TRAVEL: Maine’s coastal area was as expected: wonderfulMy preconceptions of visiting the Maine coast were right on the mark. As a Southerner, I figured there would be no grits. I was right. I pictured pretty and scenic fishing villages, towering forests, and miles of dramatic coastline. Right again.
By: Mary Ann Anderson, McClatchy-Tribune
NORTHPOINT, Maine — My preconceptions of visiting the Maine coast were right on the mark. As a Southerner, I figured there would be no grits. I was right. I pictured pretty and scenic fishing villages, towering forests, and miles of dramatic coastline. Right again.
Too, I figured there would be moose galore. Missed that one by a country mile. There are moose, but they are camera-shy and prefer hiding in the woods than posing for tourists.
I also figured that people would talk funny in Maine. They do. The vernacular is about as New England twangy as it gets, and soon I was searching for a translation book from Old South to New England, ah-yep. There are no “r’s” in Maine, but lots of “h’s.” Car becomes cah. Yard to yahd. Farmer to fah-mah.
And that means lobster become lob-stah, which sent my husband and me on a Mission Possible: to eat as much of it as we could in the few days we had to spend in Northpoint, Maine, in Waldo County on the central coast.
Picturesque Waldo County, anchored by the town of Belfast that dates to 1770, is an amalgamation of more than 20 small towns and villages, including Searsport, Winterport, Unity, and Thorndike.
Here, you can walk the docks and watch as daily catches of lobster are hauled from the ocean, shop in myriad one-of-a-kind galleries and boutiques, sample seafood supreme and locally crafted wines and beers, or just browse the farms and orchards for fresh apples, blueberries, and a cornucopia of vegetables. I liked the fact that Waldo County is one of the few counties in Maine without a “big box” store like Wal-Mart or Target.
We feasted on lob-stah broiled, fried, entwined in pasta, steamed, and, of course, drowned in buttah. At Anglers Seafood Restaurant, an actual live crustacean was even placed on our table so that we could see what a lobster looks like up close. Since I prefer my dinner anonymous and not staring at me with those shiny lobster eyes, I declined the little fellow, much to his relief, I’m sure.
Lobster wasn’t the only reason we went to Maine. We really wanted to see those quaint fishing villages and the famously dramatic coastline. On the recommendation of a friend who vacations there every summer, we rented a cabin at Point Lookout Resort in Northpoint.
“Waldo County is mid-point on the Maine coast,” our pal Carol said. “That makes it ideal for branching out and visiting other parts of the state. Within just a few hours, you can see the Maine Highlands, Acadia, or shop in Freeport and be back here in time for dinner.”
Staying in a cabin in Maine seemed so, well, Maine-ish, which led us to Point Lookout with its stunning views of Penobscot Bay. Our first morning there, we walked from our cabin up to the summit of Point Lookout. It didn’t take long for the illustrious Maine fog and mist to lift, and from the top of the “mountain,” if you want to call 600 feet a mountain, Penobscot Bay shimmered blue against the viridity of the forested hills in a true postcard moment.
The resort itself offers hiking, biking, kayaking, racquetball, bowling, and snowshoeing, all against the backdrop of the bay. While this part of Maine is for those with an active physical lifestyle, it’s also for those who just like the quietness of a cabin in the woods. The cabins, cozy and comfortable and roomy, are hewed from of white pine in the Maine woods.
Leaf-peeper? Foliage season begins around the end of August, with some color already tinting the maples. From there, it’s on to a glorious slideshow of a naturally orchestrated autumn. Blackberries and blueberries dot the landscape, too, and there are plenty of deer and even the occasional moose wandering about.
“In many ways, our leaves are prettier than those of Vermont or New Hampshire,” said one of our cheerful servers at the Weathervane Restaurant where we had gone to sample the lobster. “They are combined with the green of the pines and firs, set against the backdrop of the blue water.”
We didn’t discover until we checked into Point Lookout that the resort promotes healthy lifestyles, and its fitness and wellness center is one of the best-equipped I’ve ever seen and even offers fitness assessments like bone density, balance, reaction skills, motor control.
“The program offers a good glimpse of how fit you are,” says Jessica Shaffer, Wellness Program Manager. “It very much opens your eyes as to how you’ve lived your life and what you should be doing to promote a healthy lifestyle.”
Taking her statement to heart, I took the bone density test and passed with flying colors, primarily since I’m a hiker, with Jessica declaring that I have excellent bone density for a woman of my age, which I’m not telling for all the lob-stah in Waldo County.
A little history
The history of Waldo County lies in the sea, which is evident everywhere. We popped into Searsport’s Penobscot Marine Museum, Maine’s oldest maritime museum that is comprised of eight buildings listed on the National Register. Then later that afternoon, we visited BlueJacket Shipcrafters in Stockton Springs.
If you love the sea, if you love scale model ships and kits, if you love building things with your hands, you must see BlueJacket, founded in 1905 by a French naval architect and now owned by Jeff and Suzi Marger. Each scale model ship, some one-of-a-kind pieces in museums worldwide, contains hundreds and even thousands of pieces and takes hours and hours of painstaking patience to complete. BlueJacket Shipcrafters can sell you the kit, but, as Jeff states, “We can put a lot of things in a box, but patience we can’t.”
And then came wine time. Much to my surprise — and utter delight — Maine produces some wonderful and flavorful fruit and grape wines. At Winterport Winery and Penobscot Bay Brewery, I tried several of their award-winning, handcrafted wines made with Maine-grown fruits like blueberry, pear, apple, blackberry, and cherries. While the vinos may not be of the highest quality of those from France or South Africa, they are definitely worth a try.
With plenty of Waldo County wine and lobster and even a few moose to go around, I found myself not missing grits at all.
If you go:
For more information, contact Waldo County Marketing Association at www.WaldoCountyMaine.com or call (207) 322-6942.
Contact Point Lookout Resort and Conference Center at www.VisitPointLookout.com or call (800) 515-3611.
The nearest airports are Portland, Bangor, and Augusta. Boston is about a four-hour drive away.