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Susan Axelrod

Susan Axelrod's food writing career began in the kitchen; she owned a restaurant and catering business for 15 years before turning to journalism. By day, she is the social media editor for Portland Press Herald. To relax, she bakes, gardens and hikes with her husband and their two dogs, preferably followed by a cocktail or a Maine beer. Susan can be contacted at 791-6310 or On Twitter: @susansaxelrod

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Posted: September 2, 2014

Road trip: The Boothbay peninsula in the off-season

Written by: Susan Axelrod

Boothbay Harbor in the fall. Photo by Ted Axelrod

In July and August, the Boothbay Harbor region is one of the busiest on Maine’s midcoast, bustling with tourists and summer residents drawn to its time-honored summer pleasures. Kayaks, sail and power boats share the water with whale watching and harbor cruises; lobster shacks and ice cream shops hum with activity; and kids hunt for crabs in tide pools on the winding rocky shore.

After Labor Day, the region’s quieter charms are revealed. Some tourist-focused businesses have closed for the season, but many shops, restaurants and galleries remain open through the fall. It’s far easier to park in downtown Boothbay Harbor and reservations may not be necessary at the popular Thistle Inn or Ports of Italy. The Balmy Days still runs to Monhegan Island on weekends through Oct. 13 — a clear, crisp autumn day is a perfect time to visit this storied artists’ haven and hike along its dramatic shoreline.

From the Portland area, Boothbay is a just over an hour away, making the region an easy day-trip destination. But there’s so much to explore and since some area B&Bs lower their room rates after mid-October, you may want to make it a weekend visit. Here are our picks for what to do, where to eat, shop and stay. For more, visit the website for the Boothbay Harbor Region Chamber of Commerce.

Do This

Left: 2013 Claw Down emcee chef Michele Ragussis with winning chef Mike Ham of the Tugboat Inn & Restaurant in Boothbay Harbor. Right: one of the lobster “bites” at the 2013 competition. Photos by Ted Axelrod

Left: 2013 Claw Down emcee chef Michele Ragussis with winning chef Mike Ham of the Tugboat Inn & Restaurant in Boothbay Harbor. Right: one of the lobster “bites” at the 2013 competition. Photos by Ted Axelrod

Claw Down — chef’s lobster bite competition

Thursday, Sept. 18, 6:30 – 8 p.m. | Ocean Point Marina, 216 Ocean Point Rd., East Boothbay | $60
The 3rd annual event features “bites” from 19 chefs, plus beer and wine from Cisco Brewers and Ninety Plus Cellars. A panel of judges will choose a winner; guests will also choose a People’s Choice Winner and the chefs themselves will vote for the Chefs’ Choice Award. Kerry Altiero of Cafe Miranda in Rockland (Harvest on the Harbor’s 2012 Lobster Chef of the Year and 2013 Farm-to-Table Chef of the Year) will emcee the Claw Down. Judges are Cathy Hancock, president of Hancock Gourmet Lobster Co., Cathy Billings, author of “The Maine Lobster Industry — A History of Culture, Conservation & Commerce, and Christopher Papagni, former executive VP of the International Culinary Institute.

Fall Foliage Festival

Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 11 and 12, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. | Boothbay Railway Village, Route 27, Boothbay | $2/adults, free for kids
This is the 47th year for the Columbus Day weekend craft festival, which features an impressive number of artisans, food, and live entertainment, in the charming setting of the historic railway museum. Take a steam train ride for $5 and don’t miss the antique auto barn — the entire village is open during the festival.

Hendrick's Head Beach, Southport Island. Photo by Deb Collins, The Maine Wag

Hendrick’s Head Beach, Southport Island. Photo by Deb Collins, The Maine Wag

Breakfast on the beach

Southport Island
Take Route 27 South past Boothbay Harbor and across the green turning bridge onto Southport Island; follow the road around to the right and continue until you come to “downtown” Southport: post office, fire station and school. Just past the fire station is the Southport General Store; pick up a good cup of coffee and slice or two of the best breakfast pizza anywhere (they have a great wine selection too). Get back in your car and drive down the steep hill just past the store, staying to the left on Beach Road; in just a short distance you’ll come to Hendricks Head beach, where you can sit on the wall or the rocks and have breakfast looking out at the lighthouse and the mouth of the Sheepscot River. If you’re feeling energetic, leave your car and walk the “beach loop,” leaving the beach to your left. This 1 1/2 mile or so walk will take you past wooded areas, summer cottages and an old cemetery, with views of the water along the way. Keep taking right turns until you end up back at the beach.

Picnic lunch on the rocks

Ocean Point
From Route 27 North, take Route 96 East (the Hannaford Supermarket is at this intersection) to the ship-building village of East Boothbay. Pick up a well-made sandwich at the East Boothbay General Store (Vinnie the Shipbuilder is a favorite). Follow the same road out to Ocean Point and drive slowly through this picturesque summer cottage colony before choosing a parking spot and walking out onto the rocks. (note, some of the shore is marked as private). The scenery here is some of the most spectacular on the peninsula. Several local artists have galleries along the way, which are well marked when they are open.

A view from Porter Preserve Photo by Ted Axelrod

Boothbay Region Land Trust

More than 30 miles of free, pet-friendly trails.
Recommended hikes: Ovens Mouth Preserve – the Western Shoreline loop is more challenging than the Eastern loop, both meander through salt marshes and pristine wooded shoreline, where when the tide is changing, the water rushes and forms whirlpools. Porter Preserve on Barter’s Island is an easy walk with breathtaking views; on the way to or from your hike there, stop at the Trevett Store on West Barter’s Island Road for an excellent fish sandwich or crab roll.

The tap line up at Watershed Tavern at the Boothbay Craft Brewery. Photo by Carla Companion

The tap line up at Watershed Tavern at the Boothbay Craft Brewery. Photo by Carla Companion, The Beer Babe

Boothbay Craft Brewery

301 Adams Pond Rd., Boothbay
According to blogger The Beer Babe, “if you want the true brewpub experience in Maine, this is a great example of one.” Now in its second year, the brewery turns out it’s highly drinkable flagship American Pale Ale, “633” and a smattering of other distinctive brews, all served at the adjacent Watershed Tavern (Open Monday – Saturday, 11:30 a.m. – 9 p.m.) Owners Win and Lori Mitchell are Boothbay natives who also own the Boothbay Resort next door and welcome visitors to the brewery. Stop by the tasting room and pick up a growler or take a tour (followed by tastings) Tuesday – Saturday at 3 p.m.

The Lerner Garden of the Five Senses at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, Photo by Barbara Freeman

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

132 Botanical Gardens Drive, off Barters Island Road, Boothbay
You may think you have little interest in gardens, but this is a world-class one, with granite ledges, ponds and sculptural elements. A sensory garden and a hands-on activity-filled children’s garden are just two of the distinctive features. For holiday shopping, the gift shop is stocked with unusual treasures. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. year ’round. Admission fees (to Oct. 31): $14 for adults; seniors 65-plus $12, kids 3-17 $6 and under three free. After Nov. 1, admission is free for everyone. Tours of the Gardens, including free guided walks with docents at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Thursdays and Saturdays, continue through Oct. 12. New for 2014: Tidal Transit Company now rents kayaks and paddleboards from the Gardens’ new dock.

The Opera House at Boothbay Harbor

86 Townsend Ave.
Its schedule is lighter in the off season, but this beautifully restored venue is an intimate setting for concerts, comedy and other events.


McSeagull’s in Boothbay Harbor. Photo: Atomic Studios


1 Wharf St. at Pier One, Boothbay Harbor
A varied menu and lively atmosphere make this casualrestaurant a year ’round mainstay. Try the Baja Fish Wrap, the burger or any of the lobster dishes with a draft beer from Boothbay Craft Brewery or a Pemaquid Ale, brewed on the next peninsula over. Live music most weekends.

Ports of Italy

47 Commercial St. Boothbay Harbor
On the second floor of a retail building, Chef Sante Calandri runs what is widely considered one of the best Italian restaurants in the state, with housemade pasta, desserts and bread and a traditional antipasto table. Roast suckling pig is a specialty. Open through October.


The Thistle Inn

55 Oak St., Boothbay Harbor
In an historic inn perched on a hill above the harbor, The Thistle’s cozy dining rooms are especially welcoming in the off-season. Start your evening with a cocktail at the Dory Bar (yes, it’s an actual boat), before tucking into a steak, pasta or seafood dish.


Mama D’s Cafe

50 Union St., Boothbay Harbor
At the “head of the harbor,” this quirky, kitch-filled spot is as comfy as your imaginary grandma’s kitchen. The food is homey too; it’s open for breakfast and lunch, with a full bar, too.


Robinson’s Wharf

Route 27, Southport Island
Just across the swing (turning) bridge, this is a traditional “lobster in the rough” joint, where local lobstermen bring in their catch and simply prepared seafood and beer is your best bet. Tug’s Pub upstairs is a popular after-work stop for locals and features live entertainment on Friday evenings.



Photo: Two Salty Dogs

Two Salty Dogs

22 McKown St., Boothbay Harbor
Stop in to “shop local” for all the necessities, plus the fun stuff to keep your dog’s tail wagging. (Oh, and they have food and toys for cats, too.) The hilarious website is well worth a read.

Edgecomb Potters

727 Boothbay Road (Route 27S), Edgecomb
There are retail outlets in Freeport and Portland, but this sprawling complex is where it all started in 1977 for Maine’s well-known pottery studio. The distinctive patterns and colorful glazes are immediately recognizable. The gallery also stocks glassware, jewelry, lighting and other handmade items.



4 Commercial St., Boothbay Harbor
Need a new set of Grundens, pair of TopSiders or warm wool cap? Fishermen, sailors and sporting types will find all sorts of rugged gear here.


A Silver Lining

17 Townsend Ave., Boothbay Harbor
From its signature Maine bracelet (at left) to rings, earrings, dozens of charms and estate pieces, this chock-full shop has jewelry for all tastes and budgets. Many of the pieces are made right there.


House of Logan/Village Store

20 Townsend Ave./34 Townsend Ave., Boothbay Harbor
No harbor shopping excursion is complete without a stop in at these two landmarks, even if it’s just to browse. House of Logan carries New England classics like Lily Pulitzer dresses and “Nantucket red” pants, as well as more contemporary clothing for women and men (their sales are legendary); Village Store has stylish housewares, gifts and adorable clothing for kids.


Eventide Specialties

5 Boothbay House Hill, Boothbay Harbor
One of the region’s newest shops stocks extra-virgin olive oil from around the world, aged balsamic vinegars and other specialty food products.



The Inns at Greenleaf Lane. Photos: Robert Mitchell

The Inns at Greenleaf Lane

65 Commercial St., Boothbay Harbor; 207-633-3100
All rooms have fireplaces and water views. Rates include a full breakfast: $195-225 through Oct. 15; $155-195 Oct. 16 through Mar. 31.

Welch House Inn

56 McKown St., Boothbay Harbor; 800-279-7313
Some rooms have fireplaces; all are traditionally decorated with antiques. Rates include a full breakfast: $145-$175.

Bayside Inn B & B

55 Union St., Boothbay Harbor; 207-633-3992
Five of the two airy, Victorian-style rooms are suites; all have private baths. Rates include a full breakfast: $125-$160 Oct. 16 through Nov. 30; $105-$135 Dec. 1 through March 31.

The Thistle Inn

55 Oak St., Boothbay Harbor; 207-633-3541
Each of the six, simply decorated rooms has its own bath. Rate includes a full breakfast in the open-to-the-public dining room: $99

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