Step Out in Stonington
Stonington is one of those end-of-the-road places (literally - Route 15 stops at the waterfront) that visitors never want to leave once they cross the famously humpbacked bridge from the mainland over Eggemoggin Reach. Once best known for its granite quarries, today Stonington's attractions include more than a dozen art galleries, many of them studio shops where browsers can meet the artists themselves. Rent a kayak at Old Quarry Ocean Adventure (www.oldquarry.com
) and explore the archipelago of small islands that sits just beyond the harbor, or take a cruise on the mail boat out to Isle au Haut (www.isleauhaut.com
), one of the least frequented parts of Acadia National Park. Or simply drink in the views from the waterfront as you wander the gift shops on Main Street.
Make a Night of It: Ten of the thirteen rooms at Inn on the Harbor (www.innontheharbor.com
) look over the harbor and islands beyond. Grab a bite and catch up on local doings at the Harbor Caf` (207-367-5099) or check out the new digs that the venerable Fisherman's Friend restaurant (207-367-2442) moved into recently.
Birdwatch In Jonesport
For birders looking to fill out their life lists, Jonesport - way Down East in Washington County - offers one-stop watching. First, take a boat ride with Captain John E. Norton (www.machiassealisland.com
) to remote Machias Seal Island to see puffins, razorbills, and murres. Then in the afternoon drive across the causeway to Beal's and scout for boreal chickadees, spruce grouse, and bay-breasted warblers in the Nature Conservancy's sanctuary, a wilderness of jack pines and peat bogs on Great Wass Island.
Make a Night of It: Maureen and Gene Hart's Harbor House bed-and-breakfast (www.harborhs.com
) offers quaint rooms with spectacular views. For fried seafood and chowder grab a seat with the local fishermen at Tall Barney's (www.tallbarneys.com
), a folksy Maine institution if ever there was one.Go Yachting In York Harbor
If you like boats, you'll like York Harbor. The mouth of the York River provides a perfect inlet for visiting and local yachts to moor, and during the summer the harbor is filled with Hinckleys, Hatterases, and other fine examples of how much people spend on such floating money pits. For visitors the display is like an in-the-water boat show, and there's no better place to take it all in than at the Dockside Guest Quarters (www.docksidegq.com
), on Harris Island, smack in the middle of the harbor. Whether you stay at the main house or at one of the outlying cottages, you'll feel like you're bunking down on a yacht without feeling the motion of the ocean, as the bold Atlantic practically laps at your sliding-glass door. To take in a bit more of this seafaring town, stroll the cliffwalk from the George Marshall Store on the riverfront, cross the Wiggly Bridge (it really does move under your feet), and gaze at the impressive seaside mansions before the path ends just beyond York Harbor Beach.
Make a Night of It: The full yachty experience isn't complete without a pint at the Ship's Cellar Pub below the York Harbor Inn (www.yorkharborinn.com
), where beadboard ceilings, exposed frames, and portholes will make you swear you're dining inside an elegant sailing yacht.
Float to Flagstaff in Eustis
Eustis is a funny town. Most folks know it as Stratton, the name of its largest village. Eustis village itself is more a wide spot in the road a few miles farther up Route 27. It's also the closest community to Maine's only drowned town, Flagstaff, which disappeared under the waters of Flagstaff Lake in the 1950s. Hikers and mountain bikers enjoy the trails and woods roads, and skiers know it as the town near Sugarloaf, but the real fun is renting a canoe at the Arnold Trail Sports Center (207-246-2653) and paddling the Dead River and onto the lake for pickerel fishing and the view of Bigelow Mountains to the south.
Make a Night of It: Tranquility Lodge's (207-246-2122) eight rooms in the former farm's renovated barn sit right on Flagstaff Lake, while the Diamond Corner bed-and-breakfast (www.bbonline.com/me/diamondcorner
) gives access to hundreds of miles of hiking and mountain-biking trails from its front steps. The Porter House restaurant (207-246-7932) offers fine dining in a 1908 farmhouse.Catch a Show in Harrison
For more than seventy years visitors to the Sebago Lakes region have packed the Deertrees Theatre & Cultural Center in Harrison (www.deertreestheatre.org
) to get an up-close look at celebrities. Rudy Vallee, Tallulah Bankhead, even the Fonz himself, Henry Winkler, have performed at this 278-seat venue. The annual Sebago-Long Lake Chamber Music Festival is always a winner, but this circa-1936 opera house is worth a visit any time, if only to take in the rose hemlock beams and hand-carved fixtures. So why not book a seat this summer?
Make a Night of It: On the shores of Long Lake, the Olde Mill Tavern (www.oldemilltavern.com
) is the place for solid, sturdy entrees. If you decide to stay the night, the five-bedroom Harrison House bed-and-breakfast (www.harrisonhousebedandbreakfast.com
) offers a late breakfast - until ten o'clock - for sleepyheads.
Wander the Trail in Lincolnville
Lincolnville Beach has recently been revamped into a worthy, albeit small, Route 1 seaside destination, but venture inland just a few miles and you'll find some of the most spectacular hiking around. Bald Rock boasts a great view of Penobscot Bay, stretching all the way out, on a clear day, to Blue Hill and Acadia. Or stroll along the Ducktrap River, an environmentally protected refuge for endangered Atlantic salmon. Lincolnville Beach is also home to the ferry to Islesboro, so you can grab your bike and take the three-mile voyage across Penobscot Bay for a morning of island riding among some of the state's most exclusive driveways (say hi to Kirstie Alley and John Travolta while you're over there).
Make a Night of It: Retreat to the Richard Russo cottage or the Wyeth loft at the Inn at Sunrise Point (www.sunrisepoint.com
). For dinner, treat yourself to chef Brian Dame's innovative entrees at the Edge restaurant (www.innatoceansedge.com
) or try the Whale's Tooth Pub for affordable fish and chips, Black and Tan, and the most impressive fireplace in town.Tarry in Tremont
It's called the "Quiet Side" of Mount Desert Island for a reason, this western shore allows you to escape the crowds and traffic of Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor. Tremont is a town of many communities, such as Bernard and Bass Harbor and even the village of Quietside, all of them linked by the island's excellent (and free) propane-powered bus network (www.exploreacadia.com/times_bus7.html
) that lets visitors explore without constantly searching for a parking spot. You can also rent bicycles at Southwest Cycle (www.acadia
info.com/swcylce.htm) in nearby Southwest Harbor and two-wheel your way to the amazing views at Bass Harbor Head Light (www.acadiamagic.com/BassHarborLight
). Those bikes also come in handy when you take the ferry (www.maine.gov/mdot/opt/ferry/215-swan.php
) from Bass Harbor to Swans Island, one of Maine's few remaining year-round island communities and a place even quieter than the "Quiet Side," but well worth the visit.
Make a Night of It: The Bass Harbor Inn (207-244-5157) offers harbor views and luxurious rooms. The Ann's Point Inn (www.annspointinn.com
) offers the convenience of being able to launch a kayak from the front lawn at high tide. It's a rare visitor who leaves without enjoying the steamed lobsters, mussels, and blueberry pie at Thurston's Lobster Pound (207-244-7600) on the harbor.
Get Historical in Fort Kent
There's something intensely appropriate about Fort Kent's origins in a bloodless war that never saw a battle. Once the outermost outpost of American territorial claims in the Aroostook War of 1838-39 - the blockhouse still stands on the shore of the St. John River - the town today has made a virtue of its reputation for long winters and wilderness with events such as the Can-Am International Sled Dog Race (can-am.sjv.net) and the annual Fort Kent International Muskie Fishing Derby (www.fortkent-muskie.com
). The town's Acadian ancestry can be heard in the French still spoken by many residents and in the ornately impressive St. Louis Catholic Church on Main Street. Fort Kent is a place to get outdoors, whether snowmobiling the network of groomed trails in winter or canoeing the St. John in summer.
Make a Night of It: If you're looking for a mint on the pillow, you're in the wrong town, but the Northern Door Inn (www.northerndoorinn.com
) offers basic motel accommodations and the convenience of Rock's Caf` on the other side of the parking lot. (The Eagle's View bed-and-breakfast in nearby Eagle Lake, 207-444-2808, offers a cozy alternative.) The Swamp Buck Restaurant and Lounge (207-834-3055) on Main Street gets high marks for its food and has the advantage of a liquor license.
Retreat to Southport
As summer crowds take to the streets in nearby Boothbay Harbor, sneak out of town and follow Route 27 down to Southport Island where you can relive the nineteenth-century rusticator era at the Newagen Seaside Inn (www.newagenseasideinn.com
) on the southern tip of the point. Candlepin bowling, croquet, horseshoes, badminton, and tennis are just some of the old-timey activities offered by this classic oceanfront hotel. The grounds also have trails for walking, or take a bike ride on the back roads. After a few days in Southport, you'll be relaxed and ready to face the world again.
Make a Night of It: Once you've arrived at Southport Island you'll not want to leave, and the Cape Harbor Grill at the Newagen Seaside Inn gives you no reason to. Your most difficult decision may be deciding between the crab cakes and the lobster pancakes. And isn't that the way a getaway is supposed to be?Get Salty in New Harbor
Practically no Maine coast tour is complete without a visit to Pemaquid Point Light (hey, it made it onto the state quarter!) but surprisingly few tourists stop off in picture-perfect New Harbor on their way to this midcoast peninsula. They're missing the boat, literally. The Hardy III (www.hardyboat.com
) offers a chance to visit artists on Monhegan, see puffins at Eastern Egg Rock, and photograph seals on shoals too small to bear a name. This hat trick can be completed in just a few hours, leaving you time for an early shore dinner at one of the picnic tables at Shaw's Fish and Lobster Wharf (207-677-2200).
From here, you might see a windjammer sailing into this improbably narrow anchorage or else spot a fisherman unloading his traps. It's all enough to make you wonder why everyone is so drawn to that little lighthouse down the road.
Make a Night of It: Captain H.C. Bradley built the estate on the shore of John's Bay as a gift for his wife; dinner and a night at the Bradley Inn (www.bradleyinn.com
) will show your near-and-dear that your love is as strong as the captain's. Reserve the Garden Cottage for the ultimate in privacy and coziness, from the fieldstone fireplace to the screened-in, garden-view porch.
Get High in Newry
Half a million thrill-seekers a year associate Newry with alpine fun because of the top-notch skiing at Sunday River Resort (www.sundayriver.com
), but far fewer travelers take advantage of this stunning spot six miles north of Bethel after the snow melts. Summer provides its own adrenaline rush, as the resort's new owners have opened up the chairlift to the top of North Peak for mountain bikers and anyone else who wants to take in the spectacular views of Mount Will and the rest of the western Maine mountains. (Those not into the fat-tire scene can ride the lift back down the mountain, too.) If you want to earn your views you should hit the trails at Grafton Notch State Park: the 5.5-mile trek up and down Old Speck is a challenge, but the half-mile stroll to Mother Walker Falls and Moose Cave is also worthwhile. (Don't miss this area even if you're not a hiker - Screw Auger Falls is practically beside the road.)
Make a Night of It: Dream of next year's powder while relaxing after a day on the links at Sunday River's Jordan Grand Resort Hotel (207-824-5000), situated right at the base of Jordan Bowl. There are a bunch of great restaurants down the road in Bethel, but if you want to stay nearby, the Grand Avenue Grille will set you up with a Delmonico steak that'll give you energy for even more adventures.
Beachcomb in Phippsburg
The strand at Popham Beach State Park happens to be one of the most austerely beautiful places in the state. But with this beauty also comes popularity. On the next sunny day, keep driving a bit farther on Route 216 and discover Head Beach, between Small Point and Hermit Island. This pocket beach is the perfect place to catch stripers, comb the beach for sand dollars, or soak up the sun with a good book. On your way to the shore take the scenic detour along Parker Head Road for a breathtaking drive, stopping at the North Creek Farm (www.northcreekfarm.org
) at the corner of 209 and 216 for fresh flowers and picnic fare for your day at the beach.
Make a Night of It: Settle down for a cozy evening (and spectacular sunset) at Sebasco Estates (www.sebasco.com
). Anna's Water's Edge restaurant (www.thewatersedgerestaurant.com
) is just a few minutes drive for dinner and has great seafood and even better homemade desserts.
Rough It in Kokadjo
To really experience the North Woods you need to go to where the pavement ends, and that's Kokadjo. This outpost at First Roach Pond, nineteen miles north of Greenville, is filled with the whine of snowmobiles in winter; during warmer months the trails - more than a hundred miles of them, to be precise - are perfect terrain for armies of ATVs. The folks at Kokadjo Trading Post (www.kokadjo.com
) will set you up with everything you need and will even take you on a guided tour if you haven't brought your own machine. Around here seeing a moose isn't the problem - it's avoiding them that takes care.
Make a Night of It: To really experience the woods you need to sleep outdoors, and the best place to do that is at Casey's Spencer Bay Camps (www.caseysspencerbaycamps.com
), where you can pitch a tent or hunker down in one of the log cabins situated on a stunning peninsula right on Moosehead Lake. For dinner, the restaurant at the Kokadjo Trading Post dishes up decent fare and cold drinks.Paint in Port Clyde
Located at the tip of the St. George peninsula, a twenty-minute drive from Thomaston down Route 131, Port Clyde is an iconic fishing village right out of an Andrew Wyeth painting. Which makes sense when you learn that Wyeth actually owns an island (Allen Island), two miles off Port Clyde. Jamie Wyeth owns another, and U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts (who harbors no artistic talents, as best we know) is also a summer island resident. Other artsy notables include Greg Mort and Barbara Ernst Prey. So clearly there's something in the Port Clyde area to inspire the meeting of palette and paintbrush. It could be the picture-perfect Marshall Point Lighthouse, or sweet galleries like the Gallery-by-the-Sea (www.gallerybythesea.com
). Or it might be the proximity of Monhegan Island, where Rockwell Kent, Edward Hopper, and James Fitzgerald made masterpieces, and where contemporary artists keep open studios. (A daytrip on the Monhegan Boat, www.monheganboat.com
, is de rigueur for all visitors).
Make a Night of It: Right in the middle of town, the Ocean House Hotel (www.oceanhousehotel.com
) evokes the charm and graciousness of an earlier era. For dinner the Dip Net (www.dipnetrestaurant.com
), outside the Port Clyde General Store, offers arguably the finest dockside dining in the state.
Take It Slow in Mount Vernon
Each summer thousands of tourists head inland to relax at well-known destinations like the Belgrade lakes. But many of these lakegoers miss the small town of Mount Vernon, nestled against Flying Pond and Parker Pond, where a whole lot of summer fun can be found without the crowds. Shop at the Corner (207-293-2383) and Lakeside Serendipity (207-293-3714), two stores right in the village that sell unique, Maine-made products and collectibles, respectively. If the kids are not satisfied with the relaxing pace of this quaint village, take them to see the lions and tigers (not sure about the bears, though) at the D.E.W. Animal Kingdom exotic animal farm (www.dewanimalkingdom.com
Make a Night of It: Stay at the Lakeside Loft (207-293-4855), a charming bed-and-breakfast right on the shore of Minnehonk Lake that provides canoes and kayaks for guests. The Olde Post Office Caf` (207-293-4978) is the perfect pit stop for delectable picnic supplies.