A craggy peninsula shelters two relaxing inns and the state's best-known lighthouse.

By William G. Scheller
June 02, 2006
Sara Gray 

With all the lighthouses in Maine," I ask, "why did they putthis one on the state quarter?"

"Because it's the prettiest," answers the docent at the adjacentFishermen's Museum, as if that ought to be plain enough for anyoneto see.

When I look again, it seems plain to me. New Harbor's PemaquidPoint Light is a stout pepperbox of a lighthouse―only 38 feetof whitewashed stone―but it commands a rugged and austeregranite 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 restoredby current owners Skip and Cindy Atwood. They've spent the past 22years turning their turreted old hotel into a Victorian confection."We'd seen the movie Somewhere in Time," Cindy recalls. "It was filmed at abigger place than this, but we wanted to capture the romance ofthat era. We felt we could do it with the Pemaquid."

The Atwoods' task involved years of antiques hunting and adiligent search for just the right floral wallpapers and Bavariancarpeting. "We even were able to see how the hotel looked nearly100 years ago," Skip tells us. "When we bought the Pemaquid, aformer owner, a woman in her 90s, showed us her collection ofphotos taken back then." The framed pictures bring that era back tolife―as do Skip's stories of how the same proprietress sleptnear a squeaky step on a back stairway, so she could tell if maleemployees made surreptitious visits to the female workers'dormitory.

After early-morning coffee on the Pemaquid's porch, we enjoy abreakfast of blueberry pancakes at The Sea Gull Shop, just ashell's toss from the lighthouse. Then we meander up to New Harbor,where side streets dead-end at coves sheltering lobster boats. Mostof the few businesses are art galleries.

Artist Mark Chesebro built the big, Federal-style house where heexhibits his work. He explored much of Maine's coast before comingto Pemaquid with his wife, Lori. "Muscongus Bay and its islandshave been a tremendous resource for me," Mark says of the great armof the Gulf of Maine east of here.

Kay and I spend the afternoon at Colonial Pemaquid StateHistoric Site, on the opposite side of the peninsula. Excavationsreveal foundations dating to the 17th century. A three-story drumof stone dominates the site―Fort William Henry, a 1908reconstruction of one of three fortifications built to defend localsettlements. A museum displays centuries-old Pemaquid artifactsalongside 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 ramblinghotel surrounded by lush lawns and gardens. Then we adjourn to theformal dining room, where we feast on briny Pemaquid oysters, locallobster, and fresh fiddlehead greens, all prepared by chef-ownerWarren Busteed.

Like the Atwoods and the Chesebros, Warren and his wife, Beth,wandered down to Pemaquid Point and found it hard to leave. Thenext morning, Kay and I just barely manage to pull ourselvesaway―after one last stroll to the prettiest lighthouse inMaine.