Choose Your Own Retirement Adventure
Maine attracts a diverse group of retirees who come to the state not to slow down, but to spend more time following their passio
- By: Meadow Rue Merrill
Photograph Masterfile Royalty Free
You Are: An Active Athlete
Maine’s landscape offers easy access to top golf courses, bike paths, hiking trails, state parks, and the water, as well as like-minded retirees looking to stay in shape. An abundance of outdoor retailers, rental shops, and guide services, such as those available through Kittery Trading Post (888-587-6246, kitterytradingpost.com), Maine Sport Outfitters (207-236-8797, mainesport.com), and L.L. Bean (877-755-2326, llbean.com) in Freeport, offer increasingly popular guided biking and kayaking trips. Smaller outfitters, such as York’s Harbor Adventures (207-363-8466, harboradventures.com), have expeditions for those wanting a smaller class or have a particular destination in mind. To boost sailing skills, SailMaine (207-772-7245, sailmaine.org), a Portland non-profit, offers a three-hour refresher class on Casco Bay for two hundred dollars, minus a 10 percent discount for those ages fifty-five or older.
“SailMaine has instructors and staff that are highly trained and knowledgeable, and we are proud of their ability to make almost anyone at ease at the tiller,” says Sarah Helming, program director. “Our family lessons are new at SailMaine and a great chance for seniors to go sailing with their family.”
Also in Portland, the all-volunteer Maine Outdoor Adventure Club (207-775-6622, moac.org) offers events from winter camping and ice climbing to sailing and snowshoeing all built around your age and skill level. Initial membership is just fifteen dollars. The outdoor exercise will prepare you for the upcoming Maine Senior Games (207-396-6519, smaaa.org), a program of the Southern Maine Agency on Aging, in which adults over the age of fifty compete in a variety of athletic events throughout the state — from track and field on July 21 to ten-pin bowling on September 23.
Maine’s amateur golfers enjoy some of the country’s best public and private courses, including the Belgrade Lakes Golf Club (207-495-4653, belgradelakesgolf.com) and the Kebo Valley Country Club (207-288-3000, kebovalleyclub.com). To find course ratings and upcoming tournaments, the Maine State Golf Association, Inc. (207-829-3549, mesga.org) in Cumberland will get you started. Or check out the Maine Seniors’ Golf Association (maineseniorsgolf.org), formed in 1933, with eight upcoming tournaments from May through September. “It is an opportunity to meet people from all walks of life while out playing golf,” says tournament director, Stanley Schatz, who has been a member for fifteen years. But before joining the club’s 350 members, you’ll need to register at a Maine golf club and put your name on the waiting list.
In winter, the links turn into idyllic ski and snowshoe trails. For groomed trails, classes, and gear, head to western Maine to discover some of the best skiing in the Northeast. Those wanting an old-fashioned ambiance will find it at the Bethel Nordic Ski Center (207-824-6276, caribourecreation.com). With thirty kilometers of ski tracks and eight kilometers of snowshoe trails, the center at the Bethel Inn’s comfortable resort offers weekly master ski meets as well as classes designed specifically for beginners and women. The village’s annual Winter Fest (bethelwinterfest.com), with bonfires and snowmobile rides on February 24 & 25, is a prime time to visit.
You Are: A Lifelong Learner
With three of the country’s top liberal arts colleges, several hands-on art schools, museum lectures, and a network of academic programs, retiring in Maine brings numerous opportunities to learn. Professors at Bowdoin (207-725-3000, bowdoin.edu), Bates (207-786-6255, bates.edu), and Colby (207-859-4000, colby.edu) colleges regularly welcome retirees to audit classes for a modest cost. A request to take a particular class can be made with the professor or by contacting the school registrar or dean of admissions.
It is a benefit Bill and Carol Freeman, both members of the Association of Bowdoin Friends (bowdoin.edu/friends/), made good use of after they retired and moved to Brunswick. “We had at least two art [history] courses, a music class in jazz, and a class in Russian literature, which we loved because it made us read Anna Karenina and Dostoevsky,” says Carol Freeman, who is currently taking a semester-long literature course on the settling of the West with her husband. “You’d like to go every day if you could, there is so much going on — music and dance and hockey. Retiring to a college town is the way to go if you want to keep your mind alert and learn new things.”
A favorite summer program at Colby College in Waterville, the fifty-sixth annual Wach’s Great Books Summer Institute (207-859-4000, colby.edu), attracts students of all ages for its annual Great Books Discussion, this year from Aug. 5-11. The $580 tuition includes books, meals, and lodging for participants who love literature and enjoy discussing them with others. Like auditing a class, which has no tests, papers, or grades, the Maine Senior College Network (207-780-4128, maineseniorcollege.org) includes a consortium of seventeen independent learning centers from York to Fort Kent with courses from foreign languages to religion to the history of opera, all for a minimal tuition and annual membership, starting from twenty-five dollars.
Get in touch with your inner artist with a class at one of Maine’s many non-profit art organizations, such as River Tree Arts (207-967-9120, rivertreearts.org) in Kennebunk or the Maine College of Art (800-699-1509, meca.edu), in downtown Portland. The college offers four-to-twelve week courses and weekend workshops by contemporary artists from Maine and around the globe, with instruction in photography, painting, printing, furniture making, and more in the college’s studios. Or apply to the highly competitive Haystack Mountain School of Crafts (207-348-2306, haystack-mtn.org) on Deer Isle. This summer’s lineup at the rustic camp includes seven sessions and forty-four workshops in craft media from clay and glass to weaving and blacksmithing.
“We do have a lot of students who are older,” says Carole Ann Fer, administrative assistant at Haystack and a full-time potter. “The workshops are enriched by people interacting from different age groups.”
That connection is evident at other learning programs as well, such as Rockland’s Penobscot Language School (207-594-1084, penobscot.us) in which local students and foreign guest teachers learn everything from Chinese to Russian together through formal classes, pot lucks, cooking classes, and the weekly, free “brown bag” lectures. “It is lots of fun,” says student Grace Hinrichs, who began studying Italian here fifteen years ago with her husband in anticipation of a trip to Italy. “The last time we went to Tuscany with friends was five years ago, and in Milan we stayed with a former teacher and had a reunion with four additional teachers. We had a wonderful time.”
Learn more about your surroundings through outdoor environmental demonstrations by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (207-568-4142, mofga.org), or enroll in the weeklong family program available at the Ferry Beach Ecology School (207-283-9951, fbes.org) in Saco. The school takes place in an outdoor classroom with eight ecosystems and an organic teaching garden, all within walking distance of sand beaches, dunes, tide pools, and marshes. Programs start at $150 for adults.
You Are: A Nature Lover
From sandy, white beaches and pristine nature preserves to tranquil, tree-lined lakes, Maine offers retirees countless ways to get close to nature. Less than one percent of our 5,300-mile shore is sand, but southern Maine contains thirty miles of smooth beaches beginning with Long Sands and Short Sands in York, popular for sunbathing, strolling, and bird watching. About two hours north is the state park system’s most popular stretch of sand, Popham Beach in Phippsburg. Just up the road from Popham Village and its Civil War fort, the beach offers visitors a varied coastline with its own island accessible at low-tide.
Even our most populated cities, such as Portland and Bath, offer trails for easy nature watching. To find them, check out the online registry by Healthy Maine Walks (healthymainewalks.com), which includes the brand new Eastern Trail connecting Kennebunk to Biddeford as part of the three thousand-mile East Coast Greenway. You can also discover trails and nature programs at our many state parks, nature preserves, and wildlife sanctuaries including the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge (207-646-9226, rachelcarson.gov) with salt marshes and estuaries for migratory birds on fifty miles of coastline in York and Cumberland counties.
This July will mark the twenty-ninth annual Maine Audubon Loon Count (207-781-2330, maineaudubon.org), in which volunteers survey lakes and streams by boat or with binoculars during a single half hour on a selected day in July to measure the state’s loon population — one of the Northeast’s most robust. Regional coordinator Peggy Susbury, a retired school teacher from Rumford, has been participating for thirty years. “We have a summer place in Hanover on Howard Pond,” Susbury says. “I do it right there. My husband and I get in the canoe with the coffee cups and off we go.”
Winter bird watchers can do the same at the National Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count (212-979-3000, audobon.org), the world’s longest running “citizen science” survey, also coordinated through Maine Audubon and held annually across the state during the end of December.
Budding botanists will enjoy Boothbay’s Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens (207-633-4333, mainegardens.org), one of state’s top attractions with 250 acres of formal gardens, stonework, man-made waterfalls, and ponds on nearly a mile of waterfront. An hour inland in Augusta, Viles Arboretum (207-626-7989, vilesarboretum.org) has a popular education center and garden on 224 acres of former farmland.
On the waterfront, Casco Bay Ferry Lines (207-774-7871, cascobaylines.com) in Portland offers scenic cruises for as little as thirteen dollars. Explore Little Diamond, Great Diamond, Chebeague, and more while sighting seabirds and seals. For those that prefer Maine’s abundant lakes and streams, explore the Sebago-Long Lake waterway aboard the Songo River Queen II (207-693-6861, songoriverqueen.net), a modern replica of a Mississippi River sternwheeler, which meanders through Sebago Lake Park.
Other nature cruises include guided moose safaris with Northeast Guide Service (207-695-0151, northeastguideservice.com) on Greenville’s Moosehead Lake; ecology tours, such as those aboard the Lively Lady Too (207-236-6672, livelyladytoo.com) of Camden; and puffin viewing trips to Eastern Egg Rock, the southernmost puffin colony in all of North America through Hardy Boat Cruises (207-677-2026, hardyboat.com).
You Are: An Art Aficionado
Long popular with painters, Maine has become a destination for artists of all genres, giving rise to galleries, studios, lecture series, literary awards, concert halls, dance festivals, and more. To discover happenings around the state, the Maine Arts Commission (207-287-2724, mainearts.com) in Augusta offers a free calendar of upcoming events as well as a directory of artists and art organizations.
Now that you finally have time to sit down and write that novel, Maine has the perfect organizations and festivals to give you support and inspiration. Author readings, book signings, and writing workshops are easy to find through the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance (207-228-8263, mainewriters.org), of Portland, which promotes Maine writers and produces a quarterly newsletter for members in addition to e-mailing news about upcoming literary events and classes through the new weekly bulletin, The Peavey. For more literary fun, meet top authors at one of the state’s many book festivals, including the Maine Festival of the Book, (207-871-9100, mainereads.org), from March 29–April 1, in Portland, with more than seventy-five authors, artists, and performers.
Maine’s performing arts scene offers equally accessible entertainment, from Broadway tours and summer theater to international acts, at popular venues such as the acclaimed Ogunquit Playhouse (207-646-5511, ogunquitplayhouse.org) and Maine State Music Theatre (207-725-8769, msmt.org), of Brunswick. At Merrill Auditorium, one of the state’s busiest venues, Portland Ovations (207-773-3150, portlandovations.org) presents hit shows year-round at a 10 percent discount to those over sixty-five. “What is wonderful about Maine is the rich diversity and the quality,” says Aimee Petrin, Portland Ovations executive director. “We see people of all ages at a variety of events, which gives a real liveliness to it.”
Catch a concert by the Bangor Symphony Orchestra (207-942-5555, bangorsymphony.com), the oldest continuously performing community orchestra in the country, or look at the always-impressive lineup of events at the Collins Center for the Arts (207-581-1755, collinscenterforthearts.com).
Dance devotees will find plenty to skip about at the thirtieth anniversary of the Bates Dance Festival (207-786-6381, batesdancefestival.org), from July 2 to August 11. Attendees at the two-week contemporary dance and music extravaganza can appreciate works by world-class choreographers and emerging dance creators.
Maine’s many art museums including the Portland Museum of Art (207-775-6148, portlandmuseum.org), the recently renovated Bowdoin College Museum of Art (207-725-3275, Bowdoin.edu), and the Center for Maine Contemporary Art (207-236-2875, cmcanow.org) in Rockport offer exciting opportunities with regular lecture series, guest artists, art classes, and more. A particularly popular series, “Achieving American Art” at the Farnsworth Art Museum (207-596-6457, farnsworthmuseum.org), runs for several weeks each spring at the Strand Theatre in Rockland. “We bring in guest speakers, our chief curator and director of education, or professors from Colby or Bowdoin, and others,” says Kelly Finlay, education coordinator for the museum.
You Are: A Grandparent Extraordinaire
Whether shopping for the perfect gift or looking for activities to enjoy with your grandchildren, Maine has opportunities galore for grandparents. Not only is the state a top vacation destination, but our rural landscape and relaxed lifestyles make spending time with family fun — all while offering some of the best bargain hunting and recreation areas around.
Famous-name outlets and fashion brands are easy to find at the Kittery Outlets (888-548-8379, thekitteryoutlets.com), with 120 stores including names kids love such as Hanna Andersson and Aéropostale. One and a half hours north, Freeport (800-865-1994, freeportusa.com), with two hundred businesses, including Carter’s and OshKosh, offers more discounts in the heart of a New England village.
“Grandparents are a very large part of our market,” says Lynn Smith, marketing director for the Kittery Outlets. “Tuesday is a senior day. The stores offer an added discount. The average is about 10 percent. Some do a free gift with a purchase, and there are always coupon books, which normally cost five dollars — but with an AARP card, the coupon book is free.”
Shopping for the grandkids isn’t limited to discounted clothing. Kids Crooked House (888-447-5446, kidscrookedhouse.com), builds colorful, off-kilter playhouses that have garnered national attention. The original six-foot tall, cartoon-style clubhouse, from $1,449, including delivery, would make a great gift or addition to any grandparent’s backyard. For indoor play, Fish River Crafts (207-834-3417, marionettes.com), of Fort Kent, makes hand-turned and painted marionettes with dinosaurs, moose, jesters, and kits kids can built themselves, from twenty-nine dollars, found at Pandemonium (207-761-3733) in Portland, and the Center for Maine Crafts (207-588-0021, mainecrafts.org) in West Gardiner.
“Every other show, there is one [grandmother] that decides, ‘I have eight grandchildren,’ and picks one marionette for each,” says artist and owner Mark Aman, who for the past three decades has been building the motion sculptures with his two sons.
Visiting grandchildren will have plenty to explore at Portland’s Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine (207-828-1234, childrensmuseumofme.org) with three stories of interactive exhibits and live performances including the upcoming Wiley and the Hairy Man this February and March. Farther north, the Maine Discovery Museum (207-262-7200, mainediscoverymuseum.org), of Bangor, features a gallery of visiting Maine artists, science and art programs, and a twenty-foot waterway depicting Maine’s unique ecosystem. Grandparent memberships for both museums begin at seventy-five dollars.
Other opportunities for fun and interactive learning abound at museums and exhibits throughout Maine including the Maine State Aquarium (207-633-9542, maine.gov/dmr/rm/aquarium) in Boothbay Harbor, featuring a live animal touch tank; the Maine Wildlife Park (207-657-4977, mainewildlifepark.com) in Gray, housing moose, mountain lions, black bears, and other Maine wildlife in their natural habitats; and the year-round Owl’s Head Transportation Museum (207-594-4418, ohtm.org), with one of the world’s finest collections of pioneer-era aircraft and automobiles. “Because transportation has been in our lives for a long time, grandparents and young children often find a connection here with a vehicle they remember from their youth,” says Park Morrison, public relations director for the museum.
You Are: A Civic Citizen
Make friends, develop skills, and give back to the state through a variety of volunteer opportunities that fits anyone’s passion. Volunteer Maine (207-624-6238, volunteermaine.org), initiated by the Maine Commission for Community Service, is a one-stop Internet resource matching volunteers with opportunities at non-profits and government organizations. Recent listings include a piano player for a Habitat for Humanity (habitatportlandme.org) awards dinner and someone to read books to children.
With an estimated 42 percent of Maine adults struggling to read at a skilled level, Maine Reads (207-871-9100, mainereads.org) in Portland is a way for volunteers to increase literacy in Maine. Or, help struggling younger learners through Jobs for Maine’s Graduates (207-620-7180, jmg.org), a state-wide non-profit that connects sixth- through twelfth-grade students with people in the community who care about leveling the academic playing field by mentoring at-risk students or teaching special classes. “It is just helping kids understand they can believe in themselves and be real contributors to our state and to their own selves and their families,” says retired teacher John Burgess, of Gardiner, who is a longtime volunteer with the program.
If your passion is the environment, hit the trails with the Maine Conservation Corps (207-624-6085, maine.gov/doc/parks/mcc) of Augusta. Volunteers of all ages help with trail maintenance, watershed surveys, and environmental education. Or go to the coast and lend a hand with the Coastal Cleanup (207-624-6222, mainecoastalprogram.org), the state’s single largest volunteer event in which two thousand volunteers scour the coastline and document the types and amount of rubbish they collect on a single day each fall.
Pet lovers can join the Animal Welfare Society (207-985-3244, animalwelfaresociety.org), of West Kennebunk, and its Mobile Adoption Team, which takes dogs and cats into the community for socialization and a chance to be seen by potential adopters. Meanwhile, antiquity buffs can transcribe Civil War letters or help manage the collections at the Maine State Museum (207-287-2301, mainestatemuseum.org) in Augusta, with four floors of historic art, military relics, and dioramas showing the history and habitat of Maine.
If you’ve always wanted to work on the railroad, the all-volunteer Wiscasset, Waterville, and Farmington Railway Museum (207-882-4193, wwfry.org) welcomes helpers to lay track, work on trains, and greet visitors at the old Sheepscot Station in Alna where a two-foot gauge train operated from 1894 to 1933. To get involved, just show up.
- By: Meadow Rue Merrill