Upper Penobscott Bay: Belfast and Bayside, Maine

Belfast and Bayside have everything except crowds.

Camden, Rockport, and Rockland area are nice, but let's face it -- they're crowded. Sometimes they're very crowded (usually). Among the best sailing, but also great places to explore, eat, shop, and drive around. There is even a lighthouse to visit.

As a kid, I spent summers in the cottage we bought from my great Aunt Alice in Northport. In a community called Temple Heights Spiritualist Camp (there are Spiritualist meetings each night during the summer). We weren't Spiritualists, and there weren't many kids in Temple Heights, just a bunch of old people going to Spiritualist meetings.

Up the dirt road three miles was a community called Bayside, which is another settlement of Victorian cottages, but with many more kids. And a playground. And we spent a lot of time there each summer. A dock with both a swimming float and a boating float, a playground, basketball court, beach, and big grassy hill provided almost more entertainment options that a bunch of kids could exhaust. Nowadays, the dirt road is asphalt and not nearly as desolate. But it's still a pretty drive (or bike ride).

Further up the road maybe 10 miles is Belfast, the city of this section of Maine Coast. Belfast has had a bit of a renaissance in the past couple of decades. But the Gothic Revival buildings downtown and Greek Revival sea captain's houses have always been classic. The working waterfront (lead photo) has a couple of tugboats, a breakwater, a long grassy park for goofing around in, and a seafood restaurant.

There are also plenty of opportunities for shopping with art galleries, gift stores, clothing and the oldest shoe store in America, Colburn's Shoe Store, where I used to buy my shoes as a kid. Come to think of it, I suppose I ought to stop in and buy a pair of Hush Puppies next time I'm in town.

Keep rambling up the road to Searsport, an old fishing town with some of the most beautiful houses you'll see along the Maine coast. Before you make it to Searsport though, stop in to Perry's Nut House across the river in Belfast. The kids will love it. If you like looking at architecture, spend a little time tooling around Searsport. You can also stop in to Treasures and Trash, an antique/junk store in a big red barn.

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