Stunning views of coastal Maine (including the fort at Colonial Pemaquid) viewed from the wonderfully buoyant seat of a sea kayak? Check. Paddling in the midst of curious seals, overhead terns, and chugging lobster boats on the cool waters off Pemaquid Point? Check. Check. Check.
Sea Kayak tour with Maine Kayak:
There’s a lot to love about a kayak tour with Maine Kayak. Based in New Harbor on the Pemaquid Point peninsula, the outfitter offers half-day and full-day kayak tours, two-hour wildlife and sunset tours, multi-day island camping trips, and inn-to-inn tours. They also rent kayaks and SUPs for folks who’d prefer to venture out on their own.
Of the many perks to a guided tour: having a wise wildlife spotter point out all the seabirds and seals you’d otherwise miss and also learn you a bunch of interesting area history. Maine Kayak owner Alvah Maloney is great at both.
On a recent spring weekend, the Fit Maine Social Club had the pleasure of a 2-hour tour off Pemaquid Point, heading into John’s Bay and around John’s Island. The water was remarkably calm that day, and while that kind of lake-like stillness isn’t guaranteed, there’s a host of possible paddles here – keeping to sheltered waters or jetting out to more exposed seas – depending on the conditions and your paddling experience.
Our tour started at the shop on Huddle Road, where we got geared up: wetsuits, booties, pfds. Wetsuits are essential when sea kayaking in Maine in the spring, when ocean temps are still frigid. Maine Kayak has wetsuits/spray shirts to borrow if you don’t have your own. Then we hopped in the van for the really really really short drive up the road into Colonial Pemaquid.
This summer, Maine Kayak will be renting kayaks and SUPs and leading tours from this beach, so you’ll be able to skip the stop at the shop and head right to the water. The beach is inside Colonial Pemaquid, so you can pair your paddle with some time exploring the grounds and fort (which we did – more on that below).
At the beach, Alvah went over some paddling basics, like how to hold the paddle, proper stroke form (use that torso!), and what to do if your kayak capsizes (lean forward and push yourself out of your boat). Then it was time to get into our kayaks and get on the water.
We had a handful of never-ever-sea-kayaked-before paddlers in our group, so we spent some time tooling around and getting acquainted with our kayaks (and those of us in tandems had time to figure out how to paddle with our partners). Then, we headed out toward John’s Bay.
We paddled past the fort at Colonial Pemaquid, where folks waved at us from the top. And as we scooted along the coast, terns flew overhead, black-backed gulls stood guard on nearby pilings, and Osprey returned to their tree-top nests. And as we paddled, Alvah spotted a couple of harbor seals checking us out. And then a couple more. And another. So we opted to float for a bit and let the seals swim around, periodically poking their faces out of the water to stare. We stared back. With glee.
We also learned a little bit about the history of the area – how it was the homeland of native peoples for thousands of years. How the English established an outpost in the 17th century. How the area was a seasonal fishing station and trading center as early as 1610, and the first of three forts was built there in 1677 after an attack by native peoples as part of King Philip’s War. (Read more of the history Pemaquid.)
And we gawked at some big houses. Those are newer.
The guides were all extremely friendly – and Jeff, who got his B.A. in marine biology, is a wealth of sealife knowledge. He challenged us to stump him with our questions – which reminds me, I forgot to stump him. Maybe you can google some good questions to ask before you go on a paddle with Maine Kayak.
Eventually, it was time to make our return. We paddled back to the sound of happy conversation and saltwater slapping the sides of our kayaks. It was excellent.
After our paddle, a few of us took a tour of Colonial Pemaquid with park manager Neill De Paoli. He knows a ton about the history of this property – and he’ll tell you all of it, as we learned on our two-hour tour. (We weren’t expecting it to be two hours, but suddenly two hours had gone by.) He even let us carry a musket and ax as we wandered from one location to the next. The museum has tons of artifacts dating from prehistoric times through the colonial period, and there’s a graveyard and small family home that is similar to what the English constructed. By far the neatest part was the rebuilt western tower of Fort William Henry, the second of three forts built and destroyed here.
Admission to Colonial Pemaquid is $3 for Maine residents (seniors and children under 5 free. Children 5-11 years old $1).
Sea Kayaking with Maine Kayak
113 Huddle Road, New Harbor. Directions.
Half-day ($69) and full-day kayak tours ($129), 2-hour wildlife and sunset tours ($49), multi-day island camping trips and inn-to-inn tours ($349-$1199). Whitewater kayaking. Kayak + SUP rentals. See their tours and prices.
FMI: mainekayak.com and on Facebook
Colonial Pemaquid Drive, New Harbor
Admission: $3 for Maine residents (seniors and children under 5 free. Children 5-11 years old $1).