This past summer my son spent 3 weeks at camp in New Hampshire. Instead of heading right home after picking him up, we planned a quick family vacation to Southern Maine. I spent a lot of time scouring the internet and Pinterest for ideas about where to go, stay, and eat. Typically, we spend a lot of time in the summer at the Jersey shore, so we weren’t looking for a beach vacation. What we wanted was to bike, kayak, eat great food, and be together.
Planning a trip with a tween and teen in tow can be trickier than a toddler sometimes! I needed to make sure there was something for everyone. I can honestly say, this itinerary covered all the bases!
We left New Hampshire late morning with our son feeling very emotional. He was happy to see us, sad to leave camp and feeling anxious to see his friends at home. Luckily, the short drive to Ogunquit seemed to settle him. Arriving in Ogunquit around lunchtime, we headed to Barnacle Billy’s at the suggestion of my New Englander cousin. Her suggestion was spot on. We indulged in lobster rolls while enjoying a view of the sailboats docked in Perkins Cove. To us Pennsylvanians, it was quintessential Maine and the perfect way to kickstart our vacation.
After lunch, we walked the Marginal Way. Views of the Atlantic, the rocky coastline, and the beautiful homes were the perfect setting for the afternoon stroll. We then made the drive to Portland and checked into our hotel, the Hyatt Place Old Port where we relaxed before exploring the neighborhood a little bit and having dinner at Ri Ra. I had been a little hesitant about having dinner at an Irish Pub but it did not disappoint. Again, our eyes feasted on a beautiful view: the Casco Bay, while we enjoyed great service and filled our bellies with what would the first of many orders of poutine during our Portland stay.
While my husband and kids slept, I explored Old Port and stopped by Holy Donut to pick up breakfast treats to bring back to the hotel. After enticing everyone to get up with these divine creations (think Dark Chocolate Sea Salt and Maple Bacon), we made the short walk from our hotel to Gorham Bikes. There were other places to rent bikes but I must say the customer service at Gorham was outstanding as were the quality of the bikes.
Outfitted with the latest hybrid bikes and a detailed map of a route that would take us past five lighthouses, we hit the road. For the most part, the ride was easy and flat. Our favorite lighthouse was the Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth. It is not to be missed!
After returning our bikes, we headed to take the Casco Line Ferry to Peaks Island. There are no cars allowed on Peaks Island. I somewhat regretted that we didn’t keep the bikes to bring with us. And this is perhaps, the only part of our itinerary that I would consider changing. However, I had reserved a golf cart from Mike’s Carts. The novelty of exploring Peaks Island via golf cart made up for the missed biking opportunity. (If you go: I would recommend reserving a cart in advance). We spent the afternoon exploring the island, stopping at various beaches, and enjoying a leisurely lunch at The Cockeyed Gull with, you guessed it, another spectacular view.
By the time we headed back to Portland, we were all exhausted. After relaxing in our hotel, we walked around Old Port and explored some of the cool stores before having dinner at Flatbread Company. The short wait for the table allowed us time to have a drink on the dock (Allagash White for me and my husband, sodas for the kids). Again, we enjoyed another fabulous meal.
Have I mentioned that we basically ate our way through Portland? Well, we did. I can not say enough about the food. It was phenomenal. So, please excuse the gluttony! It became my routine to pick up goodies from both Holy Donut and Standard Baking Company every morning while my husband and kids slept. I loved the opportunity to explore the streets of Old Port drinking excellent coffee and people watching. My sleepy family hopped out of bed to see what new baked goods I delivered.
A short drive from our hotel along the Eastern Promenade is Portland Paddle. There we launched for a three hour guided kayak trip to Fort Gorges. With my son and I in one kayak and my husband and daughter in another, we paddled into Portland Harbor along with our guide and another family. Seriously, our guide knew everything about the wildlife and ecology of the harbor. And with his help, we all quickly picked up on the kayaking. The trip to Fort Gorges wasn’t my first choice. Portland Paddle also offers another half day guided tour that would have been great. But it isn’t offered every day. That being said, we all really enjoyed the Fort Gorges trip so it was a fine replacement.
We returned to shore just in time for lunch. In all of my research about eating in Portland, Duckfat came up time and time again. So, we decided it was worth the 45 minute wait. And it was. Again, we gorged on poutine, paninis, and out of this world milkshakes.
Exhausted from the kayaking and lulled into food comas, my husband and son returned to the room to nap. My daughter checked out the hotel pool and I did some window shopping. There are some great stores in Portland. I fell in love with Folly 101. If only they’d open a shop in Pennsylvania.
Once everyone was rested and, believe it or not, hungry again, we decided that it was only fitting to celebrate our last night in Maine with a lobster dinner. It was kind of a dreary night but the atmosphere at the Portland Lobster Company was jumping. We sat outside under a tent with lots of other tourists and locals eating lobster off of trays and listening to live music. As with every other experience we had on this trip, the customer service was outstanding.
Originally, I had planned on us taking a little day trip to Kennebunk but my family rebelled. And I wasn’t about to force the issue. A cranky tween/teen is not my idea of fun. But I was able to convince everyone to take a detour on our way home. So, on day four we brought our goodies in the car and drove through Kennebunk to catch a glimpse of the Bush compound. Had I been alone or with my husband, I would have spent more time wandering around the absolutely adorable town but I could sense a rebellion brewing in the back seat. Our trip to Maine had been an overwhelming success. No need to push my luck!