Traveling with Orvis is not always the easiest, and often, you can be hard-pressed to find "dog friendly" places for any pup that breaks the 30 pound barrier. This however, is a collection of some of Orvis' favorite places (where you won't find any size-ism), and some of the things to do that we consider to be truly dog friendly.
When Meredith and I first started dating, her family had been visiting Bald Head Island for a number of years. From the stories they’d tell and the excitement they’d share, it was clear that the island held a special place in their hearts, and fortunately for me, it wasn’t long before I was able to join in on the tradition.
Not unlike many other islands on the coast of North Carolina, Bald Head’s coast is lined with wide, white sandy beaches, bordered by grassy dunes, while its mainland-facing side consists of a marshy estuary, riddled with a maze of wildlife-filled creeks and streams. However, wholly unlike the other islands on the coast of North Carolina, it’s the span between the dunes and marsh that make Bald Head Island such a special and unique place to the people that are lucky enough to visit it. The island is almost entirely free of cars, and has been since its earliest days. Accessible only by passenger ferry or personal watercraft, the main modes of transportation on the island are golf carts, bicycles, or your own two feet, and because of this, Bald Head maintains a largely unspoiled natural beauty that’s becoming harder and harder to find on the shores of North Carolina. The island is not without its developments and luxuries – there’s a quaint harbor with a handful of restaurants, a year-round market with a string of small shops, and even two country clubs on either end – but it’s the controlled pace and planning of these developments that have allowed Bald Head to grow beautifully with time, without overreaching on what the island can handle.
Similar to other visitors, Meredith and my early days on the island were spent riding our beach bikes along the roads, visiting Old Baldy (the oldest lighthouse still standing in North Carolina), walking around the harbor, and losing all track of time on the beaches. While it’s hard to imagine a better way to spend one’s days, we were sadly missing a pretty integral part of our relationship – the 90lb. black ball of fur we call Orvis. Although the island is incredibly dog-friendly (open access on the beaches, trails across the inland, dog bag stations and trash cans on seemingly every corner) the place we stayed was sadly not, so we boarded Orvis on our trips, and guiltily enjoyed the island without him. We did add a getaway to Bald Head with Orvis to our “30 by 30″ list, but after moving to Maine, our trips to the island dwindled as it became difficult to line up our schedules and balance visits with friends and family, and before we noticed it’d been five years without a trip.
Then this winter came. The freezing temperatures and feet of snow took their toll on the two of us, and in Meredith’s search for warmer weather, we realized that an off-season visit to Bald Head might be the perfect way to introduce Orvis to the island and trade Maine’s white powder for North Carolina’s white sand. It took little time to find a perfect-sized, dog-friendly place on the marsh, and in the blink of an eye, we were headed down the highway with puppy in-tow. That first ferry ride back to the island in so many years felt surreal – I don’t think I had realized how much I had maybe written off our time on Bald Head as a thing of the past – but once we arrived, everything seemed just as unspoiled and untouched as it always had been. “Quiet” is an understatement. In the first two days on the island, there was hardly another person to be seen. It was a little chilly for North Carolina, but even after it warmed up considerably (we even went for a shoeless walk in the sand), the beaches and roads remained empty, and we felt as though we had the entire island to ourselves. Orvis loved, loved, loved Bald Head. Laughing at him running and exploring off-leash made me upset that this hadn’t been a yearly winter tradition, but with any luck, it will be going forward.
It took Meredith and I moments to fall into our old island routines – running, walking, exploring, and relaxing – and although they were some of the happiest days I can remember, in the blink of an eye, our trip was over and we were boarding the ferry for the mainland. In our earlier visits to the island, Meredith’s mom would, like clockwork, stand in line to board the departing ferry, watching the new arrivals disembark, and say loudly “it’s our saddest day, and their happiest” to many chuckles from other passengers, but on that day, I couldn’t agree more with that voice in my mind. Now I can hardly wait for the day to come again when the tables are turned and it’s Meredith, Orvis, and my happiest as we return to the island. Thank you, Bald Head.
Breaking up the long drive to and from North Carolina has become an essential part of this road trip we make a few times per year. We don’t always have the opportunity to plan such a fun stopover, but on our way back from Bald Head this weekend, we decided to revisit one of our top Southern towns – Charlottesville, Virginia.
We arrived at Clifton Inn – one of our very favorite dog-friendly inns on the East Coast – with an hour or so of daylight left, so we immediately took Orvis for a walk along the gorgeous, snow-covered property and around the icy lake. Seeing him romp around after a day in the car makes extending the trip home so worth it. Of course, staying at a lovely inn and enjoying a nice, relaxing meal sweetens the deal even more.
After settling in at Clifton (in the same room from our last visit nearly two years ago) we headed into town for dinner at The Alley Light. Fortunately, we have the Oscars and a home basketball game at UVA to thank for allowing us to snag a last-minute reservation at this recently announced James Beard Semifinalist for Best New Restaurant. We enjoyed a couple of delicious drinks at the bar before our table was ready and then followed the helpful advice of our sweet waitress in ordering the carrots, butternut squash gratin, beef tenderloin, and seared scallops. Our meal was simply delicious… I think I might suggest to Michael that we break up every road trip with a James Beard nominated meal!
Before hitting the road the next morning, we took Orvis for another walk around the lake and had a cozy breakfast near the fire on the inn’s verandah. Our time in Charlottesville was all too short, but what a truly wonderful way it was to make the most out of a long journey on the road!
A couple of weeks ago, the snowstorms and negative temperatures were really getting me down. It didn’t help that Michael was in Hawaii for work (I know, rough, right?) and I was stuck shoveling our driveway every other day all by my lonesome. So I did what I do every winter and began looking toward warmer weather for somewhere that would give me a break from all of the shoveling. I wasn’t long into my search when I had an idea – we’d hop in the car once Michael returned from Hawaii, and finally take Orvis down to Bald Head Island. We had put this adventure on our ’30 by 30′ list when we first moved to Maine nearly seven years ago, but every year, we seemed to be pulled in a million different directions when we visited North Carolina for holidays or weddings, leaving us zero time or energy to tack on the miles and days for a trip to Bald Head.
I grew up visiting this truly extraordinary island off the coast of North Carolina with my family multiple times a year and when Michael came into the picture in college, our trips became even more memorable. The only downside of the timeshare my parents owned was that the home didn’t allow dogs, so Orvis was never able to accompany us on these weekends away. Taking him to a place that we both hold so dear was incredibly important to us, but I always secretly wondered if we’d just never get around to doing so.
It took us all of five minutes on the beach our first night on the island this past week to realize that we should have been doing this each year of the past seven! Watching him run the length of the empty beaches we used to visit when we were younger brought us an unbelievable amount of joy.
We’ll be sharing lots more about what makes Bald Head so unique and special to us, but we couldn’t resist leading with a few photos of what might be our most memorable experience from our 30 by 30 list so far… besides getting married, of course!
Our Christmas celebrations this year were just as we prefer – low key & delicious. We took the opportunity to enjoy some tasty meals and catch up with some of our favorite people, but the highlight of our week was celebrating Orvis’s 8th birthday the day after Christmas. We began the festivities with a family run that ended at the beach and then hopped in the car to head up to the birthday boy’s favorite spot – our family’s farm in Wiscasset. We spent the rest of the day walking the property with Orvis and playing fetch with him, before taking a stroll around town.
With each year that passes, we realize how absolutely amazing our time has been with Orvis, and become sadly more aware of the finite amount of time that remains. Taking a full day to celebrate him – doing the things he loves most – fills our hearts with happiness, and we have to admit that after watching him gallop around the farm, he seemed more like an 8-month old puppy than the adult dog he is.
With family holidays, weddings, and other work-related projects taking us down south, Michael and I make the drive down to North Carolina and back at least 2-3 times per year, leaving us very well-versed in the distance in between. We now know where the best rest stops are for dogs, which exits have a Panera close by, and which dog-friendly inns to visit along the way. Depending on the route we choose – the latter is typically either the Inn at Perry Cabin if we’re sticking to the coast, or Hotel Fauchere if our plans take us further west.
Lately, the westerly route always seems to win out for us. The driving is less stressful and much more scenic through the countryside of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. Plus, if we time it right, we can walk around Milford with Orvis before it gets too late, pop into Upriver Home, and enjoy a bite to eat at Bar Louis, all before partaking in our favorite breakfast the next morning.
Each time we stop in Milford as a family, we make new memories together, and this last time was no different. Here are a few new photos from our stay.
The first thing we heard from most of our friends and family after finding out about our upcoming wedding was either “where are you going to eat after the ceremony?” or “where are you going to honeymoon?”. I suppose that maintaining a travel and food site sets a certain expectation in this regard, so I think most people were surprised when we’d respond that we hadn’t really given the latter too much thought. Given some upcoming house projects, our work schedules, and the relatively short planning time, we knew we wanted to spend a few nights somewhere local shortly after the wedding, followed by a longer honeymoon at some point next year, but as to the actual location for our short getaway, the whole of New England was open to us.
From the moment we drove into Woodstock, Vermont, we knew that we’d made the right choice. If a beautiful and quaint New England town was our goal, we’d hit a bucolic jackpot. Shuttered capes, brick colonials, storefronts lining a main street, and public green spaces – all set against a rolling mountain backdrop. We couldn’t have asked for a better location and over the course of the next few days, we loved finding things to do, places to eat, and shops to explore in and around town.
Beyond all of the red carpet treatment for Orvis, the inn’s very first four-legged guest, Michael and I absolutely adored everything about our stay at the Woodstock Inn. Located right in the heart of Woodstock, the inn was just steps away from the beautiful trails and carriage paths of a national park, and the shops, galleries, and restaurants of Woodstock’s two main streets. Read more about our stay at the Woodstock Inn here.
We arrived just around dusk, and after the drive, wanted something low-key for dinner. The Worthy Kitchen was exactly what we were in search of. Fresh, local ingredients, and an outstanding beer list (we were in Vermont of course) made up the tasty menu for what seemed to be Woodstock’s go-to hangout.
Miles of hiking trails and carriage roads make up this beautiful national park, and fortunately for the three of us, the Faulkner Park access point was just a short walk from the front door of the inn. Using the wonderfully maintained Faulkner Trail switchbacks, we made our way to the top of Mt. Tom for outstanding views of Woodstock and the surrounding area, and followed that with a leisurely stroll to the Pogue, a picturesque pond in the middle of the park. It was here that Orvis met an extremely dog-friendly horse, and to the absolute delight of Meredith, they briefly bumped noses.
In search of some lighter lunch fare, Meredith had mentally bookmarked the Mon Vert Cafe for its unique sandwich menu. So after our morning hike, we dropped Orvis at the inn and headed down Central Street to grab a bite. As good looking as they were delicious, the sandwiches at this French-inspired cafe were the perfect midday meal.
The subtle glaze and stonework of Woodstock’s Farmhouse Pottery caught Meredith’s eye at some point in her travel research, and after seeing the distinctly fantastic pieces throughout the inn and a few other places, we knew that stopping by their store and workshop just outside of town was an absolute must. Not only were we drawn to their pottery, but the entire “modern farm aesthetic” of their brand, workshop, and store seemed to perfectly fit our own tastes. It was a pleasure to meet and speak with owners, James & Zoe (who coincidentally met at the Maine College of Art in Portland), along with potters Kate and Michael, who where more than happy to give us a tour of the workshop and show us the process from wheel to kiln. We could’ve easily stayed, explored the shop, and talked for hours, but thought better of overstaying our welcome, and departed with a beautiful Farmer’s Pitcher and wooden bowl for our new kitchen counters back at home.
Kate, one of the potters at Farmhouse, assured us that dining at Simon Pearce in nearby Quechee would make for a splendid post-wedding celebratory dinner, and after our delicious meal there, we couldn’t agree more. Set just past a covered bridge and overlooking the Ottauquechee River, the restaurant served a number of local, seasonal dishes, and afterwards we were able to tour the beautiful blown glass gallery. Rather serendipitously, Michael’s company sent us a Simon Pearce vase as a wedding present the week after we returned from Vermont!
Since this is far from our last trip to Woodstock, we cannot wait to try Osteria Pane e Salute on our next trip – we have it on good authority (James from Farmhouse) that it’s one of the best spots in town.
As always, we’d love to hear your own suggestions for the Woodstock, Vermont area if you have them!
We hit a Map & Menu milestone last week when we checked into the Woodstock Inn & Resort… our very own Orvis was the first – the very first – four-legged guest to ever stay at the inn! This of course, made us the happiest people in all of Vermont. He was treated with such fanfare every time we walked through the doors. The entire staff must have been briefed about this VIP guest, because everyone we met greeted him by name and called to him from afar. He was asked to pose by the fireplace for a photo, given treats, and received lots of love from other guests who somehow also knew that he was the first dog to stay at the inn. It was as though we were with a celebrity, and naturally, we loved every minute of it.
Beyond all of the red carpet treatment for Orvis, Michael and I absolutely adored everything about our stay at the Woodstock Inn. Located right in the heart of one of the more charming towns we’ve ever visited, the inn is a focal point of Woodstock, and just steps away from the beautiful trails and carriage paths of a national park, and the shops, galleries, and restaurants of Woodstock’s two main streets. Waking up with a deliciously hearty breakfast from the inn and falling asleep on the wonderfully comfy bed became book-end highlights to a fantastic Vermont getaway.
The inn’s stunning LEED-designed spa should not be missed. Knowing I wouldn’t have enough time for an entire treatment before we had to checkout on our final day, I opted to purchase a day pass that gave me access to all of the luxurious spa facilities, including the steam room, sauna, and whirlpool. Checking out of a hotel has never been so depressing! Waiting until the final day of our trip to visit the spa was certainly a mistake on my part, but you can bet that the spa will be one of the first activities I enjoy the next time we’re back in Woodstock.
Staying at an inn as well-appointed as the Woodstock Inn & Resort is always a treat, but the fact that Orvis can join along in the fun makes the entire experience even more memorable. We’re already looking forward to our next family trip there!
Our mid-week getaway to North Haven couldn’t have been more enjoyable. We just missed the peak season, so we felt as though we had the quiet island all to ourselves. With an adorable village, a handful of trails, and more island to bike than one could possibly fit into a short trip, we had plenty to do on our own and with Orvis and Mason. Unlike many remote Maine island experiences (North Haven is an hour ferry ride from Rockland), the restaurants and the food on the island left little to be desired, and over the course of four days, Meredith, her mother, and I ate our fill, laughed a lot, and relaxed even more. Here are some of the highlights from our trip:
In their off-season, the restaurant at Nebo closes on Thursday nights, which gave us the perfect opportunity to enjoy a meal around the corner at Calderwood Hall, the local pizza shop and market. The weather turned out to be beautiful on that last night, so we decided to switch up the plans a bit, ordered our dinner to go, and returned to the inn for a picnic with the pups on the porch. Our fall pie, with butternut squash, sage, caramelized onions, and ricotta was simply amazing, and the pork tacos we started with were easily some of the best we’ve tried. As we polished off the last of our dinners on the island, we couldn’t help but reminisce about our meals on North Haven and note the fact that the food was a major selling point of our trip.
Hopkins Wharf Gallery
One of the more beautiful pieces of art at Nebo was the dining room wall mural, painted by David Wilson, one of the owners of the Hopkins Wharf Gallery just down the hill from the inn. We highly recommend stopping into the gallery to see their collection of locally-inspired, coastal Maine paintings, sculptures, jewelry, and furniture.
Upon our arrival, the innkeeper at Nebo, Liz, immediately pointed out this short hike to the highest point on the island, just outside of the village. We enjoyed the view and the fern-lined hike so much, that we ended up taking the dogs up Ames Knob three separate times during our stay on North Haven.
A gorgeous sister property to Nebo Lodge and Calderwood Hall, Turner Farm is an organic vegetable, flower, poultry, herb, and egg farm that overlooks the water from a beautiful hilltop barn. They also produce a variety of livestock and operate a dairy and creamery, and all together, supply a good portion of the food for Nebo and Calderwood. Sadly, we missed their seasonal barn dinners farm stand (next time, this will be a must), but just enjoyed adding the farm and the view to our bike ride.
Mullen Head Park
When our waitress at the inn found out that we were planning on borrowing a few bikes to explore the island, her eyes lit up and she insisted that we visit Mullen Head Park. Michael and I made the trek out to this beautiful, expansive park, and although it was incredibly windy on the particular day we chose, we took a moment to enjoy the views of nearby Deer Isle and one of the three beaches that make up the park. Our trip to Mullen Head was the one time we realized that we missed not having a car on the island, as the dogs would have had the entire park to themselves to run and play. Maybe next time!
FOX i Printworks
As our mid-week October visit coincided with what is considered to be a quieter time on the island, not all of the shops were keeping summer hours, but we were hoping that at some point we’d be able to pop into FOX i Printworks, a print shop located right downtown, after seeing a few of their stylish signs posted on the various island message boards scattered about. Fortune would have it that the doors were wide open on our last full day, so we took the opportunity to duck inside, eager to browse their colorful collection of cards, tea towels, pillows, t-shirts, and other gifts in person. A few of our favorite items were their waves tea towel, triangle-patterned pillow, and silkscreen printed leather key chain (which now holds onto the studio keys for me!).
We enjoyed two relaxed and delicious lunches (thick BLTs + tasty wraps) with the dogs right on the porch of Cooper’s Landing in the center of town. Even in October, Cooper’s was bustling – I can only imagine how busy it must be in the height of the summer.
There are no shortage of coastal Maine islands from which to choose for your next getaway. Close, remote, big, or small, there’s probably one to fit your needs, but until our most recent trip to Nebo Lodge on North Haven, we weren’t quite sure that we’d found that one to fit our own “quiet island, comfortable and stylish accommodations, delicious food, and dog-friendly” requirements.
The island of North Haven is 13 miles off the mainland, and an hour’s ferry ride from Rockland, making it one of the more remote islands we’ve visited in Maine. We’ve been wanting to visit Nebo Lodge ever since reading about it in Bon Appétit when it was listed as one of “The Best Food Lover’s Hotels in America,” and this month, we finally had the opportunity to plan a mid-week visit with Meredith’s mother and her dog, Mason.
Although the inn is plenty old (the building was the original inn on the island – a print in our room showed it in the later part of the 19th century), it’s styled in a clean, modern cottage aesthetic, with Angela Adams accents (a North Haven native, herself) and carefully selected art throughout to balance with its age. It sits just up the hill from ‘downtown’ North Haven (more about that in a future post!), and from the moment we walked through the door, we felt right at home. There are bicycles to borrow to explore the island, plenty of options for walking, and large front and back porches (and a second floor deck) to enjoy a morning coffee, a midday book, or an afternoon drink. Each room presents an opportunity to notice new details, and art like the full-wall mural in the dining room (painted by David Wilson) are impressive touches that make for a beautiful stay.
The food is something at the inn that just can’t be overlooked. We ate at the inn’s restaurant both nights it was open during our stay, and enjoyed wonderfully prepared meals across the board. With locally-sourced ingredients and a variety of different choices, we ate to our hearts’ content on the first evening, and then scaled way back the second – but both nights couldn’t be happier with the quality, flavor, and atmosphere of our meals. The food alone is a reason to visit the inn, but I don’t know how you could make the trip and not want to stay a while.
All in all, we’d highly recommend the Nebo Lodge for anyone looking for a Maine island vacation. For us, it was the perfect mix of comfort and style, peace and relaxation, and some very very tasty eats.
We’ve heard so many great things about Popham Beach over the years, but we’d never really made the time to visit this lovely stretch of sandy beach in Phippsburg. Crowded shores in the summertime really aren’t our thing, and it’s hard to pass up the smaller beaches within walking distance to our home, but last Sunday when we noticed how nice the fall weather was going to be, we decided that there would be no better way to spend an early fall evening than picnicking on a beach! We packed up our picnic basket with a few favorite items from Scratch, prepped Orvis for the adventure, and headed up the road to Popham Beach State Park.
The expansive beach was surprisingly empty when we first arrived and by the time the sun set and the park closed, we were essentially the only people in the park. From the time we stepped onto the beach, we were completely captivated by Popham’s naturally beautiful setting, stretching as far as we could see on either side. The sun was making its way down over the wooded hills to the west and because the tide was just right, we could see a handful of people walking around Fox Island (a mere 45 minutes later, the tide had shifted and the island was no longer accessible – thank goodness we didn’t choose the island for our picnic spot!). Orvis was mesmerized by the six or so galloping horses who came down to Popham to stretch their legs, and watching them run on the beach in the golden light of the setting sun only added to the dreamlike setting.
The sun continued to drop while we enjoyed a lovely dinner, stretched out on our favorite blanket, watching Orvis dig a gigantic hole in the sand to protect his pint-sized bone. We hadn’t anticipated such a memorable and beautiful evening when we set out earlier in the day, but we found it almost impossible to leave as the sun finally disappeared. Hopefully we can return to Popham often in the coming years.