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Maine Lighthouse Road Trip: Boothbay Harbor & A Puffin Tour

I recently got back from a coastal Maine lighthouse road trip, and today, I’m sharing my time spent in Boothbay Harbor. If you’d like to catch up on other posts from this trip, you can pop on over to these links:



I’ve wanted to visit Boothbay Harbor for years. A lot people who I've spoken to over the years have said they thought I would love it, so I decided to dedicate two days to this stop. I didn't plan much, except for a boat tour, which I'll get more into down below. So I really spent most of my time meandering through the town, snapping some photos, and just being completely relaxed and in the moment. 



I ended up absolutely loving it here. It’s a small little fishing village that has an authentic feel, while also easily catering to tourists with cute shops, restaurants, and plenty of rustic seaside scenery to be had. It was a place that forced me to slow down, go for walks, crack open a book, and I enjoyed every minute of it.




WHERE TO STAY

This was one hotel I decided to splurge a little bit on, and chose to stay at The Harborage Inn. This adorable little place is right on the water, and you get some really nice views of the town from their back lawn. I decided to treat myself to room No. 8, which offers panoramic views of the water, and honestly, it was so worth it to wake up every morning, feeling like I was floating on the bay.




Each room has their own designated deck space reserved just for that room, and breakfast was brought to you on a tray every morning (included in the nightly rate). Having breakfast overlooking the water each morning was something I got used to real fast - it was the perfect way to start my day. The hotel also includes free parking in their back lot, and has their own floating dock with Adirondack chairs for guests to use. It was a quick and easy walk into the center of town (not even 5 mins), and my stay couldn't have been more perfect.




WHAT TO DO

One of the things I really liked about Boothbay was its location. You can easily base yourself here for a week, and be able to cover a lot of ground because there's so much that's easily accessible to this area. At the same time, the actual town itself is small and manageable, and you can walk everywhere if you choose to just stay put and relax. 


Explore Nearby Towns & Lighthouses

I mentioned Doubling and Squirrel Point lighthouses in my last post, which I grouped in with the Portland area, but you could definitely visit them while staying in Boothbay. They're only about 40 mins from the center of town, which would make a nice little afternoon trip. On the way to or from Arrowsic, where these lighthouses are, you could easily scoot on over to the whole Georgetown area, which is home to some highly-rated seafood shacks and more beautiful scenery. Georgetown is home to Five Islands Lobster Co., which was sadly closed during my visit, but is one of the most highly-rated seafood places in Maine. I didn't visit Georgetown on this trip, but it looked amazing from pictures I'd seen online while planning my itinerary.

Doubling Point Lighthouse in Arrowsic is just a quick 40-45 min drive from Boothbay Harbor.


If you really wanted to cover even more ground, you could keep going in the same direction past Arrowsic after visiting Doubling and Squirrel Point Lighthouses, and go right into Portland to make a day of it. Then come back to serene and relaxing Boothbay in the evening.

About 45 mins in the opposite direction is Pemaquid Point Lighthouse. I did visit this one, but tacked it onto a different part of my trip, so more on that in an upcoming post. If you wanted to drive further past Pemaquid to do more site seeing, Camden is about another hour away from Pemaquid, or one hour as a straight shot directly from Boothbay. I visited Camden during my trip, and also visited the nearby lighthouses in that area (Owl's Head and Marshall Point), and will be doing a post dedicated to those. Camden is a great little coastal town with a true "Main Street/Village" feel with shops, restaurants and a beautiful little marina with gorgeous sailboats. It would the perfect afternoon/lunchtime stop during your travels. 

But see what I mean? Boothbay is a great home base for seeing a lot of Maine, especially lighthouses.


Exploring The Town

Downtown Boothbay is very easily walkable since it's rather small, but still packs in a good amount of cute boutiques and tourist shops, which are all concentrated in the main town area. In the center of town, you can walk across the Footbridge, which connects the two sides of the bay, making it easy to get from one to the other. Even just the walk along the footbridge is really beautiful. And at night, it's lit up, making for a beautiful post-dinner stroll (hopefully with an ice cream cone in hand). Scroll down toward the end to see some pictures of it twinkling against the night time sky.

Bird's eve view of the pedestrian footbridge at the center of town.

Downtown Boothbay is really charming.











You can also visit the Maine Botanical Gardens while staying here. This wasn't something I did, but if I'd had just one more day, it would have been at the top of my list. A couple I chatted with that was staying at the same hotel said they'd visited, and really enjoyed it. 

Boothbay also offers a few options for boat tours that leave right from the center of town, and I chose to do a puffin tour while here. They have other tours that focus on lighthouses, site seeing and even whale watches, but for me, getting a chance to see puffins was a no-brainer. 

The tour I did was with Capt'n Fish's Cruises, and it departed right from town. This particular tour also partners with the Audubon Society, so you'll get a lot of information and insight into these cute little birds while cruising along on the water. I'll be honest, I thought I would be kind of bored hearing about the other birds during their presentations on the boat. But actually, learning about all different sea birds was really interesting, and the presentation completely held my attention. The tour is about two and a half hours long, and the trip out to Eastern Egg Rock, where this particular puffin colony lives, is about 40 mins each way. 

A few fun facts about puffins in Maine:

In the 1800s, Maine puffins became locally extinct after falling prey to hunters that used their feathers for fashion. Fast forward to the 1970s, when an environmentalist and zoologist named Stephen Kress learned about the puffin colonies that once existed in Maine, and wanted to bring them back. He started Project Puffin, and partnered with the Canadian government to have puffins from Newfoundland brought down to Maine. The first year, the puffins that were brought in from Canada didn't migrate back to Maine the following year, so they tried again. And failed again. It took almost 10 years, and when Canada was just about to give up and pull their funding and resources, the puffins began to migrate back to their Maine colonies each Spring, and also began to breed. They continue to do this now, making it possible for us to see them. There are now over 1200 pairs of puffins that nest off the coast of Maine in the five colonies in this area.



Research scientists actually live out on this very small piece of land at sea to learn more about these little birds, and report back to Project Puffin. They live in these small tent-shacks, and are brought food and supplies about once every 1-2 weeks. It was so eye opening to learn this, and really gives you a deep appreciation for people who dedicate so much of themselves to restoring animal colonies and ecosystems.

Puffin researchers actually live in those little tents out on Eastern Egg Rock.


This tour was so much fun, but I must warn you, you will not be able to see the puffins from the boat without strong binoculars or a telephoto camera lens. Puffins are only 8 inches tall, so even though the boat gets pretty close to the rock where they all hang out, it’s very hard to see them. I actually mistook one for a buoy at one point (granted, I'd taken my glasses off for a sec, but that's how small they are). I rented a 200mm lens to bring with me for this trip and still had a hard time spotting them, and it was even more challenging to get any good pictures. But when you caught glimpses of them, they were so beautiful and adorable, and it was really so exciting and worth it. I'm actually rather shocked I got any semi-decent photos, and I know they're not amazing - but I'm kind of proud of the ones I got.




The tour also takes you past Ram, Burnt and Pemaquid lighthouses, and being out in the open waters of the coastline is always a good time. You’ll get a really nice look at Ram and Burnt Island lighthouses, but you’ll see Pemaquid from a long distance (but you can visit Pemaquid by foot, which I did later in my trip). And the scenery while cruising out in the water was absolutely beautiful. Remember to pack a sweater, too! In mid-May when air temps were 65 on land, it felt like winter once we were out on the water, and my hands were frozen when we got back.

Ram Island Lighthouse.



Restaurants

Since I was there in mid-May, about half the restaurants in town were still closed and I wasn't able to visit some of the more highly-rated places to eat. But, I did get a table outside overlooking the water on my first night at Mine Oyster. It has average reviews online, but honestly I really enjoyed my food. I got fish tacos and a cocktail, and had a nice time overlooking the water while enjoying my dinner. 

I also got a pizza to-go from Ports Pizzeria on my last night, and enjoyed it on the hotel's dock with a bottle of wine I picked up in town earlier that day. The pizza was awesome - super fresh and high-quality ingredients. It was a nice little break from all the seafood. 

Solo pizza picnic on the floating dock.


For lunch one day, I was craving a lobster roll, and decided to drive over to the neighboring town of Southport and went to Robinson's Wharf. I was lucky enough to score a seat right on the water, and I got to enjoy my lobster roll while watching the fisherman deliver their fresh catches of the day right next to me. It was really cool. The lobster roll here was delicious - highly recommend. The drive to Southport from Boothbay is very quick (about 8 mins), and the scenery along the way is beautiful since you're driving right alongside the water. 


Seafood doesn't get fresher than this! A delivery coming in right next to me while eating lunch at Robinson's Wharf.


During peak season, I would suggest looking into Shannon's Unshelled and Boathouse Bistro.

And of course, you can't leave Boothbay and not have visited Down East Ice Cream. Not only is the little ice cream shack adorable from the outside, the ice cream was some of the best I had during my trip. I went twice, and tried their blueberry, which was super fresh and flavorful, and also their orange Swiss chocolate chip, and that one was surprisingly delicious. Down East is located close to the Footbridge, so grab your cones, and head over to the bridge for a walk to take in the views of the bay.


The footbridge lit up at night.

I honestly loved the footbridge just as much at night as I did during the day.





And that's a wrap on Boothbay Harbor. I would come back here for a whole week in a heartbeat, and as sad as I was to check out of my beautiful hotel room, I was really looking forward to my next two days in Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. 









I traveled to this destination in May 2021, just after the CDC announced its recommendation that face masks were no longer suggested for indoor and outdoor activities for those who were fully vaccinated. I was fully vaccinated for this trip, and followed all local Maine guidelines, which still mandated wearing a mask indoors. That is why you won't see me wearing any face masks outdoors, though. If you're not fully vaccinated and plan to travel, please follow CDC and local state/country guidelines, and protect yourself and others by wearing your face mask in public settings when social distancing is not an option, especially indoors. 

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