Another day trip from our base camp in Trenton, Maine – this time to the historic little seaside town of Castine, located in mid-coast Maine on a peninsula in Penobscot Bay, approximately 40 miles from the Narrows Too RV Resort.
One of our first stops here was a visit to the Dice (or Dyce) Head Lighthouse which was built in 1828. As we stopped at the end of the road, two women with palette and easel were engrossed in capturing the likeness of the lighthouse. I had to stop to look over the shoulder of one of them. Nice job!
According to the lighthouse friends website, “The tower, measuring forty two feet from base to focal plane was topped by an octagonal wrought iron lantern and stood next to a 1.5 story rubblestone house. The tower’s light, produced by ten lamps in fourteen-inch reflectors, was first lit on November 5, 1828.The Dyce family formerly owned the site selected for the lighthouse and while the lighthouse has been known as both Dyce Head and Dice Head, the latter is now more common.”
The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1937 and the light moved to a nearby skeleton tower. The keeper’s dwelling was turned over to the town in 1956 which Castine rents to defray some of the costs to maintain the property. In 2007 after a microburst knocked over the skeleton tower, the Coast Guard agreed to install a light in the Dice Head tower allowing it to shine again after 72 years of darkness.
Since the keeper’s dwelling is private property, visitors aren’t allowed inside the lighthouse but there is a fairly easy trail adjacent to the property. At the end of the trail are wooden steps leading down to the rocks on the water’s edge. What a beautiful view of Penobscot Bay! But not any view of the lighthouse.
After hanging out there for a bit, we retraced our steps back to the van, then headed into town. As usual our first stop was at the Visitor Center where a very helpful woman pointed out the must see places on a map (the lighthouse, Fort Madison, Fort George, and Witherle Woods, a 185 acre preserve with walking trails) and suggesting that we follow the walking tour.
We also learned that Castine is known for their elm trees. In 2007, they reportedly had over 300 elms, but recent severe storms, including a microburst back in 2007, have destroyed a number of the trees. Fortunately no signs of Dutch Elm disease.
Since it is one of the oldest communities in Maine having been continuously occupied since the early 1600s, and the site of numerous trading posts, forts, missions and permanent settlements of France, Holland, England and colonial America, its streets are lined with historic Federal and Greek revival homes built during a time when the town was a very prosperous and bustling merchant, fishing and ship building town. The town of Castine is on the National Historic Register, with over 100 historic markers located throughout town. Usually a town will have a few buildings on the National Historic Register, but here the entire town made the register.
Nice that they had all these markers but a lot of them were so faded they were unreadable and are due to be refreshed. Perhaps they want the markers to look as historic as the event or place?
By the way, Castine is not just about long ago history, another claim to fame is the Maine Maritime Academy (established in 1941), a public post-secondary college and nautical training institution with approximately 900 students.
First things first though, we were hungry. Lunch was our first priority, sightseeing was second. After looking at several restaurants, we ended up eating at the Castine Variety.
Not really a variety store, more like a luncheonette with a counter and several tables where they serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. Owned by a woman from Hawaii, several items on the menu have a “Hawaiian” flavor (ie Hawaiian Corned Beef Hash). Someone asked her what was different about the Hawaiian Corned Beef Hash and she said that in Hawaii they don’t boil the Corned Beef. Hmmm, interesting, wonder how they do cook it?
I had the Traditional Lobster Roll ($14) served on a hot dog roll which had a generous portion of lobster salad (although a little too much lettuce for my taste). It was very good, but not as good as Mount Battie Takeout (I think I’m totally spoiled now). It was supposed to be served with potato chips but guess they forgot them as I didn’t get any. Rob had the small Fish & Chips ($12.50), made with haddock and served with fries. Both meals were very good.
After lunch, we did some more walking, looking at some of the historic homes. The award winning, Pentagoet Inn, a charming Queen Anne Victorian inn, built in 1894, is Castine’s oldest, original “summer hotel” still welcoming guests to Penobscot Bay.
Since it was getting late and we wanted to avoid any traffic heading back to Trenton, we decided to finish our sightseeing in the van.
Back at the coach, Nancy and Betsy invited us over to enjoy a campfire with them. Several of their other work campers joined us. Fun ending to an already enjoyable day!