Apr 27, 2020 at 8:00 AM by
One look at your Discovery Map for Boothbay Harbor and the Boothbay Region (both sides!) in Maine and you understand that water plays a big role in this destination. It always has and it likely always will. Not only is there a lot of it but it’s also very deep in Boothbay Harbor, providing perfect conditions for all kinds of seafaring vessels. At any given time, hundreds upon hundreds of boats may be moored there. Most yachtsmen consider this renowned port on Maine’s central coast to be the most important one on the eastern seaboard north of Boston.
With a name inspired from Boothby, a hamlet in Lincolnshire, England, the area was settled by the English during the early to mid 1600s. The pilgrims even sailed here in 1622 from Plymouth to replenish their food supplies at Damariscove Island. In addition to farming and fishing, the region later became known for its shipbuilding, an industry that’s still alive and well today. From building wooden sloops to naval ships for World War I and II as well as for the Korean War, to luxury yachts for the elite, Boothbay’s history of craftsmanship runs as vast and varied as the number of maritime vessels that have sought shelter within its harbor over the centuries. Learn more about the rich maritime history of the area at the Boothbay Region Historical Society in Boothbay Harbor.
Fishing is still a big part of the fabric of the region as well. Be sure to carve out time to watch the comings and goings of the fishing boats–along with that of all the pleasure crafts–within Boothbay Harbor. You have to get up very early to see the fishing vessels heading out though. You might be better off catching the boats as they return home in the evening. Sometimes, too, the fishermen might sell you some of the day’s catch right off of their boats, an especially welcome exchange if you’re renting a house in the area where you can cook up a fish or seafood feast on your own. Don’t forget the drawn butter!
In Boothbay Harbor, you can walk across an old wooden footbridge, originally built in 1901. It connects the east side of the harbor to the west side, affording many terrific views of the important buildings that have been such an essential part of the history of the harbor. Plus, the whole experience of crossing this super-long pedestrian bridge practically puts you right on the water.
The bridge–along with the fleet of waterfront restaurants and bars in the region–help you to embrace the flavor of maritime Maine beautifully but there’s nothing like being directly out on the water. Balmy Day Cruises offers all kinds of boat tours whether you fancy lighthouses, fishing, sailing, harbor life or a combination of all of the above. Cap’n Fish’s Cruises are perhaps best known for wildlife viewing and with them, they’re sure to take you to the puffins and/or to “the big guys” on a whale watch cruise. More active folks will likely want to line up a kayak or SUP rental or tour with Tidal Transit, Maine Kayak or Midcoast Kayak. Fortunately the region lends itself well to small watercraft, since there are so many rivers, coves and gorgeous other nooks and crannies to explore on the water.
Go to the Maine State Aquarium on the shore of West Boothbay to see and learn about much of the marine life that lives underneath the surface of the surrounding waters. Not surprisingly lobsters are among the main attractions and here you can find them in all kinds of sizes and colors. Shrimp, squid, a variety of fish and some very colorful marine life such as red sea anemones and sun stars also put on a show. There’s, of course, a huge central tank made of glass where all kinds of large fish, including sharks, swim round and round right before your eyes. Perhaps, however, the most memorable feature here is a twenty-foot-long tank where you can touch lots of sea creatures, including sea urchins, starfish, scallops and more.
With so many ways to embrace the sea in and around Boothbay Harbor, you might have to extend your stay.