Shiny yachts bob up and down in the water next to sailboats that look like they’ve weathered too many summers. A northerly wind sweeps clouds across the blue sky. Hawser, the M/V Good Return owner’s black Lab, pants away from the captain’s room as the boat motors over smooth waters.
A Penobscot Bay harbor cruise aboard the Good Return, run by Belfast Bay Cruises, is just one of the many ways to enjoy Belfast, Maine, a snug port city 100 miles northeast of Portland that has been home to generations of lobstermen. During the nearly two-hour cruise, passengers hug the railings, soaking up views of cozy harbors and coves, lobster boats chugging here and there, docks covered with barnacles and algae, and seals and porpoises curving gracefully through the water.
But Belfast’s heart remains its quiet streets filled with shops and restaurants, all tinged with the bracing smell of the sea. Quirky antiques shops, intimate bookstores, and modern art galleries line Main Street, mixing New Age interests with traditional. When visitors grow hungry from seafaring and walking, they’ll find a menu to suit every palate.
At Rollie’s Bar and Grill, seat yourself in a solid, dark wooden booth, order a local microbrew, and listen as jazz and rock music mix with the sounds of laughter from the vintage-style bar. Popular meal choices include Black Angus burgers with hand-cut french fries, Rollie’s original fried chicken, and dry-rubbed baby back ribs.
A shopping must is The Green Store, which offers “products for an environmentally sustainable lifestyle” — from beeswax candles to homeopathic remedies to clothing made from organic cotton and hemp. Japanese ceramics are stocked near nontoxic pet and gardening items. Smooth wooden utensils and made-in-Maine gifts are shelved alongside games. It’s a catchall for everything organic and handmade.
As evening comes over the bay, the city glows in shaky reflections on the water. Trendy cocktail bars and eclectic restaurants open their doors, and the lights of the Colonial Theatre shine bright, revealing some of the modern feel of this old lobstering town. The night has just begun.