Road Trip: The Maine Lobster Trail: Day 2

From Westport Island to Waldoboro via the maritime history of Bath, Bowdoin College museums in Brunswick, Reid State Park, lobster on Bailey Island, and Damariscotta

Bath Marittime Museum.
An exhibit at the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath.

After a muddy walk through the inn’s meadow and a pause to pat its pet goats, we headed into Bath.

To say Bath is in the shipbuilding industry is a bit of an understatement. The gently sloping banks (4 to 12 degrees is ideal) and deep channel of the Kennebec have provided the ideal spot for the construction of some 5,000 ships since 1607, when the settlers of Popham colony 12 miles down river built the first oceangoing vessel made on America’s shores.

Mid-Coast Maine Road Trip
Day 1: Yarmouth, Freeport, and Westport Island
Day 2: Bath, Brunswick, Bailey Island, Damariscotta, & Waldoboro
Day 3: Pemaquid Point, Thomaston, Rockland, & Vinalhaven Island
Day 4: Rockland, Rockport, & Camden
Practical info

Of shipwrights and superstitious lobstermen

Over the past 400 years, Bath has built nearly 5,000 big boats, from tugs and ferries to oil tankers and AEGIS class missile destroyers (one in four of the ships that saw action in World War II were built here).

This is a company town, and since 1890 that company has been the Bath Iron Works—BIW to the town’s 9,920 inhabitants, some 8,500 of whom work for the company. BIW sprawls along the deepwater channel of the Kennebec River, and as we crossed the bridge into Bath, we glimpsed dozens of massive cranes and gantries hanging over the half-finished hulks of ships.

Once we turned down the main street headed south, however, the river was obscured by the buildings of the BIW, windowless monoliths about four or five stories high that stretched for blocks and blocks and blotted out the morning sun. As we drove past the main entrance gate—wedged between the 56,160-sqaure foot main building and its 13,608-square foot neighbor—I glimpsed a sign on the fence that read “Through these gates pass the best shipbuilders in the world.”

Just down the road from the modern BIW, the defunct old Percy & Small Shipyard—which once crafted the largest wooden vessel in the world, a six-masted schooner named Wyoming—has been turned into the Maine Maritime Museum.

I expected it to be informative but, frankly, quite dull, but was proven wrong by a surprisingly engaging cornucopia of seafaring lore, local history, and the secrets of shipbuilding. My favorite part was a litany of the superstitions held by Maine lobsterman: they will not paint their boats blue, nor wear black, turn baskets or barrels upside down, or say the word “pig” while on board.

Another lobster detour

A baked lobster at Cook's Lobster House on Bailey Island, Maine.
A baked lobster at Cook's Lobster House on Bailey Island, Maine.

Maine’s mid-coast looks a bit as if the state is dangling its hand out of the boat to drag its long fingers through the waters of the Atlantic. These forested fingers of rock barnacled with fishing hamlets are elongated assemblages of peninsulas and islands interconnected by bridges.

From Bath, we detoured south onto Rte. 24 to skittle down one of these peninsulas, across Orr’s Island, and onto Bailey Island and Cook’s Lobster House. It was a near-perfect lobster pound: right at the docks of a fishing village with a view of the world’s only remaining cribstone bridge: a stack of granite slabs resembling a brick wall with every other brick missing so the tide can flow through.

As usual, we paid the day’s market price for our seafood—in my case, $24.95 for a baked lobster stuffed with Ritz cracker crumbs and liberally drizzled with melted butter. The baking and the crackers left the lobster meat a bit dry, but oh, boy, did that butter go a long way to making up for it.

Back to school at Bowdoin's museums

The Bowdoin Pines
The Bowdoin Pines, last remaining stands of the pines felled to make the masts of Maine's sailing ships.

The campus of Bowdoin College in Brunswick has two free museums, the Bowdoin College Museum of Art—stuffed with Rembrandt etchings, Assyrian sculptures, and portraits by American masters Winslow Homer and Andrew Wyeth—and the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum, a treasure trove of Arctic arcana.

I learned that caribou hair was hollow (better insulation), and was sorely tempted by the $5 refrigerator magnet set of 49 Inuit words for “snow.” The collection was named for a pair of Bowdoin alums and explorers, the more famous of the which—Robert Edwin Peary, class of 1877—became, in 1909, the first man to reach the North Pole (actually, technically it was Peary's colleague Matthew Henson who reached the pole itself, sent ahead as a scout while Peary convalesced with the sleds a few miles shy of his goal; however, Henson was ignored by most accounts at the time since it wouldn't do to have a black man sharing the hero spotlight).

On the eastern edge of campus, we parked on Harpswell Street and strolled into a 33-acre grove of trees known as the Bowdoin Pines, Maine’s last remaining stand [of “mast pines,” a cathedral of arrow-straight, 90-foot monsters, some more than 125 years old, once used for ships’ masts. I tried to imagine whole forests of these towering trees carpeting the Maine coast, now reduced to this postage-stamp plot of less than an acre.

The beach at Reid State Park in Maine.
The beach at Reid State Park in Maine.

We drove to the tip of Georgetown Island for no better reason than to take a picture of me next to the sign for Reid State Park. After a lifetime of searching gift shops in vain for my name on a souvenir pen or miniature license plate, this was something of a victory.

The park also turned out to include one of Maine’s best beaches, a mile and a half of wide sand backed by marshy tidepools and a freshwater swimming pond. Through summer temps around here average in the high 70s, in May it was far, far too cold for a dip—though the late afternoon views over the ocean were lovely.

A cabin in the woods, a pint in the pub

Backtracking once again up onto Rte. 1—we’ve discovered there’s no way to thread the Mid-Coast’s innumerable peninsulas and islands without a whole lot of double back on one’s tracks—we made it before sunset up to Waldoboro and the welcoming neon sign for Moody’s Diner.

On a pine-forested bluff behind this classic roadside diner sat two neat rows of teensy one-room vacation cabins, now in their third and fourth generations of Moody family management. Made of white clapboard, achingly simple, and definitely showing their age—but utterly clean—they were wonderful relics from a bygone era of road tripping (and, at $38 a night, a bygone era of pricing to boot—though when they opened in 1927, the original three cabins went for just $1.00). [Ed note: that was written a few years ago; they're now $49—still a bargain.]

Moody's Cabins in Waldoboro, Maine.
Moody's Cabins in Waldoboro, Maine.

After settling in and relaxing for a few moments on our cabin’s little screened porch, listening to the evening chirps and leaf-rustles emanating from the dark woods not 15 feet away, we hopped back in the car to scoot back down Rte. 1 for dinner.

Damariscotta is a village curled around its river harbor with a with a nowhere-but-New-England white church steeple poking above the trees.

Its King Eider Pub provided a warm welcome, cold pints of the local microbrew Kennebec River Magical IPA, and a meal of fresh river oysters, crab cakes, and hearty hunter’s soup of beef, sausage, potatoes, and veggies in a slightly spicy beef broth.

Day 2 details


Tourist info

• Maine Office of Tourism,

• Bath,,


• Maine Maritime Museum, 243 Washington St., Bath, 207-443-1316,, open daily, $10 (kids $7).
• Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Walker Art Building, 9400 College Station, Bowdoin College, Brunswick, 207-725-3275,, Closed Mon, free.
• Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum, Hubbard Hall, Bowdoin College, Brunswick, 207-725-3416,, Closed Mon, free.
• Reid State Park, 207-371-2303,, $1.50.


• Cook’s Lobster House, Bailey Island, 207-833-2818,, open daily, baked lobster about $25.
• King Eider Pub, 2 Elm St., Damariscotta, 207-563-6008,, crab cakes or mussels about $9.


• Moody’s Motel, US Route 1, Waldoboro, 207-832-5362,, cabins $49.


Westport Island to Waldoboro (90 miles)

• Return up Route 144 to Route 1 and turn left to backtrack through Bath and Brunswick.

• Done with those, turn around yet again up Route 1—Maine requires much going back over your tracks—but this time, as soon as you cross the Kennebec River from Bath to Woolwich, turn right on Route 127 down to Reid State Park.

• Double back up to Woolwich, and continue north up Route 1 to Damariscotta and Waldoboro.

» Day 3: Waldoboro to Vinalhaven Island via Pemaquid Point & Rockland

Tours Under $995 G Adventures

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This article was by Reid Bramblett and last updated in June 2012.
All information was accurate at the time.

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Copyright © 1998–2013 by Reid Bramblett. Author: Reid Bramblett.