We wake up early on Friday morning to the smell of blueberry muffins baking in the oven. After quickly packing our bags we make our way downstairs and are greeted by Teddy’s parents, up with the morning sun. We catch up with them while nibbling on muffins and sipping espresso. The sound of NPR hums in the background (a comforting morning ritual in their home). After a quick bite and a chat, we get in our 2002 Volvo X-Country wagon and make our way to Rockland to catch the ferry to North Haven. The weather dances between showers and sunshine. But whichever it decides to do, we can’t wait to get to the island.
On island, we un-board the ferry and make our way to Mullins Lane. Just a hop, skip, and a jump from the dock and we are at Nebo Lodge’s front door. As we enter through the door, we are greeted by the smiling face and bouncing curls of Kimberli who welcomes us to the inn and leads us to our room. Each room is named and ours will be Dogfish. I’ve never been more excited about a hotel room. It’s light and peaceful with a skylight, gas fireplace, private bath, and cozy seating. The rug, linens, and throw pillows are by my favorite designer Angela Adams (a North Haven native). On the walls hang landscape paintings by Maine artists. A couple pieces are for sale and I’m tempted to write out a check then and there for one depicting a calm Maine coastline. The bed looks so comfortable it’s hard not to tuck in for the night. But it’s 4pm and we want to explore the island before the rain rolls in.
Before heading out, we decide to poke around the inn and bump into innkeeper Liz Lovell (Kimberli’s sister) while doing so. She introduces herself and shows us the other rooms that are vacant while chatting about the origins of Nebo. The inn’s owners, Chellie Pingree and daughter Hannah, intended for the inn to feel familiar and comforting while providing a genuine North Haven island experience. Not only does the inn draw visitors for its cozy rooms and delicious restaurant, it provides employment for roughly 70 people. Liz and I discover that we have a mutual friend in Laura Serino, who is also out on the island for the summer. This is island life, everyone knows everyone.
Before getting back to her many duties, Liz reminds us to partake in the afternoon refreshment in the pantry, perfectly chewy chocolate chip cookies and refreshing iced tea. We hear the kitchen and dining room starting to come alive with preparations for supper as we head out the door, cookies in hand. A kitchen staff member is clipping herbs from one of the many herb pots on the kitchen porch as we walk down the path to town. It’s July 4th so shops and galleries are closed, but we make a note to revisit the Gift Shop, Fox i Printworks, and the Hopkins Wharf Gallery the next day.
It starts to rain so we head back to Nebo, take showers (oh hallelujah for the water pressure!), and get dressed for our dinner reservation. Downstairs, the bar is hopping and the tables are filled with happy diners. We grab cocktails at the bar (finely crafted by Ian) before being seated in a corner by the fireplace. The tables are dressed with mix-matched vintage linens that delightfully coordinate with the Angela Adams aprons the gracious wait staff are wearing. It begins to pour outside, but the dining room is cozy. The low lights flicker against the bouquets of wild flowers which, we overheard a waitress tell a neighboring table, are from Turner Farm. For good reason, chef Amanda Hallowell also sources a lot of her fresh ingredients from Turner. We order the steamed Pemaquid mussels to start, followed by Fried Fish Reuben Taco for me and Maine Crabmeat Cacio e Pepe for Teddy. The mussels are hands down the best I’ve ever had. We sheepishly ask for more of the fresh bread to soak up the remainder of the broth before they take the plate away. Our main dishes arrive and are equally memorable. The ingredients are distinctly fresh and my fish Reuben taco is a welcome update to the traditional dish. Too stuffed to enjoy desert we make our way back to our room, crawl into bed, and fall asleep to the soothing sound of rain hitting the window panes and the low buzz of laughter in the restaurant below.
In the morning, the rain is still coming down hard. We make our way downstairs for the continental breakfast and find a spread of freshly baked blueberry muffins, strawberries, yogurt, and Rock City coffee in the same room we ate in the night before. In the morning light we notice more of the intricate details of how well this room is decorated. We take our time, enjoying our coffee and eating one too many muffins. Our waitress checks in with our stay and shares with us her own relationship to the island. A Philadelphia native, she has worked summers at Nebo Lodge in the past but this year marks her first living on the island year round. She juggles work at the preschool, Fox i Printworks, and working at Nebo. We’re excited to hear that she plans on staying on again this year. After breakfast we check out of our room, sad to close the door to Dogfish behind us. We check out with Liz and share our gratitude for the incredible stay and remarkable service. Despite the rain, we decide to throw on our raincoats and explore the island some more before the 3:45pm ferry back to the mainland. Liz informs us we can leave our bags in the pantry and to let her know if we need anything at all.
Surprisingly, there are quite a few people milling around town. Everyone waves, nods, or offers a hello. We heartily offer greetings in return. The Gift Shop is filled with shoppers and we see owner June Hopkins at the register helping customers, as she has done for the last 60 years. Half of the space is a gallery and is currently exhibiting work by a local artist whose use of color is inspiring. We head next door to check out the Hopkins Wharf Gallery, co-owned by June’s youngest son David (her older son is painter Eric, and a friend of Teddy’s parents). His partner David Wilson is in the gallery with their two small dogs. He shows us around the space while talking about island life. We come to learn that he is the artist who painted the magnificent mural on the walls of the dining room and reception area at Nebo. We’re bummed to find that Fox i Printworks is closed through the weekend. We peek through the windows and get excited about the designs.
It’s nearing 3:45pm so we grab our bags, say our final farewell to Nebo (for now), and make our way to Waterman’s Community Center to wait for the ferry. There’s coffee and sweets with an honor system for payment. Teddy remembers the first time he visited North Haven when he was younger. It was in the winter and Waterman’s had become the hub of social gathering for the community. People had been playing games, knitting, reading, catching up on the week’s goings-on over coffee. The sense of community was so palpable, he had immediately fallen in love with the island. I am feeling that same emotion now as I watch locals and summer residents pass by each other in the street, exchanging hugs and hellos.
On the ferry back to Rockland, we watch the island grow smaller behind us. We make a promise to each other that it will be a place we revisit every year. A place that will always remain special in our hearts – in no small way thanks to our stay at Nebo Lodge.