The stretch of coast from the Boothbays to Bar Harbor is Maine’s Riviera. Boothbay Harbor is just a smaller version of its northern counterpart. Its immaculate shoreline, flower-lined streets, grand summer homes and band concerts on the town green create a feeling of eternal summer, and once you see the tourists eating ice-cream, chewing taffy and frolicking in the tight-knit streets, you have the deja vu sensation that every July and August has been the same since the 1870s.
The Boothbay region was one of the first areas to be settled in Maine, and it has a long-standing reputation as being one of Maine’s finest seaside resorts. This is not only where the other five New England states come to cavort in the summertime, but also where Mainers escape for a holiday getaway. Located on a jagged peninsula of craggy inlets and thick, towering pines, the Boothbay region is comprised of Boothbay Harbor, east/west Boothbay and Southport Island, which is also where you will discover Cape Newagen.
Boothbay Harbor is an old time fishing village turned Cote d’Azur resort, but the preferred mode of transportation is still the boat. The water surrounding the village is calm and sun-rippled, and the only way to get from one side of the harbor to the other is to cross Boothbay’s famous footbridge. The 1000-foot pedestrian bridge is the highlight of the town, and it is from here that you will have a spectacular view of Boothbay’s boat culture. The harbor is colorfully crowded with sailing and fishing vessels, trawlers, pleasure craft, whale-watching cruises, puffin tours, windjammers and day-trip excursion boats to Monhegan Island. From your crow’s nest perch atop the footbridge, you can watch them all come and go like little puffy clouds in a high summer sky.
Downtown Boothbay Harbor is comprised of four main streets: Commercial Street, Wharf Street, Townsend Ave and By-Way. The streets are cozy and cramped with a vintage cornucopia of seaside shops (ice-cream parlors, trinkets and souvenirs, t-shirts) swank bars, Tiki Hut lounges, ritzy eateries, outdoor Corona umbrellas and tables where mojitos are sweating on white linen. From glassblowing and pottery making to oil painting and photography, you cannot walk three steps without running into an arts and crafts boutique. Boothbay Harbor is also where you will find the Burnt Island Light. Built in 1821, it is said to be Maine’s second oldest lighthouse. It can be toured during the summer.
From Sheepscot to Southport Island, the Boothbays and the surrounding Mid-Coast peninsula have roughly 100-miles of wandering coastline. In other words, there are other top-shelf attractions and places of note beyond downtown Boothbay Harbor.
Boothbay and East / West Boothbay
The Boothbays blend into one another like a John Singer Sergeant watercolor. One minute you are in Boothbay Harbor and the next you are somewhere in Boothbay (proper). While a leisurely scenic drive in this neck of the woods is sure to get your heart racing (the summer cottages are eye-popping) there are several high-profile attractions to see. In Boothbay, you will find the Coastal Maine Botanical Garden and the Boothbay Railway Village. The botanical garden is the largest in New England. There are over 240-acres of ornamental gardens, sculptures and beautiful wooden areas. At the Boothbay Railway Village, there are fifty antique automobiles on display. You can also take a 1.5-mile tour on a narrow-gauge steam train. However, Boothbay’s most popular attraction is an eight-lane candlepin bowling alley that was built in 1946. Candlepin bowling is an old-time New England institution. Those of you not familiar with it will be surprised to find that you are trying to knock over pins with a grapefruit sized ball with no finger-holes. As they say in New England: its wicked fun.
In East Boothbay, you will discover some of the most stunning scenery on the peninsula. Far from the hustle and bustle of downtown Boothbay Harbor, drive out to Ocean Point for a picnic or to take in a sunset. The small, attractive town of South Bristol is also in East Boothbay. The town’s tiny swing drawbridge is a must-see for history aficionados. Do you feel like petting a shark? West Boothbay is where you will find the Maine State Aquarium. Tide pools, view tanks and elusive blue lobsters will keep the kids happy.
Southport Island and Cape Newagen
Ocean scenery, picturesque lighthouses and gallery hopping are the main attractions in quiet Southport Island. Settled by the English in the 1600s, it was a shipbuilding community and fishing outpost. Cuckold Light and Hendricks Head Light can both be found on the island. The Hendricks Hill Museum is an 1810 house consisting of eight rooms and antique exhibits that depict Southport life in the early days.
The tip of Southport is known as Cape Newagen, which means Cape of Good Trading. The Cape Newagen Seaside Inn, which was featured on the Today Show and in Travel and Leisure Magazine, sits atop a beautiful promontory. It is a regal holiday colony that is as magnificent today as it was its gilded heyday.
Boating, sailing and life on the water is the zeitgeist of the Boothbay Region. However, if deep-sea fishing or spending a topsy-turvy day on a whale-watch makes you lunge for the nearest bottle of Dramamine, there are plenty of land based activities as well. Conservationists have protected 1,700 acres of Boothbay’s woods and fields, so there are hundreds of walking and hiking trails. From quiet paths through spruce and pine trees to meandering routes through tidal pools, in Boothbay, nature is all-inclusive.
Dining and Lodging
Boothbay is lobster country. Per square mile, there are more wharf-side and dockside lobster joints than anywhere else in Maine. When you come here, you sit under a red-and-white awning, put on a bib and start cracking crustaceans. Is there anything better than twin lobsters and a pitcher of cold beer out on a deck? Lobster rolls, lobster spring rolls, lobster gnocchi, as long as you are on a waterfront or a rickety pier, it is all going to be good. Throw in a bucket of mouthwatering mussels for good measure. Top it all off with a warm slice of homemade blueberry made. Tomorrow: Repeat the process.
In Maine, quaint inns and B&Bs are as infinite as the stars on a clear August night. However, Boothbay Harbor puts a spin on the classic Maine accommodation. While there are still numerous gabled roof Victorian inns, there are also several restored and updated sea captain houses. Complete with parlors, fireplaces, Jacuzzis and verandas, they combine classic New England architecture with modern amenities. One thing is for sure: There will never be any reason to update the harbor views. They are as perfect today as they must have been in the 1800s.
Boothbay Harbor Region Directories
Visit the following directories to find lodging, dining, attractions, shops, services and recreational activities in the Boothbay Harbor, Maine area.
Boothbay Harbor, Maine Map