What a whirlwind of exploration we had in just a short time! Surprisingly we were not exhausted from all of our adventures and were excited to check out two towns we had heard so many good things about.
We left Portland in the morning after a scrumptious breakfast at Market Street Eats mentioned in part 2 of my Maine adventures series. My husband had mapped out all the lighthouses along our route and I mapped out all the kiddo activities along with grub spots. Thankfully our son napped in the car, so he was fully refreshed when we made it to each stop.
Just outside of Portland we stopped by Two Lights Lighthouse which was in a bit of a residential area. How amazing would it be to live in that house right next to the lighthouse?!?
The sun was out so we parked and walked down to the beach area. The views were absolutely stunning & our son had a blast looking at all the driftwood and rocks along the shore. If it were warmer this would have been the best spot for a picnic!
We hopped back in the car and made our way south towards Kittery. I joke that our son is the President and CEO of FUN, which by default makes me Director of FUN Operations. 🙂 I’m always on the lookout for kid-friendly spots, indoor playground, and anything that will entertain our kiddo for a bit.
Saco, ME was the perfect distance for a lunch time stop and quite possibly one of the coolest old mill towns I have ever seen! The Yard at the Mill popped up in my fun search and honestly looked too good to be true…a huge old warehouse with a full indoor playground in a not-so-known town…could this really be?!?
Little C had SO MUCH FUN! It’s hard to tell from the pictures, but there was a designated area for the tiny tots and then the main play area. C explored both, but supervision is a must in the main area with a toddler. Also, shoes are required and admission is $10 per kiddo with $5 for siblings unless your bambino is in arms.
We worked up an appetite running around The Yard! My husband Yelped a lunch spot nearby, Run of the Mill Brewery, and because they were close we decided to walk and explore the old mill buildings on our way. Most of the businesses are all connected within the buildings and there are various walkways and bridges that connect the whole area. Run of the Mill did not disappoint!
The history of these old buildings is incredible. So many small businesses located inside the various rooms and many said hello as we walked by. The historical photos and architecture turned a 20 minute walk into an adventure!
Our time spent in Saco was wonderful and so much so that we lost track of time and realized we needed to get moving if we were going to make it to Cape Neddick Lighthouse also known as Nubble Light. The drive was beautiful, but as we drove into York, ME it reminded us a bit of the Jersey Shore. I felt like we were quickly transported to another part of the east’s coastline. Has anyone seen Snookie??
Although this was a super quick stop it was well worth it for the breathtaking views!
Next stop was the Kittery Inn & Suites where again we found a little piece of history. The hotel dates back to the 1950s and is tucked away in a Pine Grove. When I looked for places to stay in either Portsmouth or Kittery I was drawn to the inn because of it’s rustic charm. The recent renovations didn’t leave you feeling like you were in a dated motel. Our little cabin had enough room for our son’s Lotus Travel Crib and space for him to play.
The new owners just finished renovations on a new salt water pool. Pets are not allowed unfortunately. For two nights it was the perfect cozy spot in a fabulous location. Prices were reasonable as well which I later found out is true for Kittery compared to Portsmouth. They are literally minutes from each other, but if you want to stay in Portsmouth be prepared to dish out a bit more moola. If we venture to this area again I know exactly where we’ll be staying!
photo credit: Kittery Inn & Suites website
Just like the rest of our trip, the next day and a half were a whirlwind of adventures! Here is what we explored, where we ate and most importantly where we found a good cup of coffee… 🙂
Another “you must go to” spot recommended by locals. We ate breakfast here twice…it was that good, but be prepared to wait a bit if they are busy. It’s not an insanely long wait, but keep in mind its not fast food…it’s good food which takes time.
Not the best picture, but this vault was a cool spot to check out old vinyl records.
With the temps being pretty chilly our options for exploring outside were limited, so we opted to check out the local library that was within walking distance of Lil’s Cafe. Our little guy enjoyed the children’s area with all the toys, we read some books and soaked up the warmth until it was time to head outside.
I highly recommend checking out local libraries wherever you travel because many have great kiddo areas that are a nice, free, indoor option when mother nature isn’t cooperating.
Breakfast…check. Kiddo activity…check. Next on our list…visit some of Kittery’s local shops. Tayla Mac caught my eye as we walked by and sure enough it had a few things I just couldn’t say no to! I found an adorable owl print for a friend’s nursery, a pretty pair of earrings and the cutest baby moccasins. I love shopping local!
Off to Explore Portsmouth, NH
The Piscataqua River separates Kittery’s Badger Island and Portsmouth, NH. We drove across the Memorial Bridge and again were wowed by the sights! We stopped at the USS Albacore Museum (it was under construction so we just took a quick look) and a few shops in Portsmouth before enjoying patio dining at The River House. (the temps warmed up A LOT by mid-afternoon) River House is known for the best seafood chowder in New England and to my surprise it was gluten free!
If you’re a fan of fresh juices, we passed The Juicery several times and it looked super refreshing!
Treehouse Toys was another neat spot that Little C liked and found a “must have” backhoe loader that made the trip home with us. Naps also happened often in the stroller thankfully!
As we explored we stumbled upon the Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail. There are 24 distinctive bronze plaques at historic sites around the city. The park area we walked through had a lot of open space, seaside views and little bits of history.
So much of Portsmouth is historic, but there was a cluster of houses that caught our attention. We discovered the Strawberry Banke Museum that is a living history museum recreating everyday life in the Puddle Dock neighborhood from the early 1600s – 1950s. Everything was closed when we were there, but strolling through the historic neighborhood and looking at the old houses gave us a glimpse into what life might have been like back then.
Ok, so now we had worked up an appetite for our afternoon coffee. With a bit of help from Yelp my husband found Profile Coffee Bar. It was in the city center and because the temps warmed up we decided to walk there. Along the way we saw a ton of historic homes, businesses and really got a good feel for downtown Portsmouth. Definitely add Profile to your places to visit!
Profile Coffee & Sights Along the Way
A quick stop at Fort Foster led us to stunning views, a fun playground and plenty of sand for Little C to test out his backhoe loader.
Our long day led us back to our cabin where we relaxed for a bit and then ventured out for dinner. The Black Birch came highly recommended, but this little town has quite the foodie scene and we encountered yet another hour wait that just wasn’t an option with kiddo in tow.
As we stood on the sidewalk with hangriness setting in, we noticed Bill’s Original Kitchen right across the street. It looked mellow, no long lines and after looking at the menu the restaurant concept intrigued us. Bill, the owner/chef, is a one man show…he does it all!
My husband and I were both a bit skeptical about one person being able to take your order, get your drinks, cook your food and accommodate food allergies, but Bill had it all under control. He even had time to chat with us about how he came up with the concept, his cooking inspiration and a little bit about the town of Kittery.
It was such a pleasant surprise to have a unique dinner experience and a reminder that you don’t always have to go to the “it” spot for phenomenal food.
Kittery was another spot on our trip that was hard to say farewell to! The drive home was about two and a half hours, so instead of having a few places mapped out to visit we decided to drive down the coast and see what enticed us to stop.
Along our drive we found the Seacoast Science Center in Odiorne Point State Park. What a find and the views, of course, were fabulous! Admission into the science center was $10/adults, $8/military & senior, $5/ages 3-12, FREE/under age 3. There was so much to explore and a good stopping point for C to blow off some steam. They also had a nice playground nearby. If the weather is nice it’s a nice picnic spot.
photo credit: Seacoast Science Center Facebook
Another fun find and as we reached the tail end of our trip a scrumptious lunch spot was a must! Flatbread Company was one of the only options not too far off the path that seemed to have healthy options. The wood fired pizzas smelled delish as we walked in and when I saw their sign about organic and local food, I felt right at home. 🙂
I can’t remember if they had GF options, but I do know that we all devoured the fresh food after a busy morning at the science center. There are several locations and we stopped by the one in Hampton, NH. Worth adding into your trip route as a good lunch or dinner spot!
Holy cow we did a lot in six days! Surprisingly it did not feel rushed and for a state that could have dumped snow on us that time of year, we really lucked out.
If you’re planning a road trip to Maine I hope you find this post helpful. I spent a good chunk of time researching and routing to make sure we had a good balance between driving and exploring. Thankfully the planning paid off and the memories of this trip always make me smile…including the six hour surprise drive up to Bar Harbor. 😉
Safe Travels & Happy Exploring