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A TANK AWAY | BATH, MAINE

A town of nautical pasts and presents

Scenic spots in Bath, Maine, include the historic downtown. Scenic spots in Bath, Maine, include the historic downtown. (Hilary Nangle for The Boston Globe)
By Hilary Nangle
Globe Correspondent / June 2, 2010

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BATH, Maine —Bath’s seafaring heritage, magnificent sea captains’ and shipbuilders’ homes, and well-preserved Victorian downtown have earned the Kennebec riverside city prized Distinctive Destination status from the National Heritage Trust. The riches continue down the peninsulas flanking the river, with forts, beaches, and trails among the finds. All combine to make a great destination for a weekend away for couples or singles.

Stay
The flamboyant pink and plum Italianate Galen C. Moses House (1009 Washington St., 888-442-8771, www.galenmoses.com, $119-$259, with breakfast) is an architectural gem in the city’s historic district. Just up the street is the Inn at Bath (969 Washington St., 800-423-0964, www.innatbath.com, $170-$215, with breakfast) where many of the rooms have fireplaces or whirlpool tubs; pets are welcome). Yoga and meditation, all-natural bedding, and organic foods create a peaceful escape at Kismet Inn (44 Summer St., 207-443-3399, www.kismetinnmaine.com, $200-$255, with breakfast). Oceanfront Sebasco Harbor Resort (29 Kenyon Road, Sebasco Estates, 800-225-3819, www.sebasco.com; spring rates begin at $119; meal plan available) is a full-service resort, with golf and spa. Fall asleep to waves lapping at Popham Beach Bed and Breakfast (4 Riverview Ave., Popham Beach, Phippsburg, 207-389-2409, www.pophambeachbandb.com, $169-$235, with breakfast), housed in a former lifesaving station. Pitch a tent at Hermit Island Campground (6 Hermit Island Road, Phippsburg, 207-443-2101, www.hermitisland.com, sites begin at $35), with oceanfront and wooded sites.

Dine
Big flavors emerge from tiny Starlight Cafe (15 Lambard St., 207-443-3005, $4-$10), a must-find for breakfast and lunch and the source of amazing pies, cookies, and whoopie pies. Check out the local artwork while savoring cinnamon-swirl French toast or the tarragon chicken salad at Mae’s Cafe and Bakery (160 Centre St., 207-442-8577, www.maescafeandbakery.com, $4.50-$14), another breakfast and lunch favorite. The Cabin (522 Washington St., 207-443-6224, pizzas $8-$23) is Bath’s pizza king, but don’t even think of beating the crowd during a shift change at the local shipyard Bath Iron Works. For creative fare served in a contemporary, Scandinavian-accented space, reserve a dinner table at Solo Bistro (128 Front St., 207-443-3373, www.solobistro.com, entrees $12-$23). North Creek Farm (24 Sebasco Road, Phippsburg, 207-389-1341, www.northcreekfarm.org, sandwiches $6.50-$7.50), a mid-19th-century saltwater farm, serves homemade soups and sandwiches overlooking display gardens of rare and antique roses. Chef/owner Michael Gagne serves an extensive menu at the beautifully renovated Robinhood Free Meetinghouse (210 Robinhood Road, Georgetown, 207-371-2188, www.robinhood-meetinghouse.com, dinner entrees $24-$30). Five Islands Lobster (1447 Five Islands Road, Georgetown, 207-371-2990, www.fiveislandslobster.com) delivers an authentic lobster shack experience paired with dreamy island views.

During the day
Front and Centre streets in downtown Bath are lined with independent specialty shops, antiques stores, and clothing boutiques that invite browsing. Don’t miss Reny’s Department Store (86 Front St., 207-443-6251), a small Maine chain selling just about everything at discounted prices. Walk or dive through the city’s architectural heritage armed with a copy of the Historical Architecture of Downtown Bath, Maine, a free map and guide prepared by Sagadahoc Preservation (880 Washington St., 207-443-2174, www.sagadahocpreservation.org) or download a podcast (www.cityofbath.com). Thorne Head Preserve (access on High Street, 207-442-8400, www.lkrlt.org/ThorneHeadPreserve.php) is an urban oasis laced with trails leading to a headland with fine views over Merrymeeting Bay. Allow a half day or longer at the Maine Maritime Museum (243 Washington St., 207-443-1316, www.mainemaritimemuseum.org, adults $12, seniors $11, students with ID and children 4-17 $9, under 4 free), located on the grounds of the former Percy and Small Shipyard. View original shipyard buildings, a late-Victorian home, hands-on exhibits, displays of maritime-related art and artifacts, and boatbuilders working in the apprentice shop. From the museum you can arrange to take a cruise (fees vary) or a fascinating behind-the-scenes Bath Iron Works trolley tour ($30). Noodle the Phippsburg Peninsula’s byways. Rent a canoe or kayak from Paddle Up the Creek (39 Main Road, Phippsburg, 866-443-4845, www.rentkayaks.com; $10 per person for up to three hours) and explore tidal Winnegance Creek. Clamber about Civil War-era Fort Popham or the ruins of Fort Baldwin, which dates from World War I; both are state historic sites (10 Perkins Farm Lane, Phippsburg, www.maine.gov/cgi-bin/online/doc/parksearch/index.pl). Beachcomb at Popham Beach State Park (10 Perkins Farm Lane, Phippsburg, www.maine.gov/cgi-bin/online/doc/parksearch/index.pl). Bates-Morse Mountain Conservation Area (www.bates.edu/x165543.xml) is an environmentally sensitive preserve favored by bird-watchers.

After dark
Check to see what’s happening at the Chocolate Church (804 Washington St; 207-442-8455; chocolatechurcharts.org), the area’s largest entertainment venue. Five Rivers Arts Alliance (207-798-6964; www.fiveriversartsalliance.org) presents Bath ArtWalk and Drive on the third Friday of the month. Solo Bistro (128 Front St., 207-443-3373; www.solobistro.com) has live jazz on Friday nights. Byrnes Irish Pub (38 Centre St., 207-443-6776; byrnesirishpub.com) often has live music.

Hilary Nangle’s most recent book is “Moon Coastal Maine.’’ She can be reached at www.hilarynangle.com.