Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

A Trip Down the St. George Peninsula, Maine

Maine’s coastline is jagged and with numerous peninsulas dangling off the mainland jetting out into the sea. To those who travel on the fast-track and don’t linger in one area long, these may look like out-of-the way places that go unvisited. And they are right, these towns are out of the way – which is why they are so worth the visit. One peninsula we came to know very well last summer was the St. George Peninsula which lies just south of Coastal Route 1 between Thomaston and Rockland, mid-coast.  The southern tip of the peninsula is the charming town of Port Clyde surrounded by a may lay of islands and home to one of Maines’ iconic lighthouses. But don’t rush down to Port Clyde. Instead, spend the day getting to know the peninsula's other pretty towns, enjoy a delicious lunch with a water view, watch artists paint by the sea, and marvel at the coastal scenery.

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Start your journey in the town of Owls Head, an upscale bedroom community of Rockland. Owls Head State Park is pretty small at just 13.5 acres but the draw for many people is the Owls Head Light and the beautiful scenery. The park offers panoramic views of Western Penobscot Bay and the entrance to Rockland Harbor from the light. The lighthouse is open for you to go up in but there is a fee. We like to walk down the path to the water and let Spirit swim while we soak up the sun and also get to enjoy the great view. (Dogs are allowed in some parts of the park but not near the lighthouse.) Another State Park we like is Birch Point where a wide beach is a great place to enjoy a warm summer day with your toes in the sand or just hang out on the rocks and watch the lobster boats haul their traps. In between the two parks is Ash Point Preserve where a short (less than 2-mile trail) winds you through the woods with pretty views of the coastline.

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Now that you’ve had your lighthouse fix and a walk or two, drive south to Spruce Head where the most awesome lobster “shack” awaits you. We fell in love with McLoons Lobster Shack the minute we drove into the parking lot and it really became a full-blown love affair after we ate there. The food is amazing and the setting beautiful. The lobster is so sweet because it comes directly from Spruce Head lobstermen whose moorings are bobbing in the water right in front of you. Live lobsters are held in crates in seawater until you order and they finally meet their demise. I fell in love with the crab cake sandwich with spicy aioli and their lobster stew was one of our friend’s favorites. McLoons sells non-alcoholic beverages but if you want to BYOB, stop at Mussel Ridge Market which sells cold wine and beer.

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As you leave McLoons heading south to Port Clyde, keep an eye out for the Lobster Lane Bookshop. Lobster Lane is a used bookstore jammed packed with books in every corner of the building. The books are at a bargain price and many are gently used. The place may look disheveled when you first walk in but ask the owner who remarkably knows everything that is in there.

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South of Spruce Head is the town of Tenants Harbor. There is another great lobster shack there called Luke’s which serves up deliciously sweet lobster and crab rolls (sprinkled with a special seasoning) and delicious fried haddock. Luke’s is actually a chain with locations all across the country including New York, Las Vegas, Miami, Maryland and more. The food is very good there too but we like the family-owned and run feel of McLoons better. We do like how picturesque Tenants Harbor is and decided to take our paddleboards and kayak down there one day with our friends Pat and Debbie. The warm weather and calm seas made for great paddling as we perused the shoreline for sea glass and wove around the moored boats getting a close up view.

The very tip of the St. George Peninsula is a rocky point of land marked by the Marshall Point Lighthouse which dates back to 1832. The lighthouse sits at the end of a wooden runway making it idyllic for photographs. The Lighthouse property includes the light, a restored Keeper’s House which is a museum, and surrounding gardens. The lighthouse was featured in the movie Forest Gump where it was the terminus of his long run across the country.

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Back up in the town of Port Clyde you will find that it can be quite bustling on summer days. Here you can catch a ferry to Monhegan Island (which we highly recommend if you have the time), rent a kayak, a stroll through a plethora of art galleries, and dine at eateries like the Dip Net (who has great fish tacos) and the Village Ice Cream. The town’s main attraction is the Port Clyde General Store. This is one of those super fun general stores where you can get a hamburger grilled on the flat top, pick up some gourmet cheese, fuel up your boat, pick out some penny candy, buy a t-shirt for a souvenir, do laundry, and buy fresh fish and a bottle of wine for dinner. You probably get the picture! It has always been one of my favorite places to stroll around.

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But don’t spend all your time downstairs at the general store because upstairs is an art gallery called Wyeth’s by Water dedicated to the three generations of great American artists – N.C., Andrew, and James Wyeth. The gallery is owned by Linda Bean (the granddaughter of L.L. Bean) who is dedicated to sharing information about the Wyeth's time spent in the areas and the places that influenced them. The gallery offers guided boat tours around the islands surrounding Port Clyde describing the influence and inspiration that this area had on the three generations of the Wyeths. The 2.5 – hour narrated tour was a fascinating way to see the area and learn about these renowned American artists.  The tour boat is a 45’ lobster boat and as an added bonus your tour begins by hauling a few lobster traps so you get the true Maine experience of being on the water. 

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Heading back up the peninsula in Owls Head is the Breakwater Winery. The winery's name comes from the view on their front porch of the Rockland Breakwater. Their tasting room offers a variety of wines, cider, and mead where four tastings cost only $3. After tasting you may decide to buy a glass and sit on the front porch enjoying the view or walk over to see the adorable goats.

The places we visited in this post are certainly “off the beaten path” but so worth the time to visit.  We returned many times during the summer and loved being in these less touristy places in coastal Maine.  The views are always great, food is wonderful, and there is a slower pace.  The the little harbors and coves filled with bobbing boats make Maine what it is.  You really should pay Maine a visit if you never have been.  It gets in your soul!

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