Ahh … the bookend trip of summer. The first weekend of summer we hit Disney World. Please … oh … please, could this trip to Maine be different.
I enjoy Disney World immensely, but it is exhausting. And it doesn’t help when you have to horseshoe around the country for 24 hours to get there (we won’t get into all the reasons for that). So, I couldn’t wait to visit the Northeastern Seaboard and kick back before the kids returned to school.
She: Disney World is ALL Brent!
Still, the trip wasn’t going to be all peaches and cream. I knew we’d be able to relax and enjoy the temperate Maine summer (see the beautiful Seasons of Maine book — it resides on our coffee table). But the real reason we went was to visit a sick a relative of Becca’s, so that certainly adds a melancholy tinge to all the proceedings (though you would hardly know based on his spirit).
Visiting New Harbor, Maine
My wife’s uncle Rick and his wife bought (and completely gutted) a 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom house off the coast of Maine in New Harbor.
If you’re not familiar with New Harbor, it’s about a 90-minute to 3-hour drive (more on why that difference in a minute) from Portland mostly via I-295 and US-1.
She: I on the other hand run away from the birds. Not a fan.
Maine is a Perfect Place to …
In addition to visiting Pemaquid Beach Park, Becca and I ventured out for many walks in the woods and along the beach. Plus, Uncle Rick was kind enough to purchase a badminton set for some backyard fun (we were horrible).
Spend Time With Family
We had a blast catching up with family and teaching the kids some games. Our 11-year-old daughter “D” couldn’t get enough of the Mexican Train dominoes game and a simple, but super fun lighthouse, Maine-inspired dice game. We picked up the dice game in the gift shop at Rick’s favorite breakfast place, The Sea Gull. (The Sea Gull even offers a live webcam of the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse.)
One of the trip’s highlights was Rick turning us onto the operatic stylings of their Jack Russel Terrier-mix Cosmo:
Shop and Shop AND SHOP!
If you’re into shopping — whether it’s antique or outlet mall — this area north of Portland has it in spades. Much of our time in Camden (boutique shops), Damariscotta and Freeport (outlet) was spent shopping.
While not quite as upscale, Damariscotta has its own charm and truly reminds me of small town America circa 1950.
And, if outdoor apparel is your thing, Freeport is a required destination. Home to the L.L. Bean headquarters, a shopper can easily score serious deals not only there, but also at the North Face, Patagonia, Toad & Co. and more.
Get Stuck in Single-lane Traffic
Touted as the “prettiest village in Maine,” Wiscasset is … and it isn’t. Remember me mentioning the 90-minute difference in drive time from Portland to New Harbor? You have the single-lane and the back up of Wiscasset traffic to thank if you hit it at the wrong time of day.
As you can imagine, you want to avoid this stretch during traditional rush hours in the morning and evening. And believe it or not, you want to keep clear of town during the lunch hour, as well.
Still … Dream of Going Back
At that, Maine is a beautiful place, where the whole family would like to return for a visit. Even while there, Becca and I looked at real estate and dreaming of some day (though once Becca’s aunt started talking about zoning and how basic utilities like water worked, the dreaming quelled somewhat).
Our 15-year-old son “G” got a little concerned as we teased him that we were looking at schools in the area.
Okay. So even if we don’t ever move to Maine, we’ll certainly return for a visit.
As I mentioned prior, Camden would be atop the list. After shopping, I couldn’t help but watch the schooners pull into and out of the harbor. The Surprise caught my eye, tethering to the dock to swing its way into a tight a spot.
And, when we headed back to the car, we passed beneath the balconies of the historic 16 Bay View hotel.
I see a weekend return visit for Becca and me in Camden.
A Bigtime Highlight — Puffin Cruise With The National Audubon
Do you know what a Puffin is? My family enjoys the cereal, and never in my wildest dreams did I think we go out searching for them. That is, until Rick booked us a cruise.
So what is a Puffin? They’re pelagic birds (seabirds) with a stout build, colorful beak and fleet wings. The kids said they reminded them of toucan sam. “D” thought they were cute. The cruise called them their “local sea parrot.”
She: The cereal is made of corn and oats not actual Puffins!
Run by Hardy Boat Cruises in New Harbor, Maine, guests take a ferry boat from the docks for about a 30 minute ocean cruise to Eastern Egg Rock island. There, the National Audubon has created a sanctuary for sea birds. According to the Audubon, “it is one of North America’s most significant nature sites.”
Apparently, a late 1800’s fashion trend decimated the Atlantic Puffin population along Maine’s coast. It wasn’t until the early 1970’s that Dr. Stephen Kress began working to restore the seabird. Project Puffin was born.
Eastern Egg Rock now shelters about 150 nesting pairs of Atlantic Puffins and many other seabirds. The island is the first of its kind and established colonization practices that are now used all over the world.
The Puffin cruises appear to end in late August, but Hardy Boat also offer Seal watch cruises and, in the fall, foilage cruises.
She: And what are the odds of being on this cruise with another family from KC?!? We sat right behind a couple from Excelsior Springs.
May 20-June 9 — Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday 5:30 p.m.
June 10-late August Daily 5:30 p.m.
Total trip 90 minutes Adults —$32/child under 12 — $12