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Published: June 13th 2017
Atlantic Ocean view in Gloucester
View from Gloucester Inn by the Sea. View was grand; beds not so much.
Geo: 43.5636, -70.2006
Day 1 - The Coast Is Clear
Gloucester, MA to Cape Elizabeth, ME
We arrived in Boston two days ago for a friend's daughter's wedding in the Cape Ann area of Massachusetts. The rehearsal dinner clambake was in Gloucester and the wedding was at the Estate at Moraine Farm in Beverly. Both were lovely events, although rain altered many of the wedding day plans.
We took advantage of fate and friendship which brought us to Massachusetts to check off two trips that have always been on our bucket list: Driving the coast of Maine. Touring the Canadian Maritimes (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton). So today we began our Maine adventure. Another blog will cover our second adventure.
We left Gloucester in full sun this morning and the sun stayed with us much of the day. We chose the coastal route whenever possible, so our first segment (Massachusetts) took us through Essex, Ipswich, Rowley, Newburyport and Salisbury ... very cute New England towns with lovely homes (some quite small, some impressively large) and cleverly named shops. It was a delightful morning. It seems we are well past tourist season so the roads had light traffic and the beaches were
empty. The coast is clear, as they say.
When we crossed into New Hampshire, for some reason, we were surprised to find acres and acres of salt marshes. And signs for beach towns. I guess because we are from the Midwest, we have never known anyone who talked of vacationing at the New Hampshire shore. But clearly there are oodles of people who do ... we discovered endless miles of beaches and beach towns. Some roads are lined with salt box homes and multi-storied motels. Others boast "big ass" mansions along the ocean. An interesting sprinkling of low-end and high-end, occasionally touching elbows.
Our first NH town was Seabrook; then at Hampton, we headed toward the ocean, and traveled north along US1A through Hampton Beach, North Hampton, Rye Harbor, Wentworth-by-the-Sea, into Portsmouth. In Portsmouth, we toured the historic downtown area, in and around Market Street, taking in the buildings dating back to the 1600's. The North Church/Parish House at city center is just beautiful.
We then headed north along US1 into Maine, our ultimate destination state this time around. The first Maine city welcoming us was Kittery; "welcoming" is a kind word; it was more like "seducing" us. I was the first to
shop; my husband was the first to buy. We made purchases at Nautica, Chico's and Clark's. We visited others ... Talbot's, Crate & Barrel, The Maine Collection, etc. But since we didn't come to Maine to shop, we tore ourselves away and continued north.
Next up: York, which astonished us at how big, or how long, it is. We stopped at Stonewall Kitchen, known for its gourmet jams, spreads, seasonings, and for its state-of-the-art cooking school. Lunch was yummy. Patrick opted for grilled cheese and ham. I was lured by the most popular attraction: lobster BLT! What's not to like about that. Lots of lobster, tasty, tasty bacon and good bread. Unfortunately for me, it had celery in it, which I hate, so it was less spectacular than it looked. Don't miss the big store full of yummies you can take home with you - I nabbed some maple bacon onion jam for flatbread appetizers.
Hint: Pick up "to go" lunch at Stonewall Kitchen and head a mile away to Hartley-Mason Reserve, a cliff walk overlooking the ocean along 1A in York. Beautiful views, perfect picnicking spot.
Still in York, we took in our first Maine lighthouse: Nubble Light - Cape Neddick Lighthouse.
According to the website, knowing that Maine's rocky coast was very dangerous to mariners, citizens petitioned the US Government for a lighthouse. In 1874 President Rutherford B. Hayes appropriated the money. On July 1, 1879, construction was completed; in 1939, service was transferred to the U.S. Coast Guard; and in 1987, Nubble Light was automated.
As we headed north out of Cape Neddick, I spotted a lobster shack covered in buoys. I asked Patrick to turn around so I could photograph it. It was quintessential Maine. I hear the food at the restaurant, Cape Neddick Lobster Pound, is just as noteworthy.
And speaking of noteworthy, our next stop was Ogunquit, as charming as a town can be. The road approaching from the south offers snippets of ocean views on a number of occasions. We stopped at the Ogunquit Museum of American Art to photograph the shoreline but didn't go in. We parked off Beach Street and took in some of the scenery ... darling shops, cleverly named inns and a palate full of pleasant looking restaurants.
Then it was on to Kennebunkport and Walker's Point, summer residence of George Herbert Walker Bush. It extends out onto a point, where Secret Service Agents supposedly
swarm. But the drive to the point along Ocean Avenue is spectacular and so are the views of the Bush compound. What fun!
Kennebunkport, too, offers cute shops and restaurants but a lot more traffic than the other beach towns. July here must be crazy! We drove by the White Barn Inn in Kennebunk which is pleasant enough but has very dense grounds so a photograph really wasn't working for me.
According to my calculations, there were only three stops left for the day, all along the coast, so we attempted to continue up the coast but the road took us away from there. We wandered through Biddeford and Saco before taking a right turn to Old Orchard Beach and its supposedly famous pier and amusement park. Egads! What a disappointment. Unless you have little ones clamoring for a Ferris wheel ride, this is not your place. And in September, it's really not your place - it appears to be closed. We should have just darted up I-95 but we didn't. So there's an hour of our lives we'll never get back.
Last two stops were both in Cape Elizabeth, a sort of southern suburb of Portland. First a lighthouse. Then our lodging
for the evening. We continued on 1/1A, passing our inn, to get to Portland Head Light before the sun escaped us. It's a lovely lighthouse located on the grounds of Fort Williams. Don't miss this one.
From their website: In 1787, construction of the lighthouse began. It was first lit on January 10, 1791. Portland Head Light was decommissioned in 1989 with the automation of the lighthouse. The US Coast Guard maintains the light and fog signal, but the remainder of the lighthouse is managed by the Town of Cape Elizabeth.
We headed SOUTH on 1A back to the Inn by the Sea at Cape Elizabeth where we checked into a lovely two-story room overlooking exquisite grounds. The landscaping is perfectly manicured; and the boardwalk to the beach is inviting. I took a walk out, where I got a Golden Retriever fix. ;-)
Patrick stayed back and relaxed. He drove all day; I was the navigator and photographer. He was tired and had lost interest late in the day. As usual, I tried to see too much. The drive from Gloucester to Cape Elizabeth is just 112 miles had we shot up I-95. But efficiency is not what we were aiming for. So
we took US1 and 1A and meandered along the coast. We wanted pretty. And we got it.
"The Maine Beaches Region" did not disappoint.
For dinner, we headed into Portland where we met old high school friends who were in Cape Elizabeth for their son's wedding at Wentworth Lodge. It was fun to catch up with them at Fore Street Grill, which was highly recommended to me by friends. It was a little hard to find (signage was less than adequate). But the food was tasty and exchanging wedding stories was fun.
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