for a Cabbage Island Clambake. This four-hour adventure takes you around Boothbay Harbor’s iconic islands, lighthouses, and beautiful waters. Keep your eyes peeled for porpoises and seals. Once you arrive, you will have time to explore the island and take in the breathtaking views before you sit down to a meal fit for royalty. You will receive fish chowder, two soft shell Maine lobsters, steamers, potatoes, corn on the cob, and blueberry cake – the quintessential “Downeast Bake.” If lobsters aren’t your thing, you can opt for a roasted half chicken. Cabbage Island Clambake is a must-do for any MidCoast visitor—how often do you get to have lunch on a private island? Once you’re sufficiently stuffed, the boat will take you back to Boothbay Harbor to end your memorable couples’ getaway.
I hope you fall in love with this area as much as I have and plan year-round visits, as there is so much more to offer!
Written by Amanda Garland, Group Tour Marketing Coordinator at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. Plan your group trip to the Gardens today by contacting Amanda at (207) 633-8050 or firstname.lastname@example.org.