Photo by Bert Ehling
My multi-faceted trip to Maine developed in an organic manner, and the resulting week was one I would happily repeat. If you follow all or part of my itinerary, you will be thanking me for your time spent in this amazing state.
My idea was to take a windjammer cruise in August—something I had not done for 30 years. There are about a dozen tall ships in Maine that sail around Penobscot Bay. I chose a three-night cruise aboard the beautiful red-sailed ketch Angelique with proud new owners Captain Dennis Gallant and Candace Kuchinski. This particular cruise ended with a Windjammer Festival day in Camden Harbor and a multi-ship talent contest and firework display.
Photo by Chelle Walton
The ideal Windjammer passenger is someone of any age in reasonably good health without sleep issues, who likes a casual vacation and is looking to relax and get away from the computer and cell phone for a few days. Passengers enjoy three very good meals and evening snacks each day, and there is usually a giant lobster bake on the beach. Hoist sails, swab the decks, jib the jabs or just find a nice sunny or shady spot to take in the sailing experience. I discovered that my favorite spot was at the stern a few feet diagonally behind the Captain’s wheel. I sat on the deck floor with my head perfectly nestled on the low stern railing. Some passengers enjoyed doing the work of the talented and energetic paid crew members while others just enjoyed relaxing. Passengers are told in advance to bring their own beverages or just drink the water, coffee, iced tea and lemonade that are offered with meals. The evenings are convivial, with folk singing, star-gazing, Scrabble, a little imbibing and conversation.
The mattresses and bedding are warm and comfortable aboard the Angelique and each cabin has potable running water and a nearby shared toilet that was kept clean. There was more than one shower on board as well. My one tip is that before you book any Windjammer that you investigate the cabin size and see how it fits with your sleeping needs. Next time I go out on a Windjammer—and I will–I will bring a sleeping bag and look forward to the opportunity to sleep on the deck under the stars, or I will be sure to reserve the largest double cabin with a window.
View from the Black Point Inn porch
That said, I don’t want to misrepresent myself as a big camper-outer; I admit to being a sucker for the comforts of life. I realized that there was no way I could leave my Jersey Shore abode and guarantee arrival in Maine in time to set sail at 4 pm. And so I decided to leave two days in advance and sandwich my Windjammer adventure between two luxury experiences. Hey. Do I need an excuse?
On the way to Camden I stayed two nights in my new favorite resort, the Black Point Inn in Scarborough on Prout’s Neck in Scarborough, Maine, and after the cruise I luxuriated at the immaculate LimeRock Inn bed-and-breakfast in Rockland, Maine. Both venues epitomize the experience most guests seek when they leave home.
The stunning Black Point Inn, cupped on a hill overlooking two beaches, was so named by the explorer Champlain for its stark and rugged coastline. The 136-year-old Inn just does everything right! First it is a gorgeous Victorian tastefully and lovingly decorated. Every single employee appears to have gone to the Hotel School of Perfect Service – not intrusive but always there to offer what you need before you even have to ask. The grounds are exquisitely landscaped and are well-kept. Stroll on both beaches, take a dip in the ocean or the geothermally-heated pool. The rooms offer everything you need to enjoy a heavenly night’s sleep: a bed covered in cotton and down with a mattress you want to take home. The little things, such as a plug for a cell phone right above the night table, show that every detail was given careful thought. Rooms have quaint touches such as window seats and the views of the beaches cannot be matched. Two restaurants – one casual and one formal – both serve excellent meals with offerings such as lobster mac & cheese prepared with a whole lobster. Bookings may include a full country breakfast made to order from the menu. This is a true get away that inspired Winslow Homer and it will inspire you. The Inn is open until the third week in October and I am seriously thinking about returning this year or next for a fall foliage trip.
The LimeRock Inn in Rockland is the quintessential B&B run by talented and friendly innkeepers Frank and his partner PJ, who also have gotten everything right. Each room is wonderfully comfortable and is decorated with beautiful antiques. Three course breakfasts are special and you can usually choose to eat alone or with other guests. Everything is kept perfectly clean. I laughed with PJ that they are Felix and Felix, and he agreed. Again, the little touches stand out, for example a 24-hour guest pantry and bath crystals and free Fiore oils for guests. And it is a real treat to rock or lounge or swing on the wraparound porch. Just steps away from the pleasant downtown, it doesn’t get any more Mayberry than this.
Rockland itself is quite a gem! Who knew one could have a rapturous culinary experience there? Two restaurants in particular make it worth the drive from any distance, and for both I recommend a reservation.
Kerry at Work/photo by Pieson Parade
First is the eccentric Café Miranda. If you can get it, reserve the chef’s bar stools where you can watch Andrew or owner Kerry prepare an incredible array of yummy innovative comfort food delights—mostly made in the wood-burning oven. Choices such as Genteel Haddock, MPH Tomatoes, Polish Hippie, or Aggablagga are even more fun to eat than to marvel over.
The other restaurant that put the wind in my sails was called In Good Company. It is easy to miss on the small Main Street as it still resembles the bank which was its original incarnation, but trust my word and look for it. There you may enjoy a full dinner with duck or venison, a typical entrée being blue cheese butter crusted beef medallions with mashers and red wine demi, or choose from a variety of sumptuous tapas and wines. Café Miranda is quirky and over-the-top with its Elvis themed bathroom which you must see. In Good Company is completely quiet and understated. What they have in common though is superior food at surprisingly reasonable prices.
But of course, when in Maine you can’t go too many hours without a lobster. One day for lunch I enjoyed a $10.99 complete lobster dinner at the Rockland Café.
And the next day I took a pretty drive to the nearby town of Thomaston and enjoyed the freshest lobster imaginable at McLoon’s. McLoon’s is a long established lobster name in Maine, but it is only recently that it opened up its charming shack across from its boat dock where during the week you can watch the traps getting unloaded while munching on your perfect lobster meal that you are free to select yourself right out of the trap in the bay.
The freshest lobster you can get is a whole steamed lobster snatched out of the trap right after it is caught. But if you prefer it chilled and don’t want to do the work of cracking and digging, know that when you say “lobster roll” in Maine you are referring to chunks of fresh lobster on a soft roll with perhaps a smear of mayo or butter and that’s that. That’s how they do it at McLoon’s, and don’t settle for anything less.
Photo by PJ Walter
Back in Rockland, for the full lobster experience take a lobster trap tour with the old salt himself Steve Hale aboard Capt. Jack’s Lobster Adventure. The boisterous captain will show you around Penobscot Bay, pulling up his personalized lobster traps, scooping out the feisty lobsters that measure up and tossing back the rest. Learn how to differentiate the boy lobsters from the girls; catch a seal sniffing out the traps or watch a porpoise take a nosedive. For just a few extra dollars take a couple of the finer lobsters away in a bag and bring them up the gangplank to the down-home gourmet food truck Duo’s. Owner Jamie will steam your lobster for you to perfection for a couple of more dollars. Or sit bayside on one of the picnic tables and sample some of Duo’s other delicious creations such as scallop tacos with mango chutney, spicy remoulade or chipotle salsa and a nice light crispy slaw. The lobster roll is a great choice, too.
When you are not eating in Rockland the best thing you can do is to spend your time working up an appetite. First stop? The Farnsworth Museum where the principal exhibits, namely the works of Andrew Wyeth and the Shakers, are a must see. My favorite Wyeth was the Bronze Age on the second floor of the church Annex. Even though you love stairs and need the exercise after all that eating, take the elevator this one time. I hate to ruin the surprise but it’s as big as my first New York apartment with some interesting embellishments that I will leave for you to discover.
Breakwater Tasting Room
Another great feature of Rockland is the Breakwater. This is a 7/8 mile straight walk each way over flattened boulders out to the historic lighthouse. You will find photo ops galore, and in great weather the exercise is very pleasant if you are in good health and have good balance.
Photo by Richard Haddad
For more exercise, stroll through the wonderful shops on Main Street. Some of my favorites were the Grasshopper of Rockland, the Breakwaters Vineyards Tasting Room, and a different kind of tasting at Fiore Artisan Olive Oils and Vinegar. Yum. Blood orange olive oil. Had to bring some of that home!
I must say as much as I enjoyed the LimeRock Inn, strolling, lobsters and shopping, my favorite, favorite stop in Rockland was the delightful Rheal Day Spa. Rarely does a day spa impress me as much as this one. I completely melted away from the delicious aromatherapy massage skillfully administered by Amy. And there was a man in the shop who was nervous and reluctant to get his first facial. His therapist not only treated him to a great facial, but she soothed him as well and he left glowing, smiling and practically waltzing away. The spa shop caught my attention too, and I took advantage of the attractive testers in the Ladies lounge. I fell in love with the spa products and brought home a bagful of Dr. Hauschka’s creams and liquids. There is nothing better than taking your vacation home.
Black Point Inn, 510 Black Point Rd., Scarborough 207-883-2500 http://www.blackpointinn.com
The LimeRock Inn, 96 Limerock Street, Rockland 800-546-3762, http://www.Limerockinn.com.
Rheal Day Spa, 453 Main Street, Rockland 207-594-5077 http://www.rhealdayspa.com
Café Miranda, 15 Oak Street, Rockland 207-594-2034 http://www.cafemiranda.com.
In Good Company, 415 Main Street, 207-593-9110 http://ingoodcompanymaine.com
McLoon’s Lobster Shack, 315 Island Road, Spruce Head 207-593-1382, http://www.mcloonslobster.com
Fiore Artisan Olive Oils and Vinegar 503 Main Street, Rockland 207-596-0276 http://www.FIOREoliveoils.com
Breakwater Vineyards Tasting Room 373 Main Street, Rockland 207-594-1721 http://www.breakwatervineyard.com
Captain Jack’s Lobster Adventure leaves from Middle Pier on Rockland’s waterfront. Captain Steve Hale, 207-542-6852, http://www.captainjacklobstertours.com
Duo’s Seafood, Ocean View Takeout Food Truck 207-593-2784 (search them on Facebook)
Rockland Café, 441 Main Street, Rockland 207-596-7556 http://www.rocklandcafe.com
The Maine Windjammer Association, http://www.sailmaincoast.com 1-800-807-WIND
Farnsworth Art Museum, 16 Museum Street, Rockland 207-596-6457 http://www.Farnsworthmuseum.org
For more information about travel to Maine: visit http://www.VisitMaine.com