A rainy Memorial Day weekend didn’t dampen our spirits, probably because we had a comfortable room right on the harbor, three great restaurants to try and a host of shops and galleries to explore.


The Tugboat Inn has clean, beautiful rooms looking directly out onto the harbor. Our corner room gave way to the water in each direction. This is a charming harbor lined with hotels and restaurants, all within easy walking distance to downtown shopping.

The inn has 62 rooms in five separate buildings. Each room is large and include a comfortable sitting area. Amenities include a refrigerator, Keurig coffee maker, two bureaus, flat-screened TV and a balcony. The king-sized bed loaded with pillows was just as comfortable as it looked.

Even on a drizzly day, the view from the rooms here is charming. Boats are docked at all the wharves and throughout the harbor. From the Tugboat you can look straight across the harbor to the inns and restaurants on Atlantic Avenue.

The first night we had dinner at the Tugboat Restaurant. The open dining room provides spectacular harbor views.


I knew I wanted crab cakes as soon as I saw the menu. George suggested that, because the appetizer was two crab cakes, we could share an order. But I was craving really good crab cakes and held fast to ordering my own. Good thing. These were far too delicious to have only one! These crab cakes alone are worth the drive to Boothbay Harbor. Served with microgreens and a chipotle aioli, they were everything I was hoping for in a crab cake.

George knew he loved them, but asked me, “Why do we love these?” The answer: because they are crunchy on the outside due to the seasoned crust, and hold moist and tender crabmeat on the inside. And of course the crabmeat is incredibly fresh and sweet.

If there had been an option of a crab cake dinner, I’d have chosen just that. I don’t eat much seafood, but do enjoy crabmeat and Maine shrimp. Hoping that a fried Maine shrimp dinner wouldn’t be greasy and heavy, I went with that.

Again, it was a great choice. How they made the batter so light and kept the shrimp greaseless, I’ll never know. Instead of a little cup of tartar sauce, they deliver large bottles of tartar sauce and cocktail sauce to your table. This amazing meal left no room for dessert.

The next day, we talked with Alan Baldwin, regional manager of all three Lafayette properties in Boothbay Harbor, at their Fisherman’s Wharf Hotel just a block from the Tugboat. They were preparing for a wedding that Saturday night, closing their restaurant to the public for the event. “We want everyone’s special day to be special, so we focus our attention on them that evening,” he said. There is a long tradition of holding weddings at this venue.

Lunch at Fisherman’s Wharf was great fun. We ate in the lounge and declared it the perfect day for soup and more crabmeat. My cream of vegetable soup with chicken and cheddar was memorable. It was piping hot, creamy and full of flavor. The crab cakes held very different seasonings than those I’d had the night before. I really enjoyed the mango salsa served with these.


The meal was greatly enhanced by mellow music performed by Curt Bessette and Jenn Kurtz, from Eliot. They were so good, singing tunes we knew, that we lingered well into the afternoon.

It was drizzly that Saturday, and I all but had to drag George out birding in the morning. But after reading of a birding hot spot at the Boothbay Region Land Trust’s Lobster Cove Preserve, I was insistent. These well-marked trails are wonderful places to walk, even if you are not a birdwatcher. They take you through woods, fields and along a water-filled bog. We found lots of birds in a set of apple trees and along the water. What a find! George later admitted he was very glad we went.


The Lafayettes do hospitality right. On our first visit to their three inns and restaurants in Boothbay Harbor, we found everything we’ve come to expect from this Bangor family and their professional staff: friendly service, nice rooms packed with amenities and very good food — all in a place where there is a lot to do.

It’s always nice to find a restaurant that features Maine wine and beer. The Tugboat offered wine from Cellardoor Winery in Lincolnville and beers brewed by Shipyard, Geary’s and Marshall Wharf.

I suggested we begin by sharing an appetizer of crab cakes, only to hear, “I’m not sharing my crab cakes with you!” And she wasn’t, but that worked out fine because we both ordered the crab cake appetizer. We’ve been building a list of the best crab cakes in Maine over the past two years, and these went immediately into the top five. Even the presentation was great, with the chipotle sauce cleverly hidden inside a radicchio leaf.


Ann, our server, has worked here for 21 years. She left for a few years in real estate, then came back when the recession hit. Now she serves here in season, and also continues to sell real estate — a typical Mainer with more than one job. She’s a keeper, and kept us both entertained and well fed throughout the evening.

We especially enjoyed watching and listening to Ann as she served a nearby table of tourists, most of whom ordered lobster in the shell. One of them totally shredded her bib trying to put it on and Ann was quick to quip, “That’s OK. It’s only a $6 charge for another bib!” And when she brought the lady a new bib, Ann put it on for her. Not taking another chance on that!

At a table behind us, Ann delivered entrees just as the lights dimmed, telling the customers, another group from away, “This is what you’ve been waiting for all winter.” They seemed to agree.

I had settled on seafood pie for an entrée until Ann told us about the specials. Halibut topped with fresh crabmeat and hollandaise sauce hit three of my favorites all in one dish. It was delicious and came with a very tasty rice that included onions and corn.

All of this consumed two hours, at a table that afforded a wonderful view of the harbor and Burnt Island, which is owned by the residents of Maine and managed by our Bureau of Parks and Lands. If you’ve never been there, put it on your bucket list. Several charters in Boothbay Harbor will take you there — or you can kayak out to it as we have done a number of times.

The history of each of the Tugboat Inn’s five buildings fascinated me. At one time they housed everything from a chandlery to the Boothbay Harbor Yacht Club. The Tugboat itself (and yes, there is one) was built in 1917 and worked all along the New England coast before coming to roost here where it now houses a restaurant and lounge.

Manager Bonnie Stover is a great hostess and we’re already eager to return — next time on a hot sunny weekend!

Visit George’s website: www.georgesmithmaine.com for travel tips, book reviews, outdoor news and more.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: