This time of year, conversation always seems to turn to flowers. “Did you see the crocus blooming?” “I spotted buds on the way to the office.” “Do you have your flowers in?” “Have you cleaned the yard yet?” (I heard that last one a lot during the spring vacations of my youth.)

The brilliant colors of the flower garden herald the arrival of Maine’s all-too-short spring more than any specific date marked on the calendar.

There are countless places in Maine to enjoy the sight of blooming flowers, from backyards to country roads to greenhouses, but there may be no better place than Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay, which opened for the season earlier this month. They’ve planted 50,000 spring bulbs on their 300-acre property for the April opening, with May’s magnolias and azaleas not far behind. Admission is $16 for adults, $8 for children and free for members.

After spending a few hours tiptoeing through the tulips at the Gardens, I recommend taking the opportunity to explore some of the less-trafficked spots that Boothbay has to offer. Thanks to the hard work of the Boothbay Region Land Trust, there is an absolute treasure trove of protected land to enjoy by foot; BRLT stewards over 30 miles of pet-friendly hiking across nearly two dozen trails and preserves, open year-round.

My favorite preserve is Oven’s Mouth, which spreads across two peninsulas on Boothbay’s northern border. The West and East peninsulas are connected by a gorgeous wooden bridge, and a loop around the entire preserve will take you on a hilly hike of nearly three miles. The well-marked network of trails passes through wetlands and woodlands, with fine stands of pine filtering the sunlight on its way to the forest floor. Many of the best views are at the preserve’s northern end, along the Back River where you may see eagles, osprey and otter, in addition to paddlers and fishermen.

The West and East peninsulas on Boothbay’s northern border are connected by this wooden bridge. The loop around the preserve will take you on a hilly hike of nearly three miles.

To the west of the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, on Barter’s Island, you’ll find another small, lovely BRLT preserve: Porter Preserve. Donated by Nathaniel Porter 35 years ago, this 19-acre plot is packed with spruce, oak and pine, traversed by a winding 0.6-mile loop trail. Short offshoot trails lead to a half-dozen benches placed at scenic outlooks on the Back and Sheepscot Rivers, offering secluded views toward Sawyer and Westport Islands. One of the most stunning views is not across the water at all but back into the park itself, where a sheltered cove protects a small, picturesque beach.

If you continue to meander along the coastline, Southport Island offers a number of enjoyable diversions. Spring is a perfect time to enjoy the lovely views of the Sheepscot River and the red-roofed Hendricks Head Light from Hendricks Head Beach before crowds arrive for summer. Just across the road from the beach is another BRLT preserve, the aptly named Hendricks Head Preserve. While this small half-mile trail doesn’t have the saltwater views of Oven’s Mouth or Porter, the tall pines, quartz-filled rock and thick moss will make you feel as though you’ve strolled into a children’s book or a high fantasy novel.

If you’re visiting Southport Island this summer, don’t miss the Maine State Aquarium, operated by the Maine Department of Marine Resources. The aquarium was a staple of childhood visits, when my brother and I would beg our mother to let us spend just a little more time enjoying the giant touch tank filled with starfish, urchins, sea cucumbers, scallops and dozens of other creatures. The aquarium opens for the 2018 season on May 26; admission is $7 for adults and $3 for children.

On the southern tip of the Boothbay Peninsula, in East Boothbay, you’ll find some of the most splendid views in the area at Ocean Point. The long, rocky beach offers a seemingly endless variety of subjects to gaze at: the lighthouses on Burnt Island, Ram Island and Cuckolds Island; small islands and ledges like Card Ledge the Hypocrites; and seabirds wheeling overhead while seals play in the water.

Ocean Point is also home to BRLT’s Ocean Point Preserve – which doesn’t face toward the ocean, but instead takes you inland to Tibbetts Pond, a significant waterfowl wildlife habitat. Two easy trails approach the pond, both leading to a lovely viewing spot over the water. Here, too, there is a seemingly endless variety of subjects to view; ornithologist Jeff Wells once documented 75 species of birds utilizing the area.

A kaleidoscope of colors in bloom. Migrating bird species, returning from southern climes. Shutters coming off the windows, projects getting dusted off and friends from away visiting once more. It’s spring in Maine and there’s so much to see and do – and Boothbay is a pretty good place to get started.

Jake Christie is a freelance writer living in Portland. Along with his brother, Josh, he writes about great Maine destinations for outdoors enthusiasts. Jake can be reached at:

[email protected]

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