Lobster and Beyond: Family-Friendly Hidden Gems in Portland, Maine

Turns out this historic, progressive New England town has a lot more than just lobster to boast about: it’s a bona-fide foodie’s paradise. Best of all, there are are plenty of family- friendly dining options poised to please not only your sophisticated palette, but also your tot’s budding one.

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Here’s a sampling of some of the city’s finest offerings for fun, kid-friendly dining:’

For that lobster fix. the charming and whimsical DiMillo’s On the Wateris surprisingly kid-centric, with plenty to engage the little ones as you wait for your meal. This floating restaurant started out a decommissioned car ferry, and its antique ship wheels and oversized portholes with harbor views garner lots of ooohs and aaahs from kids and grownups alike. The lobster is simple and perfectly cooked, as you’d expect from an established Portland eatery, and there is a good kid’s menu that features plenty of crowd pleasers like Mac and Cheese and Spaghetti and Meatballs.

Located ocean-side in South Portland, The Saltwater Grille offers breathtaking water views inside as well as out with it’s a big saltwater aquarium, replete with pint-sized Adirondack chairs right in front of it, so your children can have an up close and personal look-see at all the fish inside while nibbling on their Chicken Fingers, PB&J, or a host of other children’s entrees. For Mom and Dad, Johnny’s Bouillabaisse or Linguini in Lobster Sauce are both excellent choices, and there is a good wine list to complement the seafood- focused fare.
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Land’s End, Maine: An idyllic drive through history

Maine has a lot of things going for it as a travel destination. There’s Acadia National Park, where you can climb Mt Cadillac and see the place where the rays of the sun first hit the United States, every morning. There’s sleepy fishing villages along the rugged Atlantic coast, where dour lobstermen haul in their traps in the eerie early morning light. And there’s Land’s End, the furthest point East on Bailey Island. I visited Maine as part of my 7-day road trip through new England and I was very happy to discover this little slice of heaven.
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Land’s End has something for everyone, but it’s managed to remain more or less hidden from public view. Apart from the locals and a few intrepid travelers (most of whom extoll its virtues as a destination) very few people know it exists. Which is odd, because its an incredibly scenic drive. The best time to start on the road through Casco bay into Bailey Island is the early morning. Before the island’s few residents are up and driving to work or school. The road is narrow and winds a bit, which means there are chokepoints for traffic and that’s a sure ruiner of moods.
As I drove through the islands on my first trip there, what struck me the most was how firmly rooted in the past the whole place is. Every house, lawn, yard and turn in the road seemed to be pushing me further back in time. We went from modern looking designs to ancient porches and houses that seemed to spring out of the pages of a Stephen King book. There are many stops along the way that one should make. Some of these are for pictures at the various fishing villages, which are nestled in the coves you’ll pass along the road. Other stops need to be made to pick up supplies: fresh picked strawberries and clotted cream at the farmhouses along the way, saltwater candy at Cindy’s Candy Store (it seems like a childish thing to do, but trust me – it’s well worth it!) and the amazing wooden piling bridges that link Bailey Island to the mainland.

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