Hallowell hugs the Kennebec River just south of Maine’s capital city, Augusta. Once a major port for ice, granite, and lumber, the well-preserved late-19th-century downtown, now a National Historic District, entices visitors year-round with shops, restaurants, and charm. And in this part of Maine, abundant opportunities for outdoor fun are a given.
On a back road, 130-acre Maple Hill Farm Bed and Breakfast Inn and Conference Center (11 Inn Road, off Outlet Road, 207-622-2708 or 800-622-2708, www.maplebb.com, $100-$165 in winter with breakfast) is an ultra-green rural respite on a working farm adjacent to an 800-acre wildlife preserve. Two in-town bed-and-breakfasts are within strolling distance of Water Street’s shops and restaurants. The Benjamin Wales House Bed and Breakfast (49 Middle St., 207-512-2461, www.benjaminwales.com, $99-$169 in winter, with breakfast), an 1820 Federal listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has four Maine-inspired, antiques-furnished guest rooms and a regulation pool table in the parlor. The Colonial-style Second Street Bed & Breakfast (68 Second St., 207-622-2214, www.secondstbandb.com/, winter rates $125-$150, with breakfast) has five guest rooms. Ten minutes from downtown Hallowell, the Senator Inn and Spa (284 Western Ave., Augusta, 207-622-5804 or 877-772-2224, www.senatorinn.com, winter rates from $90) is a full-service hotel with restaurant, spa, and indoor pool; some rooms are pet friendly.
Despite being around for more than 25 years, Slate’s Restaurant and Bakery (167 Water St., 207-622-0575, www.slatesrestaurant.com, $14-$26) is never tiresome and always creative. It serves lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch, with an emphasis on fresh and local and house-made breads, pastas, and desserts; hit the separate bakery for light fare. Looking for something quick and familiar? Hot dogs, fries, and homemade doughnuts have been drawing fans for more than five decades to Bolley’s Famous Franks (38 Water St., 207-622-2951, from $2), but it also serves other comfort foods; cash only. If you’re looking for something a bit more exotic check out Cafe de Bangkok (272 Water St., 207-622-2638, www.cafedebangkokme.com $11-$23), which deserves its rep as one of Maine’s best Thai restaurants. Hungry? Head for Lucky Garden (218 Water St., 207-622-3465), where the all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet, which earns raves from locals, is $7.95 for lunch daily and $10.95 for Friday or Saturday dinner. Don’t miss the sesame chicken, the house specialty. It’s the 20-ounce pint glass, not politics, that helped christen the Liberal Cup (115 Water St., Hallowell, 207-623-2739, www.theliberalcup.com, $6-$14), a brew pub serving house-made beers and excellent pub-style fare that goes beyond the usual. Fish chowders, lobster stew, and seafood are the specialties at Hattie’s Chowder House (103 Water St., Hallowell, 207-621-4114, www.hattieschowderhouse.com, $7-$24), but the menu has a bit of everything.
DURING THE DAY
Shopping is a must. Water Street is lined with galleries, independent boutiques, specialty shops, and nearly a dozen antiques shops. Among the possibilities: Kennebec River Artisans (130 Water St., 207-623-2345), which shows and sells the wares of more than three dozen craftspeople; Harlow Gallery (160 Water St., Hallowell, 207-622-3813), headquarters for the Kennebec Valley Art Association; Brass and Friends Antiques (154 Water St., 207-626-3287, www.brassandfriendsantiquelighting.com), a bonanza for vintage lighting; and the Hallowell Antique Mall (191 Water St., 207-430-8315, www.hallowellantiquemall.com), representing 80 dealers. Don’t miss Brahms Mount Textiles (19 Central St., 207-623-5277 or 800-545-9347, www.brahmsmount.com) an honest-to-goodness factory outlet, delivering significant savings on the luxurious linen and cotton blankets and throws woven on the premises using antique shuttle looms. Need a culture fix? Explore downtown Hallowell’s architecture and history with “A Walking Tour of Hallowell, Maine,’’ available online (www.historichallowell.org) or via the 19-sign Museum in the Streets tour. The nearby Maine State Museum (State House Complex, Augusta, 207-287-2301, www.mainestatemuseum.org, $2 adult, $6 family) covers everything Maine in permanent and temporary exhibits. Lovers of the outdoors should head to the hiking or snowshoe trails lacing two preserves protected by the Kennebec River Land Trust (www.tklt.org), Vaughan Woods (intersection of Middle Street and Litchfield Road) and Jamies Pond Conservation Area (Jamies Pond Road), or mosey along the 6.5-mile Kennebec River Rail Trail (www.krrt.org) from Augusta’s Waterfront Park through Hallowell to Gardiner.
Best bets for live music, from rock to country to karaoke, depending on the night, are the Wharf Tavern (1 Wharf St., 207-622-9290), Hoxter’s Sports Bar & Bistro (122 Water St., 207-623-5903), or Easy Street Lounge (7 Front St., 207-622-3360). Other possibilities are Slates or the Liberal Cup.Contact Hilary Nangle through her website MaineTravelMaven.com.