Adventure Length: Get A Room
Month We Adventured: October
Ideal Time for this Adventure: Summer/Fall
Bring: Overnight gear, hiking boots
Adventure Begins & Ends: Aragosta at Goose Cove
Portland -> Deer Isle = 3 hrs
When we arrived on Friday night, the sun had already set. As we drove down the winding road to check in and find our cottage for the weekend, a family of deer stopped us in our tracks as they dashed in front of the car. Our little one in the back seat took a lot of pleasure knowing there were, in fact, deer on Deer Isle. A little magic, I thought, to kick off our weekend.
It was late and dark. The only thing visible were the twinkling lights shimmering off of the restaurant as we made our way to check-in. We had no idea what surrounded us and wouldn't until the morning.
We found our cabin and husband, kid and pup in tow we hurried in to check out our digs for the weekend. The kiddo found children's books piled next to the bunk beds and she happily occupied herself for a few minutes while we unloaded the car. Clearly, a little sprinkling of magic from another fellow parent. Thank you.
We poured wine, made a fire and tucked in for the evening.
We knew it would be rainy for most of the weekend, and there was a small two hour window in the morning before the clouds would set it. We threw on our boots and layers and made our way to the Barred Island Preserve trail. As we discussed the fairies that clearly inhabited the woods, the smell of pine and the moss covered ground guided us to the ocean. I fell behind for a second and for the first time since the pandemic started, I finally took a big, deep breath. When we circled back to Aragosta, it was only then that we were able to take in the magic for the first time of what you have created.
I bet you didn't know that collecting buoys is our favorite activity to do as a family. But yet there were tons scattered along the shore that day.
I bet you didn't know that my husband hoped breakfast would be pancakes with blueberries. Magic, my daughter said as we carved into big stacks of them.
I bet you didn't know that after a day of exploring Deer Isle, our family of three took a two hour nap together snuggled in bed with a warm fire glowing next to us and the soundtrack of rain outside. Our daughter hasn't napped in years.
And I bet you didn't know that it was my husband's birthday and the dinner was probably the best meal we've ever had. And the pasta you created from scratch and on the spot, just for our little lady who dressed up in her fanciest dress and impressed your kind staff with her best manners all evening, she deemed "the best pasta in the world." You didn't make us feel guilty for bringing our best pal with us and that dinner is a memory that we'll always cherish.
Thanks for the magic, Aragosta. See you next year.
Adventure Length: Full Day
Month We Adventured: August
Ideal Time for this Adventure: Late morning to Dinner
Bring: Sunscreen, bug spray, bathing suit, towels, swimming tube/noodle
Adventure Begins: Maine State Prison Showroom
Adventure Continues: Ancho Honey, Marshall Point Lighthouse, Long Cove Quarry
Adventure Ends: El Jefe Taco Bar
Portland -> Tenants Harbor = 1.5 Hours
Freeport -> Portland = 15 Mins
Tenants Harbor is a neighborhood in St. George Maine that feels like a tiny slice of summer heaven. It has a tiny downtown with a couple restaurants and stores that feels like a secret hideaway tucked along the shore.
On our way to Tenants Harbor, we stopped at the Maine State Prison Showroom. The Maine State Prison Showroom, is in fact, a shop with hand crafted wood items all made by Maine prisoners. The people checking you out after finding some items to take home with you, are likely prison guards (or sometimes prisoners who are there working for the day, I've heard.) The Maine State Prison Showroom's mission is to not only give these prisoners a skill but it is also helping them with their reentry into society. Maine’s department of corrections places 10% of inmate wages into a savings account that they have access to when released.
Most of what you will find in the showroom are hand crafted wood items. The quality is unreal. I left with a bag full of goodies and my daughter brought home a doll's house.
Goodies in tow, we made our way to Ancho Honey for a grilled cheese. With a sign that proudly boasts "Carryout before it was cool" - Ancho Honey takes pre-made, prepared foods to the next level. COVID friendly before we needed COVID friendly. Beyond the pre-made meals on the inside that you can quickly grab and take home to feed the fam, they have a take-out window that during the day you can get any grilled cheese you could possibly imagine (take it from me: The Brie and Blue is the way to go!) and dinner specials every Thursday/Friday night from 4-7PM.
We then made the 10 minute drive down to the beautiful Marshall Point Lighthouse. I wouldn't say I am a huge lighthouse fanatic, but this one is definitely one to add to the visit list in Maine. There's plenty of space for the littles to roam, and a museum that we didn't check out (thanks, COVID!) but looked pretty adorable from the outside. We were lucky to visit on a bright, sunny day and spent over an hour just hanging out on the rocks and letting the little one find some fun shells.
After some mainstream, touristy lighthouse viewing (sometimes you just have to do it, ya know?) we made our way to a secret old granite quarry that I found through some heavy digging. A water filled quarry in St. George, known to locals as Long Cove Quarry, attracts families, teenagers enjoying a hot summer day with pals and artists who like to decorate the surrounding rocks. If you look closely at the rocks, you'll see teenagers dotting the edges swinging from rope swings and taunting each other to make the jump. People casually float in tubes and noodles (noted for next time, you really need some sort of swimming raft to truly enjoy the quarry as there's no beach, of course, to casually make your way in) and music plays from various devices throughout. I have to say, it was even cooler than I thought it was going to be. Next time: swimmies for the little one, tubes for us.
After the quarry, we decided to make our way back to Portland. Of course, just as we got on the road, we didn't want our adventure to end. So, naturally, tacos were next. Right off the highway on US1 sits El Jefe Taco Bar in Freeport. Their outside setup pretty much is what your COVID dreams are made of. There's an outside bar, plenty of spaced seating, it's kiddo and dog friendly and plenty of space to comfortably move about without having to interact with anyone. Yes, that is rosé in a plastic cup.
We finished our day eating our weight in chips and guac.
Adventure Length: 1/2 Day
Month We Adventured: June
Ideal Time for this Adventure: Lunch through to late afternoon.
Bring: Bug spray, sunscreen, lunch for the littles, water.
Adventure Begins: Ramonas in Portland.
Adventure Continues: Oven's Mouth in Boothbay. Free, limited parking.
Portland -> Boothbay: 1 Hour
Boothbay -> Portland: 1 Hour
Adventures during the time of COVID have certainly been a little different. I'm finding that I am more likely to pick a 1/2 adventure that requires a little bit longer of a drive even though my end destination is back at my house. I mean, what else do we have to do?
This adventure starts in Portland by picking up some legit, delicious hoagies from Ramonas. This new joint opened during COVID (we see you and we thank you for pulling through this!) and offered limited sandwiches each day for curbside pickup. I missed the boat each day and by the time I got to the site, they were sold out. So, the minute they announced they would be opening for real, I built it into our adventure for the weekend.
We picked up two Classical Italian Combos and with Harper's lunch already packed, we headed to Boothbay and planned to have a trunk lunch (something that has become sort of the norm these days.) Take a look at this beauty:
I mean, this place doesn't need any other press. Look above, look here and just go get a sandwich. If you can get it that is, they still sell out most days. We may or may not have ordered this twice in a three day stretch last week.
Once sandwiches were in tow, we took one of my (and well, everyone else's) favorite drives on Maine's Coastal Route 1. Antique shops adorned with colorful buoys, lobster shacks and seafood restaurants not just exist in every whimsical Maine book/television show you've read/seen, they actually live on Route 1. Driving through charming Wiscasset is a personal favorite.
We made our way to Oven's Mouth Preserve and after devouring our Ramona's lunch in the back of our Jeep, we got to it.
Oven's Mouth is bound by the Back and Cross Rivers which connects the two peninsulas that form the preserve, Oven's Mouth East and West. There is a stunning bridge that connects the East to the West that Harper was thrilled to run across once we stumbled upon it. The West peninsula is heavily wooded with great hiking trails, while the East peninsula is a little over 1.5 miles and is a collection of salt marshes, easier trails and views of quiet coves.
Harper handled the walk with ease (only asking to be picked up for the last small stretch) and I would say this is a perfect family hike to keep everyone entertained with plenty to take in. You can cut the walk short and still experience much of what this preserve has to offer.
Yes, the water really looks like that. This incredible blue/green water flows throughout and we were successfully able to convince Harper that 100% some magical fairies roamed these woods and controlled these waters. What else could explain it?
Adventure Length: Get A Room
Month We Adventured: October
Ideal Time/Length for this Adventure: Long Weekend
Bring: Layers (it's chilly in October this far up!), hiking boots
Adventure Begins: Sugarloaf Mountain in Carrabasset Valley. This was our AirBnB which was perfect for our short weekend and exactly as described. Anywhere along the mountain will promise exceptional leaf peeping views.
Portland -> Carrabassett Valley = 2.5 Hours
Adventure Continues: Rangeley Lakes Region.
Carrabassett Valley -> Rangeley = 1 Hour
Rangeley -> Portland = 2.5 Hours
My husband and I have an affinity for visiting locations in their "off-season." Mount Snow in July? Sign us up. Kennebunkport in Winter? Sounds like a dream.
We had a weekend coming up with nothing on the books and we'd been curious about visiting Sugarloaf for awhile. I hopped on AirBnB to see if anything might be available 5 days out and was met with multiple fantastic options for all super reasonable prices. Off season, folks.
Also, I am just going to say it now: this was our favorite adventure we've taken so far in Maine. I'll be checking myself as I write this to see if I am overly romanticizing it, but if this post sounds like a love letter to Carrabassett Valley it just might be.
We rented an apartment at Sugarloaf Mountain that was the lower level of someone's gorgeous mountain home. We were met with treats and wine when we walked in.
But first I need to talk about the drive here. October in Maine and especially this part of Maine, was unlike anything we'd really ever seen. The rolling mountains and changing of leaves was enough to even make Harper stare out her window for the long drive and take in the ridiculous beauty around us. Okay, it's already getting mushy, don't know what to tell ya.
Also, I mentioned to Andrew that if there was ever a place to see a Moose this would be the place. And just to loop you in: seeing a Moose in the wild is quite literally a bucket list item that I talk about on the regular. I'm...obsessed with them and may or may not seek out adventures that put me in a strong position to potentially see one. Though I have come up moose-less on past adventures, you can't stop me from trying.
We arrived late afternoon on Friday, unpacked a bit and made a straight away to The Rack which was a 5 minute drive down the mountain. Simple, not fussy food in a super packed restaurant. Lively, fun and very kid friendly. A true après ski bar, even during golf season.
The next day we were up and at 'em early, because you know, kids. We swung by D'Ellies, a slope side bakery with easy breakfast options (we opted for the nutritious option of a bacon, egg and cheese) and were ready to start adventuring.
The day started with the Little Bigelow Hike which is a family & dog friendly hike that is part of the Appalachian Trail. It was just under 45 Minutes from the AirBnB and most of the drive was on a dirt road. The parking lot to access the hike is situated directly next to Flagstaff Lake. We spent some time skipping rocks down at the water and taking in the views, and then got lost finding the entrance to the trail. Some nice folks pointed us in the right direction and Harper & Lucy were off.
The hike was an easy, fun start to our day and I was proud of how much Harper crushed it and what a champ she was walking. And because every hike deserves a ridiculously delicious treat, we made our way back to the mountain for a brunch I was very much looking forward to.
At Alice & Lulus, which is situated in the Sugarloaf Mountain Village, they offer a raclette cheese brunch. Like, the most insanely delicious cheese gets POURED ON TOP OF YOUR MEAL.
As you can clearly see, I was shooting for straight health this day.
As it wasn't their busy season and we were solo in the restaurant, we were able to chat with owner, Laura, for a bit as she happily indulged all of my prodding questions on this divine cheese and what it was like to live in Carrabbasset. She shared her love for the area and all that went into getting Alice & Lulu's open with her wife, Ciana. She basically convinced me to sell our house and move to the mountain.
We had planned to do a chair lift ride to take in more views, but frankly, I needed a nap after this meal and I convinced Harper she did too. If I were to do it again, I'd recommend a chair lift ride first that will then swoop you directly into the loving arms of the raclette brunch that are steps away from each other.
After my cheesy slumber and a good walk for Lucy around the mountain with Andrew, we packed up for another adventure before a dinner reservation. I had been scoping out the Cathedral Pines Campground in Eustis not for camping, but for the views. It was on route to dinner, and I thought it might be a quick 30 minute adventure, but we happily ended up spending over an hour on the property.
The campsite was empty (again, off season = best season) and we were free to roam the opposite end of Flagstaff Lake from our earlier adventure. Harper was able to get all of her sillies out before dinner, run free through endless pine trees and delighted in discovering (and playing) on an empty playground.
We walked the water's edge and I did my best to capture the beauty around us.
We made a 5 minute drive to the sweetest of sweet restaurants, The Coplin Dinner House in Stratton. Chickens greeted us as they scurried throughout the property.
The restaurant is a special gem in this area. It's in a restored 1836 Farmhouse and the entire restaurant feels inviting and warm, while also being elegant. They were kind and patient with Harper and we definitely overstayed our welcome as I just didn't want to leave.
On Sunday, I planned for a couple quick adventures on our way back home. We made our first ever visit to Rangeley Lake and popped in and out of some stores where I bought totally unnecessary knick knacks. Harper had a major meltdown in one of the stores and we were certain the town of Rangeley would ask The Diehls to leave and never return.
Though we were permitted to stay, we got the exhausted little into the car and made our way, with trinkets in tow, to a lookout spot I'd been obsessing over for quite some time. The Height of Land overlooks the entire Rangeley Lakes region and is one of those places where no picture will really do it justice.
Satisfied with a beautiful, extremely Maine weekend we started our drive home.
But then, as the sounds of "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood" played from the backseat of our car, it happened. If I didn't do a sufficient job of foreshadowing at the beginning of this post, I'll just say it simply here: A MOOSE. As we turned a corner down a windy mountain, A MOOSE RAN ALONGSIDE OF US. And then it suddenly stopped. Walked slowly and magnificently in front of our car, crossed the street, stood on a FREAKING PERCHED LEDGE in all of it's glory for a solid 15 seconds, and then ran off into the distance.
With my literal jaw on the floor I managed to barely capture the one lame photo you see here:
Adventure Length: 1/2 Day
Month We Adventured: We adventure here year round, but it's most ideal on a Summer or Fall Day.
Ideal Time for this Adventure: Early Morning to after Lunch.
Bring: Sunscreen, bug spray, water, water shoes.
Adventure Begins: Scratch Bakery in South Portland.
Portland -> South Portland = 8 Mins
Adventure Continues: Willard Beach in South Portland.
Adventure Ends: North 43 Bistro in South Portland.
South Portland -> Portland = 8 Mins
The Willard Beach area in South Portland is the reason we decided to move to Maine.
We rented an AirBnB in South Portland when Harper was 6 months and invited our families to join us for a week. It was both a stone's throw to the beach and Scratch Bakery. But more on Scratch in a minute.
We left our vacation feeling like we needed to be (and somehow were already?) part of this special community. This neighborhood and these people felt like an extended part of our family.
This area of South Portland is less than 10 minutes to the Old Port and all that downtown Portland has to offer. And while it's pretty exceptional to be that close to Portland, SoPo has it's own restaurant scene and well, it has Willard Beach. It's a beach neighborhood but without any pretension.
We moved to the Willard Beach neighborhood in 2019 and every now and again, we look at each other and both silently agree it was the best decision (you know, besides having Harper) that we have ever made. Often this look is with a coffee in hand, in the early mornings on the beach, watching Harper and Lucy chase each other in and out of the water.
I'm going to lay out what a perfect 1/2 day in the Willard Beach area could look like. This is one iteration of one of our perfect days, and I will continue to post others as this certainly doesn't scrape the service of what could be done here. And if the salty air and delicious treats make you a SoPo convert like The Diehls, I'll happily welcome you to our favorite neighborhood in the world.
7AM: Get your dog, kids and make your way to Scratch Bakery. Before you make your way to the delicious treats of the day, make a quick right and get yourself a Sea Salt Bagel. Grab some cream cheese out of the fridge, a coffee by the counter and head out to a picnic table out font. Nope, there are no toasters because it would be criminal to toast this thing. Savor those bites, pet a few of the dogs leashed up out front and have fun counting and reveling in the amount of people that make their way in and out while you eat your breakfast.
8AM: Take the short walk down to Willard Beach. Dogs are allowed on the beach off leash from 7AM-9AM and 7PM-9PM during beach season. If you are a dog lover, this is paradise in the early mornings. Sea Glass hunting is prime in the early AM here, and if you encounter any red or pink pieces, let me know as we severely lacking in that color department in our collection.
9AM: Put the pooch back on a leash and take a walk to Fisherman's Point. You can access this at the south side of Willard Beach by climbing some small rock stairs. Walk in the direction of the picturesque fishing shacks that dot the edge. At Fisherman's Point, you might see a yoga class, maybe a wedding and definitely views of Portland Head Light.
10AM: Head north to take a beautiful walk along the beach on a paved trail (part of Southern Maine Community College's campus) that will lead you to Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse, in operation since 1897. The walk will also wind you through Fort Preble, which was a military fort in South Portland built in 1808. Take the rocky walk out to the lighthouse and capture views of Peaks Island, Fort Gorges and more.
And there you have a glorious, half day loop around Willard Beach. If I haven't convinced you yet, I'll give it another try soon with more SoPo location and food gems.