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May 1, 2013 08:21 AM

Portland and Beaches for 1 Week in July - Where to go

Hi, we are heading to Portland for one week with our main goal to try out great food, lobster shacks, and beachy/island towns. It's a lot, I know, but we've never been to Maine and want to see Portand mainly but also take day trips or overnight trips to perhaps Kennebunkport and north, not drivivng more than an hour or two. My question is how to divide up our trip - do we do 2-3 nights Portland, with 1 night or day trip to Kennebunkport, and 1-2 nights in northern town, perhaps Rockland? Criteria is to try out local foods, especially seafood, and see the surrounding areas to Portland. As for restaurants, I have read all the posts and have some idea for Portland, none for any northern beach towns, other than lobster shacks and perhaps a stay at Nebo Lodge and for Kennebunkport, maybe Local 50 or any other suggestions. We are looking for very local specialty cuisine, we live in Chicago and have access to lots of different food, but not seafood. Also, any thoughts on Gather in Yartmouth. And top place for Clambake or Lobster. This is a lot,I know, but it's hard to know where to start or how to narrow down our plan so as it get a great feel for the area, without wearing ourselves out. Thanks in advance.

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  1. That's a lot to squeeze into a week. Traffic in Maine in the summer is awful so personally I would not want to spend that much time in a car. Can you narrow it down to 2 destinations? As far as beaches go, Kennebunkport's are classic wide sand beaches, crowded and touristy. In the mid coast, the beaches are wilder, more rocks, seaweed and tidal pools and tucked into tiny coves along the jagged coast. It's really two different Maines.

    2 Replies
    1. re: crawfish

      This is good to know, perhaps we'll stick to Portland and Midcoast.

      1. re: chefcoo

        Popham Beach has the sand AND the tide pools and rushing tidal streams -- down the peninsula from Bath, which has the Maritime Museum.

    2. For lobster only, it's hard to beat Nunan's Lobster House in Cape Porpoise in Town of Kennebunkport. It's the real Maine experience. Three miles northeast is Goose Rocks Beach, wide sandy beach with lots of shallow water for the kids.

      1. Personally I would split it up. Maybe 5 nights in Portland (which also allows for easy day trips to the Kennebunks, Ogunquit, etc) and then 2 nights in Rockland/Camden.

        Speaking purely from a food perspective, Rockland/Camden is 2nd only to Portland in my book. Waterman's Beach lobster shack is one of the best in the state...and the drive up takes you by others (like Reds in Wiscasset). Plus you get the bonus of eating at one of the truly great restaurants in ALL of America...yes, that's right, Primo in Rockland.


        12 Replies
        1. re: MidCoastMaineiac

          I like this idea. We really have only 6 nights, so maybe 5 in Portland and just overnight in Rockland. Do you know which Inn might be best from the historicinn page? Will definitely try your two recs. thanks!

          1. re: chefcoo

            So here's what I would do. On the day you head to the midcoast, get up early and make it to Reds in Wiscasset by lunch time (stop at LL Bean in Freeport if you're into that kind of thing). "Should" only take you a couple hours (with a bit of traffic) to get to Rockland, so you have time to meander...maybe take a drive thru quaint towns like Damariscotta.

            Check yourself into the Berry Manor Inn in Rockland. Walk around the downtown, maybe walk the breakwater (a 8/10ths of a mile granite walkway that goes out to a lighthouse in the middle of Rockland harbor). If you have time (especially if you don't walk the breakwater), squeeze in a trip to Camden and walk around town....maybe drive the car up Mt. Battie for a fantastic view of the Maine coast.

            Head back to the Berry Manor to freshen up and head to Primo for dinner.

            You get breakfast at the B&B (and they are great), but if you can't stick around for lunch before heading back to Portland, consider breakfast (or lunch) at the Home Kitchen Cafe in Rockland. Hands down the best breakfast/lunch spot in the area.

            If you'd rather head to a "genuine" lobster shack, skip Red's on the way up and head straight to Waterman's Beach for lunch. You can also turn that into a drive down the peninsula to Port Clyde...beautiful area.

            Perfect overnight trip.


            1. re: MidCoastMaineiac

              +1. Yes to all. I might save the Freeport portion for a few hour side trip out of Portland so that the OP could maybe do a schooner sail out of Camden (a two hour ride is really nice). I always recommend that first timers leave a half hour or so to walk the gardens at Primo.
              As for Freeport, I have to (because I always do) agree with a certain 30ish married woman with no kids about Harraseeket Lunch and Lobster in South Freeport - about 10 minutes from downtown Freeport and LL Bean. Classic Maine harbor but so close to everything.
              In Portland go to Portland Lobster Company on the water for the music and beer, but don’t fall for eating the food. For the change of pace, jump on a ferry to Peaks Island - 20 minutes and as stated already OK-ish restaurants (I’d do lunch or just an ice cream at the “store”) with some more than ok views. You can rent bikes on the island for a few bucks - a leisurely ride around the entire perimeter with stops for pics is not much more than an hour. Every visitor should spend some time on an island in Maine. There are also beaches on some of the islands but the water goes from cold on the mainland beaches to downright frigid on the islands. If they're not already booked, you can stay at one of the Inn's on Peaks.
              Popham Beach or Reed State Park beaches are a couple of my favorites - a bit more out of the way than some of the southern coast beaches.

            2. re: chefcoo

              I'd give the Midcoast 2 nights but I'm biased. I'd skip Red's on the way up and I'd get off route 1 and down the peninsula for a more rural experience. The St George peninsula near Rockland has wonderful wild beaches (Drift Inn beach, Birch Point beach), light houses (Marshal Point, Owls Head), lobster on the dock restaurants (Waterman's, as mentioned, but also Miller's and Cod End) and post card perfect fishing villages like Spruce Head, Tenant's Harbor, and Port Clyde.

              Grab lobster and crab rolls from the Keag Store in South Thomaston and have a picnic at Birch Point beach (don't miss the large tide pool in the rocks to the left). Or Drift Inn beach followed by dinner at Miller's. Check the tide calendar though because at high tide there isn't much beach :)

              1. re: crawfish

                I'm a bit biased towards Portland but I don't think 3 nights in Portland and 2 mid-coast is a bad idea especially if you want to do more than eat, although I can't imagine why you would want to.
                After the 3rd night in Portland, I'd start meandering down the coast (in Maine, down the coast is up and north is really east and "you can't get there from here" - don't ask, just accept it). Depending on day and time the traffic doesn't have to be bad. You can hit Freeport for Ll Bean/lunch and check out some of the aforementioned little towns on the way down east.
                If it were me, on the mid-coast, I'd eat in Rockland but stay in Camden.

                1. re: bobbert

                  Oh bobbert...the Berry Manor Inn trumps them all!! My wife and I used to take long weekends on the midcoast when we lived in Boston...eventually moving here 5 years ago.

                  Camden is pretty, but in my book it's comparing Boca with New Orleans...

                  And the Berry Manor is the finest we'd stayed in...and we made the rounds back in the day...

                  1. re: MidCoastMaineiac

                    I always thought of Camden as one of the prettiest little towns around and have actually stayed there much more in winter (toboggan races but that's another story). My stays in Rockland have either been at a friend's house or the Samoset with someone else picking up the tab. But... you are the local and have never steered me wrong on my mid-coast sojourns, so I will defer to you...

                    1. re: bobbert

                      I'm just giving you a hard time. Camden is pretty no doubt about it....but at least part of my partiality comes from living in Rockland =). Part of my partiality? Hmmmmm.

                      Had a great meal at Boda on Tuesday by the way. Though I'll take Long Grain any day of the week. Maybe it's the "street food" aspect of Long Grain that I love so much...

                      1. re: MidCoastMaineiac

                        I'll still defer to you. When looking for somewhere to eat in the mid-coast I hold your opinion in high regard. I hope that doesn't put any undue pressure on you :) Long Grain is on my very short list for my next trip your way. Boda is in my neighborhood (I can walk there even on the coldest winter nights) so I get there probably too often although I still love the place.

                        1. re: bobbert

                          Made a day trip from Boston to my first Sea Dog game this past Saturday- prior to the game visited Standard baking Co., Micucci's (4 Luna breads for the ride home) and the PMA and then it was off to Eventide for shucked oysters,oyster buns and a local brew. Following the game, had to make it to Boda, based on MCM's & Bobbert's previous raves. I sat at the bar and imbibed and indulged and I must tell you -I enjoyed that immensely- and the Miang Kum Som-oh-- the one bite shrimp and toasted coconut tapas that sits atop a betel leaf- is absolutely destination worthy- an opening salvo to an absolutely delightful meal! What a way to end the day in Portland.

                          1. re: FeeFiPho

                            Excellent choices for a day trip. Well done.

                    2. re: MidCoastMaineiac

                      They used to say: Camden by the Sea, Rockland by the Smell. Rockland was a working class cannery town but has now been gentrified. It feels a bit like Portland. Camden has always been Old Money and yacht-y, it's more a kin to Newport or the Hamptons. There are other, less citified options though and I feel obliged to lobby for them :)

                      Craignair Inn, Clarke's Island - nice location on the shore

                      East Wind Inn, Tenant's Harbor - beautiful wrap around porch overlooking a postcard perfect harbor.

                      Ocean House, Port Clyde - Right in Port Clyde, the most beautiful little fishing village on the coast of Maine and the ferry to Monhegan Island leaves from here.

                      Weskeag Inn, South Thomaston - Just up the hill from the Keag Store (great lobster and crab rolls) and a 5 minute drive from Birch Point beach.

            3. If it were me...(as a 30ish married lady with no kids..) I would split my overnights between Portland and Rockland or somewhere else Midcoast.

              The usual Portland restaurant suspects can easily be found on chow or on portlandfoodmap.com--Eventide, etc.), with maybe a day trip to the beach in Wells/Ogunquit or Kennebunkport if you're really stuck on the sandy beach experience. Unlike a destination like Cape Cod, tho, the water is pretty brisk year round.

              For less hassle, take the ferry out to Portland's harbor islands--the mail boat is a 4 hour trip (I know...Gilligan's Island-ish, but all the out of town guests I've taken on it have loved it--), and there are lower commitment ferries to Peaks Island and the others. You can picnic on the rocks (savories/seafood at Browne Trading or Rosemont, whoopie pies/sweets at Two Fat Cats) or eat at one of the OK-ish restaurants on Peaks. Much more fun than sitting in bumper to bumper tourist traffic on the highway/US 1. Go to Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth; wander around, look at Portland Head Light and have a lobster roll at the Bite into Maine truck.

              My favorite Southern Maine place for a lobster is Harraseeket Lunch and Lobster in South Freeport. But you'll be surrounded by lobster at most places in Maine in the summer--it'll be hard to miss.

              I haven't ventured out to Gather yet, but I've gotten mixed reviews from friends. Without having eaten there myself, I get the feeling that it's great compared to the restaurants surrounding it, but not worth a trip up from where I live Portland.

              I am less familiar with Rockland and midcoast, so the more indoctrinated can chime in (I grew up downeast and the time I've spent midcoast is usually a quick night's stop/dinner at Primo while I'm on my way further north to visit friends/relatives in a part of Maine further off the tourist track).
              You'd also have the option of doing something like a 3 or 4 day Schooner excursion on the J&E Riggin that leaves from Rockland--I've heard great things about the food and the whole experience.

              Enjoy your trip!

              1 Reply
              1. re: sultanaboudreau

                This is so helpful. All of you are. Thanks so much!

              2. You know, just in case you needed another reason to go to Primo in Rockland! =)


                1 Reply