You have to intend to go to Boothbay Harbor, as you will never stumble upon it. Leaving Highway 1, we arrive first at Wiscasset, home of an exceptionally quaint bookstore, and cross the Sheepscot River to Highway 27, which winds its never-hurry way to Boothbay Harbor.
Long before I’d been to Maine, I’d heard of Boothbay Harbor, which is amazing, really, because it’s a tiny place—maybe only two thousand in population—and when pressed, I realized I knew nothing at all of its present or its past. Then it came to me: L.L. Bean and its Maine-named products. “Boothbay” is currently a sandal, but I feel pretty sure it’s been a sweater and maybe a jacket in the past.
Boothbay Harbor, the town, turns out to be as quaint as you could ask for, with plenty of shops and galleries. But I’m drawn to the harbor itself: weathered wood, brightly painted boats, tools of the fishing and lobster industries, everchanging light on everchanging waters. I’m drawn to the food, too. We find both at Andrews’ Harborside Restaurant.
You know how it sometimes happens that you’re in a seafood mecca, but you feel like having nachos instead? Don’t be that person. Andrews’ lobster chowder is incredible—rich, meaty, luxurious. If you’ve had lobster chowder before, forget what you think you know. This is the real deal. Thank heaven, my husband was willing to share his in exchange for a few of my nachos.
Happily fortified, we took a long, walking tour of the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. Its 250 acres are open year-round and encompass formal gardens, water gardens, children’s gardens, woodland gardens, and rustic trails. It’s possible to spend an entire day here, feeling the beauty of it and mentally recording ideas. I don’t know where I’m going to put it, but one day, I’m going to have a white-painted, cat-cutout fence. Emilie Loring had rabbit cutouts in her cottage shutters, and I’m sure she would agree.
Beyond Boothbay Harbor, two bridges lead to Southport Island, and all the way out, at the island’s very tip, is the Newagen Seaside Inn. Clearly reached by boat when it opened in 1816, it is now a tranquil resting place, all the more so for the meandering road that strips away cares and changes the clock. Out here, it is island time, coastal time, relax-and-do-what-you-please time.
We check into the vintage lodge, take note of fresh flowers in the dining room, and set out to explore the property. Environmental biologist Rachel Carson visited Newagen many times, and her monument is a short walk from the lodge. Walking trails line the rocky shore and poke around amongst the trees and native shrubs. Working boats and pleasure boats bob on their moorings.
Once called Cape Newagen, John Hayward’s 1839 gazeteer described, “Here may be found all the enjoyments of sea air and bathing, fishing and fowling, ocean and island scenery…” The amenities of the lodge against the rugged beauty of the coast are the stuff of dreams, an ideal setting to honeymoon or to write. It is not easy to rev up the clock again in the morning and head back up the coast.