Tag Archives: New England

Camden: The Jewel of the Maine Coast

Camden MaineCamden Maine is known by locals as the “Jewel of the Maine Coast”, and the adorable seaside town certainly lives up to its reputation. A walk along the historic 19th century downtown area is a shopper’s delight. Dozens of local stores and boutiques carry something for everyone, from gifts and home décor to toys and nautical goods. On our last trip, we got a head start on our holiday shopping by purchasing some distinctly Maine gifts.


If you’re a fan of outdoor activities, Camden is definitely the place for you!   A variety of boating companies will take you out of the harbor on a sightseeing trip or a day sail. If you’re more interested in hiking, Camden Camden MaineHills State Park, located just a few miles from downtown, has over 30 miles of trails (click here for trail info and a map), including one that winds its way up to the 800 foot summit of Mount Battle. Don’t feel like making the trek by foot? There’s also an option to drive your car to the top, for a small fee. In either case, don’t forget your camera to capture the sweeping views of Camden Harbor and Penobscot Bay. For all of you outdoorsy types, Camden Hills State Park also offers over a hundred different very private camping sites.  Click here for information or to make a reservation.


Camden is home to a wide variety of cafes and restaurants. My favorite place for breakfast is Marriner’s Restaurant, where you Camden Maineabsolutely must try the blueberry pancakes. If the weather is nice, be sure to sit outside on the deck, which has picture perfect views of the harbor. Claws Rockland MaineFor lunch or dinner, take a 15 minute drive to Claws in Rockland for the best lobster roll in the area. Claw is only open seasonally (late spring to early October) so be sure to call ahead or check their website. Order at the window, take a seat on the patio (which is heated and enclosed during inclement weather) and dig into what many consider to be the best lobster roll in Maine.  My mouth is watering just thinking about them!


Now that you’ve had the required Maine fare, how about another Maine treat? Owl Head Lighthouse MaineLocated only 25 minutes outside of Camden atop a peninsula that juts way out into Penobscot Bay, the 30 foot cylindrical tower known as Owls Head Lighthouse was built in 1825 (and rebuilt in 1852) as a navigational aid to ships going in and out of Rockland Harbor. A lighthouse keeper’s cottage was added in 1854, and it now Owl Head Lighthouse Maineserves as the headquarters for the American Lighthouse Foundation. Owls Head Lighthouse is also supposedly haunted by at least two ghosts. Locals refer to one spirit as the “Little Lady”, and she is most often seen in the kitchen or looking out a window. The other ghost on the premises is believed to be one of the former lighthouse keepers. Reports of mysterious footprints in the mud and snow, slamming doors, rattling silverware, ghostly apparitions, and human-sized indentations in beds have all been reported by staff and the family of former keepers. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to do any ghost hunting for yourself because neither the lighthouse nor the keeper’s cottage are open to the public since they are still in use.   However, visitors can still climb the wooden steps up to the lighthouse for the most incredible view of the harbor.


Other activities in the Camden area are Owls Head Transportation Museum, which features over 150 exhibits on antique aircraft, motorcycles, bicycles, and automobiles, and Barrett’s Cove, a hidden cove of Megunticook Lake that has a lovely designated swimming area. If you’re up for a short drive drive, Fort Knox (a huge 19th century fortification and the most popular historic attraction in Maine) and the adjacent Penobscot Narrows Observatory are are a great half day trip (about an hour from downtown Camden) that the entire family will enjoy.



For driving directions to Camden, click on the map below.

Camden Maine

Camden Hills State Park is located at 280 Belfast Rd in Camden, ME

Marriners Restaurant is located at 35 Main St in Camden, ME

Claws is located at 743 Main St. in Rockland, ME

Owl Head Lighthouse is located on Lighthouse Rd in Owls Head, ME

Owls Head Transportation Museum is located on Museum St. in Owls Head, ME

Barrett’s Cove is located at 104 Beaucaire Ave in Camden, ME

Fort Knox and the Penobscot Narrows Observatory are located at 740 Fort Knox Rd in Prospect, ME





Canterbury Shaker Village: Community, Spirituality, and Innovation in the New Hampshire Hills

Canterbury Shaker VillageStepping onto the grounds of Canterbury Shaker Village, I was immediately struck by the beauty of the area and the sense of peace and relaxation that the site exudes.   By the time that I left, several hours later, I was amazed by the generosity, ingenuity, and spirituality of the Shakers. A trip to Canterbury Shaker Village is, by far, one of the best things to do in the state of New Hampshire.


Canterbury was the largest community of Shakers in New Hampshire. There’s so much to see in the village that every member of your family will find something intriguing to explore. The Shakers embraced and invented new technologies, and in your visit, you’ll see their steam engine-powered washing machines, a generator that powered some of the first electric lights in New Hampshire, and state-of-the-art innovations, of the time, including early telephones, radios, and TVs. You’ll see modern artisans recreating Shaker crafts including the making of period clothing, furniture, oval boxes, and brooms. Children will love exploring the old schoolhouse, running through gardens, and interacting with the farm animals.


Canterbury Shaker VillageWhen visiting Canterbury Shaker Village, I recommend taking one of the guided tours to get an introduction to the Shakers and an overview of daily life in the community. On the tour, you’ll see several building which aren’t open to the public (including the laundry whose many technological inventions made it one of the most interesting places in the village), and you’ll learn about Shaker beliefs and practices such as gender and racial equality, suffrage for women, communal living, pacifism, and support for the poor, orphans, and victims of natural disasters. After the tour, you’re free to explore the buildings on your own.   Visit the Dwelling House to ring the Paul Revere bell, marvel over the Shaker’s built-in furniture and incredible organizational system, check out the kitchen and bedrooms, and learn about how the Shakers even put on concerts and plays for the community!  Here are some other sites not to miss:


  • the recreated syrup shop, where the Shakers made cooking and medicinal syrups, canned goods, and jams and jellies
  • the Sisters’ Shop, where you can see staff making Shaker clothing and textiles
  • the Brethrens’ Shop, in which artisans show how the Shakers created furniture and wooden boxes
  • the Carpenters’ Shop, featuring broom and printmaking demonstrationsCanterbury Shaker Village


Consider ending your day with a visit to museum store where you can purchase artisan-created Shaker arts and crafts as gifts for others or mementos of your visit. If you get hungry during your time in the village, food is available from the Shaker Box Lunch, which is run by the local food co-operative and features many ingredients grown on-site. The bookies and baked goods were especially tasty!


Canterbury Shaker Village

I’ve been to many historical and religious sites, but I was, frankly, blow away by what I learned and saw at Canterbury Shaker Village.  The staff is incredibly friendly and knowledgeable, and they show pure joy in sharing their enthusiasm for the Shaker way of life. Ask questions about what they’re doing and what you’re seeing so that you, too, will be amazed by all that the Shakers were able to achieve and create.  To make the most out of your visit, check out their website for information about daily tours and special seasonal events.  Canterbury Shaker Village is the best thing to do in Concord, New Hampshire, if not the entire state!





Canterbury Shaker Village is located at 288 Shaker Rd. in Canterbury, NH.  Click the map below for directions







The Isle of Shoals: Only a Hop, Skip, and a Ferry from Portsmouth

Taking a day trip to the Isle of Shoals or Star Island is easy via ferry from Portsmouth.  Star Island is the largest of a group of islands, called the Isle of Shoals, seven miles off the coast of Portsmouth, New Lighthouse Isle of ShoalsHampshire. There, visitors can enjoy “island life” for a day, a night, or even (if you really want to get away from it all) a week.

Getting to Star Island, or the Isle of Shoals, by ferry is part of the experience. Trips include spectacular views of local harbors, the Atlantic Ocean, several islands in the Isle of Shoals, and a lighthouse. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a whale! You can take a ferry from Portsmouth or Rye, both in New Hampshire. We choose the one in Rye because it’s a smaller boat, and therefore, a more intimate experience. For more about how to  Isle of Shoals Star Islandget to Star Island or the Isle of Shoals, see “locations” below.

Once on the island, it’s all about slowing down the pace and enjoying the natural beauty. To see all of the sites, take the perimeter loop that circles the island. It’s well marked and the island is small, so there’s no chance that you’ll get lost! Be sure to wander off the loop onto the side trails to discover the many amazing views of surrounding islands, marvel at the gorgeous oceanscapes, check out the monuments scattered throughout the island, and see Gosport Village from above. In the Oceanic Hotel, there’s a small gift shop, bookstore, restaurant, and bathrooms. Cap your visit off by unwinding in a rocking chair on the hotel’s fine front porch, which has lovely views. Imagine what life was like on the island many years ago with fine Victorian ladies and gentlemen taking in the ocean breezes.   Isle of Shoals

John Smith, of Jamestown and Pocahontas fame, mapped the Isle of Shoals way back in 1614, and for all you history buffs, there’s even a monument to commemorate his visit. Star Island was sparsely inhabited, except for fishermen, until the building of the Oceanic Hotel in 1873, when city dwellers began journeying Oceanic Hotel on Star Island in Isle of Shoalsto the island to take advantage of its cooling ocean airs before the invention of air conditioning. Star Island was, and still is, also a popular spot for religious conferences, many of which are sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Church. However, even those of lesser or no faith are most welcome on island.

Star Island is a beautiful location to visit, but honestly, there aren’t a lot of activities.  I would, therefore, recommend a short, half-day trip.  We were on the island for one hour and twenty minutes, and I thought that was enough time.  To lengthen your visit, dine in the hotel’s restaurant, or even better, bring a picnic lunch that you can enjoy in the gazebo, at the picnic tables, or spread out on the lawn.  Whatever your plans might be, a visit to Star Island is about slowing down the pace of life, being Oceanic Hotel on the Isle of Shoalspresent, and enjoying the wonders of nature.

Want to Make a Day out of It?

  • Check out my blog post on seeing a submarine and abandoned forts in Portsmouth and neighboring New Castle
  • Visit Strawberry Banke Museum to see historic homes from across the decades
  • Go shopping in Portsmouth; be sure to check out my favorite stores: Off Piste (quirky and fun), Pickwick’s Mercantile (gifts in a unique setting), , Diversions (games), Bull Moose (used & new music & videos), and Macro Polo (gag items)
  • Grab coffee and German pastries at Kaffee Vonsolln
  • Have dinner in Portsmouth at one of my recommended restaurants: The Friendly Toast or the River House (waterfront dining)
  • Head to Rye Beach, located right near one of the ferry points (see below)


Star Island is accessibly only by boat, and two ferry companies provide service to visitors. Of the two, the Isle of Shoals Steamship Company, located in Portsmouth, offers larger boats and more options in terms of the type and length of cruise. If you choose this company, you’re going to get your typical ferry experience with multiple decks, more detailedStar Island on the Isle of Shoals commentary, and many fellow tourists on board.  On the other hand, if you want a more intimate and less touristy experience, go with Island Cruises, located in Rye, New Hampshire.  In general, if you’re looking for a cruise that focuses on comfort and variety, go with the Isle of Shoals Steamship Company, but if you’re looking to travel on an authentic New England fishing ship, check out Island Cruises, in Rye.

We chose to leave from Rye and were surprised at how small the boat was and how few other passengers were aboard.  We left on the 11:15 boat, were on island at 12:00, departed from Star Island at 1:20, and arrived back in Rye at 2:15, after a short tour of the islands by boat.

Please be advised to check times and cruise availability on the websites below, as they change based on the season.

Isle of Shoals Steamship Company315 Market St, Portsmouth, NH – Click on the map for directions.


Island Cruises – 1870 Ocean Blvd, Rye, NH – Click on the map for directions.


isle of shoals











Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Explore a Submarine and Abandoned Forts!

Hi-Diddly-Dee, A Sailor’s Life for Me

U.S.S. Albacaore submarine in Portsmouth, New HampshirePortsmouth, New Hampshire is probably best known for its quaint, downtown shops and boutiques and historic Strawberry Banke museum, but I would like to show you some lesser-known, yet incredibly enjoyable attractions of this New England city.

If you’re driving along Route 95 approaching Portsmouth, you might be surprised to see a historic submarine permanently moored to, not a dock, but a park right next to the highway.  Our first stop is the U.S.S. Albacore, a former research submarine, that was designed by the U.S. Navy to test experimental features that are used in today’s submarines.  The Albacore may never have seen combat, but it was in commission from 1953 to 1972.   It’s a fascinating place to visit that will bring out the kid in anyone.

After purchasing tickets from the small visitor’s center (where you can get U.S.S. Albacore paraphernalia, including hatsU.S.S. Albacaore submarine in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and captain’s whistles – beware parents of having to listen to them all day if you purchase!), you follow a self-guided tour through the submarine.  You can choose to get as much or as little information as you want by reading the pamphlet and/or pressing the red buttons in each part of the submarine to hear the pre-recorded audio tour.

U.S.S. Albacaore submarine in Portsmouth, New HampshireI was amazed to see how cramped the living space truly is on a submarine.  Imagine sleeping in these quarters or having to shower in such a narrow cubicle.  How can anyone live for months at a time, deep under the ocean, like this?!  Bravo to our brave sailors!

Kids will love to sit in the driver’s seat, look into the periscope, pass through the hatches, and play chess in the mess hall.  They can even pop a squat on a sub’s toilet!  Visiting the sub is fun for the whole family.  I even enjoyed myself solo.

The U.S.S. Albacore is located at 600 Market St, Portsmouth, NH, right off of Interstate 95 (see locations below).


The Misty Remains of a Former Fort

Fort Constitution in Portsmouth, New HampshireJust outside of Portsmouth, in New Castle, NH, are the remains of Fort Constitution which protected the harbor from 1631 to 1961.  Originally designed to guard against French-Canadian attack, the Americans captured the fort from the British during the Revolutionary War and renamed it after the famous document.  It was later rebuilt during World War II to defend Portsmouth Harbor from German submarines through the use of underwater mines.  How cool!

On the day that I visited, fog was still present from the morning, which added an extra Fort Constitution in Portsmouth, New Hampshireeerie effect to the remnants of the fort.  There’s no visitors center or attendants on duty, so you’ll likely have the place almost all to yourself to wander and explore.  Next door is Fort Constitution in Portsmouth, New Hampshirean active U.S. Coast Guard Station and a lighthouse, that unfortunately, isn’t open to the public but is nice to look at!

Fort Constitution is located at 25 Wentworth Rd. in New Castle, NH.  See “locations” below for the route, parking, and other tips.



An Eerie Military Remnant

Fort Stark in Portsmouth New HampshireDo you enjoy creepy, abandoned locations?  Then I have a place for you!  If you don’t enjoy the spook factor, can I at least lure you in by saying there’s a small, free beach and park at the same location?

Located near Fort Constitution, which is described above, Fort Stark is the most fun to explore of the two former military installations.  Much of it is fenced off and covered by the graffiti of vandals, but that actually adds to the otherworldly atmosphere.

Fort Stark in Portsmouth New HampshireBoth kids and adults will love exploring Fort Stark, which saw service from 1905 to 1948.  While I was visiting, a family of four was ahead of me, and their two children were clearly having an awesome time wandering around and climbing up onto the gun batteries.  Don’t worry parents– there are no more guns on site!  The views of the ocean and harbor, from the fort, are also amazing, so bring your camera.

The grounds are open to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week, hence the graffiti, but there is a small visitor’s Fort Stark in Portsmouth New Hampshirecenter on site which is open on Saturday (from Memorial Day to Labor Day) from noon to 4:30.  I was there on a weekday, so I explored on my own.  Most people were there to use the small, free public beach and park that are adjacent to the fort.   The beach is quite rocky, but there’s enough sand and green space (with picnic tables) to make it an enjoyable afternoon outing.

Fort Stark is located at 211 Wild Rose Ln, New Castle, NH (see location below).




U.S.S. Albacore

600 Market St, Portsmouth, NH, right off of Interstate 95 – Click on the map for directions.

Screen Shot 2017-07-20 at 3.19.20 PM

Fort Constitution & Fort Stark

Getting There: The drive out to Fort Constitution and Fort Stark is absolutely beautiful.  If you don’t believe me, the route has been designed as a New Hampshire Scenic Byway!  From Portsmouth, take Route 1B (click here for directions) which forms a loop across several small and larger islands, affording stunning views of the harbor and ocean, and which winds through picturesque New England colonial towns.  Click on the maps below to get driving directions to each specific fort.


Parking: When going to Fort Constitution, follow the signs and then park in the “Fort Constitution Parking” which is immediately in front of the fort remains, just beyond the larger public parking lot.

Bring Water & Snacks: I would recommend bringing water and maybe some snacks, because as I found out the hard way, there are few stores in the immediate area, once you leave Portsmouth.

Want to make a day out of it?  I suggest adding a trip to Strawberry Banke, which is an excellent museum composed of dozens of historic buildings from the 1600’s to the 1900’s.  Check out my eating recommendations below.

Looking for a place to eat?  I highly recommend the Friendly Toast at 113 Congress St. in Portsmouth for breakfast all day or yummy sandwiches and plates.  They bake their own bread in-house and are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Want dessert or coffee?  Check out Kaffee Vonsolln at 79 Daniel St. in Portsmouth for German pastries and creative coffee creations.


Fort Stark- Click on the map for directions.


Fort Constitution – Click on the map for directions.


What to do in Portsmouth New Hampshire