New England Coastal Tour

Trip Start Jun 28, 2014
1
8
35
Trip End Jul 31, 2014


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Flag of United States  , Maine
Saturday, July 5, 2014

Pick up for the tour today was just a five minute walk from our hotel. Leaving Boston we drove up the State Street side of the common and our driver told us that one of the brownstone terraces overlooking the common had sold last year for $52 million dollars. The purchaser paid an additional $250k for a car park. These terraces were built in the 1700s and some still have the original window glass that was shipped over from England.

Our New England coastal tour took us through the states of Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine which are along America's Atlantic coastline. The sun was shining again after yesterday's rain and I had checked with the driver which side of the bus to sit on so we got some good views.

The area was among the first regions to be settled by British pioneers in the early-mid 1600s. A lot of the place names are English in origin (York, Gloucester, Portsmouth etc) presumably the names of the cities that the different settlers had come from. The main industries back then were lumber, farming and fishing (including whaling). Unlike Boston, most of the houses are made of wood. Today the fishing remains while tourism has taken over from farming and lumber, there are whale watching tours rather than whale hunting.

All the way up the coast there are areas of salt water marsh which is where the shellfish and lobster spawn. These marshes are protected as without them the clam and lobster industry would not survive. Clam chowder is available everywhere, either by the mug or by the bowl. Lobster is big too. You can get Lobster Macaroni Cheese, there are two McDonalds that offer Lobster rolls during August and Dunkin Donuts even trialled a lobster flavoured cream in their doughnuts last year which was not continued as it was not popular - wonder why?

Our first stop was at Hampton Beach, a huge white sand beach that was packed full of people despite the fact that there was a lot of wind (tail end of Hurricane Arthur). Along the beach side of the road there was a wide pavement area with a sound shell for performances, changing rooms etc. On the other side were numerous shops and stalls selling clothing, souvenirs and food - Wicked Willy's Seafood and Big Steve's Italian Sausage to name a couple. This was the public beach. Once back on the bus we drove past the residents' beach where people that own property can get sticker access to the quieter, less commercial end of the beach.

New Hampshire is odd in that there is no state tax. I think we would compare this to our GST but each state sets their own tax. Instead they charge property owners very high property tax (rates). Annual rates on a $350k property are about $12k per year. To recoup some of this cost a lot of people rent their holiday homes out for several weeks over summer. Weekly rental for a beachside property at peak season is around $4k.

York Beach, in Maine, was not as commercialised or as crowded as Hampton. The sand here is not the soft white sand of Hampton Beach, like we are used to, but a hard packed mud sand. Sand of this variety is shipped in and out of Hampton Beach each summer for the sand sculpting competition because it holds its shape better.

Next stop was Nubble Lighthouse. This is located on a small rocky island just across a narrow channel of water. It is now automated but until 1987 the lighthouse keeper and his wife and family lived on the island. They got across to the mainland in a basket attached to a cable strung across the channel.

We were due to stop for lunch at 2 o'clock at Kennebunkport (pronounced Kenny-bunk-port all run together). Due to the holiday weekend traffic passing through the beachside towns it was 3 o'clock before we got there - think Whangamata traffic at beach hop or New Year's. Steve was starving as he hadn't had breakfast. The menus in most places offered a huge seafood selection and token gesture anything else. Steve had Lobster Stew that was more like a creamy soup. I had a Rubens sandwich - corned beef, cheese and slaw. We then had a quick look around the shops. Lots of touristy stuff, clothing and galleries. We then found a cafe offering half price drinks. They also did a blueberry cobbler which I wanted to try as Maine is known for its wild blueberries. We sat there eating and drinking in the sun until it was time to get back on the bus.

The final point of interest was a drive by of George and Barbara Bush's summer home at Walker Point. This property has been in the Bush (Walker) family for years but security was amped up when Bush became president. A separate house was built on the property to accommodate the security personnel. It is on a small peninsula and totally visible from the public coastal road so we could get a good view from the slowly moving bus - no stopping is allowed opposite the property.

The return trip to Boston along the highway was a much quicker ride - back by 8pm.
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