Down East 2013 ©
Rockwood Boat Landing, Moosehead Lake
207-534-9012, www.mooseheadlakegolf.com 
The North Woods offer enough stunning hikes to last several lifetimes, but one of the most scenic daytrips in Maine has to be a trip up Mount Kineo, smack in the middle of Moosehead Lake. Here the journey really is half the experience, since to reach the 1,789-foot rhyolite nub you have to hop on a boat in Rockwood (the ferry runs every two hours from the landing off Route 15). The easy hike to the Kineo summit is about four miles roundtrip and can be completed in a couple of hours, or there’s a more direct climb if you’re willing to sweat a bit. If you want to make a full day of it, nine holes at the Mount Kineo Golf Course will give you a taste of the way things were here more than a century ago, when the railroad ran nearby and a resort on this eight hundred-acre island was one of the most prized destinations in all of Maine.
Seaside Concert Hall
Opera House at Boothbay Harbor
86 Townsend Ave., Boothbay Harbor
207-633-5159, www.boothbayoperahouse.com 
The Maine coast is dotted with a surprising number of terrific performance spaces, and one of the finest is located right in the heart of vacationland, Boothbay Harbor. Headliners such as Mark Knopfler, Jackson Browne, and Noel Paul Stookey have all chosen to perform in past years at the circa-1894 Opera House, and a million-dollar stage-to-cupola renovation completed this year will make a visit even more memorable. Having served as everything from a roller-skating rink to a mini-mall over the years, the Opera House today features top-notch lighting and sound systems and even a gorgeous, full-service bar in the former meeting room of the Knights of Pythias. In addition to a lineup that includes Leo Kottke and Ellis Paul, this summer you can catch the debut of “Painters, Players and Poets,” a unique collaboration pairing thirty-two visual artists with masters of the spoken and written word.
Colby Museum of Art
5600 Mayflower Hill, Waterville
207-859-5600, www.colby.edu 
Art for the masses. And it’s all absolutely free at the Colby Museum of Art. From the giant, floor-to-ceiling paintings of Alex Katz to the modernist masterpieces of John Marin, the four wings and 28,000 square feet of this gallery on the Colby College campus offer a complete tour of Maine’s artistic landscape. When you’re done, a stroll around the campus is a must, as this Waterville institution is one of the most gorgeous in the state. The museum is open year-round, but do yourself a favor and plan a trip after July 9, when the “American Modern” exhibit of photographs by Berenice Abbott, Walker Evans, and Margaret Bourke-White opens.
873 Route 1, Woolwich
207-442-7938, www.shelterinstitute.com 
For some vacationers, lying on the beach just isn’t their definition of relaxation. The one- and two-week courses offered by the Shelter Institute represent a great way to enjoy the Pine Tree State and gain some valuable skills at the same time. The one-week Purely Post and Beam class, to be held August 7-12, teaches up to twenty-two students how to build a 24’x24’ post-and-beam cabin. (There were still a few spots open when we checked, but don’t wait to book your spot!) The class also gets to enjoy off-hours events like a lobsterbake on the banks of the Sasanoa River. This might be one vacation you can
actually claim as a deduction!
Hunter Cove Cabins
33 Hunter Cove Road, Rangeley
207-864-3383, huntercove.com 
For many Mainers, three things represent the Triple Crown of success and happiness: A boat, a dog, and a camp. The first two can be had relatively easily, but if you’re not ready for property taxes and maintenance bills, you’ll do well to book a stay at Hunter Cove Cabins in Rangeley. This cozy six-acre complex of seven board-and-batten one- and two-bedroom cabins offers camp life for a couple of nights and for barely a fraction of what full ownership would set you back. Don’t worry about your other two gems: Your boat can tie up at the dock on the lake, and your pup is as welcome in your cabin as you are.
Route 4, near Madrid
DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer, Map 19, A-1
Sometimes the best destinations are right at our doorstep. Take Smalls Falls, a state-owned picnic area on Route 4 between Farmington and Rangeley. We passed this pull-off for years before finally pulling in to have a picnic and a stroll to the half-dozen waterfalls and swimming holes created by the Sandy River’s descent from the high country to its confluence with the Kennebec. Those brave enough to enter the chilly water will enjoy a dip like nowhere else in Maine (be careful, lest a slip send you over the edge!), but more timid (or perhaps wise?) visitors will enjoy the boardwalk and 0.1-mile pathway that wanders through the woods beside the stream.
Beech Hill Preserve
Beech Hill Road, Rockport
207-236-7091, www.coastalmountains.org 
Let’s be clear: Mount Battie in Camden Hills State Park is fabulous. But sometimes the RVs and automobiles parked at the top of this seaside overlook can overpower the view. On days like this we’re happy to head over to Beech Hill in nearby Rockport. The three-quarters-of-a-mile path through blueberry fields (make sure your kids, and your pets, stay away from the tasty treat, which is commercially harvested) is far easier than the sometimes hair-raising climb up Battie. The views of Vinalhaven and the rest of Penobscot Bay certainly rival the ones from the state park, and the chance to picnic outside “Beech Nut,” the sod-roofed stone building on the summit and National Register of Historic Places listee, is unlike anything you’ll find elsewhere. If you want to impress your out-of-state guests, this is the place to take them.
It can be a bit of a challenge squeezing in a proper cardio workout when you’re on an island barely a mile square, but despite its small size, Monhegan offers up a heart-pounding course around the perimeter of the island. Where most visitors to this speck of rock and dirt eleven miles off Port Clyde head just to Lobster Cove and back (less than a mile roundtrip), staying on “Route 1,” the more challenging five-mile trail around the circumference of the island, is well worth the sweat investment. Take in views of Matinicus from Black Head, look north toward the Muscle Ridge Channel and Penobscot Bay, but don’t be so focused on the ocean that you twist an ankle. Remember: The hospital is a boat ride away!
Maine is home to dozens of boat companies that will take you out on the high seas, but one of the most intriguing new captains is Rockland-based Thor Emory. His Maine-built Presto 30 sailboat draws just a few inches of water, allowing Emory (www.thorfinnexpeditions.com ) to explore shallows that the skippers of larger schooners can only gaze at from afar (or from a dinghy). We asked Emory to clue us in on his favorite island hideaways.
1 Damariscove, off Boothbay Harbor “The outer islands are a rugged world with great appeal and a rich history. Damariscove is no exception. Five nautical miles offshore, it makes for a memorable experience.”
2 Monhegan “The anchorage is not great so we often try to depart by late afternoon or integrate a night sail, but Monhegan offers some of the best hiking and scenery anywhere.”
3 The Basin, Vinalhaven “This majestic hurricane hole has a tricky entrance, with a mid-channel boulder that stands sentry in the narrow cut and whitewater-like rapids when the tide is running in or out.”
4 Duck Harbor, Isle Au Haut “We can slip past the park dock and anchor in the shallows at the back of the cove. Once ashore, there is great hiking and trail running.”
5 Valley Cove, Mount Desert Island “Located in picturesque Somes Sound, the only fjord on the East Coast, Valley Cove offers immediate access to hiking in Acadia National Park. I like to hike over Acadia Mountain, swim in Echo Lake, and then run back on the fire road to the boat.”
6 Stonington and Merchants Row “This entire area is paradise, and there are numerous anchorages and opportunities for exploration. Stonington is an authentic fishing community with great shops, galleries, and places to dine. I am also a huge fan of Old Quarry Ocean Adventures (www.oldquarry.com ), which offers sea kayaking, boat tours, and the ability to sleep ashore.”