A great cafe and shop in Machias, Maine

Whole Life Natural Market Machias Maine

Just because Washington County, Maine is sparsely populated, doesn’t mean that you can’t find specialty items.   One such store is the fabulous Whole Life Natural Market and the tiny Saltwater Cafe located inside the store.

Located at 4 Colonial Way in downtown Machias, they are open six days per week (closed Sundays).  They carry most of the natural foods products that you may be familiar with at your local natural food store, but they also carry many, many local items (it’s my go-to place to purchase little local gifts for friends and family members).  They also have a table with lots of local resources and a lending library.  And… perhaps best of all… they have a good selection of local and organic wines.

The cafe is open for lunch and has sandwiches, soups and yummy desserts.  Follow their Facebook page – they post their menu daily.

Their web page – wholelifemarket.com

Their phone is – 207-255-8855

email – info@wholelifemarket.com

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Four reasons not to book your vacation rental through VRBO or AirBnB

Where in Maine
Once upon a time in Vacationland…

Susie had a killer vacation home in Machiasport, Maine.  Because she wanted to offset some bills,  Susie decided to make it available as a vacation rental.  Since she loved her home and area, she was excited that she could play ‘virtual tour guide and innkeeper’ to the guests who stayed in her home.   She paid upfront for an ad on a major online vacation rental listing site and happily answered questions about her home and many questions about the area from potential guests via phone and email.   When the guest was ready to book, she made payment arrangements, usually through a check or credit card payment.

Once upon a time, Bobby wanted to go on vacation in down east Maine.  He logged into a major online vacation rental site and clicked on the region – DownEast Maine.  He was given a list of about 200 properties in the area.  Bobby was able to narrow down with filters exactly what he was looking for —- and decided to choose Susie’s home in Machiasport.  He had some questions about Puffin Tours and possibly ordering a custom cake for his wife’s birthday.  He was able to contact Susie and she provided him with the information that he was asking for — phone numbers and websites of tour companies and local bakeries.  She also gave Bobby information on how to pay the deposit and he mailed her a check.

Today in Vacationland…

  Susie wants to offset some bills so she decides to make her wonderful vacation home available on an online vacation rental listing site (now known as an OTA for Online Travel Agency).  Instead of buying an ad outright, she must now agree to pay a commission on every reservation (at a much higher rate than she used to pay for her ad).   She must also agree that she will use only the OTA’s payment processing system for all reservations.

Bobby wants to take a vacation to down east Maine.  He logs onto an OTA and starts his search.  There are no regions in Maine and, in his first search attempt, he sees properties from Kennebunk to Houlton to Calais – thousands and thousands of them – vacation homes, rooms in people’s home, motel rooms and more. 

So he decides to input just one town into his search – Machiasport.  The results seem more manageable and he looks at a property and thinks it looks perfect.  As he plans his trip and dates, he notices something odd.  There is mention of a passport needed for Americans.  At closer look, he sees that the property he is interested in is not in Machiasport at all, but in New Brunswick, Canada! 

A closer look at his list of Machiasport rentals shows properties in Cutler, Addison and Blue Hill mixed in with Machiasport homes.  So now Bobby has to start his search again and take a close look at just where exactly the property is located. Now he knows that a search for a property in Machiasport does not necessarily actually show properties just in Machiasport.  But he perseveres. He comes across Susie’s listing which looks perfect.  But he has some questions about puffin tours and bakeries.  He looks for Susie’s contact info but there is no phone number and no email, but he can send a message through the OTA, which he does.

Susie is happy to answer Bobby’s questions.  She knows a fantastic tour company to visit the puffins and knows of an excellent bakery to bake the birthday cake.  But she doesn’t know Bobby’s phone number or email or even his last name.  She can only respond to his questions  through the OTA system.  So she takes the time to write about the fabulous things to do in the area and passes along the info that Bobby has asked for.

Bobby received the reply from Susie.  Unfortunately it looks like this… 

You can get more info about the company that provides puffin tours at their website:  XXXXXXXX.  The phone number to the bakery is XXXXXXX.

   

Unfortunately, the OTA system blocks out any and all identifying information.  So Susie is forced to try again, with a cryptic message –

If you do a google search for Robertson Sea Tours their website should pop up. The phone number to the bakery is 2 zero 7 five 5/5 ninety one o 6.

Susie feels awful because she knows presenting information in this manner is just lousy customer service but it’s the only way that she can get the info to the traveler.  Bobby decides to book her home.  He must pay the rent via credit card through the OTA and is very surprised when there is an additional $250 fee added to the total amount.  That, Susie, explains, is the service fee that the OTA tacks on to the traveler’s total.  Unfortunately, that pushes Bobby’s vacation over budget, so he must keep looking for a less expensive house.  (Overall, Bobby has spent about four hours on this rental search so far and still has no rental). 

So what can Bobby do to make his travel less frustrating?  

Book directly from an owner or small management or listing company!

 

Here are my four reasons to #bookdirect rather than through VRBO or AirBnB:

1) No Service Fees.    Did you know that all of the major online travel agencies add on a service fee to the traveler? 

airbnb service fee for vacation rentals vrbo service fee for vacation rentals tripadvisor service fee for vacation rentals

*fees and terms subject to change – check the individual sites for the most up-to-date information.

That’s a heck of a lot of lobster and ice cream you’re giving up in order to stay at your rental house.  And often, these fees are non-refundable if your plans change — even if the homeowner is willing to refund some of the rent, good luck getting that service fee back.  Instead of searching on the big sites, look to smaller regional sites who usually don’t charge extra traveler fees or try to find the owner directly.

 

renting a vacation rental

2) Communication between the guest and the owner.  Traditionally, sites like HomeAway and VRBO and others were a way to connect owners with travelers who wanted to rent.  It was an advertising platform — nothing more.  Today, on virtually all of the OTA’s, all phone numbers, emails, websites and all identifying information is masked and direct communication between owners and guests is impossible.

 

 

 

 

 

Where in Maine

3) Avoid Geographical nightmares.   At one time, vacation areas were broken up into popular regions.  Now, the geographic region has more to do with the secret algorithm of the OTA (reading between the lines — which homes and regions will bring them more money).  The actual home location may be in very small print on the listing and a potential traveler may be looking at a home miles from where he may actually want to be.  Again — look to regional sites to simplify your search.

 

 

 

 

 

 

seedy motel maine vacation rentals

4) Know that it’s really a home.    The newest change to the listing sites are the addition of hotels, motels and B&Bs and inns to all of the listing sites (in addition to advertising spare rooms in occupied homes on AirBnB).     Just to confuse your search more, there may be dozens of listings for motels and hotels on a site that claims to be “Vacation Homes By Owner”.  You may see a photo of a beautiful pool and think you’re going to stay in a luxury home.  Surprise!  You just booked a room at a chain motel. 

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Guided Fishing Trips in DownEast Maine

Maine fishing

So many visitors to the area want to fish (or hunt) but don’t know where to go.  Why not consider a guided fishing trip?

Hunt East Adventures is based in Machias, Maine and offers fishing trips, hare hunts and moose hunts.  The fishing trips are offered April through September and are run by registered Maine guide, Mike Congelosi.

Hunt East Adventures

207-248-7847

www.hunteastadventures.com

Fishing in Maine
langll / Pixabay

Here is the information as described on their website:

Eastern Maine offers World-Class fishing for Trout, Salmon and Smallmouth Bass. Anglers find some of the best Spring Salmon & Trout Fishing in the state and Summer months offer arguably the best Smallmouth Bass fishing found anywhere. The areas we fish offer countless clean glacially formed lakes with trophy coldwater and warm water gamefish species. These waterbodies feature rocky shorelines, steep drop-offs, clear water and miles of undeveloped shoreline. In addition to the spectacular fishing, the scenery alone is worth the trip. We target Brook & Lake Trout, Landlocked Salmon and Smallmouth Bass. Non-target species include Chain Pickerel, Largemouth bass, Perch.

Our guided Maine fishing trips are done from the comfort of our 16′ console boats or our cedar stripped 20′ Grand Laker Canoes, the perfect craft for getting into the rocky shoals where the fish hide. These vessels will keep you comfortable and safe while providing the true Maine Guide experience. We welcome all skill levels and encourage families with children to spend some time on the water. The safety of our guests is our top priority.

TROUT & SALMON FISHING

Spring Salmon and Trout fishing when waters are cool is unmatched in this area of the state. Directly after ice out trolling streamers, smelts and lures just below the surface is highly effective. Fish are actively feeding and the action can be fast, producing large fish. As waters warm and summer progresses, fish move to deeper cooler water. Downriggers are used to get the bait and lures down where the fish area. Action can be a little slower this time of year but with patience and the right technique, large fish can be found.

SMALLMOUTH BASS FISHING

Maine offers some of the best Smallmouth Bass Fishing available anywhere. Bass often get little recognition by trout fishermen, but this warm water species shouldn’t be ignored. A sizeable Smallmouth aggressively takes bait and offers a great fight, often leaping into the air much like a Salmon. Bass fishing heats up in June, lasting through September, with aggressive trophy Smallmouth making for action packed days during spring spawning. Effective fishing methods include casting topwater, crankbaits, and rubber worms.

GUIDED FISHING TRIP INFORMATION

We offer fishing trips from ice-out, usually late April, until the end of September. The Salmon & Trout fishing is usually best early in the season and later in the fall when waters are cool. Bass fishing is more productive during the summer, warmer water months. Rods and all gear is provided or you may choose to bring your own. A shore lunch and snacks are provided with Full Day trips and include delicious Guide Coffee. We never mix parties and you and your group will have our undivided attention throughout the day.

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A Holiday Review of Featherbed Island House

Featherbed Island Snowy Sunrise

We spent a wonderful eleven days over Christmas and New Year at this beautiful property! The northeast was engulfed in a deep freeze, but the house itself was wonderfully warm. Our children (10, 8 and 6) loved having the property grounds to themselves for sledding, playing in the snow, checking out the ice in the cove, and finding animal tracks. We loved the house, in particular for it’s beautifully equipped kitchen and outstanding views. Lots of great books, music and games also supplied.

Machias has some great places to visit (Helen’s Restaurant, Whole Life Cafe and Food, and the French Cellar), and the area in general had plenty of good day trips despite the winter weather (the stunning Acadia National Park, the Roque Bluff State Park, the West Quoddy Lighthouse and State Park, and Cobscook Bay).

Owner Maria was very quick and easy to communicate with.

Would love to stay here again if we could – a truly memorable place to celebrate our first ever white Christmas.

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The Best Spot For A Selfie in DownEast Maine

Maine Vacation Rental Cottage

 

Have you seen the giant blueberry in downeast Maine?  Giant blueberry?  Yup.

Wild Blueberry Land Gift Shop and Mini Golf is in Columbia Falls, Maine.

As you drive up Route 1 between Ellsworth and Machias, you suddenly come up a large blueberry, which is actually a bakery and gift shop for…. wait for it… all things blueberry, of course.

The first thing that will draw you into the store is the aroma wafting through the screen door.  The store sells blueberry pies and blueberry scones, always freshly baked.

Although it looks like a throwback to the tourist traps of the 1950’s, the giant fruit is much younger — built in 2001.  Besides the bakery, they also stock jams, jellies, honey, vinegar and other food items.   It’s your one-stop shopping for gifts, both food and the traditional t-shirts, magnets, coffee mugs, and other cool Maine-themed items.

The owners, “Farmer Dell and Chef Marie” Emerson, stress the difference between blueberries and WILD blueberries.  They describe wild blueberries as:

The Wild Blueberry is one of only three fruits native to North America. The other two are the cranberry and the wild grape. Wild Blueberries are grown on a two year cycle, harvesting every other year. These rare gems grow on the glacial soils that provide perfect conditions to prosper in this Northeast corridor of America.  In the fall we burn our fields to control the competition and prepare for the harvest in the following year.  This trick was taught to the settlers by the Native Americans, who held the Wild Blueberry in high esteem.  The Wild Blueberry has been proven to provide many health benefits, can be used to preserve meats and other foods, and is absolutely delicious. Maine has been blessed with this completely natural, wild, wonderful treasure.

Wild Blueberry Land is open seven days a week in summer and weekends in autumn.

Visit their website for nutritional tips like this one:

According to Talking “Superfoods” with Nutrition Expert Regan Jones “Wild Blueberries and other “superfoods” may help you lose weight, boost your mood, lower your cholesterol, and they’re real foods, not overly processed foods meant to mimic the nutrient that they’re promoting. Foods like eggs for protein, beans for fiber, sweet potato for vitamin A, salmon for omega-3s and of course, wild blueberries for antioxidants are the “superfoods” that people should be eating. Wild Blueberries are great cooked down into a sauce with a bit of water and balsamic vinegar as a topping over roasted pork.  They can also be used to make chia blueberry seed jam to spread on toast. Mix them into yogurt and granola or throw them into a smoothie. Some fruits are better if they are frozen. In the case of Wild Blueberries, since they’re picked and frozen at the peak of freshness, all the nutrients are locked in. Fresh may be picked at the right time but often loses nutrients during travel time and while sitting on store shelves. When choosing fresh, look for as local as possible.”

 

WILD BLUEBERRY LAND

1067 US HWY 1

COLUMBIA FALLS, ME 04623

(207) 483- BLUE (2583)

Farm number: (207) 483-3884

 

 

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Did a pirate bury his loot in the yard of a vacation rental in this Maine town?

Did a pirate bury his loot in the yard of a vacation rental in this Maine town?

Everyone loves a good pirate story, don’t they?  After we purchased one of our vacation rental properties – Featherbed Island House – in Machiasport, we discovered that it has a connection to the notorious pirate, Cap’t Black Sam Bellamy.

 

Although Cap’t Black Sam Bellamy had a career as a pirate captain for under two years, he is known as the wealthiest pirate in recorded history, according to Forbes Magazine.  His nickname was the “Prince of Pirates” and his crew was know as “Robin Hood’s Men”.

A lot has been said recently about Cap’t Sam down on Cape Cod.  You see, his pirate ship, the Whydah, sank off the coast of Wellfleet, MA,  when the Captain was only 28.  Rumor had it that he was going to make a stop on the Cape to visit his lover, Goody Hallett.  Tragically, the boat sank in a dangerous nor’easter in 1717.  The ship went down with 143 people on board.  A hundred and three bodies washed up on shore, none of which was identified as the captain.

Pirate Ship Maine

All was forgotten for quite some time until the wreckage of the Whydah was found off the coast of Cape Cod in 1982 and it contained considerable loot.   At the time of its sinking, the Whydah was the largest pirate prize ever captured, and the treasure in its hold amassed roughly 4.5 to 5 tons, including huge quantities of indigo, ivory, gold, and 20,000 to 30,000 pounds sterling, divided into 180 sacks of 50-pound (23 kg) each according to an account on Real Pirates.

There is currently a museum in Yarmouth, MA devoted to the pirate ship, The Whydah and her history.  Currently, they are running DNA testing on some of the contents, hoping to prove once and for all if this wreckage was, indeed, the pirate ship of Cap’t Bellamy. (It’s quite an exciting development – read more about it here).

Pirates in Maine

 

But what happened to the rest of the loot that wasn’t in the ship?  And what’s the connection with Machiasport, Maine?

According to a Seattle Times article, Cap’t Bellamy had high hopes to establish a pirate utopia in the Machiasport area of Maine.  The grassy stretch of riverbank between Renshaw Point and the Old Rim Bridge was the parcel of land where Cap’t Bellamy planned on building a “pirate retirement community”.  (Our property, Featherbed Island House, abuts Renshaw Point).

W.C. Jameson, in his book, Buried Treasures of New England: Legends of Hidden Riches, Forgotten War Loots and Lost Ship Treasures, writes about the Machiasport fort.  According to the book, around 1716, Bellemy chose a region, easily defensible, where the entire bay could be observed from its vantage point. A fort was erected — the first part of the captain’s kingdom where he could command the entire east coast.  An underground vault was dug and in it was placed considerable treasure — the location kept secret, because after it was constructed, Bellamy ordered the workers killed.  The loot is estimated to be in the tens of millions of dollars.  Within a few weeks of Bellamy’s death, the fort was abandoned, it’s walls decomposed and today there is no trace of a fort.

So is the treasure still out there?  I’ve spoken with several of my neighbors who all said they tried and tried to discover the buried treasure as children in the neighborhood.  But no one has stumbled up on it yet.  I wonder if it could still be there, just waiting to be found?

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Tai Chi in Machias, Maine

Tai Chi Machias Maine

Tai Chi for Health –

Machias Marketplace (behind Posh), Route 1 Machias –

Mondays – 4:30-5:30 pm
Enjoy the gentle movements of this ancient Chinese practice, which builds better balance and calms the mind.  Open to all, no prior experience necessary.

$5  Suggested donation, though it’s ok to come for free

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A Great Walk With A Dog in DownEast Maine

A Great Walk With A Dog in DownEast Maine

Downeast Sunrise Trail.

Access to the Downeast Sunrise Trail is just minutes away from most of our properties.  It is a multi-use corridor connecting eastern Maine and the head of the East Coast Greenway
from Calais, Maine to Key West, Florida.  It is part of the ‘ice age’ trail.

That’s right.  You could feasibly take the pup for a walk down the entire eastern seaboard.

The trail has a website and facebook page where they update trail conditions — very important with winter snows and spring muds.

One of their newest features is an app where one can enhance the appreciation of the ice age.  This is what is written on the app’s website:

The Ice Age had a profound effect on the Maine landscape. This effect is very pronounced in the Down East region, where a vast sheet of glacial ice sculpted Cadillac and surrounding mountains, carved out the Sommes Sound fjord, and left spectacular sand barrens.

The Ice Age Trail is comprised of the finest and most accessible of these features. It follows the margins of the last great North American continental ice sheet and coincides with many Down East tourist attractions.

We invite you to use this interactive trail map and guide to enhance your appreciation of the Maine landscape during your next visit or to take a virtual tour. In either case, we hope the time you spend here will be both informative and enjoyable for you.

REMEMBER TO CLEAN UP AFTER YOUR PET.

 

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Three waterfront Maine cottages that you’ll want to book now for the best summer ever.

Frisky Fish Bunkhouse Wicked Awesome Maine Vacation Rentals

Yes, it still seems like summer is years away, but sometime soon, we’ll see that green of new life poking through the ground and we’ll be packing for our summer vacations.  Many people start planning their trips up to a year in advance because they know that the best places book quickly.  Here are a few properties that have a few weeks available here and there — but we recommend that you book soon before they get snapped up.  All three usually sell out completely between June and October.

 

Frisky Fish Bunkhouse Wicked Awesome Maine Vacation Rentals

The Frisky Fish Cottage and Bunkhouse

The water: Bucks Harbor in Machiasport, Maine

The cottage:  Two cottages really — an open, cathedral ceiling 2 bedroom cottage with water views from three sides and it’s companion bunkhouse — a glamping retreat.  When the original boathouse was converted to a bunkhouse, the owners envisioned it as a spot for kids, but it’s become even more popular with adults —  especially cousin, sibling or friend groups.  It’s been used as a recording studio and artist retreat.

The details:  The Frisky Fish cottage sleeps up to 4 in the main cottage which has two bedrooms and 1 1/2 baths.  Utilizing the bunkhouse, the property can sleep up to six people total.  There is no heat nor plumbing in the bunkhouse.

Cost: From  $100/night

Details Here

frisky bunkhouse Wicked Awesome Maine Vacation Rentals Welcome Home to the Frisky Fish Cottage Everything you need right here!

 

Featherbed Island House

The water:  The saltwater estuary where the Machias River greets Machias Bay.

The cottage:  The house is an eclectic mix of interior design elements — elegant, but casual.  There are several social areas in the cottage, making it perfect for couples, small groups or families.  Besides the soaring ceilinged great room, there is a music room and private television room.

The details:  Featherbed Island House is a three bedroom, 2 bath comfortably- sized home with luxury touches.  Besides the bedrooms, there are flexible sleeping arrangements with the addition of two pull-out sofas.  The house is named for the private island just off-shore.

Price:  From $150/night.

Details Here

Featherbed Island pergola

Featherbed Island House

 

 

Spruce Cottage

The water:  Wohoa Bay – a great expanse with distant views to Jonesport and Beals Island.

The cabin:  Spruce Cottage is a semi-off-the-grid glamping retreat.  There is no television.  There is no internet.  Located down a half-mile private grassy lane, it’s just you and nature.

The details:  Spruce Cottage is a roomy one bedroom, one bath cabin secluded in the forest on the edge of the sea.  There is electric baseboard heat and a kitchenette with apartment sized appliances.

The price:  From $120/night

Details Here

Maine Vacation Rental - Coastal Cottage

Spruce Cottage living room Spruce Cottage Wicked Awesome Maine

 

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A Little Bit Of History in DownEast Maine

Liberty Hall, Machiasport Maine

The tiny town of Machiasport is home to about 1000 residents.  I don’t think there currently are any stores in the town – that’s how small it is.  Machiasport is comprised by several villages including Starboard, Larrabee, Bucks Harbor and the actual village of Machiasport.  As you travel down Route 92 through the pine trees, you will go around the bend where the road meets the ocean and there you are… in the village.  Currently, the village is home to the Machiasport Historical Society and beautiful Liberty Hall which is being lovingly restored.

According to Wikipedia:

Liberty Hall is set on the west side of Port Road (Maine Route 92) in the dispersed village center of Machiasport. It stands on a rise, facing east toward the Machias River. It is a two-story wood frame structure, with a front-facing gable roof, clapboard siding, and a stone foundation. The roof is topped at the front by a small tower, which has an elaborately-decorated open belvidere (viewing platform) with round-arch openings and quoined corner supports, topped by a mansard roof and weathervane. The roof is a replica of the building’s original, which was at one time replaced by a shallow-pitch pyramidal roof. The main facade is symmetrical, with a center double-door entrance topped by a lintel with bracketed molding. Flanking the entrance are doubled sash windows, taller versions of which rise on the second floor. The central second floor windows have round-arch tops. Similar windows adorn the sides, all capped with stylistically similar lintels. The building corners are quoined at the first level, and pilastered at the second. The interior is arranged with a vestibule area in the front, a meeting space on the first floor, and a performance auditorium with stage on the second floor.

Construction of the hall was authorized by the town meeting in 1873, and the building was completed the following year by Andrew Gilson, a Machias contractor and politician. The hall was used not just for town meetings, but also served as a venue for community events, meetings of community organizations such as the Grange, and as a performance venue for traveling shows.[2] The town closed the building in 2000 due to structural conditions, and renovation efforts are currently underway by the Friends of Liberty Hall. The exterior has been restored (included the restoration of the tower’s original appearance), and funds are being raised to restore the interior

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