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Waldo County, Maine

Escape the concrete jungle and soak in the natural beauty of New England’s scenic Penobscot Bay.
By Allison Hatfield |



WHY NOW: It’s so hot that the thought of a day at White Rock Lake makes you sweat. But on the coast of Maine, a cool breeze whips through tall pine trees, and an afternoon hike is refreshing, not oppressive. It’s a sleepy summer retreat where lobster is its own food group, the sound of chickadees is about the only thing that interrupts your thoughts, and you’ll get a good night’s rest because most everything, save a few bars, closes by 10 p.m. HISTORY LESSON: Get a sense of early America with Belfast Historical Society’s Museum in the Streets (www.belfastmaine.org), a self-guided walking tour that highlights the area’s architecturally significant buildings and houses, notable people, historic events, and its maritime history. For more in-depth exploration of the latter, the Penobscot Marine Museum (www.penobscotmarinemuseum.org) is a 12-building complex that replicates a circa-1900 seafaring village. Here you’ll find model ships, hundreds of photos and paintings, shipwright and navigational tools, and an overflowing shop where you can load up on seaworthy souvenirs. WET AND WILD: Penobscot Bay is the showpiece of this area. In the early morning sun, it shimmers like sequins; at sunset, it glows like molten rock. Getting out on the water is a must, and there are several options. Journalist-turned-sailor Stephen O’Connell and his wife Diane share their Friendship Sloop Amity


It’s so hot that the thought of a day at White Rock Lake makes you sweat. But on the coast of Maine, a cool breeze whips through tall pine trees, and an afternoon hike is refreshing, not oppressive. It’s a sleepy summer retreat where lobster is its own food group, the sound of chickadees is about the only thing that interrupts your thoughts, and you’ll get a good night’s rest because most everything, save a few bars, closes by 10 p.m. HISTORY LESSON: Get a sense of early America with Belfast Historical Society’s Museum in the Streets (www.belfastmaine.org), a self-guided walking tour that highlights the area’s architecturally significant buildings and houses, notable people, historic events, and its maritime history. For more in-depth exploration of the latter, the Penobscot Marine Museum (www.penobscotmarinemuseum.org) is a 12-building complex that replicates a circa-1900 seafaring village. Here you’ll find model ships, hundreds of photos and paintings, shipwright and navigational tools, and an overflowing shop where you can load up on seaworthy souvenirs. WET AND WILD: Penobscot Bay is the showpiece of this area. In the early morning sun, it shimmers like sequins; at sunset, it glows like molten rock. Getting out on the water is a must, and there are several options. Journalist-turned-sailor Stephen O’Connell and his wife Diane share their Friendship Sloop Amity

A cruise on the Friendship Sloop Amity is a great way to enjoy the water.

(www.friendshipsloopamity.com), built in 1901, with guests on three trips a day (for morning coffee, an afternoon tour, or a BYOB sunset sail). Or you can join Melissa Terry on her boat, the Good Return(www.belfastbaycruises.com), to check lobster traps and get a lesson about your catch. She also does ice cream cruises for the kiddies. But perhaps the best way to enjoy the bay is while paddling a kayak (www.kayak-tour-maine.com). FORCES OF NATURE: The outdoors is your best entertainer, so be sure to take good walking shoes. Ask your innkeeper to pack you a picnic and head to Moose Point State Park for a panoramic view of Penobscot Bay. With forest trails aplenty and lots of spots to sit and watch the sun reflect off the water, it’s a peaceful place to spend an afternoon. For a more rugged environment, there’s Sears Island, an uninhabited isle comprising 940 acres of unspoiled fields, forests, and cobblestone beaches. In many ways a secret, even to those who have lived in Waldo County for years, it’s a mecca for birders, with 168 documented species, from hummingbirds to hawks. Peruse the shore for seashells and sea glass. History buffs will relish Fort Knox, the first and largest granite fort in Maine, built in the mid-1800s to protect the bay from British attack. (America’s other Fort Knox is in Kentucky.) If you’re lucky, you’ll visit during a cannon firing or, even better, a Civil War reenactment. Regardless, you’ll be there with a crowd: this is Maine’s most-visited historic site.


FASTFACTS
Where to Stay
Quaint inns and charming B&Bs are rife in Belfast and nearby Searsport. Call 800-870-9934 or log on to www.waldocountymaine.com to find accommodations. We like Alden House B & B (63 Church St., Belfast; 877-377-8151; www.thealdenhouse.com) and Carriage House Inn (120 E. Main St., Searsport; 800-578-2167; www.carriagehouseinmaine.com).
 
How to Get There
Most major airlines fly to Portland, Maine, and Bangor, Maine. You’ll need to rent a car either way. The coastal towns are about a two-hour drive from Portland, half that from Bangor.

FACTS
Where to Stay
Quaint inns and charming B&Bs are rife in Belfast and nearby Searsport. Call 800-870-9934 or log on to www.waldocountymaine.com to find accommodations. We like Alden House B & B (63 Church St., Belfast; 877-377-8151; www.thealdenhouse.com) and Carriage House Inn (120 E. Main St., Searsport; 800-578-2167; www.carriagehouseinmaine.com).
 
How to Get There
Most major airlines fly to Portland, Maine, and Bangor, Maine. You’ll need to rent a car either way. The coastal towns are about a two-hour drive from Portland, half that from Bangor.

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Two for the Road 
Don’t head home before doing these.

Joe Bryant’s oddball collection of music boxes, antique cars, and doll circus is better experienced than described. Bryant and his wife Bea own Bryant Stove & Music (27 Stovepipe Alley, Thorndike; 207-568-3665; www.bryantstove.com), about 40 minutes outside of Belfast. They sell coveted antique cast-iron baseburners and stoves, but the doll circus and museum are the real reasons to go. Filled with flying Barbies, waddling wallabies, and tricked-out calliopes, the shop/showcase is open year-round. It’s a bit maniacal and a lot dusty, a freak show and a wide slice of Americana. You’ve never seen anything like it—nor will you again.

Neither are you likely to encounter as many lobsters as you will while in Maine. The tasty crustaceans (locals call them “bugs”) are more dietary staple than delicacy in these parts. Lobster stew is a warm, rich delight; lobster salad is as popular as Caesar; and lobster rolls are on every menu. But lobster is never better than at a lobster bake, where it’s cooked in an underground “oven” built of seaweed and rocks. Three Tides (2 Pinchy Ln., Belfast; 207-338-1707; www.3tides.com) owner David Carlson hosts one of the best at his bayside bar and restaurant.

Photo: Allison Hatfield

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