Ah the Boothbay peninsula. Seemingly the birthplace of the Schooner, the busiest little port in Down East and the largest harbor north of Boston...where to start.
Well, before diving too far into our “Boothbay in Day: a guide for the weekend warrior” I want to preface this blog with a quick status update for Paul Landry. As of October 15th, it has been a full year since I had stepped foot in Boothbay. I started my excursion here as a 1st mate on the Schooner Eastwind oh so long ago, providing me the working capital i needed to grow the company. Since then I have traveled over 10,000+ miles in four different countries and I couldn’t be more thankful for it. The one thing I always regretted in Boothbay, was never giving the area a good hard look around. I like to think this was because I always looked at it as the “work” spot, and nothing more.
Now, being back, I was chomping at the bit to go back and explore. Lianne and I had ambitious plans to accomplish just that. We wanted to hit as many different parts of Maine as possible in four days, and today was Boothbay Day! By this point, we had our morning routine down, and we were sitting comfortably in the car by 9am full of breakfast and coffee. Boothbay Harbor is uniquely located at the end of the Boothbay peninsula, and a hidden gem for the most part* (more on that later).
We took River Rd. South from Damariscotta to take advantage of the rolling lowlands of Down East Maine as well as to dodge the traffic of the highways. There are a few hiking trails owned by the Maine Conservatory along the way, but unfortunately they were closed, so we headed straight into town. Late October is notoriously slow compared to the jam packed Summer season. It was just perfect for us though, not having to battle for parking spots.
above: Our view of the schooner Eastwind
The lobster boat that pulled in!
Our first stop of course was to the Schooner Eastwind. Not being an employee there, we obviously couldn’t walk down the dock, but we went to the public dock for a good view. We lucked out too, as multiple Lobster boats were coming in with their fresh loads, and the sweet smell of the ocean blanketed the area. It was so relaxing knowing we didn’t have anywhere specific to go, so we took the time to talk about everything that makes Maine so perfect. If you were to ask anyone who has visited Maine,where they would settle down in Maine, I think you would struggle to find a definitive answer as Maine has boatloads of beautiful locations to choose from.
Above: Enjoying the views at the public docks
The famous pedestrian bridge of Boothbay
The less commercial side of Boothbay
Not wanting to stay in one spot too long, we wandered the downtown looking for anything that might catch our eye. We had been in a huge nautical mood (no surprise there) so one could say that was on the top of the list. Boothbay’s downtown is very quaint, but admittedly still working on finding its image. The touristy shops make money, but I don't see them as bringing any charm to an area, nor do they stay open year round. We chose instead to pop into two amazingly curated shops with an eye for design. The first, is SeaBags Maine, a recycled sail bag company doing some amazing things for the environment. We met the manager and she was incredibly welcoming and friendly. We began chatting about the Paul Landry company, and as you know, I could have talked about it for years! Once Lianne made her purchase, we reluctantly left to find some more goodies. Stop number two was Jansons clothing store, the cutest little clothing store ever. What we liked most about it was the selection of goods we would buy online or at a large retailer, but displayed in such a way that made us want to make a purchase. I was always glad to see some grundens gear as well, a hardy mariners brand with great products! Enough shopping though, it was time for lunch!
Quick recap: The manager of the Seabags store recommended we check out Robinson's Wharf on Southport Island
Southport Island forms the right claw of the Boothbay Lobster (see below) and is accessible by a bridge. Southport is known as the residential side of Boothbay, and the home of many vacation homes and traditional Maine inns. When I say a Maine Inn, it means lodging dedicated to the beauty of Maine and not a whole lot of extra entertainment. Think ‘sit back and relax’.
Above: The bridge from Boothbay to Southport Island
Lianne rocking our Orchard Red crew-neck
Up and around the Coast Guard Station and Maine State Aquarium we went, before coming upon the Southport bridge, and tucked off to the left, Robinson's Wharf. Robinson’s is a local landmark for much of boothbay, and is known for having the best deals on fresh Maine lobster, and well cooked food. It can be tough to find spots like this that are large enough to do well and stay open year round. Being the off season, we found a parking spot easily, and there was no wait to be seated. On our way in, we bumped into some locals and asked them about their meal. They highly recommended the soups and the lobster roll, and that was about all Lianne had to hear to bring smiles to our faces. Inside, we were greeted by a warm interior with wood shiplap walls, cozy booths, vintages ships lights and a few trinkets and pictures. With a view of the harbor and the lobster docks, you couldn’t have asked for more.
Above: Our booth side view from Robinson's Wharf Restaurant
After discussing the menu, it was decided that one could not simply order for themselves with the delectable spread, and so we instead opted for sharing a few things. In this day and age, sharing is often looked at as cheap or distasteful, but in all honesty, it is actually very fun, and allows you to try a little bit of everything!
We opted for a cup (a large one at that) of Lobster Bisque, a cup of New England Clam Chowdah, a Lobstah roll, and of course ...a side order of fries! uhmm ...yum! Lianne and I are both H U G E lobstah lovers, so we were really rolling the dice on a big roll. Within what seemed like two or three minutes, our wonderful waitress came zipping around the corner with our meal. H O L Y C O W was it tasty! We enjoyed every last bite, and the lobster roll was overflowing with meat. I believe it is important to note the lobster roll consisted of 90% claw meet, ie: the softer, sweeter part of the lobster. Anyone that has broken down a lobster before knows how little meat can be in the claws, so packing a roll with it shows true pride.
Above: Our mouth-watering lunch snacks
Enjoying an absolutely delicious lobster roll!
Full without feeling packed, we got back into the car to continue our adventure! I had read about an awesome 1-mile trail on the southwest side of Southport Island, and we set out in search of it. We drove about 10 minutes down the road before happening upon an amazing scenic overlook. We weren’t sure if this was the spot to be in, but with the only public parking we had seen since leaving Robinson’s wharf, we figured “what the heck, let's do it!”. I couldn’t have been happier about our decision. This large tidal beach with countless rocks and boulders crisscrossing the beach was true Maine perfection. We were the only people out here, and the distant sound of migrating birds and the crashing waves of the Atlantic was extremely therapeutic. We really wanted to see some seals, as they often frequent the area, but after an exhaustive 30 minute search, we concluded there were none to be found. Oh well! A few more pictures and then we were headed out again, this time to visit the Maine Botanical Gardens before it got too late.
Above: At the "beach" looking toward the atlantic
Trying my hardest to get the perfect picture
Like I said earlier, although we did not have a set plan, the only deadline we had was being back at my grandparents by 5:30 pm and that meant compartmentalizing each little adventure so our time didn’t feel like it was cut short.
The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens have gone from humble beginnings as a small conservatory, to a large 100+ acre highly curated garden with an extensive offering of plants and trees that showcase the diversity of New England. A quick fun fact about the gardens: My grandparents were part of the original group of founders, and helped spearhead the movement of creating a truly unique experience. It was very important to them to make sure the gardens were done the best way possible, using the best landscape architects to create an awe inspiring landscape. About a year back, the gardens expanded and a much larger welcome center was created. Driving through the winding road up to the entrance we were blown away by its size but minimal impact on the tree lined skyline of the area (much easier said than done). Most impressively is their commitment to making the gardens accessible to all. Rivaled only by Disney World in transportation, the gardens had free complimentary access to motorized scooters for elderly and disabled, as well as sturdy, wide walkways. In addition, a small fleet of electric golf carts operated as trams to bring those with limited mobility to the garden ‘hot spots’. I hate to say it, but the gardens are truly one of those “you had to be there” kind of things. At the time, they were mid-setup for the annual nights of lights Christmas event, which i’ll link here!
Above: The walkway from the main entrance to the gardens
Exploring the fairy gardens and childrens area
Even though I have been here countless times, I had never been in Fall, and gosh did I love it. The landscapers/gardeners continually circulate the plants so that even mid fall you have a gorgeous bouquet of flowers and plants to fall in love with. We roamed the upper gardens and took pictures at our leisure, but the real fun came on the hillside display. What they had done, was to recreate what the different types of hillside plant groups you would run into in Maine. Compressing an entire mountainside ecosystem into a small hillside is no easy feat, but they executed it well, and along with some info-panels, makes for an incredibly pleasant hike down to the water. The ‘shore trail’ is on its own, extremely beautiful, and displays the natural Maine we all seek out. A quick trip through the fairy gardens and winding back up the hill into the children's gardens was about all we had time for unfortunately. One could spend all day here if they really wanted to, but we felt in our two and a half hours we had covered a commendable amount.
Above: A quick stop on the hillside trail
Hey Lianne! Catch up!
Like I mentioned before, the sun doesn’t stay up much past 5 this time of year, and at 4:30 we were doing the hurry scurry walk back to the car. Knowing that we should be expecting additional guests at my grandparents, we stopped at Dunkin Donuts for some much needed Dunkaccinos (Coffee + Hot Cocoa) as a quick pick me up. Ssshhh don't tell anyone!
See you again soon Boothbay,
P. Landry + Lianne