For too long I’d been thinking about kayaking around Boothbay without acting on it. Until a couple of weeks ago, that is, when I spent about as perfect an early summer day as I could have possibly imagined paddling on what turned out to be a circumnavigation of Southport Island with a trip-ending diversion into Boothbay Harbor to meander amongst the gathered windjammer fleet there for its annual June Windjammer Days get-together.
I even had some time at the end of my adventure to stop at two of the area’s outstanding attractions, the breathtaking Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens on Barters Island Road and the quaint Maine State Aquarium near where I launched my kayak.
More about those two must-visit stops after I share with you my scenic paddle, which began at the easily found, municipally maintained launch ramp a short distance off Route 27 on McKown Point Road.
After an early launch I headed out under the Southport Island swing bridge, which had just opened for a Falmouth-based sailor headed, he said, wherever the wind took him, but probably to Rockland or Tenants Harbor. We shared our delight in being fortunate enough to enjoy such a perfect day and headed our separate ways.
I was early enough to be joined by several fishermen headed out to pull traps, and I was struck by the courtesy the helmsmen on larger boats demonstrated as they slowed to an idle to limit their wakes. Thanks, guys.
Then it was up through Townsend Gut, with a little diversion around Oak Point as I wanted to see after many decades the site of the cottage owned by my dear friends, Richard and Rachel Luce of Farmington, where I had spent some wonderful times. Always loved the name they gave their retreat: “RicRac.”
Up past the marker at the end of Cameron Point, I headed south through Ebenook Harbor, then in and out of Hendricks and Cozy harbors all the way out to and around Cape Newagen, inside The Cuckolds. The sea was gentle and as I turned north back toward Boothbay, I caught the turn of the tide and rode its surge all the way back.
As Boothbay Harbor was full of windjammers, I couldn’t resist cruising in and out among their moorings to admire the classic vessels still in service and providing hours of enjoyment for not only folks from away, but us locals as well.
Taking a westerly bearing out of the harbor, I still had enough energy left, even as the sun was beating down from nearly directly above, and with a cool and refreshing breeze to invigorate, I poked around Mill Cove, turned out toward McKown and Juniper points and drifted lazily back to my launch site, meeting several of the fishing boats I had seen earlier steaming in with their catches.
With all the ins and outs, I calculated it was about a 15-nautical mile paddle, but it seemed like less, as the whole trip was so captivating that the time flew. Of course the occasional chat with other folks enjoying the water or sitting on their cottage decks and piers, and the greetings from seals as they bobbed no more than a paddle-length away, made the time pass even more quickly.
Be sure to stop, as I did, at the Maine State Aquarium while you’re right out there on McKown Point, or certainly plan to do so on a subsequent visit. It’s open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily through Sept. 28, although it will be closed Mondays and Tuesdays after Sept. 1. Operated by the Maine Department of Marine Resources, this seaside treasure was completed in 1995 and features lots of hands-on exhibits. Regional fish and invertebrates abound, including some of the hugest lobsters.
At center stage is an 850-gallon saltwater tank that usually features sharks and skates circling in a coast-like environment. A 20-foot long elevated touch tank invites the visitor to feel the spiny outer skins of sea stars, sea urchins, sea cucumbers and scallops.
For a completely different environment, pop over to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens on Barters Island Road, just a mile and a quarter from the Boothbay Common and Monument. Featuring a dozen ornamental gardens, children’s and sensory gardens, charming waterfalls and stonework, and waterfront and woodland hiking trails all make a visit to this special 250-acre attraction a must. Space here and my vocabulary fail to do justice to this one-of-a-kind garden setting, so just go to www.mainegardens.org for a virtual tour.
John Christie is an author and year-round Maine explorer. He and his son Josh write in Outdoors about places to enjoy the beauty that only Maine has to offer. He can be contacted at: