Maine’s Coastal Route 1 meanders past quaint towns, sleepy seaside fishing villages and more antique shops and lobster shacks than you ever imagined. As we left the postcard perfect town of Camden for the rugged beauty of Acadia National Park our innkeepers gave us advice on some interesting sites along the way. With typical New England modesty and reserve we were directed to go to “that cute little blanket shop”; this happened to be Swan Island Blankets, whose handmade items are given to visiting dignitaries by none other the The White House. No big deal.
Hidden in the small town of Camden, Maine the Hartstone Inn is perfect for a weekend foodie getaway.Housed in a converted Federal style home built in 1835, Chef Michael Salmon (a former recipient of Caribbean Chef of the Year) and his wife Mary Jo run their inn with a focus on comfortable luxury and gourmet cuisine. Rooms are comfortably appointed with sumptuous linens and french provincial touches while the common spaces retain a Victorian feel with a nod to the building’s historic charms. During my travels through Maine I became increasingly convinced that all Maine residents have a sixth sense when it comes to gardening and the Hartstone was no different. Hydrangeas, with their white fluffy blooms greet me at the entrance while cheerful lilies and demure daisies line the path to my room. Mary Jo’s love of orchids is on also display with the delicate flowers gracing nearly every space.
With the rolling green hills of mid-coast Maine as its backdrop, the setting of Cellardoor Winery looks like it belongs to Virginia’s popular Piedmont region. Don’t be mistaken though, this winery is 100% Maine and very proud of it. Owner Bettina Doulton purchased the property in 2007 and transformed a 1790s farmhouse into the winery and tasting room with a rustic luxe touch in order to keep the character of the original building. Maine’s rocky soil and harsh winters have not usually been kind to grape vines in the past but with ingenuity, a classic New England work ethic, and I suspect a dash of Maine stubbornness (coming from a long line of Mainers myself I can say that) the winery had a successful harvest in 2012 that will be used in making future vintages.
Portland Maine is a vibrant harbor town with a creative spirit and a gritty, working class past. Access to some of the freshest seafood on the East Coast( including Maine’s succulent lobster) and scores of small scale farms and artisan food producers has attracted a new wave of forward-thinking chefs eager to showcase some of Maine’s best culinary offerings. Recently named the “Foodiest small town in America” by none other than Bon Appetit magazine I knew I had to sample some of Portland’s goodies for myself but I was only stopping in the city for one day. Maine Foodie Tours to the rescue!
Acadia National Park is the crown jewel of America’s east coast and it’s rugged beauty attracts millions of visitors every year. Granite peaks give way to pine covered forests that transition into dramatic cliffs and rock strewn shores, the surrounding bays dotted with emerald green islands are the picture of tranquility. Bar Harbor, located on Mount Dessert Island in northeastern Maine, is a bustling tourist town that serves as the gateway for Acadia and can be quite crowded during the summer or whenever a cruise ship pulls into town but you’re never less than thirty minutes from finding solitude once you veer from the well worn tourist paths. The park occupies not only a good swath of Mount Desert Island but also parts of the nearby Schoodic Peninsula, and the more remote Baker Island and Isle de Haut. Mount Dessert Island served as a summer getaway for the well heeled in the mid 1800’s transforming the once sleepy island of farmers and fisherman into a popular tourist destination. Charles W. Eliot and George B. Dorr were instrumental in preservation efforts that eventually led to Acadia becoming the first national park east of the Mississippi River in 1919 and John D. Rockefeller Jr. helped created the park’s 45 mile carriage road system, originally designed to navigate parts of the island by horse drawn carriage that now serves as popular hiking and cycling trails.
Summertime in coastal Maine evokes images of searching for the perfect lobster roll, exploring tide pools along the rock strewn beaches and sailing among bays and summer isles. Verdant hills tumble into the deep blue of the Atlantic forming over 3,000 miles of rocky coastline and to properly experience it you must take to the water. On a gorgeous 75 degree day filled with sunshine and gentle breezes we made our way down to Camden’s postcard worthy harbor to sort out our seafaring options. Kayak? Not a great option for us this time with Steve’s mom in tow. Motorized catamaran? Eh, not feeling it. A four-sailed, beautifully restored historic schooner? Now we’re talking.