December 17, 2014

Another Maine Adventure: Vacation Shopping

If shopping is your idea of an adventure, then you’ll definitely want to spend some vacation time here in the Damariscotta region of Maine.

With all of the eclectic shops and boutiques in the Newcastle and Damariscotta area, we don’t know how anyone could classify vacation shopping in Maine as anything but an adventure.

For example, when were you last in a store that sold oriental rugs and violins? The Salt Bay Trading Co.  in Newcastle sells both. The shop sells rugs made mostly in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal and Turkey.  The business supports education and environmental efforts in small villages by buying most of its inventory from fair trade projects, which compensate workers fairly and reinvest profits locally.

Salt Bay Trading Co. provides violins for Midcoast Maine music students, and carries violins made in New England and overseas. The shop also reconditions old violins and sells Eastman acoustic guitars.

Up the road a bit in downtown Newcastle, you can channel your inner hippie by visiting Mexcali Blues, a shop that features imported clothing, jewelry, home furnishings and Grateful Dead T-shirts. There’s lots of tie dyed merchandise, too.  The local store was the first location for what is now a chain of six shops, all in Maine.

On the other side of the bridge in Damariscotta, you will find Gifts at 136, a shop that sells work by more than 50 Maine artists and craftsmen. The store refers to itself as a “gift-store-with-a-gallery-feel,” and was a DownEast Magazine Readers Choice for best gift shop. The store also sells Artisan Chocolate.

When you’re ready to unwind from vacation shopping adventures, visit the Maine Coast Book Shop & Caféin downtown Damariscotta. The store has all that you’d expect from a bookstore plus a section devoted to Maine authors. The café section offers up soup, sandwiches, coffee and self-proclaimed “zillions” of flavors of fruit smoothies. WiFi is available in the café, too.

There plenty of other boutiques Maine vacation shoppers can explore in Damariscotta and Newcastle. For a list of others, check the Damariscotta Region Chamber of Commerce.

South of Newcastle in Freeport, shoppers can explore the L.L. Bean outlet and an outlet mall. There’s plenty of other shopping to be found in the Midcoast towns of Boothbay Harbor, Rockland and Camden.

The Newcastle Inn is a perfect base of operations for vacation shopping, and other adventures. Make a reservation by calling (207) 563-5685 or check online for Newcastle Inn availability


December 9, 2014

Things to Do in Maine: Visit Lie-Nielsen Toolworks

Mainers appreciate and celebrate their history but always with an eye to the future. The Lie-Nielsen Toolworks in nearby Warren is among the Maine businesses that epitomize that spirit.

If you or someone close to you loves woodworking and fine craftsmanship, then include a visit to Lie-Nielsen on your list of things to do in Maine. The company, founded in 1981 by Thomas Lie-Nielsen, makes traditional woodworking tools like planes, saws, chisels, files and carving tools but makes them with high-quality metals for both durability and ease of use.

Lie-Nielsen uses manganese bronze and ductile iron castings, and cryogenically treated A-2 steel, materials that make these tools stand above what’s found in a big-box hardware store. The prices reflect the quality of the materials and the workmanship, but these special tools are built to last a lifetime, if not generations.

The company prides itself on the quality of its tools and views itself as “stubbornly local,” believing the best quality is found in New England. It buys metal castings from New England foundries and wood from Maine sawyers.

The Lie-Nielsen Toolworks showroom, which is about 17 miles east of the Newcastle Inn along U.S. 1, is open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday year-round, except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Between Memorial Day and Christmas, the showroom also is open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays.

Woodworkers looking to hone their skills can add one of Lie-Nielsen’s summer workshops to their list of things to do in Maine. The two-day workshops are held most weekends from May through August. Sessions focus on how to use certain tools to accomplish particular projects. Subjects include spoon carving, 17th century carving, hand tool joinery and building a spice rack.

The toolmaker’s workshop is full of free instructional videos, and it sells how-to books and DVDs.

The Newcastle Inn makes a great central base of operations for many things to do in Maine. Call (207) 563-5685 to make a reservation or visit the inn’s website.

December 2, 2014

Experience Fine Maine Dining While at the Newcastle Inn


Finding wonderful places to eat is one of the best aspects of a vacation in Maine. We serve amazing breakfasts here at the Newcastle Inn, but we recognize that vacationers do not live on breakfast alone.

To satisfy cravings for other meals, there are many restaurants in Midcoast Maine and the Damariscotta region. Here are just four that offer unique Maine dining experiences.

King Eider’s Pub  partners with our inn on one of the inn specials. The pub is nearby in downtown Damariscotta and is housed in a century-old building with classic cherry wood floors and sturdy beams across the ceiling. Of course, we love the pub for its good food and hospitality, but it’s also a community asset. For its support of the Community Energy Fund, the restaurant earned a 2012 Restaurant Neighbor Award from the National Restaurant Association and American Express. 

As with many of Maine’s restaurants, King Eider’s serves plenty of seafood, especially oysters harvested locally from the Damariscotta River. It’s a perfect menu to help you enjoy your vacation in Maine.

Joe Lane Lobsterman is not a full service restaurant, but this local food truck gets rave review for its lobster rolls. Joe Lane sets up shop on Elm Street, a block off Maine Street in Damariscotta. His lobster rolls are made with fresh lobster he catches himself. There’s no website, but you can read a few reviews on  TripAdvisor.com .  Here’s one: “We saw this food truck all week and decided to give a try on last day in Damariscotta. This is without a doubt the best lobster roll we have had.”

Joe Lane Lobsterman is the place to visit when you want to eat lobster rolls the locals eat.

The Newcastle Publick House, less than half a mile and about an eight-minute walk from the Newcastle Inn, features organic, natural, wild and local produce. The restaurant is Certified Green and has been recognized as an Environmental Leader in Maine.

The restaurant is open year round, and when the weather is warm, diners can sit outside to enjoy a great meal, one of the dozen or so beers on tap, or a glass of wine from an extensive list.  You may even hear some live music during your visit.

The executive chef at the Damariscotta River Grill, Rick Hirsch, also is committed to using locally grown ingredients and supporting local farmers, producers and fishermen. Chef Hirsch was Maine’s 2010 Maine Chef of the Year. The restaurant features fresh Maine lobster, Damariscotta River oysters and dishes that incorporate wild mushrooms from the Oyster Creek Mushroom Co.

The chef describes his menu as “grownup comfort food.” The restaurant also has an extensive wine list.

This is just a sampling of the unique restaurants near the inn.  If you want to experience the best of Maine dining during your vacation, start by making a reservation at the Newcastle Inn, 207-563-5685. Tell us what kind of meal you’re seeking, and we’ll be happy to make recommendations.

November 25, 2014

A Winter Vacation in Maine – The Quiet Season

To the Maine tourism industry, November through March is “the quiet season.” Summer and fall visitors have gone home. Mainers continue life as usual, but there’s a little less hustle and bustle.

But a winter vacation in Maine is perfect way to experience the state’s beauty in a whole new way. Opportunities abound for skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, skating, hiking and even fishing during the winter. The ocean views in Midcoast Maine are just as stunning in winter as during any other season.

Yes, it’s cold, and yes, there’s plenty of snow. The average annual snowfall in Maine is 50 inches, but the coast rarely has more than 15 or 20 days a year with an inch of snowfall or more (aside from occasional Nor’easter, which can drop 10 inches or more). January is usually the snowiest month. Along the coast, the ocean moderates cold temperatures.

The Hidden Valley Nature Center, about 11 miles north of the Newcastle Inn, is beautiful place to explore during a winter vacation in Maine. More than 20 miles of ski trails weave through the center’s grounds. Some of the trails are lightly groomed during the winter to ensure the best cross-country skiing in Midcoast Maine. You can rent snowshoes at the center, and if you’ve got your hiking boots, the trails are open for walking, too.

The Camden Snow Bowl Ski Area is a community-owned recreation area near Camden, Maine, about 30 miles north and east of the inn.  From the 1,300-foot summit of Ragged Mountain, skiers can see the Atlantic Ocean. In addition to alpine skiing and snowboarding, visitors to the Snow Bowl can use the snow-tubing slope, ride the 400-foot toboggan chute and ice skate on Hosmer Pond.

The ski area is being renovated before the start of the 2014 season. The project includes improvements to ski trails and lifts and new snowmaking equipment. The ski trails are groomed daily.

The Snow Bowl is typically open for skiing Wednesday to Friday 10 a.m. until 8 p.m., Saturday, Sunday, holidays and local school vacation days until 4 p.m. It’s closed Mondays and Tuesdays (except for holidays and vacation weeks).

Another benefit to a winter vacation in Maine is lower, off-season rates at the Newcastle Inn. Room rates are at their lowest from Nov. 1 through March 31, and if you book two nights, you can save 10 percent off the posted rate each night. If you book three or more nights, the discount goes to 15 percent a night. Some dates are excluded from the special: Nov. 25-30; Dec. 23, 2014 to Jan. 1, 2015, and Feb. 13-16, 2015. Check room availability and make reservations.

November 18, 2014

Enjoy New Year’s Eve Dinner at the Newcastle Inn

This year, we will celebrate our sixth New Year’s Eve dinner at Newcastle Inn, and our special entrée will be a first – roast crown of pork.

Photo by J.D. Thomas/Flickr
The unofficial first New Year’s Eve dinner took place in 2008, the year I purchased the inn. Some guests that I knew, from my previous job at a Vermont inn, decided to spend New Year’s Eve in Maine instead of Vermont.

That first year, Trey and Tricia showed up with two bags of groceries (they had discovered Whole Foods in Portland as they left the airport), and Trey cooked for us every night. He is a wonderful cook, and while not professionally trained, had worked for a number of years at an inn with a full service restaurant near their home in Latta, S.C. By day he is an interior designer.

I jokingly asked him if he would come back the next year and cook dinner for my inn guests and he said yes. The rest is history.  Currently there is a core group of three couples that comes every year for the dinner (they make their reservations for the following year when they check out) with others joining in. One of the couples has been with us since 2009, which is the first year it was a special event at the inn.

We’ve never served crown roast of pork, although I’ve been wanting to for several years. The rest of the menu is still being finalized at the moment. Even when we say the menu is complete we sometimes will make last minute changes once Trey arrives a few days before the dinner and we see what looks good in the grocery store. What I can tell you is that you won't be disappointed, and you won't leave the table hungry!

The dinner costs $60 a person and includes hors d’oeuvres starting at the 7 p.m. The four-course dinner will be served at 8. Alcohol and gratuity are not included in the price.

The New Year’s Eve dinner is a wonderful way to catch up with old friends and meet some new ones. We hope you’ll join us. Visit our website to reserve a room at the Newcastle Inn


November 11, 2014

Visit Midcoast Maine During The Holiday Season

The holiday season in Midcoast Maine is much like many other places in the Northeast, except, well, it’s Maine, and there are a few holiday quirks.

Most notable is the lobster trap Christmas tree erected in nearby Rockland on Thanksgiving weekend. Volunteers assemble lobster traps specially made for the tree and pile them 35 feet high. Some 450 feet of lighted garland wraps around the “tree,” which is adorned with a glowing lobster on top.

Rockland's lobster trap Christmas tree
If you travel to Midcoast Maine during the holiday season, you’re just as likely to see Santa Claus arriving aboard boat as a fire truck or a sleigh.

If you’d like to spend a December vacation or long weekend in Midcoast Maine, here are some of the things we do to get into the holiday spirit.

Friday, Nov. 29, through Sunday, Dec. 1, the town of Rockland kicks off its Festival of Lights with the lighting of the previously mentioned lobster trap tree and Santa’s arrival aboard a U.S. Coast Guard boat. The weekend also features a holiday house of beautifully decorated private homes and inns. There’s a craft show, too, at the local Elks Lodge. During the Light Parade on Saturday night, you can vote for your favorite float with canned goods, which are then donated to needy families.

That same weekend, downtown Damariscotta, right next to Newcastle, welcomes Santa with a Main Street parade on Friday.

The holiday celebrations continue Dec. 5, 6 and 7 as the towns in Rockport, Camden and Lincolnville will feature a tree-lighting ceremony, a parade and browsing plenty of local shops. Oh, and Santa is expected to come to town, too, this time in a lobster boat. You can read more about “Christmas by the Sea” here.

On Dec. 6, Santa will visit the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse, which is about 18 miles south of our inn. This time, Santa will arrive by helicopter. The 12:15 p.m. visit is part of a series of visits to lighthouses and  Coast Guard stations from Maine to New York. The visits are run by Friends of Flying Santa in Stoneham, Mass, and the visit to Pemaquid Point is sponsored by the Bristol Parks Commission and Bristol Fire and Rescue.
A little farther to the south, the folks in Freeport hold the annual Sparkle Celebration. This Dec. 6-7 weekend event features horse-drawn carriage rides, a parade, a musical holiday light show and Freeport’s Famous Talking Christmas Tree. On Saturday, you can also enjoy the Worldwide Tuba Concert. Did we mention Freeport is the home of L.L. Bean?

A little closer to home, Boothbay Harbor celebrates its Harbor Lights Festival on Saturday, Dec. 6., and Sunday, Dec. 7. Along with a holiday craft show, there’s a parade and a tree-lighting ceremony. And Santa arrives with Mrs. Claus … wait for it … by boat.

A little later in December, the Damariscotta area hosts two fun events. During the Wrap It Up Street Festival on Dec. 18, downtown merchants will be selling last-minute gifts with free gift-wrapping. You’ll encounter strolling musicians, and there will be lots of holiday treats. On Dec. 20, you can experience a Victorian Christmas at the Wiscasset, Waterville& Farmington Railway Museum. There will be train rides, horse-drawn sleigh and wagon rides. Santa will be there, too.
So, if you need a extra shot of holiday spirit, travel to Midcoast Maine in December. Visit the Newcastle Inn online to reserve a room.

November 5, 2014

7 Reasons to Choose a Bed & Breakfast


When you plan your next vacation to Maine, or anywhere else for that matter, look for a bed and breakfast to use as vacation HQ instead of a hotel or motel. Once you have experienced a B&B, you may never want to stay anywhere else.

Here are 7 reasons to choose a bed and breakfast for your next Maine vacation:

Save Money: Nightly rates at many bed and breakfasts are comparable, if not less expensive, than good quality hotels and motels, and don’t forget to factor other savings. The Wi-Fi is free, and it can cost anywhere from $10 to $20 in a hotel. Plus, you get breakfast, which is going to cost about $15 a person somewhere else.

Breakfast: While we’re on the subject, let’s not forget the breakfast. It is part of the name, after all,  and most B&Bs don’t disappoint. Depending on the day or the chef’s mood, you’ll have eggs, crepes, fruit, juices and pastries to choose from. At the Newcastle Inn, we even have our own special blend of coffee.

Pets Allowed: This is going to vary from place to place, but Newcastle Inn has two rooms set aside to accommodate visitors who simply can’t leave their dogs behind.  And if you must leave your pet at home, you can make friends with Dolce, the K-9 greeter at Newcastle Inn.

It feels like home, only better: When you stay at a bed and breakfast, you’re not stuck living in a bedroom. You can enjoy common areas, like living rooms or libraries, with comfortable seating and fixtures that invite you to sit and relax a while. In warm weather, Newcastle Inn guests enjoy our screened porch or back deck, both with views of the Damariscotta River.

Variety: Every time you stay at a new B&B, you’ll experience something different – different furnishings, different color schemes, different food and the different personalities of the hosts or innkeepers.

The beds: It’s an unwritten rule that you can’t run a bed and breakfast without comfortable beds. You can expect to get a good night’s sleep on a comfy mattress and tucked into by high-quality sheets and blankets. And if you really can’t bring yourself to leave the bedroom, many of the Newcastle Inn’s rooms have flat-screen TVs and fireplaces.

The hosts: The people who run bed and breakfast inns love to entertain and make people comfortable. Why else would they do it? When you stay at a bed and breakfast, you’re likely to make a new friend for life. Not only that, you’ll get extra insights into the community where you’re staying and tips on places to visit.

There you have it. Seven reasons to choose a bed and breakfast. Maine has many, many wonderful B&Bs, and we hope you’ll have a chance to experience one of them on your next Maine vacation. Visit the Newcastle Inn accommodations page if you’d like to stay with us.