My brother once said to me that he wanted to live year-round in a place where other people go for vacation. That way he gets to enjoy all the attractions both in peak season and after the crowds go home. I keep telling him he should move to Maine.
Most Mainers, even those who don’t live in a tourist hot spot, can reach vacation-worthy settings in an hour or two — mountains, coastline, pristine lakes, charming towns. It is a strangely common phenomenon that people overlook treasures in their own backyard which others travel hundreds of miles to see.
My husband and I recently carved out 36 hours to explore a piece of Maine’s midcoast that we had never seen. Our day included:
• 2 lighthouses
• 1 breakwater
• 1 seal
• 2 museums
• 1 local ice cream stand
• countless vistas
• a lot of nice people
For the hundredth time, we fell in love with life in Maine.
About 15 months ago I won a free night at the Samoset Resort Hotel in Rockland, so our visit began there in the evening. We read about the glorious and tragic history of the original Samoset, and ate at the establishment’s Italian restaurant. We watched the cooks (at least one of them Maine-trained) prepare hors d’oeuvres and pull pizzas sizzling out of a brick oven.
The next day began with the irresistible call of the rising sun outside our window. If you have never witnessed an Atlantic sunrise, put it on your to-do list. Later we walked the nearly mile-long Rockland breakwater to its historic lighthouse. The breakwater is a phenomenal feat of 19th century engineering. Massive granite slabs form the top of the breakwater, which took 18 years to build. As an added bonus, we were treated to a seal sighting from the lighthouse railing.
In Rockland, we stopped for a delicious breakfast at the Home Kitchen Cafe, a 3-year-old restaurant with an extensive menu of entirely homemade dishes and baked goods. The owner is a personable, energetic woman who used to run a T-shirt company. She took up the restaurant business, she said, to escape the stress of the T-shirt business. It sounded like “out of the fire and into the frying pan” to me, but she was all smiles, the place was packed and the food was phenomenal.
Next stop was the Owls Head Transportation Museum, which was hosting an event sponsored by LifeFlight of Maine. LifeFlight’s critical care transport helicopter was on display outside, and inside the museum were a couple hundred years’ worth of antique cars and aircraft, including one plane with feather-covered wings that flap like a bird’s.
We followed Route 131 through Tenant’s Harbor to Port Clyde, where we visited Village Ice Cream, the Port Clyde General Store and walked around the docks near the Monhegan Island ferry. Then we continued to the outermost point of the peninsula to see the Marshall Point Lighthouse, our second lighthouse of the day. One of this lighthouse’s many flirtations with fame was its cameo appearance with Tom Hanks in the movie “Forrest Gump.”
Through the window of the beautifully restored keeper’s house I saw a woman sewing cloth legs onto a doll. I wondered if I was seeing a historic re-enactment, but it was just a volunteer working on a project. This charming museum and craft shop is 100 percent volunteer operated and packed with history, photos and an extensive library. The volunteer we met is originally from Michigan, but like many “from away,” her devotion to Maine’s people, places and stories is boundless and contagious. The state would not be what it is without all of its Mainers, both old and new.
We wound our way back up the Penobscot River at the end of a glorious day of exploration, happily reminded that going on vacation is as easy as driving down the road apiece.
Robin Clifford Wood welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.