Monday morning dawned bright and sunny as we said goodbye to Portland. Our visit was short, but we had a good sampling of what this nice little city had to offer. The next leg of our Maine journey would take us to Bar Harbor, where we would spend the majority of our week. This part of Maine is known as “Down East,” something that sounds a bit funny, as it is so much further north, or “up” from the rest of the country. The 175 mile drive can be accomplished by taking I-295 and I-95, but we chose the more scenic route of US-1 along the coast. If you’re driving straight through, it would take about four hours, but with plenty to see along the way, we planned to make a day of it.
US-1 took us through Freeport where we’d visited L.L. Bean the previous day. Seeking caffeine for the road instead of bargains, we passed right by the store as our GPS directed us to the local McDonalds. We drove right past that too at first – this didn’t look like any McDonalds I’d ever seen!
Fortified with coffee we headed just a few miles north to the town of Brunswick, and the beautiful campus of Bowdoin College. Mr. Maid has read quite a bit of Civil War history over the years and has always had an interest in General Joshua Chamberlain. After the war, Chamberlain went on to become Governor of Maine, and later, President of his alma mater Bowdoin College. He at one time taught every class in the curriculum, except for Mathematics. According to a Wikipedia article about the college, other notable alumni include Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Netflix founder and CEO Reed Hastings. American icons one and all!
The next notable stop was Bath, Maine, a picturesque village on the banks of the Kennebec River. Bath’s claim to fame is Bath Iron Works, a shipyard that builds commercial and military vessels. You can tour parts of the facility and if your timing is right, you may even see the christening ceremony as they launch a new ship. We missed the launching of the U.S. Navy’s newest guided-missile destroyer, the Michael Monsoor by only a few days. The ceremony would have been exciting to see. Instead, we had to be content with seeing some of the new U.S. Navy frigates, a very strange looking ship, from the bridge as we crossed the Kennebec.
After leaving Bath, we left US-1 for a bit to head down one of the many fingers of land down the coast to Boothbay Harbor. There are literally hundreds of peninsulas to explore, and since we only had one day, we had to choose a few. Boothbay Harbor is a popular spot, and we’d get there right about the time we’d be getting hungry for lunch.
This little harbor town is indeed, popular. There were quite a few tourists like us roaming around, although it was not difficult to find parking. July 4th is apparently the unofficial start of the summer season in Maine, so we lucked out by being a little early. We were able to take advantage of off-season rates, immediate seating at restaurants, and a lack of crowds, while still enjoying absolutely perfect weather.
After a short walk around the shops and galleries, we dove in to fried clam po’boys and haddock sandwiches while looking out at the boats docked on the calm bay. Delicious! A few days later we saw a story on the local news that Ann LePage, wife of Maine’s Governor Paul LePage works as a waitress at McSeagull’s Restaurant. If I would have known, we would have gone there to eat so we could tell her to tell her hubby how much we were enjoying their state!
When we were done feeding our faces, we did some more walking, crossing a little footbridge and taking in the sites of the harbor. I couldn’t decide between the little Bridge House (which happened to be for sale!) and the yacht called Aspen Alternative as my retirement home of choice.
After we had walked off at least a portion of our lunch calories, it was back in the car and onto our next stop, Pemaquid Point Light House in Bristol, Maine. Fun fact: this is the lighthouse depicted on the Maine quarter. Although only a few miles as the crow flies, it is 30 miles by car because it is all the way at the tip of a separate finger of land. From Boothbay Harbor, we had to drive back up to US-1, then down the next peninsula.
We were not on a mission to see every lighthouse from Portland to Bar Harbor– that would have taken much more than one day – but I feel like we chose some of the best to stop and see. Pemaquid Point is a really pretty spot with the coolest rocky coast I’ve ever see. The rocks have been etched by the ocean for millennia into long slabs that look like warped wood in places. We spent quite a while exploring the rocks and watching the waves. We also toured the little museum and the lighthouse itself.
By the time we got back in the car it was already mid-afternoon and our GPS was telling us we still had about three hours to go! Our stops from that point on were brief as we drove up US-1 along Penobscot Bay through the cute little towns of Rockport, Camden, Lincolnville, and Belfast. Belfast is at the mouth of the Passagassawakeag River, which is apropos of nothing – I just wanted to imagine all of you trying to pronounce it in your heads!
By early evening we were heading into Bar Harbor, which is on Mount Desert Island. Another fun fact: locals pronounce it “dessert” rather than “desert.” This is because its original name was French: “île des Monts Déserts,” or island of the bare mountains.
Stop by in the next few days for much more about Mount Desert Island, Bar Harbor, and Acadia National Park!
(In addition to chronicling our Maine vacation, I am also submitting this post for today’s Daily Post prompt of “Journey.”)