Coastal Maine for Labor Day!

MAINE

(Rockland/Rockport/Camden/Lincolnville)

Overview

Labor Day in the USA is always on a Monday in the early September. For some, it means no more white pants until Memorial Day (in May). While for us, it’s a long weekend marking upcoming fall and therefore not to be wasted sitting at home.

We chose to explore a few charming towns in Maine- Lincolnville, Camden, Rockland and Rockport- the furthest one being 3.5 hrs drive from Boston, and all of them only 10-20 min away from each other.

ACCOMODATION

The Inn at Ocean’s Edge

The name says it all. Located on the shore of the ocean, this luxury boutique hotel has everything we lack at home and enjoy while staying away. Beautiful views, heated salt water infinity pool, hot tub, sauna, gas fireplace in the room and a breakfast served on the balcony!

Maine has strict COVID-19 policies and coming from Massachusetts we were required to have a negative test. However, the same rules do not apply to visitors from New York, New Jersey, Vermont or New Hampshire. We met people from all over the country there, but we felt safe, since everyone wore masks while being inside, and the staff made sure to space the breakfast tables within required distance. Breakfast was filling and every morning there was a chef’s special. In the afternoon there were fresh cookies and you could get tea/coffee any time. There is no restaurant onsite for dinner, but with all of the amazing options in the towns around, this was not an issue. We’d definitely stay at The Inn at Ocean’s Edge again and would recommend it to others.

DINING

Do you like seafood? How about French cuisine? Maybe a four course meal that won’t break the bank is something you’ve been looking forward to? All of the above is possible in this area of Maine.

Breakfast

Since breakfasts were included in our stay, I cannot recommend many places for the morning meal. However, we’ve talked to the French couple who swore they had better croissants at Atlantic Baking Co in Rockland than in France!

It’s about 20 min drive from where we stayed in Lincolnville but by the time we got to the place around noon, all of the croissants were sold out…We still enjoyed their other pastries, so I want to believe that French ladies were right- this place knows how to make amazing baked goods!

Lunch

Three lunches in Maine- three lobster rolls for me! All in different restaurants of course. I guess when you are in Maine, go lobster or go home 🙂 ! First one was at the Archer’s on the Pier in Rockland. We were exploring the town and noticed this restaurant located at the end of the Rockland Harbor Trail. The views were stunning, there was a very short wait, so we had no reason to look any further.

My lobster roll was good (not the best, I will save the best for last!), Sean had a fried chicken sandwich, which was OK. I’d go back there more for the views than the food.

Second day, we had lunch in Camden and yet another waterfront restaurant serving fresh seafood and more. The Waterfront Restaurant was by far busier than the one in Rockland, but that makes sense- Camden had a lot more tourists. This restaurant does not take reservations by phone, so we put our name down in-person and walked around for a good hour periodically checking back in to see if the table freed up.

It was worth the wait- oysters were super fresh, lobster roll was better than at Archer’s and Sean’s fish tacos and calamari were delightful. And don’t forget the view of the Camden harbor!

Last lunch on this short stay was on the way back home to Boston. It was slightly out of the way to be exact, but we’ve heard they serve the BEST lobster roll, so we couldn’t skip it. McLoons Lobster Shack located in South Thomaston lived up to the name!

It easily was the best lobster roll of the three I had in Maine, and one of the best ever. Not drowning in mayo, no added fillers, just a warm toasted bun and fresh big chunks of lobster meat. Eating it on outside overlooking the ocean felt like a true Maine experience. We also got their crab cakes and blueberry pie and everything was fresh and delicious.

Dinner

Dinners were the most exciting culinary experience on this stay. Knowing that it’s a busy holiday weekend, we made reservations for all three restaurants a few days prior to the trip and I’m glad we did. Our first night we did not want to drive anymore so we chose Youngtown Inn and Restaurant right in Lincolnville. The Inn had converted their balcony to the outside dining with heat lamps, so we were happy we didn’t have to sit inside (better be safe than sorry these COVID-19 times).

From the service, to the meals- everything was incredible. We chose a four course “Prix Fixe” dinner option (55 USD pp plus tax and drinks) and enjoyed every bite.

Lobster bisque, filet of sole with crab stuffing, roast rack of lamb, blueberry pie and crème brûlée – it was perfect portion size to not feel too full, but every course was a feast.

Saturday night we had ventured into Camden and the dinner choice was Franny’s Bistro – a cute restaurant that also had beautiful outside seating arrangements. Even with our reservations we had to wait a bit, the place was very popular. We shared duck confit, I enjoyed the swordfish with mango/avocado salsa and Sean had shrimp and grits. We skipped dessert and decided to get ice cream instead, while checking out Camden in the evening. Turns out Camden Cone serves great ice cream and we returned there every day for the rest of the stay!

Our last dinner on this mini vacation was at Natalie’s Restaurant – Relais and Chateaux. What claims to be an award winning best restaurant in the area left us quite disappointed. We knew it would be pricey, but decided that it’s our last night on this trip and have not been able to travel much this year, so why not have a dinner at the super fancy restaurant. The food was ok, it was not out of this world. The presentation was pretty, but portions were definitely tiny. I understand that it’s art, but the single slice of heirloom tomato that is now in season, should not cost 19 dollars and should not be called a salad.

What was the most disappointing though was not the food. We got seated outside on the porch, but just outside the door and felt literally like sitting on the side of a busy highway. More staff than customers kept running back and forth and the patio floor shook every time. By the end we could not wait to get out of there and enjoy the peace and quiet. I am sure this table was added due to all of the requirements to keep social distance, but after a couple hours we wished we had sat inside where it was a lot more peaceful…

ACTIVITIES

We did not only eat and sleep on this trip :)! There is a lot to do for seemingly small towns and we actually wished we had more time. Here are a few fun things to try while in this area of Maine.

EXPLORE DOWNTOWN ROCKLAND

We started in Rockland– pleasant 20 minutes drive from Lincolnville. There is not a ton of action and we saw a lot of closed storefronts…But still there are a lot of cute galleries, restaurants and cafes to enjoy.

One of my favorite parts of this town was Rockland Harbor Trail, leading to the Archer’s on the Pier Restaurant. Very peaceful and beautiful views of the harbor.

WALK TO THE LIGHTHOUSE

Get your comfy shoes on for this activity! The Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse sits at the end of almost a mile long breakwater- the path made of flattened rocks.

Keep in mind that there are cracks and you have to pay attention to where you are stepping. This active lighthouse was built in 1902 and was my other favorite part of Rockland.

STOP BY ROCKPORT HARBOR

We did not do much else in Rockport, but before driving back for dinner stopped at the picturesque Rockport Marine Park.

It’s definitely beautiful area for a picnic or a stroll.

ENJOY QUAINT CAMDEN

Out of all four towns that we visited, Camden was the most touristy, but with the most options to eat, shop and have a fun during day or at night.

There are several streets to explore and of course you cannot skip the harbor!

GO UP MOUNT BATTIE

An absolute must if you are in Camden. The summit can be reached either hiking (approximately a mile long trail), or driving up from the Camden Hills State Park (we had all of the best intentions of hiking, but ran out of time). It cost 12 USD for out of state car and was worth every penny.

The views of the town below and the gorgeous Penobscot Bay are simply magnificent. There is a stone tower where the Summit House used to be back in the carriage trading days of Camden.

SAIL AROUND PENOBSCOT BAY

What is a better way to see the coast than taking a boat ride? There are many options for various tours, just walk along the Camden harbour and check the stands for the available times. We did not have anything booked in advance and stopping at the two stands heard they are fully booked, so did not have much hope to to sail this weekend. We got lucky – Schooner Appledoor II had availability for the following day, so we booked it on the spot.

It’s a three hour ride and we loved it! Normally we’re not big sailors, sea sickness comes pretty easy for both of us, but this huge boat was very smooth and enjoyable. Tip- you might want to leave the hat at home and bring a sweater because it gets windy onboard. We sailed by the Curtis Island Lighthouse, enjoyed the breeze and so(me)one even may have had a mimosa 🙂 . It was a great relaxing summer day…

DO A WINE TASTING

That’s one activity I didn’t get to enjoy but stopped by the Cellardoor Winery on the way home (hopefully for the next visit). It’s only open Friday- Sunday with limited tasting times, so for those interested- book in advance. If the wine is as good as these views, you will not be disappointed.

CONCLUSION

2020 has been very unsettling, stressful and at the same time made us look for ways to find happiness close to home. It’s unlikely we would have came to Maine this weekend, if not for the travel restrictions to visit Canada. The silver lining of it all was that we were able to find joy, excitement, and new activities during otherwise very uncertain times.

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