A Weekend in Newcastle + Damariscotta

Over Memorial Day weekend, we returned to the Oxbow Farmhouse in Newcastle with good friends and their children. The rustic home, which is located on the expansive grounds of Oxbow Brewing Company, sleeps nine and provides plenty of space for additional sleeping bags.

We arrived in the late afternoon with armloads of luggage and groceries (each family was responsible for a meal). Our kids were drawn to the collection of Disney films, but once the grownups selected rooms and unpacked, we encouraged the kids to leave the TV behind and explore outside.

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The exploration paid off quickly. To their delight, the kids discovered a bean bag toss, a friendly barn cat, and a tree house near a small pond that was filled with frogs. The friendly staff at Oxbow also mentioned that three piglets live on the property, so a group of us walked to find them huddled together in a pen. The piglets were shy but our young troupe, who range in age from 3-10, had fun offering the babies bits of hay and calling, “Here, piggie, piggie!” in hopes of some attention.

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Back at the house, while our friend M prepared dinner, some of us decided to visit the tasting room to purchase growlers to go with our meal. While tasting a variety of blonde ales and saisons, we met a bartender and local father who recommended taking our kids to the Fish Ladder Festival in neighboring Damariscotta Mills. Now in its 5th year, the festival celebrates the return of the alewives — schools of fish that travel up a man-made ladder of waterfalls until they reach the top.  We were all curious to experience the migration for ourselves, and decided to check out the festival the next day.

The Fish Ladder Festival was more fun than we could have imagined. We parked at the top of the fieldstone ladder, which meanders through the backyard of a private home. All of us were surprised to find dozens of alewives in small pools of water. The fish would gather together, wait a few minutes and then quickly swim up a small waterfall to the next pool.

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While making our way to the base of the ladder, we came across a fun game for the kids, where each child balanced a wooden Osprey on a string, sent it sailing down a line and into a bucket to catch a fish. This simple activity had all of our children hooked (no pun intended)!

After a rousing game of Osprey fishing, the kids took a break at a nearby lemonade stand before walking to the next section of the fish ladder.

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A surprise was waiting for us at the lower portion of the ladder. Hundreds of seagulls were flying above the river in hopes of grabbing a fish. “I’m not sure how long I can watch this,” CP#2 said, his eyes wide. MP agreed. We decided to leave the feeding frenzy behind and check out a touch tank filled with star fish and other sea creatures nearby.

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The rest of our afternoon was spent enjoying the beautiful day. The food tent was filled with all kinds of good things — local oysters, lobster rolls, grilled hamburgers and hot dogs. There were also some fish-themed crafts and souvenirs to choose from, too.

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After lunch, all of us watched a family band play bluegrass music on the lawn of Alewives Fabrics while our kids danced, played tag and showed off their gymnastics moves. We couldn’t have asked for a better afternoon. No screens, no distractions — just fun.

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Later we learned there was face painting inside Alewives Fabrics. MP had fun looking around the beautiful shop while our crew took turns getting tiny fish painted on their cheeks.

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After the festival, we explored one of the Damariscotta River Association trails (more in a future post) and then treated ourselves to ice cream at Round Top. We couldn’t have asked for a better day together!

Learn more about the Fish Ladder Festival here.

PS: Our favorite Strawberry festival, plus MP and DPs first visit to the Oxbow Farmhouse.

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