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Lobsters, leaves and lighthouses: Roadtrip through Maine 🇺🇸 (Part 2)

We had to drag ourselves away from this perfect place in Roque Bluffs. (see Part 1). The weather was glorious and we drove around our neighborhood enjoying the pristine scenery and exploring interesting lanes. We barely saw another human.

But it was time to move on again to take advantage of all there was to see. The plan was to head south-west once again and spend a couple of days on Deer Isle, one of the many peninsulas we’d skipped past on our way north-east. We hit the road quite early. As usual we stocked up at Walmart in Ellsworth and then headed down towards Blue Hill.

En route, we visited Mt Desert Isle which is the largest island off the coast of Maine (slightly larger than Martha’s Vineyard) and home to the splendid Acadia National Park. Yet another national, scenic byway took us from Ellsworth down towards Bar Harbor. Entering the beautifully designed National Park with its comprehensive information centre and detailed brochures made us realise that a half day was not nearly enough time to fit in all the glorious things that this island has to offer.

“Acadia National Park is a 47,000-acre Atlantic coast recreation area primarily on Maine’s Mount Desert Island. Its landscape is marked by woodland, rocky beaches and glacier-scoured granite peaks such as Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the United States’ East Coast. Among the wildlife are moose, bear, whales and seabirds.”

There are also 45 miles of rustic carriage roads, gifted by philanthropist and horseman, JD Rockefeller. Every now and then we would pass by one of the cobblestone bridges that are part of this system

We took a one-direction loop road that took us through the hills and valleys and along the coast below the Cadillac hills. We parked our car and strolled along a section of the magnificent Shore Walk and explored along the rocks at Thunder Hole. Tourists were out in full force, making the most of the fabulous sunny weather. Thunder Hole is a small inlet, naturally carved out of the rocks, where the waves roll in with fury. At the end of this inlet, down low, is a small cavern where, when the rush of the wave arrives, air and water is forced out like a clap of distant thunder. Water may spout as high as 40 feet with a thunderous roar! We had lots of fun watching people bravely strolling onto the walkway and then shooting back as a big wave surged over them. 🌊 

We continued on the route and took a lunch break at North East Harbor for Lobster Rolls (obviously). We found another cool food truck that also served pulled pork buns and other yummy snacks. We enjoyed the sunshine and the views across the yacht club.

After lunch we started back up the island, passing beautifully manicured parks and ponds, pausing at the pretty Somerville bridge, constructed in 1780 and looking exquisite, shrouded by dazzling autumnal foliage. One could easily spend a few days in this piece of heaven, but we dragged ourselves off in search of our new home.

It goes without saying that it was a beautiful drive. The autumn leaves were really starting to look at their best and we had to stop frequently to take pictures and admire the scenery.

Connected to the mainland by an elegant bridge across Eggemoggin Reach, Deer Isle contains a cluster of small communities across Deer Isle and Little Deer Isle. Lobstering is the mainstay of the economy, headquartered in Stonington. The bridge linking Sedgwick to Little Deer Isle was built in 1939 and before that access to the mainland was by ferry only. It’s an innovative long-span structure that had to be 30m above high tide in order to easily accommodate yachting which is popular during summer.

We arrived at our accommodation at sunset. The Lily Pad cottage was just as sweet as it sounded. Once again, tiny, but with everything the two of us could possible need. We’d planned to eat at home with a delicious dinner of a creamy fresh crab 🦀 pasta and it was a great decision as the weather had turned rainy and cold. We hunkered down with our books and our red wine and Hershey’s dark almond chocolate. Heaven!

An atmospheric, overcast morning and we set off to explore our new stomping ground which is to the only main town of Stonington, which also lands the largest number of lobsters on Maine’s coast.

We did some exploring looking for lighthouses. There are 8 on the surrounding islands, but difficult to reach unless by boat. Everywhere the leaves had started their glorious change from green to orange, yellow and red.

Breakfast was a delicious Haddock roll and Raspberry Cheesecake Flurry

Maine fishermen hauled 100.7 million pounds of lobster in 2019, according to figures released by the state Department of Marine Resources at the Maine Fishermen’s Forum. That was the smallest catch since 2010, but it was the ninth year in a row that Maine broke the 100-million-pound mark and half the overall catch in the USA.

At this rate you would think we’d be running out of lobster in a hurry, but it seems that there has been an over-abundance of lobster since around 2010.

Due to climate change, the oceans have been warming and 2012 and 2013 saw ocean temperatures that were 4 degrees warmer than average. But unfortunately when the temperature hits or surpasses 68 degrees F, it “stresses” the lobsters by impeding their breathing. “Stressed lobsters either flee to deeper (or more northern) waters, or become more susceptible to diseases. Or they die.” (New York Post, Susannah Calahan)

We went for some lengthy walks from our house in between scenic drives and lying around in our cosy cottage, reading.

Wherever you stop, lovely discoveries await. Out walking one afternoon we came across a deer 🦌 in the woods. Just what we hoped for from Deer Isle!

We marveled once again at the extremities of tides, sometimes seeing no water for miles and at other times it would lap the roadside in places.

For dinner on our second night we celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary at Harbor Cafe, a lovely restaurant overlooking the bay and serving pretty much nothing but lobsters! We opted for the Twin lobster 🦞 🦞 dinner with fries and coleslaw $26. We were supplied with lobster cracker tools and bibs so we could get all stuck in! Delicious 😋 

Deer isle is full of narrow private roads, flanked by forests and there is no easy access to the sea. We were interested to see grand and glorious homes flanked by land containing hillbilly caravans and decaying dumps in the same neighborhood. The property prices were eye-watering. If I could afford to live there I might also opt for a caravan!

 

It was very sad to depart early the next morning for our next destination. 

It turned out to be surprisingly tricky getting off Deer Isle. All roads look the same and although there aren’t many of them, we managed to do a circuit or two around much of the island. Finally we headed back onto the main route.

Getting into the swing of being American, we breakfasted at Bucksport Dunkin’ Donuts 🍩

Bucksport is well known for its bizarre and fantastic stories. In 1892, a circus elephant named Charlie broke loose and roamed the town a free animal for quite some time. He was finally captured, with the help of a pit bull, who cornered the elephant so his handlers could secure him.

Buck cemetery and the Cursed Tomb of Colonel Buck was on our list for a visit. The gravestone of the town’s founder, Colonel Jonathan Buck, features a mysterious stain – the image of a woman’s stocking-clad foot, or maybe a boot. The leg stain according to legend, came about when Colonel Buck burned a witch and bizarrely her leg rolled out of the bonfire. His heirs tried to clean “the foot stain” off the stone and are said to have replaced the monument twice – but the foot stain… keeps… coming… back!

The curse was called down upon the Colonel by the deformed son of the witch. “Your Tomb shall bear the mark of a witch’s foot for all eternity!” Or something like that. Not the most horrifying of curses, when you think about it. 😂

Shortly before Portland we came across another amazing Visitors Centre.

Portland used to be the capital city of Maine, but it was moved to Augusta in 1830. It is the most populous city in the state though. 

We were on a mission to pack in the sights and headed slightly beyond Portland. Cape Elizabeth is a delightful area. The town is located about 9 miles south of Portland. It is home to an iconic lighthouse, the Portland Head Light at Fort Williams Park. It was commissioned by George Washington in the late 1700s, and is Maine’s oldest lighthouse. It is considered one of the most photographed lighthouses in the U.S., and some even say the entire world. We spent a couple of hours enjoying the coastal walk amongst the many tourists.

From the park we could also see Ram Island Ledge Light in the distance. Built of gray granite blocks in 1905 on a tiny rock island in Casco Bay, the lighthouse strikes a solitary pose at the entrance to Portland Harbor.

Lunch was a New England clam chowder and lobster bisque from a conveniently placed food truck. Warmed us up when the day turned chilly and damp

Old Port is without a doubt the beating heart of Portland. This downtown neighborhood is considered the city’s center and bustles with things to do left and right, all the while gracefully maintaining its historical facade. The area is lined with cobblestone streets and 19th-century warehouses, and with the wharf just steps away on Commercial Street, the city’s heydays as a world-renowned port town are easily felt. 

We took a drive through the centre on our way to Spring Point Ledge lighthouse, which was our next stop at South Portland. This light was built to warn of a dangerous ledge jutting out into the shipping lane in 1897. In 1951 the construction of the 50 000 ton granite breakwater was built to link the lighthouse to the shore. We took a walk out along the breakwater rocks, marveling at the sheer size of the blocks and how precisely they’d been carved into their rectangular and triangular shapes.

Time to eat again and we found a well stocked pastry shop and drooled over the abundance of choices. Eventually we settled for a molasses twister and a raspberry tart  and a couple of Choc chip cookies (for later) Serving us was a friendly, chatty lady who on identifying our accents, told us all about her adventures to her beloved South Africa, with no regard for the building queue of patrons, waiting to be served. We had to verge on rudeness to escape.

You’d think we’d have had enough of lighthouses for one day, but the Portland Breakwater Light beckoned. 😁 Sometimes referred to as Bug Light Park Lighthouse, it marks the end of the rocky breakwater shielding Portland Harbor and was built from wood in 1855, then reconstructed in cast iron in 1875 and at only 26-feet tall, it is known for its diminutive size and its elegance, modeled on an Ancient Greek design. We enjoyed a lovely, brisk walk through the park and along the breakwater path.

Finally all lighthoused out, we went in search of our accommodation in Freeport which is approximately a 20 minute drive north of Portland. We had booked a lovely self-contained private wing above the home of Jerry and Sandy who, shared lots of tips about dining and shopping in Freeport.

Not to rest on our laurels, we had a rest and then went off to the village in search of new sneakers. Mine were soaked from earlier adventures. I found a great new pair! We discovered delightful shops and tried all the new Lindt chocolate flavors, visited LL Bean and old Navy etc. We then walked up and down casing out the restaurants for dinner. Some good contenders but in the end we chose a Tuscan restaurant that did not disappoint!

We started with Caprese salad with burrata and heirloom tomatoes 🍅 with crostini. Delicious! Then we went for two of their rustic looking wood fired Pizzas with fennel sausage and more burrata (I can’t get enough) and one buried in Prosciutto and tartufo. A gastronomic feast with a great bottle of Italian red.

Well, we got hopelessly lost going home. We eventually worked out that we were taking the wrong route out of town, but we were both so convinced we were right that it took a number of tries to eventually find our way back! Of course we had left the maps behind and were far too cheap to switch on international roaming 😆 That cost could easily cover another lobster roll!

After a homemade breakfast of eggs and mushrooms we headed out to visit Cape Neddick “Nubble Light”. It was built in 1879 on a tiny, off-shore island, or ‘nubble,’ in York. It features a Victorian keeper’s house with gingerbread trim and a lantern with miniature cast-iron lighthouses on its railing.

We spent a couple of hours clambering on the rocks watching the waves crash below us. A beautiful day with sun, cloud and sparkling seas…perfect for photography. 📷 

We took the scenic route home to Freeport via York and Ogunquit. When we got home we ventured back into Freeport, marvelling that we had been so lost the previous evening. We visited the quayside. We finally had our last Maine lobster roll back in Freeport. Will miss these!

Later we spent the afternoon relaxing and reading, and catching up on social media.

We opted for an early night as we had to awaken at 2h30! We left Freeport at 3h30, and drove to Portland for a flight to Raleigh via Atlanta departing at 6am 🥱 

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