I love all the brick in Belfast! If you are an architecture geek, there’s plenty of historic buildings to check out in addition to buying some cool stuff.

 

While exploring MDI can take a lifetime, it is also fun to find adventures that take you off our little island. We love to feature day trips on this blog, giving our readers ideas for other great places to explore while still being based on MDI. Our Belfast day trip is totally doable in a day (and you’ll probably be able to tell that I love the town reading it!) It would also make a great weekend getaway.

General Idea: Not quite ‘Downeast’ and not quite ‘Midcoast’, Belfast is a combination of charming artistic downtown on the ocean mixed with a bit of shopping centers (most notably, the largest location of the Maine department store chain Reny’s.) It’s about an hour from Rockland, an hour from Bangor, and a little over an hour from the Augusta area, which makes it a popular day trip option not just from MDI.
Distance from MDI: About an hour and a half, including a drive over the Penobscot Narrows bridge (apparently the tallest public bridge in the world)!
Rated for: Artsy browsing, microbrew/foodie scene, year round unique shopping.

Belfast Maine Harbor

I kind of want to make a game where you have to identify Maine harbors based on photographs. They do seem similar but I notice a place like Belfast has more sailboats than other Maine harbors.

On the Way

Head south on Route 1. If you want to make this drive a bit more meander-y, stop by the Chicken Barn in Ellsworth (first floor of an old chicken barn is filled with antiques, the second floor books – I usually have to leave this visit for the summer when doors can be open since the dust is a bit intense on my allergies!) You can also stop and visit Fort Knox and the Penobscot Narrows Bridge Observatory in Bucksport. I am terrified of heights but the elevator goes to the top of the bridge for, I’m sure, an amazing view for those who are not scaredy cats or claustrophobic.



If you just need a stop to stretch your legs, after you cross the bridge, there is an overlook to the side for a photo opp/break area. The rest of the drive is antique central (places all along both sides of the road) if you see something you like, just pull over.

To Do

Belfast is a great town for walking around so most of these activities involve moving place to place. Pack an umbrella and an extra layer (as usual for Maine weather) and see where the day takes you.  A couple suggestions:

Check out the cool shops. There are many cute shops (especially on Main Street, which runs perpendicular to the harbor, or on adjacent streets). Here are some I like a lot:

There are a TON more great places so explore! Our Town Belfast (their local downtown organization) has up-to-date listings on their website.



Visit Perry’s Nut House. Is it a tourist trap? Yes. Is it kind of weird? Yes. Is it worth stopping in for 15 minutes and seeing some former rich person’s weird stuff (think taxidermied exotic wildlife – not sure if the mummy is still in residence) and buying some fudge? I think so. Also if you have to ever meet someone somewhere around Belfast, it is a great ‘can’t miss it’ spot.

Make a Reny’s pilgrimage. My favorite combination of things I have bought from Reny’s are 16 ounces of minced garlic and a wrap dress for about $25 total. I think most Mainers have similar Reny’s stories. Yes, there is an Ellsworth location but the ‘big’ one is in Belfast.

Walk, bike, or otherwise navigate the extensive trails. There are lots of trails that border the water for walking with great views. Here is a link to the rail trails (old railroad tracks converted into multi-use trails) or if you prefer here’s a link to the Harbor Walk (a bit shorter- more walk-y and less trail-y). CJ Bikes will rent you a bike if you need one.

Take in a movie at the Colonial Theater. If you are into historic theaters, or just want to see a movie because you want to sit in somewhere climatized for a couple hours, you can watch a movie (not just arty and foreign films but the latest blockbusters) and wave hi to the elephant on the top of the roof as you head in!

Belfast bridge

Belfast is super walkable and, after a lot of hiking, you might appreciate a more ‘urban’ walking experience with water views!

Food

Drink some craft beer.  Belfast is home to Belfast Bay Brewing Company (which I think is just their brewing location – I have never drank there) but you can pick up a six pack (or more?) at lots of local stores. I *have* drank at Rollies though (think charming faux ‘dive’ bar) and it is lovely but if you want a view of the water or an upscale location to go with your beverage, you have no shortage of options.

Have a nice meal.  Chase’s Daily has creative ‘farm to table vegetarian cuisine’ with a market (as in food and flowers) in the back and is a great brunch option. Personally, I love the Laotian/Thai place that is in this tiny location near the water for an intimate dinner. The steamed fish is amazing as are the scallion pancakes but it is one of those places you could close your eyes and point to something on the menu and have a great experience.

In town for lunch with, say, a bunch of people who can’t agree on anything? Meanwhile in Belfast has brick oven pizzas that are tasty and you can have wine with lunch (especially if you end up eating with the group of people who can’t agree on anything – you might need it!)



Cool Stuff to Know

    • It’s worth checking Our Town Belfast, Belfast Chamber, or the Belfast Area Creative Coalition websites for any upcoming events, in particular if you are an artsy person (ex: First Friday Art Walks in the summer where galleries are open after hours for wine sipping and art appreciating).
    • They host an epic New Year’s By The Bay event and have been doing so for 20+ years. If you want something where you aren’t sitting at a table in a conference room with a bunch of strangers or getting blitzed at a club to ring in the New Year, this is a great option.
    • Belfast has a pretty active and enthusiastic curling scene. Yup, you don’t have to make the Olympic team or visit to a more curling-enthused country to try this sport! This has been on my list for awhile (I keep thinking it would be a fun group activity) but if you go before I do, please leave a comment and tell me how it is!

There’s so much more here I didn’t write but just picked some of my favorites which could take 1-2 days to enjoy. Please comment below if there is something you just LOVE about Belfast that you think I definitely forgot.

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