With all the lighthouses in Maine," I ask, "why did they put this one on the state quarter?"
"Because it's the prettiest," answers the docent at the adjacent Fishermen's Museum, as if that ought to be plain enough for anyone to see.
When I look again, it seems plain to me. New Harbor's Pemaquid Point Light is a stout pepperbox of a lighthouse―only 38 feet of whitewashed stone―but it commands a rugged and austere granite bluff that is all Maine.
A few hundred yards inland from the lighthouse, my wife, Kay, and I find Hotel Pemaquid, opened in 1888 and handsomely restored by current owners Skip and Cindy Atwood. They've spent the past 22 years turning their turreted old hotel into a Victorian confection. "We'd seen the movie Somewhere in Time," Cindy recalls. "It was filmed at a bigger place than this, but we wanted to capture the romance of that era. We felt we could do it with the Pemaquid."
The Atwoods' task involved years of antiques hunting and a diligent search for just the right floral wallpapers and Bavarian carpeting. "We even were able to see how the hotel looked nearly 100 years ago," Skip tells us. "When we bought the Pemaquid, a former owner, a woman in her 90s, showed us her collection of photos taken back then." The framed pictures bring that era back to life―as do Skip's stories of how the same proprietress slept near a squeaky step on a back stairway, so she could tell if male employees made surreptitious visits to the female workers' dormitory.
After early-morning coffee on the Pemaquid's porch, we enjoy a breakfast of blueberry pancakes at The Sea Gull Shop, just a shell's toss from the lighthouse. Then we meander up to New Harbor, where side streets dead-end at coves sheltering lobster boats. Most of the few businesses are art galleries.
Artist Mark Chesebro built the big, Federal-style house where he exhibits his work. He explored much of Maine's coast before coming to Pemaquid with his wife, Lori. "Muscongus Bay and its islands have been a tremendous resource for me," Mark says of the great arm of the Gulf of Maine east of here.
Kay and I spend the afternoon at Colonial Pemaquid State Historic Site, on the opposite side of the peninsula. Excavations reveal foundations dating to the 17th century. A three-story drum of stone dominates the site―Fort William Henry, a 1908 reconstruction of one of three fortifications built to defend local settlements. A museum displays centuries-old Pemaquid artifacts alongside paintings of colonial life.
One of those paintings, of colonists enjoying tankards of ale, inspires us to duck into the pub at The Bradley Inn, a rambling hotel surrounded by lush lawns and gardens. Then we adjourn to the formal dining room, where we feast on briny Pemaquid oysters, local lobster, and fresh fiddlehead greens, all prepared by chef-owner Warren Busteed.
Like the Atwoods and the Chesebros, Warren and his wife, Beth, wandered down to Pemaquid Point and found it hard to leave.
The next morning, Kay and I just barely manage to pull ourselves away―after one last stroll to the prettiest lighthouse in