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Jan 26, 2009 10:20 AM

Best Maine spot for food/touring?

Hi, I'm trying to plan a vacation for us and another family. We'd like to do Maine, and I've heard great things about some of the restaurants. We'll also want to do some touring (probably mostly by car since we have a toddler) during the day, so what spot makes the most sense to try to find a place to stay. Looking for someplace with lots of nice dinner options that also has various driving options for during the day. Bonus points for advice on touring and restaurants. Thanks very much in advance.

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  1. Well, I'll just go ahead and represent Portland. We have the most restaurants by far with many options as you will see if you use the search option. Plenty of surrounding towns to do some sightseeing too like.

    Is this a warm weather trip or one coming up? That makes a big difference as this is the tale of two cities depending on the season.

    1 Reply
    1. re: grittys457

      Thanks Gritty. I should have mentioned that we're thinking of this as a summer trip. Trying to do advance research so we can find the best place to stay possible. I saw a show that had a bunch of restaurants in Portland and it looked wonderful.

    2. When you say "Doing Maine" do you mean the Maine Coast? Or are you looking for a woodsy, rustic outdoor experience in wild forest? :) Maine has wonderful forests, as well as the coast. :)

      5 Replies
      1. re: Morganna

        We haven't really decided, I'm sort of trying to figure out what makes the most sense, especially given that we'd like to include good food as part of the trip. My gut reaction is that the coast would be the thing, but I've never been to Maine so don't have any real clue. Are there mountainous parts worth seeing that are reachable from the coast?

        1. re: LulusMom

          Mid-coast is our favorite part of Maine but we like to camp, seek out great lobster shacks for lunch and cook dinner back at the camper. The Wiscasset area has great access to points north and south. A little too far from Acadia to be a day trip but Camden, Rockport, Brunswick, Bath, all easy day trips. But with a toddler, you might want to stay in southern Maine where there are more sandy beaches and more restaurant choices. Our rule of thumb for traveling with a little one was to keep dinners simple. The Sea Basket in Wiscasset would be a good example. Kids are tired by then. It is possible to put together a great picnic supper or lunch by stopping at a great farmer's market i.e. Brunswick on Fridays. The 4th of July means great strawberries (also fun parades like Bath Heritage Days) but in August there are wonderful blueberries sold by the side of the road. One of the reasons to attend something like Bath's parade is to visit the craft fair where the church ladies are selling PIE. All different kinds by the slice.

          1. re: dfrostnh

            How refreshing to hear this area mentioned, I agree it is great for family vacationing. I wouldn't pass on the great beach at Popham or the more family friendly Reed State Park. My suggestion is to stay in Bath and travel up or down the coast for touring. Freeport is there for shopping but I would try the cute accessible downtowns in Bath or Brunswick for a nice stroller friendly experience. For resto's try the Kennebec tavern for pub food with a maine twist. Great lunch, eat out on the river deck and watch the boats. I really like the Robinhood Meetinghouse for a quiet dinner but it is not really kid friendly. LeGarage in Wiscasset is also good for maine staples. Back St Bistro in Brunswick can do a small child and I love their wine list in addition to the food. There are some pubs like Seadog in Topsham that are also a good stop. We eat at Cudney's Harbor for a lobster dinner or roll. If you are looking for a family place to stay, look at Sebasco Estates, down 209 from Bath, easy access to a private small beach and lobster bakes on the lawn, saltwater pool, very old school but VERY family friendly, you can stay in the lodge or even a small cottage on the water or in the woods. Please walk Popham Beach and get an icecream at Percy's, there is a small seafood place, Spinney's, but it is not that great.....there is a natural food place on the way down to Sebasco, North Woods, I think that has roses and periennials as well as a cafe, great fresh eggs and produce in the warmer weather. In case there is any doubt, I love this piece of the maine coast......

          2. re: LulusMom

            I originally missed about having the toddler. The suggestion below from dfrostnh sounds reasonable. The area from Portland then ranging south is good, and the beaches will be more friendly for toddlers. These areas are -very- busy during the summer so be sure you get reservations where you really want to go.

            When we go (and of course, everything is about me ;D), we usually shoot for the week before memorial day or the week after labor day, just to avoid the crowds. Portland has a great foodie scene, and I'm willing to be lots of places with great food that will be family friendly. I tend towards the Ogunquit area, but I also tend to get into ruts fairly easily. ;D

            There's a whole range of lovely natural settings (on the islands out near Bailey Island) that aren't really touristy and are fairly smaller crowds in addition to the more touristy places like York, where they have a boardwalk, and arcade, and loads of shops filled with kitsch. Which a toddler might really enjoy with all the lights and colours and sounds, etc. :) Of course, I have no kids, so take my thoughts with a grain of salt. :)

            1. re: LulusMom

              LulusMom, absolutely... the south coast of Maine...Kennebunk, Wells, Ogunquit, York etc. is not far at all from the Belgrade Lakes region, and even the White Mountains, Bethel, Conway NH, etc. Traffic makes it tough to estimate the time needed, but you could easily leave Portland ME after lunch, stop for an ice cream, browse a few antique shops, go for a nature walk, stay on backroads and still be in the mountains in time for dinner.

          3. This is all amazingly helpful information in helping me narrow down my search. My daughter (Lulu, obviously) is a great little foodie, loves to try new things and is used to being in (and behaving well in) restaurants. I like the idea of the southern coastal area, near enough to Portland, if I'm reading correctly, and with a lot of fun stuff for her to see. She's sort of on a light house kick right now, so that would be a good thing to find along the shore. I really appreciate all your input, and expect me to start asking more pointed questions in a few months. Thank you again, so much.

            12 Replies
            1. re: LulusMom

              In Southern Maine, Ogunquit is a great place for kids. We spend our summers there and aour granddaughters love it. The beach is beautiful and there is a tidal river that the kids love on one side of the beach. It is nice that there are alot of takeout place right at the beach selling hot dogs, icecream, etc. Very walkable. Barnicle Billy's is a very casual lobster place with an outside deck where the kids throw chowder crackers to the ducks. Our grandaughters love their chowder. Lots of restaurants, candy shops and icecream places. Ogunquit is only a few miles from York Beach, which has been suggested. York has a beautiful light house- Nubble light - and there is a casual seafood place and an ice cream place on the same road as the lighthouse. Lots of rocks and tidal pools there to explore.

              1. re: emilief

                York is a very popular family vacation area. It is traditional to watch the taffy pulling machine at the Goldenrod. Walk up to Nubble lighthouse for ice cream. Near the downtown area there's a children's playground near the beach. You might get a list of lighthouses via a google search. It's a great short, easy hike to Owls Head plus it's near our favorite lobster shack, Waterman's Beach. I know I already posted but we're planning a Maine vacation this summer and it's fun to think about old favorites. DH is a Steve's Whoopie Pie fan.

                1. re: dfrostnh

                  Waterman's is a great lobster shack but is actually in So. Thomaston, on the mid-Coast near Rockland (and Owl's Head).

                  Watermans Beach Lobster
                  343 Waterman Beach Rd South, Thomaston, ME

                  1. re: HDinCentralME

                    Thanks for clarifying that. I failed to say that Owls Head was near Rockland. We found Waterman's Beach when we spotted a small wooden sign by the side of the road. I never remember that it's in So. Thomaston just that it's near Owls Head. Hope nobody is driving around York trying to find Waterman's.

                    1. re: dfrostnh

                      Fancy seeing you here, dfrost! How far a drive is Waterman's from Rockland?

                      1. re: DebitNM

                        Hey DebitNM! Not far. Here's their web page so you can mapquest it.

                        Last year we didn't make it to Waterman's because the weather was so rainy. We saw a sign for a lobster benefit dinner for the local firemen. Keep your eyes open or check the local paper. Some benefit lobster dinners pre-sell tickets but the one we found had plenty of lobsters for people who dropped by. Got a lobster, steamed clams, chips, drink, cole slaw for $17. DH was extra hungry so he bought a second lobster. Slices of pie were extra.

                        1. re: dfrostnh

                          Thanks for the website - I wouldn't have known that they aren't open on Mon or Tuesdays otherwise!! We will have to go there on Sunday, our first day in Rockland.

              2. re: LulusMom

                There's a really excellent toddler playground in the park where Portland Head Light is in Cape Elizabeth. Also, the Two Lights lobster shack is right near there.

                1. re: LulusMom

                  Even given the drive to Portland, I still think you have better access and a little less tourist stuff midcoast, one more plug. If you have a well behaved child good in resto's, everything I suggested would be for her.....and you....

                  1. re: LulusMom

                    I'd suggest investigating a beach house rental in York (long sands beach) Ogunquit, Wells, Kennebunkport, Wells, Goose Rocks(technically part of Kennebunkport) , Biddeford Pool, and as a last resort - Old Orchard Beach. Traffic in and around Ogunquit is an issue in the summer. There is only one way in/out and the whole state of CT seems to be on that road (Rt 1). Just take that little issue into consideration.

                    The better formal dining places will be in Portland, Kennebunkport, Ogunquit and also Portsmouth, NH (actually closer to Ogunquit than Portland).

                    The little hole in the wall places for fried clams etc.. can be found anywhere.

                    Must try places - imho are - Flo's Hot Dogs (Cape Neddick - between York and Ogunquit), Reds Eats (Wiscasset), Browns Ice Cream (next to the nubble light in York), Bob's clam shack (Kittery), Seafood shack (don't know it's real name - in the center village in Kennebunkport.

                    For lobster - buy them live, bring them back to your beach place and cook them yourself. All rentals will be equipped with the necessary cookware to do this. Get all your stuff - lobbers, wine, salad, etc.. do it yourself, take lots of pictures. One of my favorite family pictures is of my now 18 year old, when she was ~1 - staring at the lobster we put on her highchair tray - with that "what the f... is that look"

                    I'm a local:)

                    If it was me - I'd rent a beach place in Biddeford Pool. The beach is great, and it's ideal if you want a place that isn't a tourist trap. You will have to go other places for restaurants. It's close to Kennebunkport and Portland.

                    1. re: humin

                      Biddeford Pool is one of the most underrated areas on the coast, and thus much less crowded. I second humin. But, for a lobster roll, chowder, or clams I'd hit Cindy's, Rte 1, Yarmouth approaching Freeport. Looks like a dump, but real good food, real good Mainers, and more convenient than a place like Red's. Red's ain't bad, don't get me wrong. And definitely go to Flo's and grab a dog w/ Flo's relish+mayo.

                      If you want to see "real" Maine drive inland and check out places like Big G's in Winthrop for the best sandwhich/man hole cover on homemade bread. Look in the papers for a Bean supper Saturday night, and you won't be sorry for long.

                      Big G's
                      581 Benton Ave, Winslow, ME

                      1. re: localemperor

                        Shhh, stop talking about Biddeford Pool ;), me and my family have been going there for 35 years, hasn't changed one bit. Highly recommended!

                  2. I'll put a plug in for the mid-coast, too. Damariscotta, Waldoboro and Newcastle have great restaurants.
                    King Eider's Pub
                    Damariscotta River Grill
                    Round Pond or Muscongus Bay Lobster
                    Pemaquid Beach is sandy and shallow - great for toddlers.
                    AND Pemaquid Lighthouse is the most beautiful lighthouse that I have ever been to.

                    Muscongus Bay Lobster
                    28 Landing Rd, Round Pond, ME 04564