A visit to Lubec and Campobello is special any time, but visiting just before school closed for the summer was a godsend for me. I had so many things to do before I closed my classroom for the year, and my gardens really needed attention before they went crazy. Sometimes things that seem insurmountable aren’t all that bad when you are refreshed — and Lubec always refreshes me.

Normally, I am not ambitious on Friday nights, but I was ready for a four-hour drive after school just taking in the beautiful sights along the way. A stop for a great meal in Bar Harbor at Mainely Meat Barbeque broke up the trip nicely.

A prior call to Mrs. Griffin at her home/shop in Edmunds made it possible to stop at 8 p.m. enroute to Lubec to pick up fresh crabmeat, and again on Sunday afternoon on the way home. You don’t need to have any cooking skills to turn out the most delectable, eye-rolling crabmeat rolls ever with this super fresh crabmeat.

We stayed at An Island Chalet on Campobello, which we discovered more than 12 years ago. By staying in Cabin 5 this time, I have now officially stayed in every cabin there. It’s like home away from home to me. From this particular view, one can see Eastport lit up at night. The sound of the ocean splashing against the rocks and the smell of the sea air immediately eased any stress I had.

This trip was scheduled around brother Gordon and niece Erica’s run in the Bay of Fundy International Marathon. We had a table for seven reserved at Lubec’s Water Street Tavern as a premarathon celebration on Saturday night.

Owner Jim Heyer was manning the bar that evening and though he was very busy, he still stopped by several times to make sure things were A-OK. He was curious to see what we’d all ordered. When he saw I had the cup of Chef Theresa’s Black Bean Soup as my appetizer, he said, “That’s an authentic Southern recipe. We’re taking the Maine out of her — going to have her in the south soon!”

I haven’t tasted a black bean soup that could come close to being as good as this one. Made with double smoked bacon, a bit of sausage, perfectly cooked beans and tomatoes, this was one elegant black bean soup! Just the ticket for a cool foggy night.

I inevitably fall prey to the ravioli entree when I come here. Their Wild Mushroom Ravioli is topped with fresh mushrooms and served in a Madeira cream sauce. It is consistently great, and I enjoy the leftovers just as much.

Nobody needed dessert. But our waiter convinced us that the Tall Three Layer Chocolate Cake was a sharable dessert. I have never seen such a huge slice of cake! Jim told us this is the regular sized serving and that he has seen individuals eat the whole thing, but that can’t be very often. The gigantic slice made its way around the table several times before we could clear the plate. Most of us took a single bite and passed it on, relishing in the deep chocolate decadence. But soon we noticed that the cake slowed way down as it landed in front of Gordon or George. Hmmm, it’s something about those Smith genes.

The hectic end of the school-year rush went off much easier, and my head was much clearer, thanks to a wonderful weekend spent Down East. Even if you can only stay a little while here, I’d highly recommend it.


You can’t beat an international weekend in Lubec, Maine and Campobello Island, New Brunswick — especially if you are there for the international marathon, as we were.

Brother Gordon and his daughter Erica, along with friend Andy McClain, ran the marathon that began at West Quoddy Head Light (the prettiest place in Maine) and continued across the international bridge to East Quoddy Head Light on Campobello, returning to finish on Lubec’s Water Street. Friend Katherine Ayers ran the 10K, from West Quoddy to Water Street.

That left Linda and I, along with Gordon’s wife Janet, as the cheering squad. It’s a tough assignment, but we managed it. From our cabins at Island Chalet, we walked to the hilly entrance to Campobello, where a large crowd cheered and shouted, “Welcome to Canada” as the racers went by. I was particularly delighted to get a photo of Gordon and Erica running by, with the ocean and Lubec in the background.

Our next cheering assignment was at the finish line in Lubec, giving us plenty of time to check out all the shops and stalls that lined the street. The marathon drew over 250 racers from 34 states, four Canadian provinces, and Peru, Iceland, Nicaragua and Mexico. The 10K added 300 more. And every one of those runners got a huge round of applause and cheers as they approached the finish line.

Andy was the first of our group to finish in just over 4 hours. He said he took 44,723 strides. Ouch! Erica, who finished more than an hour ahead of her Dad in last year’s marathon here, ran with him this time as a special Father’s Day gift.

They finished in 5 hours and 15 minutes, Erica looking like she’d never even started, Gordon appearing near death. Well, not really. He amazed me, if not the others. Erica said the only problem was that every time he stopped for water, Gordon wanted to tell everyone about our history in Lubec and Campobello.

Our grandfather was from Campobello, our great -grandfather kept the light at West Quoddy for more than 30 years, our mother was born and raised in Lubec — oh, there was so much for Gordon to tell!

To say we feel at home here is a mighty big understatement. But I am not exaggerating to say that this is the best place to vacation in Maine. Lots of ocean, uncrowded beaches, conservation lands, hiking trails, stunning scenery — and goose tongue greens (harvested on the edge of the ocean, a salty treat for dinner).

There are nice places to stay, from inns to cottages, but few are as scenic and quiet as Rob and Diane Lahey’s cabins at Island Chalet. On Campobello, I fish from the docks, golf on the amazingly uncrowded island course, walk the trails and beaches in the 2,000-acre international park, enjoy Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s island home (don’t miss Tea With Eleanor, a highlight of any stay here), go whale watching with Island Cruises and relax at our cabin, perched on the edge of the ocean.

In Lubec, we spend time at the great library, visit Monica’s Chocolates (sometimes several times), walk the ocean-side trails from North Lubec to Cutler (and the very best is at West Quoddy) and eat. Yes, there are some really good restaurants here.

Our favorite is Jim Heyer’s Water Street Tavern, where the quality of the beer and wine is surpassed only by the food. I’m in a rut here, always starting with the mussels, but I’ve got to say my three spoonfuls of Linda’s soup may make that my go-to starter anytime it is on the menu.

And while I’ve broken out to enjoy the blackened haddock and BBQ ribs in the past, I always order, on our first visit of the year here, the Moqueca Brazilian Seafood Stew. Jim calls it their “signature dish,” and told me he’d had Brazilian visitors who said it wasn’t quite as good as it is in Brazil, but very close. Guess I’ve got to go to Brazil now!

The portion is huge, stuffed with seafood and uniquely flavorful. I could only eat half of it, but Andy ate all of his. Guess he was storing up energy for the next day’s marathon!

Our wine deserves special mention. Phantom by Bogle 2009, a real bargain at $34 a bottle, is described as “mysterious and hauntingly seductive, hard to get and harder to keep, a blend of old vine zinfandel, old vine mourvedre and petite sirah,” and “an allocated wine.”

I asked Jim what that meant and, as always, when you ask him a question, you get a good story in return. This was his favorite wine when he and his wife lived in Florida. So when they opened the tavern in Lubec, he called the company’s vice president, found out that the entire state of Maine was allocated only 26 cases of this limited production wine a year, and got himself a matching allocation of another 26 cases.

Sitting on our cabin porch on Sunday morning, sun shining on the bay, gazing across at Eastport, I didn’t want to leave. But we’ll be back in August!

Visit George’s website — — for book reviews, outdoor news and all Travelin’ Maine(rs) columns, found listed in the “Best of Maine” section.

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