Road Trip with Amanda: Off the Beaten Path–MidCoast Maine
Like many, I planned domestic and international travel for 2020, plans which have all been halted for now. Trying to decide how I wanted to use my vacation time was no harder than looking in my backyard. Maine is Vacationland, after all! Growing up here, I became a self-proclaimed “Road Trip Queen” (which is actually what brought me to my career here at CMBG). The Boothbay Harbor region has always tugged at my heartstrings—with its small-town atmosphere, genuine hospitality, breathtaking views, and offerings for anyone at any age. I hope I can inspire you to make your own adventure to MidCoast Maine – with an obvious stop at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens (get your tickets in advance, here).
Stay tuned over the next few weeks as I outline some of my favorite road trips, perfect for an individual, a couple, or a small family. Everything is within a 2-3 hour driving distance 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, Travelocity, Google, 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.
Arrival in beautiful Boothbay Harbor is breathtaking and overwhelming at the same time. Upon first glance, it seems like a small town full of fun shops, art galleries, and fine dining with beautiful views, yet there is a tug to the history of this small town. I have had the honor of working alongside the wonderful owners of Red Cloak Tours and the luxury of taking their historical tour.
During COVID-19, Red Cloak Tours took the swift action to make their tours virtual, which is a great amenity for a road trip vacation with no time constraints. What better way to get acquainted with Boothbay Harbor than to take a 30 to 40-minute walking TeleTour through town. Groups of up to 10 have the option to take the “Boothbay Harbor Haunted History,” “Maritime History & Mystery of Boothbay Harbor,” or the “Historic Boothbay Harbor” tours. Be sure to bring your phone, a camera, and an umbrella (if utterly necessary) and enjoy the lovely views and history.
If you happen to carry an unguarded snack or take a peek into the sky you may notice Boothbay Harbor is not lacking in seagulls. While they may not be on the menu, you can’t go wrong with any of the items on the menu at McSeagull’s Restaurant. After a nice walk, food is always in order. This welcoming restaurant, located on Pier 1 in Boothbay Harbor, has a harbor view deck and some of the greatest servers you will meet. If you’re like me, you can’t visit the coast without devouring a lobster. McSeagull’s offers a delicious fresh ½lb Maine Lobster meal, complete with melted butter and sides. I would be remiss if I didn’t recommend my two favorite items on the menu: the corned beef Rueben and the butternut squash ravioli. Both are delicious in their own way, but it is easy to see the love the chefs and cooks of McSeagull’s pour into their dishes. Once you are full and happy, check out some of the awesome retail shops and grab a few souvenirs.
After a good meal and a great first day of “Staycation,” a good night’s stay at a warm local Bed & Breakfast is surely in order. Russell House Bed and Breakfast offers eight beautiful suites and rooms, meticulously cleaned and prepared for a quiet, peaceful night’s sleep. Each room comes with a king or queen bed and is located near the Boothbay/Boothbay Harbor town line. I personally pick my overnight accommodations based on their breakfast offerings. Russell House does not disappoint with their full breakfast menu (including such items as a breakfast quiche or waffles) as well as a continental breakfast and plentiful coffee to prepare you for your adventure a little further up the MidCoast into Owl’s Head. **
**Side Trip – If you are an early riser like me and crave extra adventure, Marshall Point Lighthouse & Museum in Port Clyde is a historical stop. This lighthouse, established in 1789, has breathtaking views and has been the backdrop of many weddings, events, and even the 1994 film, Forrest Gump! The museum (subject to COVID-19 restrictions) showcases amazing historical details about the lighthouse and keeper’s house, as well as a photo of Tom Hanks during filming.
A beautiful one-hour drive up Route 1 will take you to Owl’s Head Transportation Museum, located in Owl’s Head. This enticing museum houses pre-1940 aircraft, automobiles, bicycles, carriages, engines, and motorcycles. One could spend hours there, taking in the history, being awed and amazed at the craftsmanship, and enjoying the sights and sounds of this museum. The museum also offers special events on weekends—the public’s personal antique automobile show is a favorite of mine. During COVID-19, Owl’s Head Transportation Museum asks that you reserve tickets ahead of time via phone or online. I would encourage you to visit the website ahead of time to ensure you enjoy your visit!
If you’re sticking with the “off the beaten path” theme, then you couldn’t possibly pass up having lunch at Rockland’s original train station (train no longer in service) after a museum tour. Trackside Station, in its historic location, hosts some of the area’s best live music and even better food. While sitting on the water having lunch is a tourist’s dream, most would miss this hidden gem. If you are following, like me, a coastal seafood obsession trip, I highly recommend the Maine Crab Roll. However, my guilty pleasures are the Bacon Beer Cheeseburger (made with their own beer cheese) or the Greek Pizza – with leftovers a plenty. Leaving Trackside Station will bring you through the beautiful streets of Rockland – I encourage you to stop and shop or check out a gallery or two. Rockland is home to the amazing Farnsworth Art Museum (https://www.farnsworthmuseum.org/) and is the self-proclaimed “Art & Food Mecca of Maine.”
A short ride to Rockport Marine Park will bring you to my favorite spot in Maine, my “happy place,” if you will. Those of us who grew up in Maine have most likely heard of, personally seen, or watched the 1994 film about Andre the Seal. Harry Goodridge found Andre in 1961, and Harry and Andre became best friends and big personalities in the region – a statue of Andre was commissioned in 1978. Alongside the statue, Rockport Marine Park provides beautiful views of the ocean and an opportunity to look into a 19th century lime kiln. Just don’t miss your photo op alongside the replica of a lime-transporting locomotive. Most tourists drive Route 1 from Rockland to Camden, almost missing the beauty of Rockport. By diverting onto Pascal Ave, you give yourself the perfect opportunity to drive to Camden up the peaceful Union Street. As you cross the town line, you will enter Camden through a beautiful archway.
On your way to Camden Hills State Park, you will pass through the quaint town of Camden. I encourage you to stop and check out some of the great stores (Antiques at 10 Mechanic is my personal favorite.) Once out of town, past the beautiful million-dollar homes (and even a castle), you will arrive at Camden Hills State Park. Whether you prefer to hike or drive, this is a spot one can’t pass up. A quick trip up Mount Battie will bring you to a parking area where you can climb atop a 1921 World War I memorial tower and walking trails, giving you a birds-eye view of the Camden Harbor and nearby islands. On a clear day, you can even see Acadia National Park’s Cadillac Mountain and sometimes even Canada!
Personally, I save my pennies so I can treat myself to a fancy dinner on vacation. After a long day of sightseeing, 40 Paper Bistro & Bar in Camden is the perfect place to relax and recap your wonderful day. This forward-thinking restaurant is equipped with amazing staff, chefs, and the most delicious food you could imagine. I am a glutton for scallops, and their scallop dinner comes complete with Brussels sprouts – could there be anything better? (Don’t you turn your nose up at me, just try it!) Their dishes show a level of love and satisfaction in what they do that can’t be matched—if you don’t believe me, try their pork loin chop or the local mushroom rotini. Once your food settles, it’s time to head back down to Edgecomb. **
**Side Trip – If you’re not too exhausted, and it’s still light out, take a quick detour back down Route 1 to Rockport. Outside of the Nativity Lutheran Church on Old County Road in Rockport, you will find a small plaque commemorating the birthplace of the man who invented the hole in the donut. I bet your friends won’t have fun trip memories like that!
Once you take the shortcut across Route 90 and back down Route 1, you will arrive at the gateway of the Boothbay Harbor Region in Edgecomb. Cod Cove Inn is the perfect resting place. But if you’re not ready for bed, check out the many establishments across the bridge in Wiscasset and Woolwich. If it’s past your bedtime, Cod Cove Inn offers 28 large rooms with one or two queen beds or a king-sized bed. All rooms come equipped with a patio or balcony that overlooks the beautiful sunsets and sunrises in Wiscasset. Enjoy your quiet, comfortable night’s sleep – and if you’re an earlier riser, don’t forget about their delicious continental breakfast.
A healthy, hearty brunch is how I love to fuel up for the day. You won’t find a diner with a bigger heart than The Hot Spot Diner in Woolwich. A quick 5-minute drive down Route 1 from Cod Cove Inn will bring you to a diner that pours its heart and soul into their food and their customers. After just one visit to The Hot Spot, they immediately recognized me and remembered my order – the fresh fruit crepe (a crepe wrapped around a banana, with cream cheese filling, topped with raspberries and whipped cream) and three slices of bacon…to go! Their breakfast/lunch food is hard to pass up, and they always have different daily specials like a crab omelet that you can’t miss. Although the “big ears flapjack platter” is a great staple for any good breakfast eater.
Now onto the trip you’ve been waiting for, the best way to round out any weekend—a trip to Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. A 10-minute drive down the Boothbay peninsula will bring you to beautiful CMBG. 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 wonderful MidCoast vacation. If you aren’t still full from brunch or want to grab food for the next step in your trip, 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.
While most people would be vacationed-out at this time and ready to head back home, I like to add one last adventure to every vacation. What is a trip to Boothbay Harbor without a boat ride? Cap’n Fish’s Cruises offers world renowned tours on their safe and sanitized vessels. Whether you’re interested in a 3.5-hour whale watch tour or a 1.25-hour cruise around the harbor to see lighthouses, seals, and lobster boats, Cap’n Fish’s Cruises has everything you’re looking for at an affordable price. It also makes for the perfect place to end your stay in the beautiful MidCoast region.
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.