I know New England is especially famous for its fall scenery, but we really love it in the summer too! We decided to take my company up on its offer of a rental house in the small fishing town of New Harbor, Maine. One thing we knew was that we couldn’t experience everything in two short weeks, so we selected a few highlights and made the most of it!
Only 60 miles north of Portland on the Pemaquid Peninsula, New Harbor is one of the last working harbors remaining along the mid-coast. The harbor and surrounding area are steeped in the rich history of fishing, lobstering and boat building. The area is mostly residential with large tracks of undeveloped land. You won’t find tee shirt shops or the hub-bub of most tourist destinations. Things here are simple, peaceful, relaxed and move at a comfortable pace.
We stayed at a lovely rental home overlooking the fishing harbor. In between day trips to Acadia National Park, Camden Hills State Park, and Monhegan Island, we spent several enjoyable days walking around the peninsula, exploring tidal pools along the rocky coast, riding our bikes to get a treat at the Harbor Ice Cream Shack, and lounging on the deck watching the lobster boats returning after a hard day’s fishing.
The closest excursion was to the lighthouse, fort, and beach at Pemaquid Point. We started the day with a visit to Colonial Pemaquid, home to Fort William Henry and archaeological digs from the 17th and 18th centuries. The Fort is a wonderful stone structure to explore and imagine yourself as one to the early pilgrims to this area. There is a museum which houses the artifact found on this site and explains the long history that exists here. Next, we wandered over to the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse. Built in 1835, the 38-foot stone lighthouse sits on an impressive out cropping of stripped granite that extends into the Ocean. We recommend visiting during a low tide to get the full effect! I even climbed the tower to experience the amazing view from the top.
After leaving the lighthouse, we had lunch at the Sea Gull Restaurant with magnificent views of the Maine coast.
We decided to finish our outing by enjoying the sunshine at Pemaquid Beach, a crescent beach perfect for swimming or soaking in the sun. There is a small entrance fee, but it has a bathhouse, restrooms, snack bar, picnic tables, the town ball field and plenty of parking.
We started the day with a trip to Camden Hills State Park. The park has 5,700 acres with wooded hills, and an 800-foot summit with sweeping views of Penobscot Bay. The view from the summit of Mount Battie is definitely worth the trek. Once at the summit you will get a full panoramic view of surrounding lakes, the beautiful wooded hillsides, and of course Camden Harbor and Penobscot Bay. By foot, the hike to Mount Battie will normally take up to two hours, but you can opt to get to the top by car if you do not feel like the walk up. A small fee is charged for the drive up the summit. Camden Hills State Park also has a campground with water/electric hookups for RVs up to 45’ in length.
After seeing Camden from afar, we drove down to the city for lunch and a walk around the harbor. Downtown Camden is delight of upscale shops, antique shops, general stores, seafood eateries and cafes. The 1957 film Peyton Place was filmed here. We had lunch at an historic diner, the Boynton-McKay Food Company. The building, which opened as an apothecary in 1893, is still fitted with the original birds-eye maple cabinetry, Minton tile checkerboard floor, and pressed tin ceiling. Finally, we wandered around the harbor enjoying the amazing weather and looking at the boats.
My absolute favorite day trip was to Monegan Island. For more than 100 years, Monhegan has been a summer haven for artists and other visitors who appreciate its isolation, the beauty of its wilderness areas, relaxed atmosphere, and unhurried pace. Just 10 miles offshore, Monhegan is a mountainous island where about 70 residents live within a square mile of spectacularly scenic terrain with no cars! The only way to the island is via ferry, and we were lucky that one of the three points of origin was New Harbor. Hardy Boat Cruises offers the Monhegan Island Ferry Service as well as other trips such as Puffin and Seal watching cruises.
Upon our return we stopped for fresh lobster at Shaw’s Wharf Restaurant. Be sure to get a lobster roll—Shaw’s serves over 10,000 of them each year. A lightly buttered bun cradles glistening chunks of perfectly shredded, bite-size meat. While eating you can enjoy views of the Harbor, and you might even see a boat pull up to Shaw’s and offload their day’s catch.
Acadia National Park
We only spent two short days in Acadia on this trip, and it was not nearly enough! All we were able to do was briefly touch some of the highlights of this absolutely beautiful national park!
We spent the first day our Acadia National Park adventure driving and hiking around the park’s highlights, and the second day visiting the main Abbe Museum and kayaking around the western side of the park.
Driving or biking around the Acadia National Park Loop Road is a must, but do so either before 10 a.m. or after 3 p.m. to avoid the crowds and to catch the best light for photos. With only two days to spend at the park, we got an early start. We started at Sieur de Monts Springs, home to the Wild Gardens of Acadia, the Nature Center, and the original Abbe Museum. Next we drove around to Sand Beach and braved dipping our toes in the water, brrrrr! We hiked around the Ocean Path past Thunder Hole to Otter Cliff; and ended with the first day’s grand finale at Cadillac Mountain (everyone raves about sunrise, but sunset is pretty spectacular, too).