DAYTRIPPING MAINE : antiques
Everyone loves Maine in Summer…
But Fall is when the state truly shines if you ask many Mainers. The tourists have thinned out and the air is just starting to be cool and crisp. Fall is the perfect time to hit the road and explore the Flea Markets and Antique shops along the coast. There’s no shortage of options when it comes to antiquing in Maine, but since THE GILLS GROUP cottages are on Bailey Island, this day trip focuses on spots in the area.
6.00 am // WOOLWICH
The sun is barely up when I pull into the Monsweag Flea Market lot but the place is bustling. Trunks and vans and back seats are being unloaded onto endless rows of wooden tables. Everyone seems to have a large Dunkin Donuts coffee. It’s Saturday, so the market “officially” opens at 6.30, but there are already eager dealer types roaming the aisles.
Some tables are dusty piles of random “stuff” that resembles an emptied out junk drawer, while others are artfully arranged by color and texture. First thing I find is a huge box of vintage Nancy Drew hardcovers for 20 dollars – SCORE! (If you’ve visited THE RED HOUSE you’ve seen them lining the secret revolving door to the upstairs bathroom).
A family run spot, Monsweag has been open since 1977 and has everything you could want from a flea market. What first seems like a massive sprawl of unorganized chaos, turns out to be a well-run line up of individually curated vendors – each with its own colorful character perched behind it – ready to sell.
Monsweag is open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays starting at 6.30 – but Wednesday mornings is when the place is truly hopping. Wednesdays are “antiques only” and they open at 5.00am. You can expect to find the place crawling with dealers until it “slows down” around 9 am – but you don’t have to be there at sunrise to find something great I promise.
9.00 am // WISCASSET
Head into Wiscasset, dubbed “Prettiest Village in Maine” – but also known as “Worst Traffic in Summer”. In Fall there aren’t cars lined up across the bridge waiting to drive through town. There aren’t huge lines of tourists at Red’s Eats – waiting for Lobster Rolls. There are lots of charming shops that line both the main and side streets. Most of them don’t open until ten (or later) so head to Treats for coffee and pastries. Everything here is baked fresh on site and undeniably delicious. They also sell a great selection of wines, cheeses, and pantry goods.
There’s no shortage of shops and galleries lining Wiscasset’s pretty Main street (aka Route 1) and your best bet is to just wander through town. Trifles (pictured above left) doesn’t have set hours, so either find them by chance or make sure you call ahead to let them know you’re coming. Helen and Matthew Robinson sell an eclectic mix of architectural antiques and one of a kind pieces you won’t find anywhere else – each one with its own fascinating story. They have two shops – one inside the old bank at 55 Main Street and one around the corner, overlooking the Sheepscot River at 55 Water.
Don’t miss Marston House Antiques Wiscasset, (pictured below). Paul and Sharon have moved out to Vinalhaven to open Marston House there, but the Wiscasset location is housed in a lovely historic building and stocked with a mix of vintage textiles and American and French furniture pieces. They sell a range of rustic home and garden items, including a great selection of beautiful linen workwear from the south of France.
James Beougher Antiques (pictured below) at 52 Water Street is one of my favorites. He sells a great mix of folk and fine antiques. There’s always something curious here, and every piece has a story of its own.
Rock Paper Scissors isn’t antiques, but they stock a highly curated selection of gifts and stationery, as well as locally handcrafted jewelry. They have one of the best selections of pens and notebooks that this Virgo has ever seen.
Wiscasset Cottage is at 29 Middle Street and has a great offering of nautical and garden pieces. When I was last in they had an amazing selection of antique chests and boxes.
When you’re ready to move on, hop in the car and head south toward Brunswick.
Wiscasset Village Antiques is just outside of town on the left and warrants a quick (or maybe not so quick) stop to check out their 16,000 square feet with over 100 vendors. They have everything from jewelry and books to folk art pieces and furniture spread over three floors.
11.30 am // BRUNSWICK
Cabot Mill Antiques (pictured above) and the Waterfront Flea Market are both housed in the beautifully restored Fort Andross – named after the original fort that was built on the site in 1688. The building once housed Cabot Mill, the first textile mill in Maine.
The Waterfront Flea Market is open Saturdays and Sundays only and this place is heaven if you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and dig deep. In recent years, its become a bit less “rough” around the edges, but people are there to sell, and up for making deals. Don’t be surprised to find many of the booths empty – a sign posted that says SEE JED. Do make sure you track him down. His corner booth (and annex room) are the foundation of this place, and he is fascinating to talk to.
Cabot Mill Antiques is open 7 days a week and hands down my favorite go-to spot for finding one of a kind treasures. They house 160 vendors – with goods ranging from fine antique clocks to collectible pottery and rustic furniture pieces. There’s always something great here and I usually have a hard time leaving empty handed. If you’ve ever visited one of THE GILLS GROUP cottages, you’ve seen something (or several somethings) I’ve found at Cabot Mill.
If you’re not exhausted by this point wander down Brunswick’s beautiful Maine Street. Walking into Frosty’s Donuts is like stepping back in time. They usually sell out by mid-morning, but you may get lucky so it’s worth a quick stop (a favorite is their blueberry cake donut with maple frosting). Gelato Fiasco is just down the street and has incredible Italian style gelato. Timeless Cottage sells mostly new goods on the main floor – but their basement is packed with a jumble of vintage furniture and assorted odds and ends. Nest and Hatch sell gift-y home goods and accessories. Morning Glory Natural Foods is a great place to stock up on local produce and freshly baked bread. They also sell Maine made cheeses and meats and stock a selection of local beers and wine.
At the other end of Maine Street is Gulf of Maine Books, a great independent bookshop opened by poet Gary Lawless and Beth Leonard in 1979. You’re sure to find something interesting in here – from books about the area to work by local authors, Gulf of Maine reminds you what a bookstore should feel like. With friendly staff who always have interesting recommendations. Next door is Wyler’s, who carry a quirky selection of gifts, cards, jewelry, and clothing.
If you’re not exhausted by now, you could head up to the beautiful Bowdoin College campus and check out the (free) Bowdoin College Museum of Art. They have world-class exhibits featuring works by both international and local artists. Next door in Harry Potter-esque Hubbard Hall is The Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum (pictured below). It’s also free and has a fascinating collection of historic pieces from Bowdoin graduate Robert Peary’s Arctic explorations. If you’ve been lucky enough to explore Admiral Peary’s summer home on Eagle Island the museum is a must.
At this point, your legs are probably sore and your trunk is most likely full. If there’s a place you love that I missed or if you have any recommendations – I’d love to hear about them!
Happy treasure hunting!