By: Elizabeth Margolis-Pineo
While exploring Maine’s historic Pemaquid Peninsula, just a few miles from Damariscotta, I stumble on the quintessential Maine cottage at Harborside. The iconic red-and-white cottages of Harborside were built in the early 1950s by Leonard Osier, high school teacher and thrifty Yankee.
Osier saw the potential for extra income in his boyhood home on picturesque New Harbor and built two seasonal cottages, the Cormorant and the Osprey, for summer visitors.
Over time, his seaside compound grew to include the Gannet, Petrel, Heron, Tern, Teal, Mallard, Gull and Loon cottages. The charming, old-fashioned property is now in the capable hands of Osier’s daughter, Belinda, who carefully maintains her father’s legacy. Harborside’s longtime guests remember Belinda as a young girl delivering mail and messages. The younger Osier possesses an innkeeper’s ideal traits – she’s a natural teacher with a strong sense of history and a terrific smile.
The Laracy family has gathered at Harborside every summer for 41 years. “The smell of freshly cut grass always reminds me of Leonard Osier,” says Mary Laracy, remembering Osier on his riding lawnmower. She now brings her children and grandchildren to share in the summer experiences she had as a child – playing with her cousins, walking the grassy slope to the dock, and watching seagulls, turtles and cranes from the rocky shore.
Leonard Osier carefully oriented the original cottages to take maximum advantage of seaside beauty and harbor views. Belinda Osier keeps spaces uncluttered, comfortable and filled with natural light.
No fusty drapes here – surfaces are clean and attractively rustic. The mid-century aesthetic lends a feeling of timelessness and familiarity – like visiting an old friend.
Harborside cottages are not large, but harbor views are vast. The traditional cottage layout includes an open room with kitchen, bath, and bedroom – larger cottages have two bedrooms. The well-equipped kitchens thoughtfully include a lobster cooking pot. The cottages encircle a shared outdoor gathering space with a bring-your-own fire-pit policy. Cookouts and marshmallow-toasting is encouraged.
During my stay, I enjoy a late-afternoon glass of wine on the long dock admiring the boats, bright blue sky and tumbling white clouds. It’s a short walk to Shaw’s, the bustling lobster pound nearby, for seafood, conviviality, breezes and a view.
If you feel the need to plunge back into civilization, Damariscotta is a few miles up the road with enough bistros and pubs for everyone. Damaricotta is the epicenter of all things oyster: taste a few briny Pemaquids and add to the “middens,” enormous shell piles left by American Indians.
Just up the road in Bristol, Pemaquid Point lighthouse sits at the entrance to beautiful Muscongus Bay. The rocky cliffs, crashing waves and beautiful grounds are accessible for a very reasonable fee of $2. Check out the museum, art gallery and lighthouse, or enjoy a seaside picnic on the point.
Soak up some local history at Colonial Pemaquid’s Fort William Henry. The original fort was built in 1692; this mighty replica was built in 1908. Historic Pemaquid includes artifacts from colonial-era archaeological excavations, from musket balls to pottery.
Pemaquid Beach offers swimmers and sunbathers a stretch of unusually clean, soft sand on a protected cove. I spend a lazy afternoon among the beautiful beach peas and roses – that sand is super soft!
Check out the salt pond preserve where Rachel Carson researched her book, “The Edge of the Sea.” For another idyllic setting, visit lovely Round Pond, a protected harbor on Muscongus Sound.
Or indulge in a lobster-boat sightseeing tour to spot puffins, seals and even whales from nearby Shaw’s Lobster Pound and Wharf. Or take the ferry from Shaw’s Landing to stunning Monhegan Island for a glorious day of hiking and exploring.
Harborside is blessedly low-tech: if you want WiFi, you’re relegated to the owner’s porch – pleasant enough, but slightly removed from the action. The message here is decidedly unplugged, there isn’t a television in sight. The clapboard compound offers a tranquil respite from the demands of the larger world – exactly what I want in a Maine cottage getaway.