Exploring Maine’s MidCoast From The Federal
By Bart Beeson
If The Federal in Brunswick, Maine could talk, you would imagine it would spin long yarns about seafaring days and ocean adventures. The hotel’s original building dates back to the early 1800s and was once the Captain Daniel Stone Inn, named after the well-known sea merchant who built the house. The property was eventually inherited by his daughter, prominent local businesswoman Narcissa Stone. Today, the original building is still home to some of The Federal’s guest rooms and suites, and details of the hotel’s history can be found throughout the property. Timber beams from an old post and beam barn that stood on the property adorn one of the hotel’s two meeting rooms. And a framed picture of a stern-faced Narcissa is prominently displayed on one of the decorative shelves in the lobby.
The boutique hotel underwent a major $3 million renovation and reopened under new owners and management as The Federal in March of this year, with modern touches, renovated rooms and nautical-themed art throughout the property. In addition to the original building, a large addition features more guest rooms and suites, the spacious lobby with a grand spiraling staircase, and the newly renovated and expanded space for the 555 North restaurant.
On a recent visit to The Federal, after checking in we made the quick 5-minute walk to Brunswick’s charming Main Street and strolled by the shops, restaurants and cafes. We also checked out some of Bowdoin College’s historic campus, and made a stop at the craft brewery Moderation Brewing before heading back to the hotel for dinner at 555 North. The restaurant’s name comes from its original address of 555 Congress Street in Portland, Maine, where it had an extremely successful run for more than 15 years. This past May, restaurateurs Steve and Michelle Corry reopened it as 555 North in The Federal, and it has quickly become a favorite of locals and visitors, and a destination in its own right, with good reason. Our meal was excellent – I highly recommend the “Fish in Paper”– and the “Brunswick Trio” of three-mini margaritas was the perfect way to start the meal.
The following day we decided to get out and explore the area. Brunswick is known as the gateway to Maine’s MidCoast beautiful region, so we wanted to check out some of the coastal attractions. We first made the half hour drive to Reid State Park on Georgetown Island, home to several long, sandy beaches, as well as rocky cliffs and a calm lagoon. Despite the fact it was a beautiful August day, the beaches weren’t crowded and there were plenty of open picnic tables where we could relax and enjoy the ocean breezes. From there we headed over to the town of Harpswell, home to picturesque Orr and Bailey Islands. We stopped for lunch at Sundrenched, a no-frills restaurant with waterside tables, and a great spot to enjoy some fish tacos and check out the Bailey Island Bridge, a one-of-a-kind cribstone bridge made up of crisscrossed granite slabs.
Afterwards, we headed to the island’s Giant’s Stairs, a picturesque hike along rocky shores with a series of striking geological formations. We capped off our day with a stop at Brunswick’s Flight Deck Brewing, a craft brewery located on a former naval air station with a spacious setup, plenty of outdoor seating, and a range of tasty flight-themed beers like Subhunter Imperial IPA and V Formation White Ale.
While MidCoast Maine may tend to get overlooked, with foodie-mecca Portland to the south and the stunning Acadia National Park to the north, it features so many nooks and crannies (Maine famously has more coastline than California when you include all the inlets and bays) that there is a ton to explore. As The Federal’s General Manager Jeff Cappelleri notes, one of the things hotel guests most appreciate during their stay is “the simplicity of Maine’s MidCoast and what life is like here.” With so much to see it’s worth staying for a couple days at least, and The Federal makes for a perfect home base for some modern day coastal adventures.
Bart Beeson is a Plymouth, New Hampshire-based freelance travel writer and photographer. He is a regular contributor to Travel Weekly, and has published in The Washington Post, Foreign Policy and other media outlets. When he’s not traveling, Bart can be found hiking with his dog Kesey or spending time at his family’s New Hampshire lake house.