Belfast

44°25.5’N , 69°0’W

Belfast

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Photo: Terry Boivin, courtesy of Front Street Shipyard

In the upper regions of Western Penobscot Bay, above Islesboro and Lincolnville on the route “up-bay” from Camden, a cruiser leaves behind the strong afternoon southwest gale winds and the open ocean swells. Take this calmer time to review those general misconceptions of what you were expecting when cruising in Maine waters. This ongoing learning curve is why the entire Arcadian coastline is such a novel, hard-won and rewarding cruising experience. It is now time to reap the benefits of all your crew’s trust and hard work. Belfast offers just about anything a visiting cruiser might need. Away from the crowds and traffic of other Maine summer communities in the Penobscot area, this very friendly and historic town offers provisioning, excellent marine services, a host of waterfront parks and excellent hiking trails, plus shopping and dining opportunities to fit the needs of every crew member.  

Approach & Cautions

Photo: R. J. Rubadeau

Belfast is a roadstead harbor open to the east and southeast winds at the mouth of the Passagassawaukeag River. An extensive field of mooring balls begins just inland of the block granite spire and red bell at Steel Ledge. The next mark, nun “6”, is often lost in the tethered boats. The channel is slightly to the starboard of a center harbor line. Proceeding towards the town’s facilities slowly reveals to port the red brick homes, waterfront family parks, community centers, and docks marching uphill from the harbor of this active and historic port city. The large span vehicle bridge of Route 1 frames the backdrop beyond the inner harbor and the river mouth. The town landing, harbormaster’s office and fuel dock occupy the sturdy floating dock facility and boat launch to port as the channel narrows. Past here the channel opens onto a wide basin, dredged along the docks of Front Street Shipyard to port, and sparsely marked, but offering the unwary captain sticky acres of shallow mud flats at low tide.

Belfast harbor

Belfast harbor chart

Click the chart to open Navionics

Not to be used for Navigation .


Docking, Anchorages, or Moorings

Belfast Harbormaster Kathy Given is an engaging and knowledgeable local advocate for the harbor and the needs of cruising sailors. Call the office 207-338-1142 or VHF 16/9 to arrange for one of the available town moorings or for transient dock space. The potent tug-of-war between strong river current and double-digit ocean tides is often most notable at the town’s gas dock manned by the harbormaster team. Call ahead for a line handler, go slow, and be prepared. The current average is reported to be 3 knots.

On a dead calm night it is often advisable to shorten up on your mooring pennant or the mischief of river current and tidal bore may cause an early morning overlap in the often-crowded rental mooring fields.

Front Street Shipyard 207-930-3740, or VHF 9/16, also available on their extensive website. If you are looking for dockside tie-up there are top-quality options here. Be alert to the current and consider coming alongside bow-into-the-current as opposed to the usual bow-into-the-wind. Many of their transient rental/storage moorings are a long way out into the harbor.

Anchoring out beyond the moorings is in mud with good holding but the wakes from the channel traffic as your boat aligns to the tides and currents may cause you to roll a good bit.

A wonderful short video offered by the harbormaster on the amenities and offerings of Belfast is at: https://youtu.be/-AZ2CzobOQo. The video was created 10 years ago, but it’s still very helpful. Sorry to say the Colonial Theatre, opened in 1912, has closed its doors. Want to buy a movie theater?

VHF

Harbormaster 9/16 Front Street 9/16

FUEL

Town dock

WATER

Town Dock Belfast Marina Front Street

ELECTRICITY

Town Dock 30 and 50 Belfast Marina 30 and 50 Front Street 30, 50, 100 and 100 amp 3 phase

SHOWERS

Town Dock Belfast Marina Front Street

LAUNDRY

Town Dock (Laundromat nearby) Front Street

WIFI

Town Dock Belfast Marina Front Street For a great connection, go to the Belfast Free Library, 106 High St.

PUMP OUT

Town and Front St.

SERVICES

Front Street can provide most

TRASH

Town Landing Belfast Marina Front Street

MEDICAL

Waldo County General Hospital, 118 Northport Ave.

MORE BOAT AMENITIES

Belfast City Landing (207-338-1142, 25 Front Street) at the town landing, takes reservations for both transient slips and mooring rentals. You can call ahead to the Harbormaster Office or email harbormaster@cityofbelfast.org.

Front Street Shipyard (207-930-3740, 101 Front Street) is Maine’s largest boatyard and service facility. It features a huge 485-ton travel lift with a 38’ beam as well as a 165-ton travel lift with a 31’ beam. They have a great reputation of paying close attention to the customer’s needs whether your boat is 30’ or 300’ long and can refit, repair or rebuild almost anything. If you are in the market for building something brand new, they are pretty good at that as well.

Belfast Marina (207-323-9040, 15 Front Street) has 52 slips for drafts up to 8′.

Getting Ashore

Photo: Centpacrr at Wikipedia

Belfast dinghy tie-up sign
The sign is clear–tie up here. Photo by Bob Rubadeau.

A “transient only” dinghy docking space is available on the harbormaster’s dock at the entrance to the municipal launching ramp. Please bring your bagged trash to the harbormaster’s office for disposal.

produce at farmers market

Photo: Courtesy of United Farmers Market of Maine

Provisioning

The Belfast Co-Op is three blocks uphill from the harbor park at 123 High St. and offers produce, wine, groceries and counter service entrees and sandwiches with picnic tables outside. The United Farmers Market of Maine is held Saturday morning from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm in its own building at 18 Spring St. near the docks and is a local’s favorite, offering everything from produce to pottery, handmade soap, alpaca products, and jewelry. along the short five block stroll to Belfast’s fabulous library. A Hannaford Supermarket, 93 Lincolnville Ave, is about a mile walk along a paved sidewalk for all the rest of your grocery and shopping needs. Ocean State Job Lot is next door to Hannaford, and has many food items as well as just about anything else you can imagine.

lobster dishes at restaurant

Photo: Courtesy of Nautilus Seafood & Grill

Dine Out

Dinner and lunch options are plentiful along the town’s main streets Check out Daily Soup. Take it to go or sit outside on a nice day. The menu is short but you’ll still have trouble choosing which offering to enjoy. The soup is delicious and the staff is super friendly.

Across from the Harbormaster Office is a convenient spot to have lunch or dinner. The Nautilus Seafood & Grill is as Maine as anything could be, where everyone in your party will likely find something on the menu to enjoy. There is outdoor, waterside seating and a jovial dining room and bar inside. Try the lobster.

Just a short walk along the path to the shipyard, you’ll find Marshall Wharf Brewing Company. Check out their website to find out if there is live music playing under their canopy outdoors as they welcome an array of great local musicians. Enjoy the summertime view waterside or cozy up to one of their several patio heaters–including one that is wood burning–to stay warm in the winter months. Their beer list is lengthy with a brew for every kind of palette. There is a short food menu for those who come hungry.

Just behind Marshall Wharf, follow your nose to Jamaican Grille. This walk-up window leads to a wonderful menu of jerk chicken, pork ribs, steak tips and delicious sides and sauces. While the climates of Jamaica and Belfast are an unlikely marriage, the food and this friendly town are a delicious pairing. A must try.

For a laid back coffee right in the center of town at 39 Main St., head to Downshift Coffee. Perfect for sailors who like to bike when they’re not on their boats, this shop has bikes lining the back of the store. This small coffee shop offers delicious coffees and lattes and a small selection of delicious pastries. On a warm day, take your coffee out front to their comfy bright red Adirondack chairs and chat up locals and visitors alike. A great place to sit back and relax without a rush.

If you’re looking for a quick breakfast or lunch, perhaps to take back to the boat, head to Bay Wrap at 20 Beaver Street. Simple and unassuming, the owner couldn’t be nicer and the wraps are a generous size.

For a more substantial breakfast close to town, Crumbs Provisions cannot be missed. Just steps from the water at 2 Spring St. (and a lovely walk from the shipyard), the smells of fresh baked deliciousness will hit you in the face as you enter the door. A favorite with locals, you will have a hard time choosing from the abundance of from-scratch sweet and savory offerings lining the counter in tall glass dishes. The menu also offers full breakfast and hot coffee. There are a few tables outside on a nice day.

Near the center of town at 2 Cross St., look out for Must Be Nice Lobster, which offers a lovely little gift shop (with a lobster tank, of course!) offering local wares just steps from a food truck that offers lobster rolls and other simple yet savory lunch items worth a try. Be sure to ask for owner Sadie Samuels, captain of F/V Must Be Nice. Don’t let her sweet personality fool you, this is one tenacious lobster woman. Ask her about her story–you’ll enjoy hearing it as much as you enjoy eating the lunch that comes right off her boat. Talk about fresh!

Down the hill of High Street toward the water, just beyond the big red chair on your left, you’ll come upon Chocolate Drop Candy Shoppe at 35 Main Street. You’ll have nostalgia walking inside and find candies and sweets that you likely haven’t seen in a long time. They carry some hard-to-find favorites alongside modern day favorites like a wall of Jelly Belly jelly beans. If ice cream is more to your liking, you’ll find that here, too.

If You Have a Car

About 6 minutes from the shipyard and across the bridge, you’ll find Rio’s, a restaurant open for dinner, just over the border at 357 West Main St., Searsport. Don’t let the humble exterior fool you, you are in for an unexpected culinary journey. The menu is inventive and full of flavor. Try several dishes to share among friends and don’t forget to try something from their creative cocktail list.

For an indulgent treat head to The Only Doughnut at 225 Northport Ave., south of town. Their Maine potato doughnuts are heavenly, and you’ll have trouble limiting yourself to just one…or two…You know what? It’s just over 2 miles from the harbor–you could get several and walk them off.

Pedestrian bridge across the river in Belfast.

Photo: Armistice Bridge by George Lezenby – Flickr

Hikes

The Rail Trail stretches almost three miles along the waterfront and meanders alongside the river following the abandoned train bed. It is a wide, well maintained, and scenic trail.

view of Belfast Harbor from pedestrian bridge
View of Belfast Harbor from the Armistice pedestrian bridge.
Photo by Amy Doucette

The Harbor Walk leads to the Belfast Armistice Bridge, just beyond the Front Street Shipyard, offering a lovely view across upper Penobscot Bay from the head of the harbor.

A small fish-cabin style book exchange and local’s boater information booth is located on the Parkside walk just behind the town pier/Harbormaster.

If You Have a Car

Moose Point State Park is just a 7-minute drive from Belfast and offers extensive walking trails with lovely panoramic water views along the way. There is a serene rock beach to enjoy and there is a playground as well, if you have kids in tow.

For a bit more of a challenging hike head to nearby Haystack Mountain, about a half hour away in Liberty, in the area of lovely Lake St. George. This moderate hike has a couple of steep spots at the top but it is still doable for elementary age children. Make sure to pay attention to the blazes on the trees to avoid going off trail (particularly in the fall when the leaves cover the path). The climb’s pay-off is worth it – a serene, panoramic view that will stop you in your tracks. After descending, reward yourself by heading just down the road to the locally owned Lake St. George Brewing Company. Enjoy a cold one by their huge fire-pit. The wonderful owners will treat you like family and you will leave feeling like a local.

Photo: R. J. Rubadeau

Other Things To Do

Music is in the air on many street corners with a large colony of entertaining street musicians.

The active local Chamber of Commerce (Scott Smith, operations manager) has an information kiosk near the harbor and their phone is 207-338-5900.

The Belfast Free Library at 106 High Street, has great WiFi, lots of good programming, and comfortable places to read or use your laptop.

Belfast has a very active rowing club. Their vintage rowing sculls are a fixture in the harbor and have been so since 1842. A handful of “Pilot Gigs” designed for six rowers and a coxswain ply the harbor waters daily preparing for the summer’s team rowing competitions. Their presence each afternoon at cocktail time is best enjoyed from your own cockpit perch. The entire scene is a touchstone of nautical history on the move.

As for stores, there are several to peruse in Belfast. For any parents or grandparents, Belfast has a wonderful mom and pop toy store that has something for all of the littles in your life. Out on a Whimsey is right on the corner of Main St and High St, in the center of town.

For any creative types, Belfast has both a fully stocked fabric and craft store–Fiddlehead Artisan Supply–at 64 Main St. and a lovely yarn store–Heavenly Yarns–at 133 High Street. Artists will feel quite welcome in Belfast, from the shops that offer jewelry, clothing and housewares, to the street art and creative vibe in the town.

If you want a different kind of boating adventure, look at the offerings of The Back & Forth and The Out & About, a couple of wooden lobster boats offering a variety of day and sunset tours, including a pirate treasure hunt.

big red chair with two kids
The Big Red Chair with two happy kids.
Photo courtesy of Britt Godshalk

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