George

When I received the invitation to speak to a University of Maine at Machias class about fisheries and wildlife careers, I suggested to Linda that we turn this into a travel column trip and she quickly agreed. We knew just where we wanted to stay: the Riverside Inn in East Machias.

We’d been driving by the inn for years on our way to Lubec and knew it to be a very popular place. When owners Ellen McLaughlin and Rocky Rakoczy also had a restaurant at the inn, it seemed to be packed every time we went by. A few years ago they closed the restaurant, but Rocky still cooks fantastic breakfasts for their guests. Alas, Rocky was out of state during our visit, but Ellen prepared a very tasty breakfast quiche for us which we enjoyed in our suite.

The beautiful view of the East Machias River from the window of our suite was all I needed to put this on my “great places” list. I’ve always wanted to do some hiking on the Down East Sunrise Trail, a hiking, biking, ATV and snowmobile trail that runs along the river adjacent to the inn. The inn is also just 12 miles from one of our favorite state parks at Roque Bluffs.

Linda and I love old historic homes. The inn was built in the early 1800s and retains many of the old features. Some of the five rooms are filled with antique furniture, and all have beautiful artwork. The two larger rooms are in the adjacent coach house with private decks overlooking the river. The main house includes two gathering rooms and a dining area where guests enjoy breakfast while watching the river flow by. Divine.

Our Sunday dinner at The Bluebird Ranch Family Restaurant in Machias was also memorable. The extensive menu offers a lot: soups and salads, Italian dishes, nachos, wings, burgers, sandwiches, seafood, steaks and more. Tough choices! Having seen the Filet of Haddock ($14.99) go by the table with a heaping helping of onion rings on the plate, I had to order it. It was just as good as it looked, the haddock perfectly fried and moist inside and the thinly cut onion rings crispy and delicious. Portions are large here so we weren’t able to order anything from the long list of desserts that customers rave about. Next time!

Our very friendly and helpful server Shelly moved to Maine 20 years ago with her husband and kids and loves it here. “We don’t even have a stoplight!” she exclaimed. But that doesn’t mean you should drive right through Machias. A stop at the Bluebird is mandatory.

Linda

Given a chance to head Down East, I readily agreed to a trip to Machias in early November. I have never been there this late in the fall, and if you have never seen what blueberry fields look like in the fall, that alone is worth the drive. I expect George got tired of me saying, “Oh, look at that field of red” and “That is so beautiful!” The rolling hills were covered with blueberry bushes wearing their stunning fall colors.

The Riverside Inn is aptly named. It is right beside the East Machias River. Our suite in the Coach House offered spectacular views of the river. Between their nice perennial gardens, outside seating on the decks, the Down East Sunrise Trail steps away and river views, patrons should take advantage and spend a lot of time outside.

The suite we stayed in is the only room with a full kitchen, but as we toured the other rooms we found a common theme of comfortable coziness. Each room is wallpapered and has spacious bathrooms. Ellen was very welcoming, and we felt right at home as soon as we entered. The main inn sports a six-burner gas stove (that I coveted) and has nice seating areas where guests can relax and visit. The breakfast room has tables overlooking the river. It’s a very pretty spot.

The Bluebird Ranch Family Restaurant is impressively big with two separate areas offering lots of seating. I ordered chicken tenders and was delivered a plate mounded with chicken and fries. Say what you will about ordering chicken at a place well-known for its fresh seafood — I love fried chicken but would never make it at home. The chicken was great, crispy yet not at all greasy. The raw broccoli salad in a tangy dressing was a nice side dish. Prices are very affordable. My dinner was $10, and both George and I had enough leftovers for lunch another day. This is a restaurant that is open three meals a day every day and very popular with locals and tourists alike.

On our way home Monday, we had lunch at Finelli Pizzeria in Ellsworth, recommended by friends, and we’re grateful for that recommendation. George thoroughly enjoyed his Meatball Parm Sub while my Italian grinder was also delicious. Most customers were having the creative New York-style thin-crust pizzas that are celebrated here. We’ve put this place on our list of dining spots anytime we’re headed to Mount Desert Island or farther Down East.

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

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