Category Sponsor: Cellardoor Winery
A stop-by-stop road map to everything the Pine Tree State has to offer when the sun is shining, the ocean is warm(-ish), the festivals are plentiful, and the dining is al fresco. Join us on the hunt for the best Maine summer ever.
7. Eat a Slice of Blueberry Pie at Helen’s
When husband-and-wife co-owners David and Julie (pictured) Barker reopened Helen’s Restaurant in 2015 after a devastating fire the year before, pie aficionados across Maine (and elsewhere) loosened their belts a notch in celebration (and anticipation). The 67-year-old diner is a mainstay on the New England dessert-pilgrimage circuit, and while the cream pies are luscious and the meringues immaculately peaked, this is blueberry country, bub. The oh-so-tart lowbush bluebs spilling out of Helen’s pies are picked 7 miles up the road, in Roque Bluffs, and the pies come in two varieties: top crusted (a tasty, if sober choice) or topped with a quivering mound of fresh blueberries and whipped cream (om nom nom nom). 111 Main St. 207-255-8423.
Selfie: Helen’s has a totally respectable Ellsworth location, but scavenger hunters need to visit the rebuilt original in Machias. Stand in front of the heavily shellacked blueberry pie that survived the restaurant’s 2014 fire, now mounted to the wall like a holy relic.
8. Dine with the Boating Crowd at Coveside
Imagine if Jimmy Buffett ran Cheers. South Bristol’s Coveside Restaurant is out of the way — at land’s end, more or less, a half-hour south of Route 1, where the Damariscotta River meets the sea at Christmas Island — and its menu isn’t particularly adventurous, just solid upscale pub chow and seafood (it’s never unwise to order oysters this close to the Damariscotta). But the savvy seafarers who crowd the on-site marina all summer know that Coveside’s vibe is coastal Maine mellow, perfectly distilled. Weekly “Sunday deck parties” are where it’s at — the live bands trend crunchy-acoustic, and the view over Christmas Cove is all granite-and-pine splendor. Inside, the lively bar is festooned with burgees, colorful boating pennants contributed by loyal clientele, and the traditional house cocktail, the Dark ’N’ Stormy, is so popular that Gosling’s Rum reps swear little Coveside outsells any other restaurant in New England. 105 Coveside Rd. 207-644-8300.
Selfie: We’ll accept a shot with a view of Christmas Cove or a selfie with a burgee of your choice. (Dark ’N’ Stormy optional.)
9. Have a Pint at Monhegan Brewing Company
At last count, there were roughly 70 breweries and taprooms on the Maine Beer Trail, scattered across the state, as the Maine Brewers Guild says, “in city pubs and river lodges, revitalized mills and old barns, along downtown storefronts and hidden dirt road hideaways.” But only one of them requires a boat trip over 10 miles of open ocean. Since Matt and Mary Weber opened their brewery on Monhegan Island in 2013, MBC has become the island’s living room, a hangout for locals and a clutch pre-ferry gathering spot for weekenders and day-trippers. Grab a Balmy Days Citra Kölsch, if it’s pouring, and bring it out to a picnic table in a “beer garden” surrounded by lobster traps. For the teetotalers, MBC also makes mean root beer and ginger beer. 1 Boody Ln.
Selfie: The handsome sign out front shows Monhegan Island in profile, capped by an outsize Monhegan Island Light. Stand alongside and say “Cheers!”
10. Chow Down at Danny’s Dogs
Danny McDonald was 9 years old when he started selling hot dogs at his great-aunt and -uncle’s Brunswick bowling alley in the 1950s. In the early ’80s, he staked out a spot on the town green. Today, it ain’t really summer in Brunswick until you’ve snagged a park bench under a shady tree and downed a couple of Danny’s dogs. Beloved by legions of regulars and admired for sponsoring youth sports and giving free dogs to the needy, Danny passed away earlier this year. His sons, Jeff and Sean, have been running the stand for 17 years, though, and the dogs are as delicious as ever. Steamed or grilled, the tender sausages nearly melt into their warmed, split-top buns. Then there’s the snap of the casing, the tang of mustard and relish, the crunch of chopped onions — perfection. Lower Mall park, where Maine St. meets Everett St.
Selfie: Over the years, other vendors have come on the scene, but just follow the longest line — often a dozen deep at lunch hour — to the front of Danny’s red-and-white trailer, where you can get a shot with Jeff and Sean nimbly assembling dogs in the background.
11. Eat a Pie Treat on the Honor System
With your GPS fading in and out on the winding roads around Newry, you may only catch the little self-service pie stand out of the corner of your eye. Hit the brakes. Pull a U-turn. Puzzle Mountain Bakery’s pastry-filled lean-to is too good to miss, chock-full of fruit pies, preserves, and other goodies. At $10 a pop, the pies are a steal to take home (really, though, don’t steal them — put your money in the huge steel jug), and the whoopie pies are a perfect road snack in the meantime. These gourmet gobs are the apotheosis of the form — semisweet pastry shells, dense but cakey, bound by a filling rich and smooth like buttercream frosting. The perfect reward or motivation for a calorie-burning hike a few miles down the road in Grafton Notch State Park. 806 Bear River Rd.
Selfie: Local black bears like pie as much as humans do (which is why the owners shutter the stand at dusk). Arrive in daylight and snap a pic as you do your best hungry bear impression, ogling the mouthwatering baked goods.
12. Swig a Moxie at the Matthews Museum
To the chagrin of its (many) detractors, Moxie is the summer beverage of choice for some die-hard Maine-o-philes. The Matthews Museum of Maine Heritage in Union has an entire Moxie wing, welcoming fans, foes, and the merely Moxie curious. Exhibits exploring the history of the soft drink and its brand include a portrait of Moxie founder and native Unionite Dr. Augustin Thompson, an old-school “pumpkin seed” bottle from 1904, and an empty can from Moxie’s ill-fated experiments in energy drinks in the mid-2000s. Of course, you can grab a Moxie and enjoy it in front of the world’s largest Moxie bottle, a 32-foot wooden structure brought to Union by George and Judy Gross, both members of the New England Moxie Congress. July–Aug. $5 adults, $3 seniors and children. 1 Fairgrounds Ln. 207-542-2379.
Selfie: The three-story Moxie annex was custom-built to house the giant wooden bottle. Take a shot inside, next to the monumental Moxie, or outside, where a bright-orange flag summons the faithful.
13. Sponsored: Sip Wine at Cellardoor Winery
Step onto the porch of Cellardoor Winery in Lincolnville and you may think you’ve been transported to Tuscany. Carved out of the surrounding forest, a lush vineyard stretches out before you. Green-blue hills rise and roll in the near distance. But tear yourself away from that view, because the gracious Cellardoor team waits inside the refurbished 200-year-old barn, offering complimentary tastings. You’ll sample several varieties, get a little education in viticulture, and be welcomed to linger as you like. The hospitable vibe is literally inscribed in the space itself — Cellardoor’s logo and philosophy are modeled on a symbol etched into the barn door by a hobo who found work on this farm 100 years ago. He was letting other travelers know they’d be welcome here. 367 Youngtown Rd. 207-763-4478.
Selfie: Cellardoor has an uber-popular location at Portland’s Thompson’s Point, but scavenger hunters should head to Lincolnville, where the wine is made. For your photo, stand next to that old barn door with its inspirational code.