By Brenda Buchanan
My stop on the MCW summer tour is a place I used to live and where we still vacation – the beautiful Blue Hill Peninsula.
If you aren’t quite sure where Blue Hill (no, not Mount Blue) is located, you aren’t alone. Mount Desert Island gets most of the Hancock County ink, for understandable reasons. That’s fine with those of us who enjoy spending a day or two in and around busy Acadia National Park, but prefer to spent our down time on the laid-back peninsula that lies to its west.
In addition to Blue Hill, the peninsula is made up of the towns of Brooklin, Brooksville, Sedgwick Penobscot, Surry, Orland and Castine. Deer Isle and Stonington lie across the high bridge that spans Eggemoggin Reach.
Remember this Dan Fogelberg song? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HEL_qqXGjHU It was written about this place.
The Blue Hill Peninsula is a mellow place, but there’s plenty to do.
Every day there’s a farmer’s market in one town or another where you can buy not only tomatoes, greens, carrots and peppers, but pies and burritos, homemade vinegars and locally grown tea blends, smoked meat and fresh fish.
There are myriad places to hike, thanks in large part to the Blue Hill Heritage Trust, Island Heritage Trust, Maine Coast Heritage Trust and the Nature Conservancy, which own many spectacular properties and maintain a great trail network across the region.
There are easy hikes and more challenging ones. All pass through beautiful land and provide context for the trusts’ work to protect precious natural habitat and resources. Here’s a link to its website: http://bluehillheritagetrust.org/
We love swimming in cold ocean water, and seek out little pocket beaches because we like a little peace and quiet with our sun and sand.
Here’s a photo of one of our favorites. There’s no parking lot. No snack stand. But it offers crystal clear water and good bird watching. And no, I’m not going to divulge its exact location.
Many ponds also dot the peninsula, which offer swimming and boating opportunity for those who like their water a little warmer and prefer kayaking or fishing in freshwater.
There’s music a-plenty on the Blue Hill Peninsula. We always get tickets for a concert at Kneisel Hall, a chamber music school and festival perched on the side of Blue Hill itself. Founded in 1902, it provides an opportunity to hear world-class musicians in an intimate setting. Click here for its website: http://kneisel.org/
In late July we took in the final concert of this year’s Blue Hill Bach concert, which was superb.Every July out-of-town and local musicians collaborate on an ambitious program that invariably brings the crowd to its feet.
If classical isn’t your ticket, check out Flash! In The Pans. Every Monday night in the summer, Flash! brings the rhythm and lilt of steel drum music to the area, usually at the Blue Hill Town Park but sometimes in one of the surrounding towns. This award-winning band is made up of community members, young and old. Here’s a video from a few years ago when Flash! was on the road, playing in Southwest Harbor. https://vimeo.com/14456920
Evenings not spent at musical events frequently are spent at readings. The local libraries– often in conjunction with the fabulous Blue Hill Books and various community organizations–regularly invite poets and writers of fiction and non-fiction to read and speak about their work.
Some big names read on the peninsula in the summertime—last year we heard Lily King and this year we expect to see Terry Tempest Williams. Needless to say, I was honored to have my name on the sign outside the Blue Hill Library last November when I did a reading from Cover Story.
Attuned to the fact that many rental cottages don’t offer internet access, the local libraries also provide picnic tables, porches and tents so those who can’t leave the office behind can check their email in between their morning kayak and their afternoon hike.
Many of the other summer-tour-of-Maine posts on this blog have talked about the food and drink options that abound in our marvelous state. There’s plenty to eat and drink in the Blue Hill area as well.
Like Mexican? Head to El El Frijoles at Sargentville end of Caterpillar Hill Road. Never had a lobster burrito? You have no idea what you’re missing and trust me, you will thank me for this tip. Here’s a video where the owners talk about their wonderful, funky operation. https://vimeo.com/62826779
On Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday evenings, the wood-fired oven at Tinder Hearth Bakery in rural Brooksville is loaded up with delectable handmade pizzas. It is essential to call ahead and reserve one, as they fly out the door. Al fresco dining is available in the field behind the bakery, or pies can be taken home. Tinder Hearth is wildly popular, as the line of cars on the side of the Coastal Road in this photo attests.
The most amazing lunches (lobster po’ boy, salads made with luscious local produce) can be had on the deck at Aragosta, which perches over Stonington Harbor. Fresh-made sandwiches, cookies and other beach picnic fixings are available at Buck’s Harbor Market in Brooksville.
Other spots we love: The Farmhouse in Blue Hill (order a crab cake BLT or fish tacos and eat outside on the back lawn), Bagaduce Lunch at the Reversing Falls in Brooksville (the fish and chips and lobster rolls are divine), Strong Brewing Company in Sedgwick (the hoppy Localmotive is one of my faves) and Deep Water Brew Pub in Blue Hill (Three Sheets Porter, yum!), Buck’s Restaurant in Buck’s Harbor (house smoked salmon to die for), and when we want to dress up, Arborvine in Blue Hill (everything on the menu, essentially).
Many local non-profit organizations put on lobster bakes or chicken barbecues in the summer to raise funds for their community work.
This offers an opportunity to buy a terrific dinner and support a good cause at the same time. It also allows you do sit elbow-to-wetnap with locals and other visitors, which can lead to the most interesting conversations.
Then there is the pie. Like the rest of Downeast Maine, the Blue Hill peninsula is blessed with acre upon acre of blueberry fields. In the summer, that means blueberry pie is abundant. Pie truly is the food of the gods. It’s my favorite dessert, too. (And breakfast, to be completely truthful.)
For those who enjoy their pie a la mode, The Ice Cream Lady, based in Brooklin, churns out some winning flavors that are available at many local markets. I have found the ginger, coconut and lemon pair especially well with blueberry pie.