Let your imagination run wild…
What would make your vacation perfect? Kayaking in the shadow of a lighthouse, accompanied by curious seals and majestic loons? Museums that display their world-class treasures and help you to make sense of the past? Picture perfect historical villages filled with wonderful restaurants and galleries? A sunset schooner ride where the Captain actually encourages you to bring your wine and cheese aboard? The possibilities are endless, let us help you plan seven wonderful days all within one hour of your campsite.
Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. Hike and bike hundreds of miles of trails on your own or join a guided tour. The only national park on the Eastern Coast Seacoast, Acadia provides a rich combination of elements-land and sea, woodland, lake and mountain-no one of which dominates another. The second most visited park in America, Acadia’s 41,645 acres evokes the strongest, most long-lasting response from the greatest number of people. One thing we never miss is tea time at Jordan Pond House…one bite of those hot popovers dripping with butter and strawberry jam while you look out through the flower gardens onto Jordan pond and you’ll etch a vacation memory into your mind that will never go away. Mount Desert Island is 45 miles east of Searsport Shores.
Vinalhaven- From the campground, one of the islands we look down the Bay to is Vinalhaven. Home to approximately 1200 year round residents, this island is a cyclist and walkers paradise…only small hills, plenty of ocean access, a spectacular wildlife preserve, swimming quarries and good blueberry pie…can you think of a better daytrip? The ferry to Vinalhaven leaves from Rockland Ferry Terminal (40 minutes South of the campground) regularly during the summer. Leave early in the morning, pack for a breezy yet quick ocean crossing and bring your camera because you’ll see dolphins, seals, bald eagles, osprey, sea ducks and beautiful island coves. Consider the 11/2 hour boat ride a big part of the adventure…it’s stunning! Once you get there decide which nature preserve you’d like to explore and just move at the slower rhythm of island life. Our advice: avoid bringing a car if you possibly can…instead wear good walking shoes, bring your own bike or plan on renting them once you’re on the island.
Explore the East side of Penobscot Bay. Fifteen miles off Route 1, Castine is the village on the postcard you’ll find in a vintage ephemera shop. Majestic elm trees still shade the town commons and frame the stately homes built during the 1800’s. While you’re here, tour the Wilson Museum (it’s like poking through the attic of your eccentric, world traveling uncle), Visit the Maine Maritime Academy and allow a midshipman to tour you through the STATE OF MAINE, the Academy’s training ship, docked at the town pier in July and August.
You could linger in Castine all day (look for the bakery on the side of the hill), or slowly drive to Stonington, a working lobster village on the tip of Deer Isle (eat fresh seafood at Bagaduce Lunch)…this is a perfect place to launch a kayak and explore the pink granite islands that dot the coast. You can wander into countless artist’s workshops and always find something beautiful, unique and within your budget…and you won’t find it anyplace else in the world. Still want to explore? On your way home visit explore Fort Knox and the Penobscot Narrows Bridge and consider poking around Bucksport with a stop at the Friars’ Brewhouse for a cold microbrew (you know that you’ve earned it!). If you packed your fishing pole, there’s a fishing pier here at Fort Point State Park…and it’s on the way home to the campground.
Searsport- A century ago, one in every 10 American shipmasters hailed from this tiny town. Searsport was the launching area for over 200 world traveled, multi-masted ships. For a detailed map of all the area has to offer visit Head of the Bay Business Association’s Website.
Browse the renowned Penobscot Marine Museum in the morning and then hunt the hundreds of Antique/Flea market stalls in the afternoon. Take the Heritage Walking Tour on the streets of Searsport – Museum on the Streets. If we were visiting the area, we wouldn’t miss Hey Sailor for a tacos and a drink…or a relaxing coffee (bring your own from Coastal Coffee) at either Mosman Park or the town pier. Come back to the campground for a fresh lobster dinner and your own crackling camp fire with s’mores.
If you’re looking to explore a bit further head further north to Bangor. Although Samuel de Champlain visited this area about 400 years ago, about 80 years after the Spanish first visit to the Penobscot Bay, this city is being rediscovered by entrepreneurs and vacationers. Downtown Bangor not only has a great theater & waterfront concerts, but also museums, specialty shops and historic architecture…IMHO two shops not to be missed are Maine Jewelry & Art and One Lupine Fiber Arts if you’re looking for something special and (easy to pack) from Maine.
Time to head inland for the day and explore Waterville, the lovely small city on the Kennebec River. Rarely considered a tourist destination, it’s a pretty hour’s drive from the campground, over the green hills and along the sprawling farms. When Steve and I go to Waterville, we’re usually planning a shopping trip that includes a really good lunch and a pretty walk across the Two Cent Bridge (it’s the only remaining toll footbridge in the country) or through the Perkins Arboretum and Bird Sanctuary…plus a bit of time at the Colby College Museum of Art.
Where do we shop? Mardens (an overstock chain only found in Maine) is a definite destination…I go for the incredible buys on fabric and occasionally designer clothes, Steve gets lost in the hardware aisles (yes, I’m noticing how old-fashioned and sexist this sounds…but what can I say?) We also head to Fedco Seeds for whatever needs we have in the garden and if you’re in the market for a handmade guitar or handsewn quilt, there’s a little grouping of studios by the Railroad Square Cinema (home to the July Maine International Film Festival) …and there’s a good mexican restaurant there too.
For adult beverages, we love the Riverside Farm Cafe and Wine Market that’s just over the Messalonskee Stream in Oakland (bring something back for the campfire) and we’ve heard really good things about the Tree Spirits Winery and Distillery just down the road (and they sell their product on Saturdays at the indoor farmers market in Belfast.
You’ve been doing alot of driving these last few days so consider having a slow morning at the campground, wandering the gardens and visiting the flock (they love dry cereal…just say’in). Maybe walk the beach to Moose Point State Park while you hunt for sea glass.
Late in the morning travel a few miles down the coast along the Lincolnville Beach into Camden Harbor. Camden Maine is considered to be one of the most beautiful towns on Earth. Spend time wandering through the specialty boutiques and micro-breweries and taking the instagram pictures that everyone will recognize.
Shape magazine recently wrote “The Camden-Rockport area depicts itself as the town where the mountains meet the sea. And they do. Steep hills form a bulwark against the sea, creating a rugged, dramatic landscape. In fact, the trails at Camden Snow Bowl, the local ski and mountain-biking area, overlook Penobscot Bay, the deepest inlet along Maine’s serrated coast and reminiscent of a Scandinavian fiord.
As the sun dips into the horizon, pack your favorite bottle of wine and cheese, and relax on a coastal sunset cruise. Your shutter will be clicking as you breeze by seals, dolphins, sea birds and an occasional whale.
In the afternoon, visit with some of America’s favorite works of art, including famous Wyeth paintings at the Farnsworth Art Museum or tour the grand collections of working antique planes, autos, bikes and carriages at the Owls Head Transportation Museum all in Rockland.
Need a bit of exercise? Walk the mile long stretch to the Rockland Breakwater lighthouse…just wear shoes with good traction…there’s no place like this in the rest of the world. In this day’s adventure you have the potential of seeing three lighthouses: Curtis Light, Owls Head Light and Rockland’s Breakwater Light.
Stay close to home again. Belfast is 5 minutes away and described by all as: quaint, artsy and not touristy! There’s a restaurant to fit every description, maybe get picnic supplies and take the kids to the City Park to explore the beach, play at the playground and jump in the pool. If you still have a bit of shopping to do, Belfast has two farmer’s markets, an outdoor one on Friday and an indoor one on Saturday plus a plethora of independent shops of every description.
You could spend an entire day here or just a few hours walking the Harbor walk and green trail while you eat an ice cream cone. If architecture is “your thing” then you will enjoy wandering the neighborhood of Federal and early-Victorian sea merchant’s mansions. Be sure to take along a copy of the “Walking Tour of Belfast” for an interesting and informative narrative.
And then come home early for a kayak paddle from the campground into Searsport Harbor or Sears Island…because you need to visit with the seals before you say goodbye.
If You Can Make the Time…consider these exploration trails because I can’t keep writing this list forever😉: