More Hidden Gems Along Maine’s Mid-Coast

 Posted by on September 29, 2013  Comments Off
Sep 292013
 

Maine’s intricate coastline is filled with hundreds of small harbors, inlets, pocket beaches and rocky cliffs that were formed by powerful glacial activity at the end of the last ice age.  First, rising sea levels flooded the coastlands and carved out bays and islands where there were once valleys and mountain tops.  Following this period, the land mass rose slightly, resulting in today’s rocky, hard to navigate and wild coastline.  Today, the mid coast area between Portland and Bar Harbor, is home to a few major cities such as Freeport, Bath and Rockland but still houses many small villages and isolated landmarks.

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse in Bristol. ME

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse in Bristol, ME

During our recent visit to Maine’s mid-coast we veered off Route 1 to explore Pemaquid Point in Bristol.  Just 20 minutes down Route 30 we found Bristol’s Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Park, home to a 180 year old lighthouse that is still owned by the Coast Guard. The adjacent keeper’s home is used as a  volunteer-maintained Fisherman’s Museum.  We arrived as a an outdoor wedding ceremony was ending and one look at the amazing views of  pounding surf and surrounding rocky ledges told us why the bride and groom has selected this truly special location.  If you visit, plan to take the time to scamper down the rocks to the water’s edge.  The power of the surf is breathtaking.

Rocky ledge and surf at Pemaquid Point

Rocky ledge and surf at Pemaquid Point

From Bristol, we returned to Route 1 briefly before making another side trip to Reid State Park at the Southern tip of Georgetown Island.  The well maintained park provides access to two sandy beaches, rocky ledges, boardwalks  and protected inlets.  It is an expansive park with a bathhouse, lifeguards,  a snack bar, picnic tables and plenty of parking.  Of course, it is Maine, so don’t be surprised if the water temperatures barely make it above 60 degrees even in August!  Several miles of trails lead over the sand dunes and salt marshes on boardwalks and through the woods beyond the beach but be warned, as the sun goes down the flies come out and they are voracious!

Beach at Reid State Park

Beach at Reid State Park

Just down the road from Reid State Park we also discovered an idyllic country inn, the Grey Havens, that is perfect for a grown-ups getaway!  With a full dining room and bar and exquisite views from the rocking chairs on the front porch, mom and dad were sad that we only had one night the enjoy the inn’s hospitality.

Grey Havens, Georgetown ME

Grey Havens, Georgetown ME

The Grey Havens is about as romantic a destination as you will find along Maine’s quiet mid-coast and we highly recommend it if parents are looking to rekindle the romance without kids in tow.  The views from the turret rooms and the front porch are worth the trip all on their own. (Note we paid for our stay out of pocket and the owners didn’t know we’d give them a mention here!)

View of the sunset from rocking chair porch at Grey Havens

View of the sunset from the rocking chairs on the porch at Grey Havens

Maine’s mid-coast is home to many other quiet and romantic inlets, inns and lighthouses, we just wish we had been able to take the time to explore them all.  If you know of a special place to visit on the coast of Maine, leave a comment and let us know about it.


Best Things to do in Owls Head, Maine – Rain or Shine!

 Posted by on September 8, 2013  Comments Off
Sep 082013
 

With a population of just over 1,500,  tiny Owls Head  is a must see destination on any family vacation to Maine’s Mid-Coast.  Just 2 miles south of Rockland, ME, via Route 73,  Owls Head is home to the Owls Head Transportation Museum, a thriving non-profit educational organization founded in 1974. The museum is active in the collection and preservation of many early-era aircraft, cars, bikes, and trucks.  Many of the 150 plus items in the collection are operational.  The expansive indoor space makes the Museum a great rainy day destination.

Check out the classic cars at the Owls Head Transportation Museum

Check out the classic cars at the Owls Head Transportation Museum

The Aircraft Collection contains replicas and originals representing the first century of flight. The auto exhibits span the late 19th Century and early 20th century including a recently refurbished 1908 Stanley K Semi-Racer and a 1935 Stout Scarab, one of only six ever made.   We particularly enjoyed the MGs and Microcars special exhibit.  The Museum also holds classic car auctions and a series of special family-friendly events during the summer.

Lobster Traps at Owls Head Harbor

Lobster Traps at Owls Head Harbor

After visiting the Museum, be sure to take the time to visit the town’s often painted harbor as well as the quaint Post Office and the Owls Head General Store , which was voted Maine’s Best Burger by the Food Network and Best of the Best Burger by Village Soup, and the readers of Down East Magazine for two years in a row!

Owls Head Post Office is a Maine classic

Owls Head Post Office is a Maine classic

Also be sure to stop by Owls Head Light and the surrounding Owls Head State Park.  The  30-foot tall lighthouse is managed by the Friends of Rockland Harbor, but owned by the Coast Guard.  It is not usually open to the public, although the day we visited the steep steps leading up to the lighthouse were open and provided access to a beautiful view from 100 feet above West Penobscot Bay, near the mouth of Rockland Harbor.  The former lighthouse keeper’s house is used as a gift store and educational center.

Owls Head Light

Owls Head Light

The lighthouse is rumored to be haunted and many have reported seeing unexpected footprints after rain or snow – we didn’t see any on our visit although it had rained earlier in the day.

The rocky beach at Owls Head State Park

The rocky beach at Owls Head State Park

The land surrounding the Owls Head Light is protected as part of Owls Head State Park which also includes a small classic rocky Maine beach, a  short walking trail, and picnic tables near the beach.

Plan the better part of a day to see everything Owls Head has to offer.  This is a great destination for family vacations with kids of all ages since there is something for everyone in this delightful small town hidden away on Maine’s Mid-Coast.


Jul 072013
 

Jersey Stirred Not ShakenHaving just returned from a week at the Jersey Shore visiting some of the beaches and boardwalks hardest hit by Superstorm  Sandy along the coast between Sea Bright and Point Pleasant, we can confirm that the Jersey Shore is very much back in business for the summer of 2013.  While the recovery effort is ongoing, everywhere we visited found businesses, beaches and boardwalks open and well stocked.

Here are some of our favorite images of the Restored Jersey Shore starting with a view of the beach in Belmar, NJ.  Post-Sandy, beach sand was found covering streets and lawns as much as 8 blocks away from the beach.  Businesses located across the street had more than two feet of sand covering their floors.  Throughout the winter the town plowed, shifted, cleaned and reclaimed as much sand as possible.  The restored beach is slightly narrower than before.  In the coming year, the town will be building a stronger set of engineered dunes to help limit the impact of future storms.

Belmar, NJ Beach open for business summer 2013

Belmar, NJ Beach open for business summer 2013

The 1.3 mile Belmar Boardwalk was totally destroyed by Sandy along with several blocks of beachside restaurants and businesses.  Belmar was one of the first towns to begin rebuilding its boardwalk, reopening the entire length in time for Memorial Day 2013 – at a cost of $8 million.  For summer 2013, food trucks and kiosks are standing in for beachside buildings that had to be demolished.  Businesses located on Ocean Avenue across the street from the Boardwalk are almost all repaired and reopened providing plenty of dining and shopping options as well.

The newly rebuilt Belmar, NJ Boardwalk reopened in time for Memorial Day 2013

The newly rebuilt Belmar, NJ Boardwalk reopened in time for Memorial Day 2013

In Point Pleasant, Jenkinson’s Boardwalk, rides, arcades and aquarium all also reopened for the season.

In Point Pleasant, NJ Jenkinson's Boardwalk, rides, arcades and aquarium all reopened in time for summer 2013

In Point Pleasant, NJ Jenkinson’s Boardwalk, rides, arcades and aquarium all reopened in time for summer 2013

Asbury Park, NJ also restored its beach and boardwalk in time for the summer season!

Asbury Park Boardwalk 2013

Asbury Park Boardwalk 2013

If you are still wondering if it is safe to go back to the Jersey Shore be assured the Shore is back in business and looking forward to seeing you and your family soon.


Jun 132013
 

Everyone loves a day at the beach, but, very few people enjoy sitting in traffic for hours to get there.  Summer weekends in Boston find many families waiting in traffic on their way to the sunny beaches of Cape Cod or the North Shore – a fun day can quickly turn into an ordeal.  Families on vacation or college tours in Boston often miss out on seeing the Cape because of worries about how long the trip will take.

Veterans Beach in Hyannis, Cape Cod

Veterans Beach in Hyannis, Cape Cod

For many years, the only public transportation options from Boston to the Cape have been buses (which also get stuck in traffic) or boats.  This year, however, families that want to visit Cape Cod without a car have a new choice: the Cape Cod Flyer train service from Boston to Hyannis, the gateway to Cape Cod.  After a 25 year absence, it is great to have train service available to the Cape from downtown Boston.

The Cape Cod Flyer runs from Boston’s South Station to Hyannis on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings with return trips available Friday, Saturday and Sunday  evenings between Memorial Day and September 2nd.  Trains to Hyannis will also run the evening of Wednesday July 3.  The roundtrip fare is $35.  Kids age 5 and under and pets travel for free.   Free Wi-Fi is available on board.  Bikes can also come along for no charge.  The schedule allows for weekend getaways or day trips.  Intermediate stops are also made at Braintree, Middleborough and Buzzard’s Bay.

The ride lasts about two hours and 15 minutes, which is probably less time that it would take to drive on a Friday night or in Saturday morning beach traffic.  Upon arrival at Hyannis, free shuttles will make connections to the HyLine Cruises dock for ferries to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, as well as fishing boats and Harbor Cruises.  Connections to other ferries can also be made from the Buzzard’s Bay stop.   Bus service to most of the rest of the Cape originates at the Hyannis Transportation Center where the train arrives.

Hyannis Channel Point

Hyannis Channel Point

If you are making a daytrip or a quick weekend getaway, plan to stay in Hyannis where there is lots to do with kids, teens and tweens.  We recommend bringing bikes or taking advantage of the free Main Street Shuttle .  It is less than a 2 mile bike ride from the Transportation Center to the Hyannis Veterans Beach or the Kalmus Park Beach.   The Shuttle makes connections to hotels and shopping easy.   Daily and weekly bike rentals are available at the Bike Zone.  And of course, taxi  cabs are always available.

Besides the beach, Hyannis is a hub for all sorts of activities and family fun.  Whale watches depart from Barnstable with   Hyannis Whale Watch Cruises. For pirate fans, the Sea Gypsy takes kids ages 3-10 on a swashbuckling treasure hunting voyage around Hyannis Harbor.   Helen H Deep Sea Tours in Hyannis caters to families with a range of custom charter fishing operations as well as its Kids Sea-Fari tour led by marine naturalists.  Cape Code Duckmobile tours leave from Hyannis as well.

Afterwards, walk and shop in the Hyannis Main Street area which boasts more than a half dozen ice cream and candy shops.  The Cape Cod Potato Chip Factory tour is another must do! The teens love those chips.   There are plenty of family friendly hotels in and around downtown Hyannis so it makes a great base camp for exploring the Cape for a day or weekend without a car.  If you take the Cape Cod Flyer, let us know what you think!

 Photos courtesy Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism


Mar 182013
 
Don't miss the crawfish during your visit to the Mississippi Gulf Coast

Don’t miss the crawfish during your visit to the Mississippi Gulf Coast

Families planning spring break and summer vacations with active kids, teens and tweens are always looking for affordable destinations that mix sun and surf with opportunities for family fun.  With 62 miles of shoreline and warm Gulf of Mexico waters, the sunny beaches of the Mississippi Gulf Coast are clean and sparkling and ready to host family outdoor vacations during spring break and throughout the summer.

With daytime temperatures regularly in the 70s or higher, a Spring break vacation to the area is a great time to break out the fishing gear, rent a kayak, visit a waterpark or work on your tan at the beach.  Visitors from northern climates will really appreciate the opportunity to get an early start on summer.

The Mississippi Gulf Coast is also a great place to reconnect with nature.   If your teens and tweens are interested in wildlife, the Audubon Center offers visitors a two hour interpretive boat trip along the free flowing natural habitat of the Pascagoula River.  Airboat gator tours, shrimping trips and day sails on an authentic replica of a Biloxi oyster schooner are all also available.

Sailing along the Mississippi Gulf Coast

Sailing along the Mississippi Gulf Coast

If you need a break from outdoor adventures, the Mississippi Gulf Coast hosts a non-stop array of family friendly festivals.  The 21st Annual Mississippi Coast Coliseum Crawfish Music Festival starts on April 18 and continues for two long weekends covering April 18–21 and April 25–28. Enjoy the midway rides, catch nationally recognized musical acts like Scotty McCreery of American Idol fame and sample the local recipes at the Crawfish cook-off.  At other times during the season enjoy such events such as the Gulfport Music Festival, the Biloxi Seafood Festival, the Kite Festival, Chefs of the Coast, the Scottish Highland Games and Celtic Music Festival, and the Blues and Heritage Festival.

Discount hotel, bed and breakfast, and condo rental discount packages are available for multi-night stays in the cities of Gulfport and Biloxi and all along the coast.  Casinos and golf courses are available as well if that is more your style.

For families with teens and tweens that are looking for some outdoor adventure in their family vacation destinations the Mississippi Gulf Coast is a fun and affordable option for Spring Break or summer vacations.  We haven’t had the chance to visit yet so we appreciate these tips from our friends at the Gulf Coast Regional Tourism Partnership.  We hope to make it to the Mississippi Gulf Coast soon to enjoy all the great food, sun and outdoor fun.

Photos Courtesy of the Gulf Coast Regional Tourism Partnership

Jul 092012
 

The teens are big fans of the Jersey Shore boardwalks having spent much time over the years strolling the boards on the way to the beach in Belmar, shopping in Asbury Park and Atlantic City and hitting the arcade games and rides in Pt. Pleasant and Wildwood.  This year, we added a new Jersey Shore boardwalk to the bucket list with a visit to the infamous mile long Seaside Heights, NJ boardwalk, where, in recent years, the rides, shops and games on the boardwalk have been a bit overshadowed by MTV’s reality show headliners including Snookie, Pauly D, the Situation and the rest.

The teens enjoy the roller coaster on Casino Pier at the Seaside Heights, NJ Boardwalk

The teens enjoy the roller coaster on Casino Pier at the Seaside Heights, NJ Boardwalk

Like any good tourists we made a point to ride the classics including the roller coaster, the merry-go-round, the tilt-a-whirl, the go karts, bumper cards, a death defying vertical round-up type ride called the Enterprise, and the chair-lift style Sky Ride which happens to glide right past the now famous Shore House and the Shore Store where the Jersey Shore cast members sometime show up for work selling tee shirts.

The Seaside Heights Sky Ride is a great way to check out the Boardwalk scene

The Seaside Heights Sky Ride is a great way to check out the Boardwalk scene

During our Sky Ride we noticed a fair amount of activity in front of the Shore House and decided to walk back up the boardwalk by way of the house.  It is well protected by a security detail but we managed to walk by just in time to see Snookie and best friend Deena coming out the front door.  Later we saw Pauly D, Vinnie and The Situation being filmed while hanging out on the roof deck at sunset.  A few minuted later, we saw NJ Governor Christie out with his family!  He made the news and You Tube that evening for have a rather loud disagreement with a heckler.

The Shore House roof deck and Shore Store made famous by Snookie and the MTV Jersey Shore crew

The Shore House roof deck and Shore Store made famous by Snookie and the MTV Jersey Shore crew

For the record, the teens totally enjoyed the rides, arcade games, pizza, and ice cream at the Seaside Height, NJ Boardwalk.  With more thrill rides and a wider selection of games than Pt. Pleasant, Seaside is a good afternoon or early evening destination for families with teens and tweens, although we recommend staying outside of town and away from the late night craziness that tends to take over when the bars let out.

Try your luck at the Seaside Heights Boardwalk

Try your luck at the Seaside Heights Boardwalk

The Seaside boardwalk definitely has its rough edges but it is actually much more family friendly than MTV would lead you to believe.  We visited from 5 pm to about 10 pm on a hot summer Thursday evening and found it to be a great night out for the teens – we certainly covered a lot of ground in just a few hours.  If you visit Seaside let us know what you think.


Sep 082011
 

In our neighborhood, autumn came early this year when Hurricane Irene washed out the last weekend of summer and school started before Labor Day.  Just a few days before the hurricane barrelled across New Jersey, New York and Vermont we enjoyed one last summer sunset in Long Branch, NJ.  #1 Son caught this image which pretty much sums it all up for us.

The last summer sunset of 2011
 
The lifeguards are all off duty and the bathing suits and suntan lotion have been put away.   The backpacks are full of newly purchased school supplies and a new season of  Travel with Teens and Tweens adventures awaits.  Happy Fall!
 
Note: we shared this post with the Delicious Baby photo friday roundup which is a great place to discover lots of fun family travel bloggers.