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.
With warmer weather in the forecast and safety guidelines being revised, if you are anything like me, you’re itching for a stint in the great outdoors. Being able to leave our houses and enjoy the abundance of outdoor activities after so long makes being in Maine ideal. After all, we are the home of L.L. Bean, Acadia National Park, and the great “Down East” – outdoor activities are what we do! MidCoast Maine has some of the greatest outdoor activities, whether you like to sightsee, hike, explore, or simply relax and enjoy some sunshine. I hope you can find some adventure (and sun) in my favorite Great Outdoors road trip – with an obvious stop at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens (get your tickets in advance, here)!
Ocean Point Loop on Shore Road
If you have been fortunate enough to visit the Boothbay Region, you may be familiar with the iconic “Ocean Point Loop” – actually on Shore Road on the Ocean Point peninsula. Whether you’re there during sunrise, sunset, during the sunshine, or during a stormy day, the views at Ocean Point do not disappoint. As you take the trip towards Ocean Point, you pass many great businesses, restaurants, and sights. The best way to start off a coastal vacation is to take in the views. As you come to the end of the Ocean Point peninsula, you have a beautiful view of Ram Island and its lighthouse. If you have a few minutes, jump out and walk the Ocean Point Walk over rocks and in front of million-dollar homes while enjoying the rocky Maine coast and high splashing waves. Driving Shore Road will bring you past the beautiful Ocean Point Inn with views of Burnt Island and its lighthouse. Enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells before you embark on a vacation worthy of the history books.
After a great drive around Ocean Point, a full meal at one of Boothbay Harbor’s great restaurants will surely give a jump start to your trip. The Tugboat Inn and Restaurant (which is an actual tugboat) offers some of the most amazing views and food. Their recent addition of a marina deck gives you a chance to take in the views from the other side of the peninsula – these are picturesque views people come from all over to see. The Tugboat Restaurant offers friendly staff, clean tables, and great meals like the Seafood Alfredo (complete with shrimp, scallops, and picked lobster meat!). If you’re not a seafood lover, their classic New England pot roast is savory and something you will want to try to make yourself when you get home. Personally, my favorite is the French onion soup and Tugboat house salad – the house-made dressing can’t be beat!
After a fun (and filling) evening, take a quick jaunt around the town of Boothbay Harbor. With its plethora of shops, restaurants, and bars, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you might find and who you might meet. This town is welcoming to everyone – in fact, this is where I have personally met many new best friends from all over the world. Make sure not to stay out too late, though, so you can check into the beautiful Spruce Point Inn. This overwhelmingly beautiful resort offers something for everyone with its lodges, inn, cottage rooms, and townhouses – whether you’re looking for a quiet solo trip or one you can take with your family (and dogs!), they have the right spot for you. The resort (located on the east side of the harbor) has a heated freshwater pool near the ocean, the Grandview Deck with breathtaking views, and onsite activities like nightly “s’mores” making. If you are an early riser, make sure you get out and check out their vast onsite hiking trails.
I am a glutton for a good homemade breakfast. Walking into Mama D’s Café feels very similar to walking into the kitchen on Sunday mornings as a kid while a big breakfast was being prepared. The friendly atmosphere, smell of fresh coffee, and faint sizzle from the griddle makes this the perfect place to grab a protein-packed breakfast for an active day. Take a seat on their comfortable deck and order yourself an Americano and the “Teacher’s Pet” – TRUST ME! It’s a little twist on Elvis toast that will knock your socks off. You can’t go wrong ordering any of their vast array of (huge) omelets, but the Mama D’s omelet gets two thumbs up in my book. I would be remiss not to mention the loaded Belgian waffle. Please make sure you bring cash, as Mama D’s accepts cash and local checks only. Once revived from your food coma, get ready for an adventure-ridden day in the great outdoors.
A joyful drive up the peninsula and through the beautiful towns of Wiscasset and Woolwich will bring you to the sometimes-intimidating Sagadahoc Bridge—the gateway to Bath (the “City of Ships”). Hidden off to the east side of the Kennebec is the breathtaking peninsula of Arrowsic and Georgetown. A quick left turn before the bridge and a drive through the marshes will bring you down backroads to Doubling Point Light. This 1898 lighthouse is one of four lights that guides vessels down the Kennebec River from the Atlantic Ocean to Bath Iron Works. While I personally love this lighthouse during sunset, you can’t go wrong visiting any hour of the day. Keep your eyes out for bald eagles! **
**Side Trip – Since you’re down here already you can’t miss the Double Point Range Lights. Although easy to miss from land, definitely see it by water. This set of two octagonal towers allows vessels to line the tower lights up for easier access through the treacherous waters and are so much fun to visit by foot.
While ocean air is refreshing, there is nothing more refreshing than breathing the air of a welcoming town like Bath, Maine. With its historical buildings, cutting-edge shipyard, and forward-thinking businesses, Bath has something for everyone. Take a quick stroll through the city before you embark on your next adventure by walking through their waterfront park, grabbing a coffee from the scrumptious café, and checking out the plethora of shops. If you want an extra adventure, walk across the beautiful Sagadahoc bridge with breathtaking views of the Kennebec River and 1927 Old Carlton Bridge and its osprey nest.
I would hope that, at this point, the adventures and walking would have given you a bit of an appetite. Bath Brewing Company, located on beautiful Front Street in Bath, offers a pub-style atmosphere downstairs and a traditional dining room upstairs. They have an amazing selection of their house-brewed beers and even better freshly prepared meals. I highly suggest the Five Islands lobster roll, packed heavily with fresh and locally caught lobster meat. I am a big fan of their marinated chicken sandwich and baby spinach salad – YUM! Make sure you drink plenty of water before embarking towards Phippsburg for a hike.
Bates-Morse Mountain & Shortridge
Bates-Morse Mountain & Shortridge, a short but beautiful drive from Bath, includes a 3.8 mile round-trip hike with ocean views. The path will take you down to Seawall Beach, which is south of Popham Beach. This quiet, secluded beach is void of the hundreds of beachgoers you will find at Popham. Bates-Morse Mountain & Shortridge is a 600-acre, permanently protected property owned by Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. The property includes salt marshes and coastal uplands used by the college for research and education. It is an absolutely peaceful place to visit and hike. Keep your eyes out for bald eagles, ospreys, and other native birds.
After a full day of hiking and exploring, treat yourself to a delicious dinner at The Cabin Restaurant. While all of the food at this cash-only eatery is great, I prefer their pizzas. The seafood pizza is my personal favorite as it is loaded with shrimp, calamari, and clams. The Nor’Eastern is particularly delicious, with Canadian bacon, tomato, and feta. If you want to try something different – with a twist – try the sweet and spicy pizza. While it is on the hot side with red jalapeño peppers, the sweetness of the garlic and sweet red pepper help even it out – plus the sauce is out of this world. Whether you decide to enjoy your pizza in the rustic restaurant or order it to go and enjoy it at the waterfront, you won’t be disappointed. **
**Side Trip – Bath is known for its nightlife and endless entertainment. If you’re not too tired, check out one of the many great restaurants to see who is performing. If you’re lucky you might catch karaoke or trivia at Byrnes Irish Pub or J.R. Maxwell & Co’s Boat Builders Pub.
Hampton Inn by Hilton (Bath/Brunswick)
At this point in the day you should be tired and ready to rest your head in a comfortable bed. The Hampton Inn by Hilton in Bath is just a stone’s throw from the Kennebec River and located conveniently in downtown Bath. With its 94 rooms, indoor pool, free Wi-Fi, and continental breakfast, you will find everything you need for a restful night’s sleep at the Hampton. Their extremely friendly staff will happily give you any tips needed to plan your next trip to MidCoast Maine. Make sure you fill up on breakfast at the hotel or take a stroll down to Frosty’s Donuts and treat yourself.
Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens
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 40-minute drive from Bath, down the Boothbay peninsula, will bring you to beautiful CMBG. Although tours are 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 stop on 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.
Before you head back home, get one last hike in by checking out some of the 35 miles of free hiking trails owned by the Boothbay Region Land Trust. Two of my favorite hikes are Ovens Mouth Preserve and Porter Preserve. Porter Preserve is just around the corner from the Gardens and is a smooth 1.1-mile hike with benches to rest on while watching the beautiful Sheepscot River. Ovens Mouth Preserve is a little trickier—the east peninsula hike is 1.6 miles and takes you over a 93-foot pedestrian bridge. The west peninsula is more strenuous at 3.7 miles. Either trail promises beautiful views and the peacefulness of the Boothbay Peninsula.
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.