This past summer we explored a beautiful area of Maine called the Mid-Coast region. Summer tourists often overlook this area as many travelers head straight to Acadia National Park. Acadia is spectacular, so don’t miss it.
But, if you are ready to explore some cool Maine towns, visit the Mid-Coast area. You won’t be disappointed. Many charming cities comprise this region. We spent time in just a few; Camden, Belfast and Rockland, Maine. With quaint villages, working waterfronts and rocky coastlines, the views are inspiring, and there is no shortage of things to see and do.
The photo above is Camden Harbor. Spend some time in Camden, Maine, it’s such a beautiful town.
If you visit Camden, Rockland or Belfast, you can wander through Maine artisan shops, antique stores, and museums. There is indeed something for everyone in these adorable towns; an Opera House, a lighthouse museum, art galleries — even a psychic. Dave didn’t consult the psychic, 🙂 but we couldn’t resist a photo with these vibrantly colored shops in Camden, Maine.
If you are looking for outdoor fun, there are plenty of options in these bustling harbor towns. Numerous outfitters are willing to show off the Penobscot Bay and take you sailing, sea kayaking, rowing and even out on a working lobster boat.
And with plenty of cafes and restaurants, you can indulge in lots of fresh Maine lobster! Need to work off that lobster dinner? You can hike or bike in a local park or paddle out to a historic lighthouse.
Below-just one of the many cute waterfront restaurants serving up lobster, the Nautilus Seafood & Grill in Belfast, Maine
Discovering a Mid-Coast Event
We were in search of something new to do, so we picked up a local festival guide at our campground. We learned that the city of Rockland, a coastal town along the Penobscot Bay, would soon host the Maine Windjammer Fleet Parade of Sails. The Maine Windjammer Fleet represents the largest fleet of traditional schooners in North America. Half of the fleet are National Historic Landmarks.
We had never been to a Windjammer event, so we were stoked! Several things make this event worth attending. The backdrop for this event is the historic Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse, and we love lighthouses and history. And the entire Windjammer fleet passes by the lighthouse in an incredible display of sails. Here is a video of our day.
The Rockland Breakwater itself is an outstanding structure. The Breakwater is 4, 346 feet or .8 of a mile long and extends out into Rockland harbor. Built in the 1890s, the Breakwater was designed to improve the harbors ability to shelter ships from coastal storms. The lighthouse itself was added in 1902. It is now automated and still aids the Coast Guard in navigation today.
You can find more information on the Breakwater lighthouse here.
This view above shows the breakwater with the lighthouse barely visible at the end. The walk out to the end is excellent exercise and picturesque. If you visit Rockland in the Summer, definitely put the Windjammer Fleet Parade of Sails on your to-do list.
The lighthouse and foghorn still aid the U.S. Coast Guard in navigation today.
The Parade of Sails is impressive! Here are a few things to know before you go:
Breakout Your Walking Shoes for the Breakwater
To have the best view of these tall ships and the lighthouse, hike out to the end of the breakwater. Wear your best walking shoes, as the walk out and back is close to two miles. Be aware that there are gaps between the granite, so watch your footing. If you venture down on the boulders, be careful as the wet rocks and seaweed can be slippery.
Look down and watch where you step, but look up often enough so you can enjoy the action. Watch for lobstermen pulling their traps, waves hitting the rocks, and seals swimming in between the lobster buoys. It’s a beautiful place to experience. Relax and enjoy. Breathe deeply, and you’ll almost be able to taste the salt air.
The photo below is just a little more than half-way out to the lighthouse.
Prep your Daypack with Some Daytrip Basics
Maine in peak season is lovely, but like any coastal town, conditions can change. If you visit the lighthouse and the Parade of Sails, take a daypack and a few basics along. With the length of the walk, sun and wind, bring water with you. You can easily find yourself thirsty and even become dehydrated. You may also need an energy boost before beginning the walk back, so pack a few snacks. There is nothing like a protein bar or pack of nuts to help you refuel. A few more of our must-haves are sunscreen and sunglasses. They offer protection from the sun, especially on days where the sun reflects off the water.
You’ll want memories of your outing and to share your day with others, so bring a camera or video camera to record the Windjammer fleet and lighthouse. You will enjoy viewing your footage and looking at your photos later. The Windjammer fleet is quite spectacular. Make sure you capture some great images and a selfie or two so you can share your day!
Check the Weather
And last, but never least, check the forecast before you go. There is nothing worse than being surprised by a change in the weather. Although Maine is usually pleasant in the summer months, it’s a good idea to pack a light jacket or windbreaker. You’ll appreciate an extra layer if the temperature drops and the wind picks up. And you’ll have more fun and enjoy your day if you are ready for changes in the weather.
Dave has his video equipment, and I have our daypack. We are ready for our walk out.
Cost is Free if You Want it to Be
As full-time travelers, we are always on the look-out for budget-friendly things to do. So, we were thrilled to find out that there is no charge to observe the Maine Windjammer Fleet Parade of Sails. There is also no fee to walk on the breakwater or visit the Rockland lighthouse.
When the Rockland lighthouse is open to the public, there is a collection box. You can donate any amount. The Friends of the Rockland Harbor Lights are a non-profit organization that manages the donations, and they work to support the preservation and restoration of the Rockland lighthouse. The Friends organization is a chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation and their work impacts both the Rockland Lighthouse and the Owls Head lighthouse. You can find more information here.
We had a great time in Rockland. It was inspiring to see these schooners on the water. We donated to support the preservation and restoration of this historic landmark. For more information about the lighthouse click here. If you are interested in learning more about the preservation and restoration efforts, click here.
What an incredible day. I feel inspired to learn to sail, anyone else?
Our view as some of the schooners in the Maine Windjammer fleet sailed by. Amazing!
We love Maine, and once we started exploring this state, we realized just how much more there is we want to see. To see what else Dave and I did this past summer in Maine, check out more of our blog posts.