Maine’s southernmost town has evolved into a mecca of good food, quaint stores and natural beauty.
Browse books, order your smoothie and betake yourself to a lovely park in Maine’s southernmost town.
Having grown up in the seaside town of Kittery, the southernmost town in the state, I was all too familiar with what I thought of as its lack of eateries and nightlife. Sure, there’s fast food in the shopping outlets, and Kittery is home to the first Weathervane Seafoods (also in the outlets), but for a long time, if you wanted to enjoy diverse dining and an endless choice of bars, you had to cross over the Piscataqua River into downtown Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Yet Kittery, a town historically known for great shopping deals and having the only two entrances to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, has grown into what The Washington Post called “the hippest place to dine, shop and party north of Boston and south of Portland.”
Take that, Portsmouth.
In what is called the Kittery Foreside, a bustling area of unique restaurants and shops has sprung up in the past couple years, including a noodle bar, a locally sourced butchery, an ice cream shop and a record-playing restaurant with a constantly evolving menu.
Yet one of the most distinctive changes to the Foreside was the transformation of a former Bank of America into three different establishments: River Run Bookstore, Lil’s Café and The Maine Squeeze Juicery.
And the Foreside is just a scenic drive from Fort Foster, a residential beach and hiking destination.
A second store to its downtown Portsmouth counterpart, River Run Bookstore opened about a year ago inside the old Bank of America. Used books line the walls while an island of new books sits in the middle of the quaint store, with the old bank vault-turned-corridor looming in the back. In addition to the vast array of books, postcards and coffee mugs are also for sale. After a quick perusal of the history and biography sections, I settled on a copy of Michael Lewis’ “Moneyball” for a little summer reading.
Walking up to the Maine Squeeze, you wouldn’t know that it used to be a bank drive-through kiosk just a few years ago. With its silver border, blue awning, orange and blue lettering and brick exterior, it looks like a lemonade stand on steroids. With over a dozen smoothie choices (I went with the Banarama, mainly because it had espresso in it), and six freshly squeezed juices (you can also make your own), there are seemingly endless ways to start your day with a little nutrition. My Banarama, with banana, chocolate, espresso, yogurt and almond milk, was deliciously creamy, with a slight texture from the espresso. After your drink is blended, there are picnic tables to share at a courtyard between the Squeeze and Lil’s Cafe.
Maine Squeeze, 7 Wallingford Square, Kittery (get directions) | Open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Sunday | mainesqueezejuicecafe.com/kittery
Once you have a book and a drink, take the four-mile drive up the coast to Fort Foster, a spacious beach that also has several walking trails, old military forts, large open fields and a wooden pier that looks out to sea. You can choose to drive in or walk. Driving a car into Fort Foster is $10, while biking or walking to the beach will set you back $5. Once there, you can choose to take a dip in the ocean or just lie out on the sand with your book and smoothie. Just be sure to leave some time to explore the trails and the beaches, which run along the scenic Atlantic Ocean.
Fort Foster, Pocahontas Road, Kittery (get directions) | Open dawn to dusk for pedestrians; gates are open for cars from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. | Admission is $10 per vehicle; $5 adults and $1 under age 12 for pedestrians or bicyclists | kitteryme.gov
Get out of dodge (at least for a little while) with a mini adventure. These excursions can be done in a day – sometimes an afternoon – and will hopefully lead you to places you’ve never been. This is Maine, after all, and we all need some adventuring.