Maine See And Do
Tel: 207 288 3338
In the 1800s, "rusticators" like Thomas Cole, Frederic Church, and other Hudson River School painters fled to Maine's Mount Desert Island, dotted with 26 mountains and surrounded by azure seas. In the early 1900s, a large parcel of the island became Acadia National Park. Today, the park is 47,000 acres, or two thirds of Mount Desert Island. One of the best ways to see Acadia is by kayak; you'll share the shoreline with puffins, whales, and peregrine falcons. Acadia Bike & Kayak rents kayaks and canoes (207-288-9605; www.acadiafun.com). From October to March, you can be the first person in the country to see the sun rise, with a before-dawn hike up 1,530-foot Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the U.S. Eastern seaboard. It's a 7.5-mile loop and a moderately challenging hike. (Also note that the popular Precipice Trail up Champlain Mountain is closed until further notice because of minor earthquake damage.) If you're looking for scarier stuff, you can scale Acadia's granite sea cliffs with an instructor from Acadia Mountain Guides (198 Main St.; 888-232-9559; www.acadiamountainguides.com). Fat-tire friends can hop on a mountain bike to explore the 45-mile web of carriage roads that roll through the park. Rent bikes at Bar Harbor Bicycle Shop in downtown Bar Harbor (141 Cottage St.; 207-288-3886; www.barharborbike.com).
Yes, Maine's known for its rocky coves, but there are enough beaches to keep even a Bain de Soleil addict happy on a warm summer day. Thirty minutes south of Portland, you'll find the most famous: Old Orchard Beach (not far from the Portland Harbor Hotel and the Pomegranate Inn), which is seven miles long and filled with old-fashioned amusement rides and food stands. Be aware, though, that it's often crowded and frat-boy boisterous. Quieter options nearby are Scarborough Beach off Route 207 (it has rough surf, but the lifeguards make it popular with families) and Ferry Beach, off Route 9 in Saco (a mile of white sand and dunes).
Around Kennebunkport are six separate public beaches, including Gooch's Beach and kid-friendly Mother's Beach, with soft sand, lifeguards, and gentle waves (about a 20-minute walk from the White Barn Inn and Captain Lord Mansion). Beachgoers join runners and even surfers at six-mile Popham Beach (pictured), near Bath, where you'll find the Rock Gardens Inn and the Inn at Bath. Acadia's Sand Beach, a five-minute drive from the Bar Harbor Inn, is the park's only soft strip.
We're not sure what it is about cities called Portland, but the name seems to inspire superior microbreweries. The Maine version has at least seven. Take a tour and taste free samples at Allagash (18 Industrial Way; 207-878-5385; www.allagash.com), Casco Bay (57 Industrial Way; 207-797-2020; www.cascobaybrewing.com), and Shipyard (86 Newbury St.; 207-761-0807; www.shipyard.com). To sample microbrews as they were meant to be sampled, try the handcrafted pints at Gritty McDuff's and Sebago Brewing Company (164 Middle St.: 207.775.2337; www.sebagobrewing.com), two brewpubs in the Old Port District that double as local hangouts.
Maine also produces 99 percent of all wild blueberries in the country. East of Bethel, the Wilton Blueberry Festival in August has blueberry pancake breakfasts, blueberry pop, and blueberry muffinsplus road races to burn it all off. For details, talk to the organizer, Shannon Smith (207-778-4726). And the Maine Wild Blueberry Festival takes place during August's Union Fair, one of Maine's oldest. Find it in the town of Union, off coastal Route 1 between Boothbay Harbor and Bar Harbor (207-785-3281; www.unionfair.org/Blueberry.cfm).
Add up 32,000 miles of lakes and streams, 5,500 miles of coastline, and hundreds of lakes and ponds, and you begin to see why so many canoes, kayaks, and rafts are strapped to the roofs of Maine cars. A sea kayak is the perfect way to explore Casco Bay and the islands off the coast of Portland; take a guided tour with Maine Island Kayak Company (207-766-2373; maineislandkayak.com). Prefer the cry of loons on calmer waters? Venture to the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, a 92-mile corridor of canoeing nirvana in the north woods. Find canoes, guides, and shuttles to put-in points at Allagash Outfitters in Allagash (207-398-3277; www.allagashoutfitters.com). And if it's white water you seek, hit the Kennebec, Dead, or Penobscot Rivers through Northern Outdoors Resort. Both the Kennebec (class II–IV) and the Penobscot (class III–V) have daily dam releases in the summer, and the Dead River has dam releases up to three times a month from May to October.
Freeport , Maine
Sometimes you just gotta give in to your inner materialist and buy a few thingsespecially when they're this darn cheap. The seaside village of Freeport has more than 170 retail outlets and shops, including the ginormous flagship store of L.L. Bean (800-559-0747, ext. 37222; www.llbean.com). It's been sitting on Main Street since 1917, sees 3.5 million visitors every year, and never closesin fact, there's not even a lock on the door. It now has three separate stores at the Freeport campus: one for active wear and casual apparel; one for hunting and fishing gear; and another devoted to bikes, boats, and skis. When you're beat from shopping, check out (or check into) the Harraseeket Inn, which has a tasty Sunday brunch and 84 rooms with canopy beds (207-865-9377; www.harraseeketinn.com) or Harraseeket Lunch & Lobster.
Get this, Vermont and New Hampshire: Maine is as big as all five other New England states combined, which makes for boffo backcountry opportunities. Join the mile-high club (not that one) by hiking up hulking Mount Katahdin, the 5,271-foot terminus of the Appalachian Trail, located in north-central Maine. It's a tough climb and should never be tried on an iffy day, but lower-key alternatives can be found in the surrounding Baxter State Park, which contains 200 miles of other trails (207-723-5140; www.baxterstateparkauthority.com). Near the mountain town of Bethel, the 43-mile Grafton Loop, off the Appalachian Trail, is one of the newest major trails in the Northeast, and an ideal destination for a weekend camping trip or shorter day hikes to bald, blueberry-strewn summits. Every October, the area is also home to Sunday River's North American Wife-Carrying Championships (207-824-5243; www.sundayriver.com/summer/wifecarry.html), when, for a change, hubbies are asking their spouses to get on their backs.
For lighthouse aficionados, driving the 400-mile length of Route 1 between Kittery (at the southern tip of Maine) and Fort Kent (at the Canadian border) is a rite of passage. The two-lane road follows the rugged, rock-strewn coast and delivers beacon hunters to four of the state's most iconic lighthouses. The first stop is Cape Neddick in York, just north of the New Hampshire border. Better known as Nubble Lighthouse, the 40-foot tower was built in 1878 and is still in operation. A 45-mile drive north and a short detour into picturesque Cape Elizabeth brings you to Portland Headlight. Commissioned by George Washington in 1791, it is Maine's oldest lighthouse, and it may look familiar if you've seen Edward Hopper's 1927 watercolor portrait of it in Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. Another 60-mile jaunt north, in Bristol, is Pemaquid Point, a quaint lighthouse of whitewashed brick. And one last 100-mile haul brings you to Acadia National Park, where Harbor Bass Light is located on a cliff on Mount Desert Island. In the heat of summer, Route 1 is notoriously jammed with bumper-to-bumper traffic, particularly around popular vacation towns like Ogunquit and Old Orchard Beach. Use I-95 or I-295 to speed along your journey.
Maine's biggest city leavens its Norman Rockwell charm with a cosmopolitan edge. Stroll through downtown (known as the Old Port District) and you'll find cobblestone streets and turn-of-the-century brick buildings that now house clothing boutiques, art galleries, coffee shops, and stores selling the requisite Maine kitsch: blueberry jam and lobster hats. Restaurants such as DiMillo's Floating Restaurant line the fishing wharves, which are still active with lobster boats and ferries. By night, a dynamic bar scene, fueled by live music and locally crafted beers, takes over Fore Street in the Old Port, while clans of young artists congregate in the lounges of the Arts District. As for the art itself, the Portland Museum of Art hosts rotating exhibits and has an impressive permanent collection that emphasizes Maine paintings and photography (7 Congress Square; 207-775-6148; www.portlandmuseum.org). To appreciate the breadth of Portland's underground arts scene, check out the First Friday Art Walk, held the first Friday of every month, when 50 or so independent galleries open their doors for wine-and-cheese receptions and the chance to gab with the artists (www.firstfridayartwalk.com). If you want to blend in with the local hipsters, swing by Rogues Gallery's flagship store to pick up one of their nautical-meets-naughty handprinted shirts and hoodies (41 Wharf St.; 207-553-1999; www.roguesgallery.com).
Even if you don't know your bow from your bowline, you can sail the Maine coast on a Windjammer. The Maine Windjammer Association oversees a fleet of 12 schooners that regularly depart from Camden or Rockland on overnight cruises; with only six to 40 guests who help hoist the sails or man the helm, it's a whole new way to cruise (800-807-9463; www.sailmainecoast.com). Meanwhile, the 151-foot Margaret Todd schooner sails from Bar Harbor on two-hour tours of Frenchman's Bay, including a folk musicfilled sunset cruise (207-288-4585 or 207-288-2373; www.downeastwindjammer.com/MargaretTodd). Finally, June's Windjammer Days in Boothbay Harbor (207-633-2353), the Maine Windjammer Parade in Rockland Harbor (800-807-9463), and September's Windjammer Weekend in Camden (207-236-4404; www.windjammerweekend.com) show off the whole fleet of sailboats.
Sure, Maine's official nickname is the Pine Tree State, but it could be the "Land O' Lobster": 90 percent of these American crustaceans are caught in Maine. And all spring and summer long, there are parties for the prickly little fellows and their undersea buddies. The Fisherman's Festival in Boothbay Harbor kicks off the seafood-festival season in April with the Miss Shrimp Princess pageant, a lobster crate race, and enough fried seafood to sink the Gorton's guy (207-633-2353). You'll also dig the Yarmouth Clam Festival, which starts the third Friday in July just north of Portland (207-846-3984; www.clamfestival.com) and go crackers for the Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland at the beginning of August (207-596-0376; www.mainelobsterfestival.com). And to fuel you up for fall colors in the mountains, in September there's the Chowdah Cook-off in Bethel, just minutes from hiking along (207-824-2282). Another fun outing is lobster-boat racinga watery NASCAR for 100-plus working vessels sponsored by the Maine Lobster Boat Racing Associationin eight coastal towns, including Boothbay Harbor, from mid-June to mid-August (888-333-8379).
Anchored by 12-mile-wide Sebago Lakenotable for its rare population of landlocked salmonthis collection of lakes and river tributaries is the heart of southern Maine's angling culture. Pick up your bait and tackle at Jordan's Store in Sebago (owner Carroll Cutting will give you a few tips on where to cast your line), and rent a motorboat at Long Beach Marina ($225 for a half-day). For a grander tour, the Songo River Queen, a replica Mississippi riverboat, paddles on neighboring Long Lake and through the locks that connect it to Sebago. Naples Seaplane Service flies Cessnas high over the lakes and surrounding evergreen woods, but less-adventure-minded families gravitate to the Naples boardwalk (on Long Lake), which is lined with the inevitable seafood restaurants, minigolf, ice cream shops, and T-shirt boutiques. At nightfall, locals and tourists down a few cocktails on the terrace of Casablanca-inspired Rick's Caféyes, it's cheesy, but worthwhile for its perch overlooking Long Lake.
The Sebago Lake region is a 30-minute drive from Portland, making it an easy day trip. If you're planning an overnight stay, there are dozens of rustic camps, country inns, and cottage rentals surrounding the lakes. For maid service and a private porch right on the water, check into Migis Lodge in South Casco. In the off-season (November to May), the region resembles a collection of ghost towns, except during the annual Sebago Lake Ice Fishing Derby, when festival tents and hundreds of fishing shacks take over the ice-covered lake. The derby is held in February, as long as the lake is frozen (www.icefishingderby.com).
Maine has an average annual snowfall of 60 to 90 inches—not exactly Utah powder, but enough to lure plenty of hard-core skiers and snowboarders to the slopes at Sunday River, which has 668 skiable acres and 131 trails near Bethel (800-543-2754; www.sundayriver.com), and Sugarloaf/USA (207-237-2000; www.sugarloaf.com), whose 1,400 acres and 133 trails twist above the Carrabassett Valley. Some of the state's best cross-country terrain surrounds the Bethel Inn; the Appalachian Mountain Club's Little Lyford Pond Camps are also recommended. These rustic log cabins are set on 37,000 acres of protected wilderness in the Moosehead Lake region, a haven for nordic skiers and dogsledders when the snow falls (603-466-2727; www.outdoors.org).
A highlight of the Maine winter are the Toboggan National Championships at the Camden Snow Bowl: Teams devise wacky names (Frozen Assets, Slederal Agents) and costumes (Night of the Living Sl'ead) and fly down a specially crafted track (207-236-3438; www.camdensnowbowl.com/tobogganNat.cfm). Jonesing for a bit more juice under the caboose? Maine is also nuts about snowmobiling; some 13,000 miles of trails cater to sledheads. Arrange a tour through Northern Outdoors or the Maine Snowmobile Association (207-622-6983; www.mesnow.com).