BELFAST and ROCKLAND, Maine — We at the Midcoast Beacon have compiled — admittedly abridged — a list of low-or-no-cost, family-friendly things to do this summer in our area.
1. Boat. In Rockland, Station Maine on Mechanic Street offers free rowing to adults. The next date is 6 a.m. Thursday, July 7. Station Maine can be reached at 691-2037. Belfast’s Come Boating offers free rowing at 6 a.m., 9 a.m., 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., Tuesdays; 7 and 8 a.m. Saturdays and various other times. Call 338-3466 for more information.
2. Visit Camden Hills State Park. For $3 a head, you can hike Mount Megunticook or Mount Battie, or you can drive up Mount Battie. At the top is a castle and amazing views of Camden Harbor. If you hike Megunticook, bring a kite and a lunch. The state park has water, electric and dumping capabilities for RVs.
3. Tour local lighthouses. Rockland Breakwater Light is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. weekends through Columbus Day. Owls Head State Park is open throughout the summer and Port Clyde’s Marshall Point Lighthouse gift shop is open 1-5 p.m. Sunday through Friday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays through the fall. Marshall Point Lighthouse is an ideal place for a picnic, which brings us to our next point …
4. Take a picnic and head to the seaside for lunch. In Rockland, stop at the Buoy Park, and in Rockport, the Marine Park — both give views of schooners. In Lincolnville, drop your blanket on Lincolnville Beach.
5. Pop in at the Farnsworth. For Rockland residents museum admission is free. Currently, the museum has black and white shots of places in Maine, beautiful Wyeth paintings and even an Andy Warhol sketch or two. The Farnsworth also has the most comfortable reading chair in the whole world in its library on the main floor.
6. Surf — the Maine way. Thorfinn Expeditions in Rockland gives “paddle boarding” lessons on a pond at the Camden Snow Bowl. As far as we understand, they give you a long, floating board and you stand on top of it and paddle along the pond. Call 322-2293 for information about fees.
7. Join a roller derby league. A new all-women roller derby league started in Rockland last winter. It needs people to act as referees and volunteers. League members women older than 18 who live in the midcoast. The Rock Coast Rollers can be reached at RockCoastRollers@gmail.com.
8. Eat ice cream
9. Swim. There are lots of lakes and ponds around Waldo and Knox counties. For ocean swimming, Lincolnville Beach has lots of parking and nearby places for walking and shopping. In Rockland, there is a small tucked-away beach on Ocean Street near a playground.
10. Go to the Maine Lobster Festival Wednesday through Sunday, Aug 3-7, in Rockland. Volunteers get in free, so consider calling 800-LOB-CLAW. Personally, we like hanging out behind the police station where they have the massive lobster steamers. The guys who run those machines are endlessly amusing and will tell you all about how they shovel thousands of pounds of crustaceans from the ocean to the picnic tables set under the tents.
11. Hoop. Hula hooping has become a big sensation around here. We hear it’s the best sort of social exercise. Free hooping sessions are held 5:30-6:30 p.m. the second and fourth Friday of each month outside the Camden Public Library. HoopME offers lessons in Rockland, Camden and Union. For more information, visit http://www.hoopmeonline.com.
12. Take a ferry ride. For under $20 a person, anyone can ride the ferry to and from North Haven, Vinalhaven, Matinicus or Islesboro. They take off from either Rockland or Lincolnville, depending on where you’re going. The ferries leave a few times a day from each island, so you can stay all day, or for just long enough to grab lunch. The ride alone is worth it. To Vinalhaven, it takes about an hour to weave past the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse and the Owls Head lighthouse, past part of Vinalhaven to the dock. Sit inside or taste the salt in the air at the bow — Titanic style (except the sinking part; these boats are sturdy).
13. Get out your dancing shoes. Contra dances are the place to mingle and dance the night away with local farm hands, fishermen, faculty members and more. Belfast Flying Shoes hosts a great, crowded contra dance with live music beginning at 6:30 p.m. the first Friday of every month at American Legion Post 43 in Belfast. For more information, visit http://www.belfastflyingshoes.org.
14. Check out the view. A one-minute elevator ride to the top of the Penobscot Narrows Observatory in Prospect will bring you to one of the best views in the state and the tallest public bridge-observatory in Maine. Perched atop the Penobscot Narrows Bridge, you can look around in all directions at mountains, lakes and Penobscot Bay. When you’re back down on the ground, visit nearby Fort Knox State Park. This massive granite fort is one of the best-preserved on the New England seacoast. For more information on both attractions, visit http://www.fortknox.maineguide.com.
15. Bike. The midcoast is full of beautiful places to ride, but one we like is the scenic, seven-mile loop around Cape Jellison in Stockton Springs. While you’re there, visit Fort Point State Park, which offers something for history buffs, picnickers, fishermen, hikers and lighthouse fans. It’s a beautiful spot in all seasons, and definitely off the beaten track. For more information, visit www.visitmaine.com/attractions/state_national_parks/state_parks/fort_point_state_park.
16. Prowl around an uninhabited island. Sears Island, connected to the Searsport mainland via causeway, is a paradise for birders. People have spotted 168 species of birds on the island. It’s possible, while hiking the well-maintained trails or wending around the island’s more than five-mile-long shoreline, to imagine how the Maine coast looked in the long-ago past. For more information, visit http://www.friendsofsearsisland.com.
17. Go for a train ride! The Belfast & Moosehead Lake Railway runs on weekends and holidays, thanks to the volunteers of the Brooks Preservation Society. You can hop aboard the old-fashioned train in Belfast and head west into the sunset … or, technically, into inland Waldo County, before returning to the 21st century. For more information, visit http://www.brookspreservation.org.
18. Bike on train tracks. One of our favorite unusual things to do in Waldo County is to go on a rail bike outing. The specially modified bikes carry two passengers who pedal down the railroad tracks together from Thorndike to Knox and back again. You’ll travel in the company of volunteer guides who make sure that road crossings are safe. Don’t forget your bug repellent. For more information, visit http://www.brookspreservation.org.
19. From arts to Celts: Summer Festivals. There are so many, we can’t talk about them all, but here are a couple of noteworthy Waldo County summer events:
• The work of almost 90 artists will be on display at the 16th annual Arts in the Park Saturday and Sunday, July 9-10 on the Belfast Waterfront. Go to http://www.artsintheparkbelfast.org for more information.
• The Maine Celtic Celebration, featuring highland games, music, food and more, will take place Friday through Sunday, July 15-17 on the Belfast waterfront. This festival is home to the New World Cheese Rolling Championships, which must be seen to be believed.
20. Walks, wine, art: Every Friday in July and August, the streets of Belfast will host art lovers for the city’s Belfast Arts Friday Gallery Arts. More than 20 galleries participate in the walks, a great way to see art, socialize and hear live music, too. For more information, visit http://www.BelfastArtWalk.com.