A splendid solitude envelops Wiscasset when the flurries fly. Gone is the summertime traffic that turns Route 1 into a parking lot — replaced by the peace of mind that one nearly has this Sheepscot River settlement to oneself. At the town’s entrance, a sign reads “The Prettiest Little Village in Maine,” and it just might be true, especially in winter. Wiscasset may lose some of its historic attractions in the offseason but none of its appeal, with some inspired choices for those willing to venture north to this coastal gem.
Many of Wiscasset’s stately hostelries shutter during the winter months, but those that remain lay on the charm. The aptly named Snow Squall Inn (5 Bradford Road, 207-882-6892, www.snowsquallinn.com, $90-$150) is centrally located near downtown and pairs bright and cheery rooms with gracious service. During this tranquil season, guests seeking more inner peace can take advantage of the on-site yoga instruction. Within walking distance to the waterfront, The Newkirk Inn (33 Washington St., 207-522-3127, www.newkirkinn.com, $79-$119) has built a strong following since it opened two years ago, thanks to genial hosts Chris and Cheryl Dilts. Each suite features private bath and Wi-Fi service set amid a country décor befitting the 19th-century Greek Revival home. The cozy Tall Pines Bed and Breakfast (211 Federal St., 207-882-7630, www.tallpinesmebb.com, $90) may have only two guest rooms, but they are immaculate, and both overlook the river. Breakfast is also a favorite among guests, who can indulge in choices like Amish pancakes and homemade French toast. However, hardier folks can opt to camp in a primitive yurt at the Morris Farm Trust (156 Gardiner Road, 207-882-4080, www.morrisfarm.org, free). Located on 50 acres of pastures and woodlands outside downtown, the farm offers visitors the chance to embrace winter by staying in the property’s circular tent, inspired by those found on the Central Asian Steppes.
Follow seafarers and landlubbers alike to Ship’s Chow Hall (277 Bath Road, 207-882-5530, $3.25-$9.95), a rustic little diner that dishes out oversize portions of hearty breakfast fare like pork chops and eggs. At lunchtime, head to the waterfront and Sarah’s Café (45 Water St., 207-882-7504, www.sarahscafe.com, $6.95-$22), a Wiscasset staple whose extensive menu stretches from freshly prepared seafood and sandwiches to pizza and giant “whaleboats” — Sarah’s take on calzones. The specialty food store Treats (80 Main St., 207-882-6192, www.treatsofmaine
.com, $2-$8) is always worth a stop, whether to pick up some local blue cheese and scratch-made baked goods or to sample the soup of the day like tomato bisque. Housed in a former blacksmith shop-cum-service station, Le Garage (15 Water St., 207-882-5409, www.legarage
restaurant.com, $9-$26) reopens for the winter Feb. 1 and serves up expansive river views along with classic seafood dishes, such as creamed finnan haddie and lobster Newberg.
DURING THE DAY
Wiscasset’s iconic Main Street flows gently toward the steely blue Sheepscot, lined with curiosity shops along the way. Rock Paper Scissors (68 Main St., 207-882-9930) could easily be a transplant from Boston’s South End, with letterpress-printed cards, delightful notebooks, and
other stationary items that make one want to stay in touch. Wiscasset Bay Gallery (67 Main St., 207-882-7682, www.wiscassetbaygallery
.com) transports the Maine coast to the canvas by featuring an ocean’s worth of seascapes along with a fine array of American and European paintings dating from the 19th century. Meanwhile Robert Snyder-Judy Wilson American Antiques & Folk Art (72 Main St., 207-882-4255, www.snyderwilsonantiques
.com) exposes the beauty of everyday items like weathervanes and coffee grinders, and Water Street Antiques & Bookstore (51B Water St., 207-350-1150) tempts bibliophiles with superb sections on Maine and nautical interests. Those pining for something closer to the real thing can tour the nearby Maine Maritime Museum (243 Washington St., Bath, 207-443-1316, www.mainemaritimemuseum
.org, adults $15), which is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a retrospective exhibition featuring the best of its 20,000-object collection of all things oceangoing. Winter beachcombers and cross-country skiers alike can find solace along the wide sandy shores of Reid State Park (375 Seguinland Road, Georgetown, 207-371-2303, www.maine.gov/doc/parks, nonresident adults $6.50),which presents both mile and half-mile beaches and affords views of Southport Island, where eminent biologist and writer Rachel Carson penned “Silent Spring.” Further outdoor adventures can be had back at Wiscasset’s Morris Farm Trust (see Stay), which offers miles of wooded trails for snowshoeing, while families will enjoy showing children the working farm’s Holsteins, Clydesdales, and other animal residents.
The gentle pace of coastal life slows even more when the winter stars appear, but visitors can still find warmth under the evening sky. Set course for the Twin Schooners Pub (See Stay; pints $4), located in Sarah’s Café, for water scenes and a fine selection of Maine brews, including the hoppy Sheepscot Pemaquid Ale. Just across the town line, the Montsweag Roadhouse (942 US Route 1, Woolwich, 207-443-6563, www.montsweagroad
house.com, cover $5) drives crowds wild with local and regional acts four nights a week, ranging from rock and pop to folk and country.
Matthew Bellico can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.