Road Trip to Mid-Coast Maine and Ithaca, New York

Wander With Wonder – Discovering Wow Moments Around the World or Across the Street

A road trip to mid-coast Maine offers an escape to laid-back seaside towns, delightful sea breezes, and breathtaking scenery. Follow along and explore on this road trip to mid-coast Maine.

Maine’s delights include expansive forests of pines and hardwood trees, cool sea breezes, and laid-back seaside towns. No wonder thousands of vacationers head to Maine in the summer and fall. Since moving to Baltimore in 2008, my wife and I have been going to Maine for summer or fall getaways. For our 2023 trip, I talked my brother, sister-in-law, and sister into joining us. It would turn out to be an unforgettable adventure. In mentioning the wonders of a Maine vacation, I never told them we encountered a hurricane on three previous trips. I figured, what’s the chance we’d time our travel to the arrival of yet another big storm?

Heading Out on Our Road Trip to Mid-Coast Maine

I departed by car on September 13th while listening to occasional updates about Hurricane Lee’s approach to the New England area. At times, the forecast said Lee would only graze the New England Coast, but now it looked like a direct hit. The drive up I-95 took me over the breathtaking Mario Cuomo Bridge to Tarrytown, NY, through Hartford, CT, and the I-495 Beltway around Boston before arriving in Kittery, ME. Over the seven times I’ve driven this route, it has taken as much as 10 hours due to heavy traffic, but this was the most manageable drive yet, with only eight hours on the road.


Only during last year’s trip did I explore Kittery and find the town delightful. I expanded my exploration this year and lucked out with several good finds. I stayed at the Northeaster Motel, half the price of Kittery Inn and Suites, just a stone’s throw away. I had a decent room in the main building and loved the location. After checking in, I needed a walk, and ten minutes away, I found Sue’s Seafood.

Sue’s Seafood Market is a classic Maine delight. Photo by Kurt Jacobson

Lobster sounded good because I was hungry for something other than the snacks I ate on the drive. I met Sue shortly after stepping into this seafood market and café. The menu and other grab-and-go offerings were slim, so I asked Sue where to get a salad to pair with my dinner. She said, “Take a right and drive to the top of the hill; turn left and take a left at the light to a bakery/café.”  Sue’s directions worked. The Beach Pea Baking Company is an excellent place for salad or baked goods.

Back at the motel room, I laid out my special fall salad and Sue’s crab roll. Since I had a case of wine for our vacation in the car, I popped a chilled bottle of Chrysalis Albariño. This dinner was one of the most memorable I’ve had at the end of the long drive from Baltimore.

My in-room feast was one of the best. Photo by Kurt Jacobson

Sue’s crab roll was about the best I ever had, and I didn’t miss having a lobster roll. The following day, I picked up $40 worth of baked goods from the Beach Pea and headed north to Portland to pick up my wife on the Baltimore-Portland flight. Her flight and the rest of our group’s flights were on time, a bonus with the hurricane bearing down on Maine.

The baked goods at the Beach Pea Bakery were excellent. Photo by Kurt Jacobson


After an uninspiring lunch of a lobster roll and sautéed mussels at Demillo’s on the Portland waterfront, we drove up to Damariscotta to buy supplies for home-cooked meals in our vacation rental. I purchased five live lobsters at the local Hannaford grocery store, which they steamed for free. When my family showed up, we feasted on Maine lobster chowder I made from the fresh-cooked lobsters. A delicious salad and plenty of wine completed our meal in the comfort of our rental home in the woods of Round Pond.

I shucked five freshly cooked lobsters to make a delicious lobster chowder. Photo by Kurt Jacobson

With the weather looking good for the first full day in Maine, we headed to Camden to show the newbies this famous seaside town. On the way, we stopped at the Maine Prison Store in Thomaston to see the prisoner’s fine woodworking skills. We’ve bought a few of their handy crafts over the years and think it’s a fine store for quality furnishings and other wood crafts.

The Maine Prison Store has very good wood products for sale. Photo by Kurt Jacobson

Lunch With a View During Our Road Trip to Mid-Coast Maine

In Camden, we stopped at Marriner’s Grill for lunch and lucked out with a prime spot on their outdoor deck overlooking the harbor. We ordered lobster and crab rolls for lunch. Knowing that the hurricane was bearing down on us made the sunny weather and views even more special.

We loved the view from the Marriner’s Grill. Photo by Kurt Jacobson

After lunch, we drove up Mount Battie for spectacular views of Camden and West Penobscot Bay. As we walked around the top of the mountain, my sister shouted, “There’s a snake!” As I approached, I looked in the shrubbery and saw a green snake slither further into the brambles. I had never seen a snake in Maine and thought the 16-inch reptile was cool.

Another great view can be had by driving up to the top of Mt Battie.Photo by Kurt Jacobson

We ended the short road trip with dinner at Primo, an almost legendary fine-dining restaurant in Rockland. Primo is on my shortlist of best farm-to-table restaurants in America. I first heard about this gem from Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations and have loved every meal here and at their Orlando location.

Primo sources veggies, pork, and some fruit from their onsite farm. Photo by Kurt Jacobson

Hurricane Lee

Saturday dawned windy and rainy as predicted, and we hunkered down to see how severe the storm would be. At 10:15, we lost power, just minutes before my lamb stew was finished cooking. Being on a well is not a good thing when power goes out. We had sufficient drinking water, but flushing the toilets soon became an issue. Later, the manager brought buckets of water to flush the toilets, and I drove to the local hardware store to buy a camp cook stove. I could finish the stew for our dinner with my new camp stove.

Curious onlookers viewing the storm and waves at Pemiquid Pt Lighthouse. Photo by Kurt Jacobson

With ample candles and a battery-powered camp lantern, we spent the evening riding out the storm playing Scrabble and Uno. Enjoying the old-school games around the table instead of watching TV or staring at smartphones was fun. 

The following day brought less wind and rain but still no power. We drove out to Pemiquid Point Lighthouse to see the big waves and found it crowded with dozens of others wanting to view the ocean churned up.

Pemiquid Pt Lighthouse in good weather. Photo by Kurt Jacobson

With the weather still a bit rainy and windy, I suggested we drive to Rockport and hang out at the LL Bean superstore. This plan worked well for an indoor activity; thankfully, power was restored in our absence. Around 6 pm, the rain let up, so my sister and I took a walk to the Round Pond waterfront. We saw a porcupine scoot out of the woods in front of us and a rainbow over the bay that lifted our spirits. 

This rainbow over the bay was a welcome sight after the hurricane passed. Photo by Kurt Jacobson

Heading to Boothbay on our Road Trip to Mid-Coast Maine

On most of our Mid-Coast Maine trips, we visit the Coastal Maine Botanic Gardens in Boothbay. I figured my family would like both the gardens and the town. We spent about two hours at the gardens enjoying the gorgeous gardens, trolls, Children’s Garden, walking trails, and gift shop before heading downtown.

The trolls are fun features at the Coastal Maine Botanic Gardens. Photo by Kurt Jacobson

Boothbay is a bit too touristy for me, but I succumbed to its charms on this trip. We took a Balmy Days harbor tour/mail boat trip and saw islands, tourist homes, and lighthouses. It was such a fun ride, and we decided to go back the next day and take their Monhegan Island trip for the afternoon.

According to our guide, this church in Boothbay is one of the most photographed scenes in Maine. Photo by Kurt Jacobson

En route to the Round Pond Airbnb, we stopped in Damariscotta for lunch at The Lobster Haul. Owned by a lobsterman and his wife, this is our favorite restaurant for creative lobster rolls, cole slaw, fries, and affordable wine.

Note the large claw atop this lobster roll. It was as good as it looks. Photo by Kurt Jacobson

To the Island

On Tuesday, our last full day in Maine, we hopped on the Balmy Days Monhegan Island boat. The ride takes 90 minutes and gives passengers about three hours on the island. We walked to shops and the brewery and had lunch at The Fish House.

The boat headset of Boothbay enroute to Monhegan Island. Photo by Kurt Jacobson

My brother toted the tray of oysters, lobster rolls, and chips to a nearby picnic table, where we feasted on fresh seafood. We left the island for Boothbay and our last night in the Round Pond house with sadness.

My brother bringing our Fish House lunch to the picnic table. Photo by Kurt Jacobson

The trip to Portland’s airport to drop off my sister for her flight home went well; we headed for Ithaca, NY. My wife and I had been there twice, and I’d taken my brother there on a road trip to buy apples some eight years ago, but he wanted his wife to see the Finger Lakes region.

Heading Home with a Stop in the Finger Lakes Region

Once we arrived in the Finger Lakes region, we stayed at the Greyhaven Motel, a quirky budget place. Each room came with a record player and a few vinyl records. It was too close to the highway, but the noise subsided nicely after 10 pm. We ate dinner that first night at the legendary Moosewood restaurant, known for delicious vegetarian fare.

The next day, we drove to the Cornell campus for a walk around the F.R. Newman Arboretum. Birdsong filled the crisp autumn air as we hiked for almost an hour, admiring the trees, flowers, and sculptures. 

A walk at Cornell’s arboretum is a must. Photo by Kurt Jacobson

Next was our drive up the west bank of Cuyuga Lake, where we stopped at Lucas Vineyards. The Lucas 2020 Chardonnay, as was the Nautie White Blend, was surprisingly good.

Our objective was Ravines Wine Cellars in Hammondsport, thanks to a tip from the Walpole Barn wine shop near Damariscotta. We were not impressed with Ravine’s meager menu or the fact that you can’t bring your own food. However, they did have an excellent chardonnay, cab franc, and cool barn for their tasting room. I had never been to that part of the Finger Lakes and was glad to see something new in the area.

Wine tasting at Ravines in the Finger Lakes. Photo by Kurt Jacobson

Articles Related to a Road Trip to Mid-Coast Maine

Hotel Profile: Maine’s Black Point Inn
Southern Maine Road Trip: A Drive for the Ages
Escape to the Quiet Side of Acadia at Schoodic Peninsula
A Mother-Daughter Northern New England Road Trip
Maine Road Trip: Exploring the North Coast

Last Stop on our Road Trip to Mid-Coast Maine

With yet another storm heading towards the East Coast, we left Ithaca for the Philadelphia airport, where my brother and his wife could fly home a day earlier than planned. It had been a fantastic road trip with only minor annoyances we’ll remember forever. We rode out the storm, ate well, saw amazing places, drank good wine, and hung out as a family. That’s hard to beat. We invite you to explore Wander With Wonder for more of our favorite road trips and other things to do while you explore Maine