Of Lobsters and Blueberries: Coastal Maine

June 24, 2016 Portland, Maine

Lobsters, lighthouses, blueberries, oh my. Maine is more than those wonderful things that represent the Pine Tree State. Thanks to Marry in Maine, I was able to experience this coastal beauty home to Portland, genuinely friendly Mainers, delicious dishes, and breathtaking sights along with my fellow lady editor friends, Coastal Bride, Hill City Bride, and Love Inc. Magazine. There's a reason Maine is lovingly called Vacationland; the culture has you dreaming of nature getaways and home-away-from-homes the moment you touch down at the airport.

photo: Focus Photography

When I visited in mid-May, it was still pretty chilly-- at least chillier than here in Virginia! My suitcase held lots of light layers, spring scarves, and tall boots. If you plan on going inland at all in Maine for a day trip, be sure to also pack comfortable shoes like sneakers and even a slightly heavier jacket since it can snow and be significantly colder than the coastline. There were snow flurries when we visited!

photo: Bethany and Dan Photography

Because my fellow editors and I were on a press trip with Portland Convention and Visitors Bureau, we were fortunate to have had the heavy research already done for where we would be resting our heads each night. And for a Type A person who is always making the travel decisions, this is always especially nice when someone else does it for you because you know the accommodations are always going to be somewhere nice!

With historic charm, lobster-shaped chocolates, and beautiful in-room natural light, Portland Harbor Hotel set the tone for the entire trip. Attentiveness was the staff, modern classic comfort was the room, and the location was perfection when it came to exploring downtown Portland. Everything was within walking distance, and it helped me get to know Portland outside of our group’s itinerary.

And when I thought it couldn’t get any better, Inn by the Sea ultimately stole my coastal heart and was my favorite place we stayed. Just 15 minutes outside of Downtown Portland, this relaxing place wooed me with their private beach access, Black Dinah sea salt chocolate caramels (if you’re sensing a chocolate theme here, you’re right—Mainers are serious about their cacao-influenced sweets!), binoculars for birding, unintentionally Tidewater and Tulle-branded toiletries, and most importantly, the in-room fireplace. Pair that fireplace and complimentary slippers, and I’m like a cat in a high noon sunspot. Thou shalt not pass. Call me tomorrow. Kthanksbye. Chuckles aside, it was difficult to leave this idyllic place, but Inn by the Sea is now on my “must go back” list when I can stay for an extended vacation!

What I loved about Portland was the variety of activities. No matter if it’s a rainy day or one filled with sunshine, the things to do are numerous. From shopping downtown, lots of nautical shops like Sea Bags (see our Periscope broadcast below!) to locally-inspired ones, I filled up an entire afternoon traveling from shop to shop before the press trip officially began. It even became a small world when I saw an industry friends’ handmade painted buoys (Maine Wedding Artist on Etsy) in one of the shops! And before you end your shopping adventure, don’t forget to stop into The Holy Donut for the one and only donut made from Maine mashed potatoes; it’s a crazy delicious snack (available in both gluten-free and regular flavors-- though I recommend the dark chocolate sea salt!)!

It just happened to be a dreary cloudy day when we experienced Easy Day, a modern take on a bowling entertainment center dreamed up by a former U.S. Navy member who just so happened to have been stationed in Virginia Beach at one point. This definitely is not your run-of-the-mill chain bowling alley! With locally-sourced sips and bites, the food was delicious and the staff very knowledgeable on food allergies. And for those wanting to tie the knot in Maine, I can’t think of a more perfect spot for a wedding rehearsal dinner!

All aboard the bright green bus! For microbrewery connoisseurs, The Maine Brew Bus is a great afternoon date with your partner or your besties. It transports you to some of the best local craft breweries—think wine-tasting but for beer! And if you love the concept but can’t partake in the gluten-filled brewskis like me, they also have specialty tours available for cideries or “Birds on Tap” that mashes up birding and breweries!

After you’ve gotten your Portland fill, head inland to New England Outdoor Center in Millinocket for a day of woodsy adventure. From kayaking to wildlife tours to hiking, you’re sure to get your fill of nature here and end the day with a delicious meal (They even had the most delicious gluten-free ravioli and gluten-free lemon cheesecake! Who knew I had to travel so far to get that rare treat; you can’t even find that in the city!). Another cool fun fact is that where NEOC is located is the northern terminus to the Appalachian Trail at Mt. Katahdin, so you also just might see and hear stories from some true trailblazers!

All word nerds unite to dine at Union at the Press Hotel! The mid-afternoon meal I had of a pressed chicken sandwich with kale pesto and pan-fried fingerling potatoes was lunch perfection and a total “read all about it!” kind of moment. Inside of an old newspaper building turned Marriott Autograph Collection hotel, the journalistic influence is thoughtfully woven through the ambiance right down to the lunch plates’ wax paper squares of old newspaper prints. Union’s culinary team expertly balances modern flair with approachable tastes making it perfect for casual and selective foodies alike.

In an area called Prout’s Neck just outside of Portland, Black Point Inn sits atop a hill overlooking water from three different angles. With history dating back to the late 1800’s, this quiet formal dining experience is nothing short of amazing. The chef and staff are attentive and enthusiastic to dietary requests and instantly made me feel at home through the grilled paillard of free-range chicken breast, stewed leek potato, baby roots and chips, and pea tendril salad. Everything about the dishes radiated the delicious scent of luxury comfort.

Newly renovated in the Danforth Inn in Portland is Tempo Dulu, a true Asian fusion culinary experience for the most discerning modern foodie who appreciates fine dining in an exquisite intimate atmosphere. While much of my food allergies did get in the way of their signature dishes, my modified dishes were just as delicious and accommodating as my friends’ tasting menu selections. The fruity dessert trio was my personal favorite!

photo: Focus Photography

Whether you are dreaming of a destination wedding up North or looking for a romantic getaway, coastal Maine draws the adventurous spirits and nautical lovers to its shores for an unforgettable experience.

- Chelsea

Lil Disclaimer: Airfare, accommodations, meals, transportation, and activities were provided to Tidewater and Tulle for the immersive Maine wedding-related experience. All opinions are our own. All photos in this post were taken by Chelsea LaVere unless otherwise credited. Some of the above links are affiliate-connected and purchasing through these links helps support future blog projects. You can find our full affiliate disclosure policy here on Tidewater and Tulle.

Interview: Exclusive Scoop behind Seabags, the Gorgeous Recycled Sail Bags from Maine (Periscope)
Interview: Meet Maria of A Sweet Start, a Maine Wedding Officiant (Periscope)
Interview: Owner/Former U.S. Navy of Easy Day, Bowling Alley/Restaurant/Bar (Periscope)