To celebrate Michael’s recent milestone birthday, we spent six days on a road trip to New Hampshire and Portland, Maine; and visited breweries along the way.
TIP: For road trips within the US and Canada, we use RoadTrippers to plot points on a map and explore the surrounding area.
In the vicinity of our Massachusetts → New Hampshire → Maine route, we found a number of lighthouses, scenic points, hiking trails, and scenic drives to consider adding to our itinerary.
Within the United States, we often rely on having cell service and simply use Google Maps. But, as with other more remote and/or rural destinations, we found that our AT&T coverage was spotty.
TIP: Consider picking up area maps or saving electronic maps offline.
On this road trip we had some van troubles: Camper Dan required a wheel bearing replacement.
Michael was able to diagnose and perform the repair himself. The repair was done on a Saturday evening in an abandoned parking lot and required two separate Uber trips to parts stores that were open late. We’re extremely fortunate that Michael is mechanically-inclined, we have a roadside assistance toolkit, we have a mechanic for a brother, and that people around the world are generally helpful and willing to lend a hand. Thanks to all!
LESSON: Be prepared. Pack tools and roadside assistance coverage.
When traveling with Camper Dan, we’re interested in finding campgrounds and boondocking locations. We often don’t book in advance but we’re generally aware of the options. Consider your preferred accommodation style, your level of flexibility, budget and the season.
TIP: We look for ‘green space’ on Google Maps. It typically leads us to state park websites, state and national forest websites, or BLM websites. We also find these sites useful: Hipcamp (use this link to sign-up and receive $10 in Hipcamp credit towards your first direct booking), iOverlander, FreeCampsites.net and RVParkReviews.com. And, when not camping, our favorite booking methods include Airbnb, HotelTonight (use promo code MMELLI for $25 off your first booking) and hotels.com.
On this road trip, we stayed in two locations:
Pawtuckaway State Park campground ranks extremely high on our list of favorite campgrounds. There are 192 sites in wooded areas; many have direct access to Pawtuckaway Lake. No hookups are available and there is not a dump station. There are *old* bathroom facilities with paid showers (paying mechanism is broken – donations are accepted).
The park includes a lake beach, fishing and boating opportunities, hiking trails, a marsh with wildlife sighting possibilities, and unique boulder fields containing glacial erratics (large boulders that were deposited when glacial ice melted).
After staying one night on the way to Maine we made a point to book another night on our return journey. It’s super beautiful and tranquil. However, the campground is very popular in high season and it is reported that the beach will fill to capacity early in the morning.
TIP: Stay in site 43 or 44 on Horse Head Island. They are both large private sites with direct lake access.
Your stay at Recompense Campground supports Wolfe’s Neck Farm – a working organic farm and non-profit organization. Wolfe’s Neck Farm is set on 626 acres with four miles of coastline and is the legacy of a local family farming operation. The family donated the land to the community based on their belief in useful preservation and protection of open spaces. The farm is now open to the public, free of charge every day and is committed to continuing and improving upon the long tradition of sustainable agriculture, recreation and education while preserving its open space.
The campground has oceanfront campsites as well as sites nestled in wooded areas. There are RV sites (some with hookups), tent sites, and even three oceanfront cabins. The farm also has a dump station as well as free showers. You can freely roam the farm (or hike in the adjacent Wolfe’s Neck State Park) or rent a kayak/canoe and explore Casco Bay. Definitely a unique experience and great educational opportunities for families with kids!
If we had more time we would have also stayed in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and Maine. The White Mountain National Forest campgrounds and dispersed camping looks great.
It’s never possible to fit everything into just a few short days. However, we visited a number of breweries, attended a (beer) event, explored state park coastline, and marveled at lighthouses. Oh, and let’s not forget, we fixed Camper Dan.
TIP: Check hours, especially for breweries, as most are not open daily.
Springfield/Worcester, Massachusetts area
- Tree House Brewing Company – known for currently making the best IPAs in the world; just relocated to a beautiful new facility in Charlton, MA. We planned a stop here on our way north to purchase cans and were lucky enough to also sample a pour.
Portsmouth, New Hampshire area
- Smuttynose Brewing Company – classic craft brewery still pumping out great beer
- Hayseed Restaurant at Towle Farm – located at Smuttynose Brewing Company; pairing good food with good beer
- Pawtuckaway State Park – hike the trails, kayak on the lake, or enjoy the beach
Portland/Freeport, Maine area
- Allagash Brewing Company – another classic craft brewery and one of the best brewers of Belgian-style and sour beers in the United States
- foundation Brewing Company – decent beers; conveniently located across the street from Allagash
- Battery Steele Brewing – located around the corner from foundation Brewing Company; try the DIPA!
- Bissell Brothers Brewing Company – visit their new location in Thompsons Point for some world class IPAs
- Novare Res Bier Cafe – fantastic beer bar with great indoor and outdoor seating areas and tons of proper glassware; we spent time here for the Zwanze Day event
FUN FACT: Zwanze Day is an annual celebration by Brasserie Cantillon for which they brew a small batch of experimental beer and release it at select locations across the globe as a coordinated simultaneous tapping.
- Two Lights State Park – sit on rocky outcrops and look out over Casco Bay and the Atlantic Ocean; note that the associated lighthouses are not open to the public; overall, we thought the day use fee was worth every penny
FUN FACT: Edward Hopper’s painting Two Lights was inspired by the landscape and lighthouses located at Two Lights State Park.
- Portland Head Light/Fort Williams Park – the most photographed lighthouse in America is located in a town park; stroll the cliffside loop for additional views; a museum is housed in the former Keeper’s Quarters
- Bite Into Maine – chose to eat a lobster roll from the food truck at Portland Head Light/Fort Williams Park or from the airstream at Allagash Brewing Company (a brick and mortar location is coming soon!)
- Maine Beer Company – head to Freeport for their crisp New England style pale ales and IPAs whilst supporting environmental non-profits (they donate 1% of all sales!)
- Wolfe’s Neck Farm – a working organic farm and non-profit organization with tons of events and educational opportunities; hike the nature trails, meet barnyard animals, explore organic gardens, or picnic along the coastline; open to the public and free of charge
- Wolfe’s Neck State Park – enjoy interpretive nature walks and birdwatching (ospreys are the signature resident)
We only scratched the surface of what Portland, Maine and the surrounding areas have to offer. We look forward to a future Northeast United States road trip when we will explore more of New Hampshire and Maine.
September 21 – 26, 2017