48 Hours in...Lincolnville and Islesboro
September 2011 | By Jennifer Hazard | Illustration by Josh Brill
48 hours of our favorite places to explore, view, eat, and stay
What do a corporate lawyer from New York, a twenty-something massage therapist who winters in Mexico, a gregarious coffee importer from New Orleans, and a chef from Paris, France, all have in common? They each call Lincolnville home. Their decision to settle in the small town is not surprising, when you consider the inspiring views of Penobscot Bay, the local creative community, the proximity to the beach, and the welcome quiet that Lincolnville provides. Situated only a few miles north of downtown Camden, the town has somehow remained a well-kept secret. Now that I have visited, I understand why. Lincolnville is so beautiful that someone might want to keep this place all to herself. Fortunately, keeping quiet is not in my job description.
So the cat’s out of the bag. There’s simply too much in Lincolnville to love—from the established seaside restaurants to the talented artisans who call this town home. And did I mention that the lovely island of Islesboro is only a twenty-minute ferry ride away? Islesboro has nature preserves tucked away in hidden coves, where the sound of water and the rush of wind through the pines make you feel as though you’ve spent a day at a spa. I can’t imagine a better place to visit or vacation, especially during September—Maine’s most beautiful month.
Hearty breakfasts in Lincolnville are plentiful at the local bed-and-breakfasts, but make sure to visit Dot’s if you want coffee and a quick bite to eat. Try a chocolate-espresso scone, cinnamon bun, or quiche Lorraine with a big, buttery crust. The kitchen also prepares goodies for lunchtime, including lobster pie and the crowd-pleasing curried chicken salad. Dot’s has a few tables in its sunny cafe, but they’ll also give you your meal to go: a good idea if you’re spending the day in Islesboro.
I’m a pizza snob (blame it on my roots), but a fellow New Jersey native and a longtime New Yorker gave the pizza at the Beach Store the thumbs up. There’s nothing like a crispy slice right out of the oven.
If you want to enjoy your lunch near the water, try the Whale’s Tooth Pub and Restaurant. Order the pub’s traditional fish-and-chips and a pint of English Pale Ale from Andrew’s Brewing Company, Lincolnville’s renowned microbrewery. The hand-cut fries and fresh haddock are served wrapped in newspaper. Be advised: this dish is big enough for two, unless you’re trying out for Man v. Food.
There’s nothing quite like dinner at The Edge. Sit on the deck and enjoy cocktails while gazing at West Penobscot Bay. Chef Jan Whittle, who once served the Queen of England, cooks flavorful meals with local ingredients. His signature dish is Lobster Cooked Three Ways, but my favorite is the butter-and-herb-basted roasted game hen with apricot sausage stuffing.
An Islesboro lobsterman recommended Chez Michel, which has been a Lincolnville Beach staple for more than twenty years. If you’re going to order anything from the super-size menu, try a bowl of the creamy seafood chowder, which is loaded with shrimp, haddock, and clams. I’m still dreaming about this hearty chowder—no other compares.
If you’re traveling to Islesboro for the day, you can pack a lunch or visit one the island’s three stores: the Island Market, the Dark Harbor Shop, or Durkee’s. The Island Market is closest to the ferry terminal and known for chef Linda “Loony” Mahan’s savory chicken pot pie with rosemary crust. Or, after a day of biking, treat yourself to an ice cream at the Dark Harbor Shop’s soda fountain (be sure to get there before Labor Day, when it closes for the season).
The fortunate few who have a house or friends on the island might consider calling on affable lobsterman Gilbert Leach, who offers old-fashioned lobster bakes for parties of fifty or more. Leach and his team have perfected the art of baking lobsters, clams, and mussels on hot stones buried beneath sand and seaweed.
My husband and I were kid-free for the weekend, so we headed straight to Cellardoor Winery for a tasting. The location is gorgeous with a capital G. The back deck and picnic area afford views of the vineyard and Levensellar Mountain. Owner Bettina Doulton is happy to share her wines and chat with guests about the refurbished, 200-year-old barn where the tasting room resides. We left with a bottle of Monti al Mare—a blend of Sangiovese, Malbec, and Syrah.
Chef Annemarie Ahearn owns Salt Water Farm. She offers three-day cooking workshops that feature foods from nearby farms, and often the farmers themselves, plus bimonthly dinners in her cozy kitchen. Ahearn clearly loves her work, and the pastoral setting is a beautiful place to spend time enjoying local fare.
Apple-picking season begins in late September at Sewall Orchard—the oldest operating organic apple orchard in the state. Sewall is located on Levensellar Mountain, and the views of Acadia National Park and Camden Hills alone are worth a visit. Oh, and the cider, too.
If you want to learn more about Lincolnville’s history, visit the School House Museum. The two-room schoolhouse was built in the nineteenth century and houses historic photographs, local memorabilia, and Native American artifacts. The old Grindle Point Lighthouse is a lovely place to take pictures and offers picnic tables and green space for those who want to stop and rest before touring Islesboro.
I’m a coffee junkie, so the heavenly aroma coming from Green Tree Coffee and Tea had me craving a cup. Owner John Ostrand knows his coffee—in the past, he worked for exporters in Costa Rica and Guatemala. I asked a regular with an armload of coffee beans which kind she liked best. She recommended Happy Dog, a medium-dark roast ($1 from the sale of each pound is donated to the Mobile Greyhound Adoption Center).
At Sleepy Hollow Rag Rugs, Diane and Wally O’Brien make hand-woven rugs with recycled fabrics using a giant, 200-year-old loom. In addition to rugs, Diane creates hand-knit items and cuff bracelets embellished with treasures she finds on Lincolnville Beach. She’s also a local historian who has written two books about the area.
Antiques Painted Lady is one of those special shops where I wish I could buy the whole store. Owner Sherry McGrath has an eye for beautiful things, from zebra-striped cabana chairs to colorful farmhouse quilts. After one visit, you’ll have an urge to redecorate. Similarly, the handmade furniture at Windsor Chairmakers has been known to tempt the most frugal traveler. Visit the Chair Making Shop before checking out the finished pieces in the inviting showroom next door.
In nearby Northport, the artisans at Swans Island Blankets weave heirloom-quality blankets, pillows, throws, and scarves. Each is made with soft, hand-dyed fleece. Guess what’s on my Christmas list this year?
If you’re a book lover, check out Artisan Books and Bindery in Islesboro. This Dark Harbor store sells carefully selected new, used, and rare books. Once you’ve made your selection, enjoy a cup of Rock City Coffee or a cigar on the front porch.
Fernald’s Neck Preserve is one of my favorite hiking spots in Lincolnville. The shaded trails are designed for easy walks (the longest hike is 1.5 miles). My husband and I hiked to Balance Rock, which resembles nature’s version of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Beyond the rock are stunning views of Megunticook Lake and Maiden Cliff in Camden.
The sign at the entrance reads Camden Hills State Park, but 3,500 acres of the park are in Lincolnville. Friends recommended hiking the Bald Rock Trail, climbing to the top of Mount Battie, or mountain biking on the five-mile multiuse trail that begins on Youngtown Road. To enjoy Lake Megunticook by boat, visit Dan Henry at Ducktrap Kayak. Henry has been renting and selling boats in Lincolnville for the past 18 years. He is also an accomplished paddler and provides great tips for boating in the area.
Take the Islesboro Ferry for a day trip to the island. Cars and bikes are welcome on the ferry for an additional fee (to rent bikes on the mainland, stop by Maine Sport Outfitters in Rockport). Once you’re in Islesboro, visit the Herbert Preserve, a serene spot with a carpet of moss underfoot. The preserve is a part of the Islesboro Islands Trust, which protects more than 800 acres of land on the island.
Camping is an adventure when you stay at Warren Island State Park. The island can be accessed only by boat. Rent sea kayaks from Ducktrap Kayak or call the Quicksilver Water Shuttle. There are only 12 campsites on the seventy-acre island, so be sure to book early on weekends. Rowboats, firewood, and water are also available.
For families, the Beach Cottage Inn is a good choice. The renovated cottage dates back to the nineteenth century and is in walking distance of Lincolnville Beach. A continental breakfast is served at Point Lookout, where families can also use the tennis and fitness center for free. The Youngtown Inn and Restaurant, built in 1810, has a relaxed, cozy feel. The inspired meals made by award-winning chef Manuel Mercier have satisfied diners for twenty years.
The Inn at Ocean’s Edge is a popular destination for weddings and romantic getaways. The grounds and gardens are breathtaking. On warmer days, guests can relax in the infinity pool and take in the seemingly endless ocean view.
The Inn at Sunrise Point is where you go for a luxurious seaside vacation. The well-tended cottages are spacious and comfortable. Enjoy breakfast overlooking Penobscot Bay from the inn’s sunlit porch, or sit in an Adirondack chair on the lawn and watch the sailboats drifting by. Like so many places you’ll visit in Lincolnville, you won’t want to leave.