Remember when the state quarters were all the rage? If you ever looked at Maine's, you saw a lighthouse—and that makes sense. Maine has ample coastline and plays an integral role in the fishing industry. The lighthouse on that quarter? The very one that sits at Pemaquid Point, ME, which almost makes it worth a visit all on its own. But, there are so many more reasons.
The Pemaquid lighthouse itself is historic for a number of reasons. The town where it’s located, Bristol (formerly known as Pemaquid) is historic too, dating back to before the United States was in existence. Between archaeological sites, a quaint fishing village, and one of the most iconic lighthouses on the east coast, visiting Bristol and Pemaquid Point, Maine on your RV vacation is an obvious choice.
Right at the top of the list is the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse. It sits right at the point of Pemaquid Neck and is loaded with history. It was commissioned byJohn Quincy Adams—the sixth president of the United States—and its current iteration was built in 1835. Its original lens was lit with candles and was visible for all of two miles.
Today, you can climb to the top of the lighthouse for a fee of $3.00. It’s a 46-foot climb up, but you’ll have a scenic view of Johns Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. You can step down below the lighthouse as well for a look at the unique geological formations that date back hundreds of millions of years. This lighthouse is one of the most-photographed spots in Maine, so you’ll want to be sure to bring your camera along with you.
Also called the Colonial PemaquidState Historical Site, this archaeological site dates back to the 17th century. Originally home to English and French settlers, the area has a long history and was passed between royal families before the revolution. It was one of New England’s earliest colonies, and archaeologists have learned much from it.
In the park you’ll find foundations of buildings from the time, plus a small museum featuring some of the archaeological finds from the site like musket balls and pottery. You’ll also find a reconstruction of Fort William Henry; the original fort was built in 1692 but destroyed soon thereafter. The current was built in 1908—still more than100 years old.
Fishing has played a pivotal role along Maine’scoastal towns and that holds true in bristol. The Fisherman’s Museum, which is housed in the Light Keeper’s House by Pemaquid Point Light, collects and maintains artifacts related to fishing in the Bristol area. Inside you’ll find dioramas and models, handwritten captain’s logs, and articles about ships that wrecked in the area.
The exhibits are broken up into rooms that are themed. The Navigation Room focuses on items that have helped fishermen navigate the seas, like a lighthouse lens, navigation charts, and lighted buoys. There’s also a Fish House Room, a Net Room, and a Gallery room with art and postcards from the area over the years.
The only place in Bristol where you may have trouble finding parking is on an exceptionally nice day at Pemaquid Beach. Locals and visitors alike flock to the area to swim in Pemaquid Harbor. The shore here is smooth and sandy while surrounded by rocky outcroppings that are more common along Maine’s coast.
The waters here are clean and clear, hence why they’re so popular. There’s a beach shop where you can rent chairs, umbrellas, and boogie boards. There’s a snack shack for when the hunger strikes. And there’s a fully functioning bathroom with large, clean changing rooms, plus showers to wash off all of that pristine sand.
The Coastal Rivers Conservation Trust manages much of the land throughout the Pemaquid and Bristol area. It’s what allows visitors to enjoy the natural areas and islands throughout the region. Part of that includes managing a trail system that’s made up of more than 48 miles worth of unique trails.
These trails are found on numerous nature preserves, farms, and coves. Though some areas are swampy, there are boardwalks through the area that help maintain good, safe hiking trails. You’ll see ponds, marshes, wetlands, wooded uplands, vernal pools, and even more interesting habitats.
Lake Pemaquid is a seven-mile stretch of lake that comes with a bevy of recreational opportunities. That makes staying at Lake Pemaquid Campground the perfect place for a fun, family vacation. The beach is sandy and offers a place for swimming, boating, and fishing (and a marina to rent a boat). A swimming pool, jacuzzi, and a sauna all help you relax. There are ball fields and courts, horseshoe pits, and even a BMX and skateboard park. Hungry? Slide up the snack bar. And let’s not forget the regular live entertainment.
Shore Hills Campground & RV Park boasts “no rig too big (or too small),” so it’s friendly for all comers. There are full utility hookups available, letting you take advantage of everything your RV has to offer. You can take your pick of wooded, open, or waterfront sites. There are hot showers available and a laundry facility. Plus, every site has a picnic table and fire ring, so you can camp to the fullest.
Unlike from the Sherwood Forest of Robin Hood, there won’t be any robbing here, from the rich, poor, or otherwise here. Rather, Sherwood Forest Campground is a nice place to retreat and enjoy some peace and solitude. Pemaquid Beach is, as advertised, “only 800 feet away,” and that’s perfect for enjoying some outdoor recreation. There’s wood and ice both on site, and RV sites have electric and water hookups, with a dump site located in the grounds. There’s also Wi-Fi, so you don’t have to unplug completely—unless of course you want to.
Smack dab in the middle of Pemaquid Point sits, aptly enough, Pemaquid Point Campground. Tucked in the thick of a pine forest, Pemaquid Point Campground is the perfect family spot for your RV adventure. A playground keeps the kids busy, and there’s a hot shower facility to wash away the day’s activities. The campground store can also make sure you’re well-stocked on all of your RVing needs.
How about a camping experience unlike most others? Well then, why not stay on the grounds of Boothbay Craft Brewery? There are only eight total spots available–with full utility hookups available, but when you’re walking distance from the brewery and tavern, what’s not to love? Fewer spots also means this can be a quieter, more comfortable camping spot. Plus,a bocce ball court meansyou can enjoy a little bit of activity during your stay as well.
Seafood is bountiful throughout Bristol and near Pemaquid Point. In fact, you’ll find dozens of places that serve up a variety of it in a lot of different ways. If you’re looking for the standard fare, keep an eye out for lobster rolls—which is the meat of a lobster mixed with mayo and other spices, then served on a top-split bun (though served “Connecticut style,” it comes hot, with butter). You may find lobster included in a lot of otherwise traditional dishes, like lobster benedict or lobster mac and cheese. You can also go all in on the full, traditional lobster, which usually includes a few sides like corn and potatoes. P.S. don’t forget a bib.
Because so much of the area around Bristol and Pemaquid Point is similar—that is, coastal—much of the food you’ll find in the area will be similar, but that doesn’t mean it’s the same. Scallops and clams (also in soup form as clam chowder) will be available at many restaurants. Haddock is a popular catch from the Atlantic Ocean as well. Keep an eye out for a “lobster pound,” which is usually a small place set up on the water, where they’re bringing in fresh lobster to be cooked right inside. Bristol is a very classic fishing town, as are most of the other small villages along the coast of Maine. You’re going to find astoundingly fresh seafood in these places. Even if you don’t have much taste for seafood, you should opt to give the options you find in this are a try. Maybe you’ve just haven’t had it fresh enough.