Best of Maine: Playing 2012

Where to go for the best art gallery, seaside campground, music venue, wilderness adventure, and sun set.

Photograph by Will Bleakley


Seaside Campground 
Lamoine State Park
Rte. 184, Lamoine

Love Acadia National Park, but not the crowds? Lamoine State Park offers campers easy access 
to Acadia and a quiet place to lay their heads after a day of hiking and biking. Sitting on the shore of Frenchman Bay just east of Trenton Bridge, the park boasts spectacular views of Cadillac Mountain, Acadia’s highest peak. Campsites are tucked in a white birch grove (the best are sites 56 to 61, which are tent sites). With a sandy beach, relatively calm water for kayaking, and a picnic area, the park is a fine place to while away the day, too.

Enchanted Evening
Blackfly Ball
Machias Valley Grange,  Machias

On the evening of the third Saturday in August, Bad Little Falls Park becomes one big writhing dance floor as hippies, rednecks, and just plain folks don costumes and boogie in harmony to the music of local and visiting bands (they’ve included the Rude Mechanical Orchestra, the Auroratones, Samuel Doores & the Tumbleweeds, and, always, the Machias Ukuleles). The roar of the rushing falls, the bobbing string lights on the footbridge, 
and the intricate murals fluttering from the trees add to the magic. Closely associated with the Machias Wild Blueberry Festival, this quirky and thoroughly Down East party is hosted by the nonprofit Beehive Design Collective, which creates graphic campaigns to address a range of social and political issues.

Place to Watch 
the Sun Set

Height of Land
Rte. 17, Rangeley

This high point on the Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway boasts one of Maine’s most stunning views, and there’s no better time to soak it up than sunset, when the sky blazes red and orange over Mooselookmeguntic Lake and the White Mountains. It is a splendid sight any time of year, whether you’re hitting the slopes or taking a summer hike, but our favorite season is autumn when the brilliant foliage justifies planning a day trip around this roadside turnout.

Wilderness Art Gallery

North Light Gallery
256 Penobscot Ave., Millinocket 

Maine’s art galleries tend to be clustered in seaside towns, and the art within inspired by the light, colors, scenery, and culture of the coast. Less common is fine art about Maine’s interior, so the North Light Gallery is a special delight. Opened in 2005 by Marsha Donahue, North Light’s collection includes Donahue’s watercolors of the Katahdin backcountry along with paintings, drawings, ceramics, sculpture, photography, and other artworks by more than two-dozen artists whose muse is the North Woods.

Wilderness Adventure
Allagash River Canoe Trip 
Henderson Brook Bridge to Allagash Village

Part of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, a ninety-two mile band of rivers, lakes, and streams stewarded by the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, this thirty-five- mile stretch of the fabled Allagash River makes a splendid four-day, three-night canoe-camping trip. Its mix of flat and quick water pleases both novice and experienced paddlers, and sightings of moose, deer, and black bears are almost guaranteed. Camping is at designated riverside sites (permits are issued at checkpoints). If you want to rough it a little more gently, hire a Registered Maine Guide, who will supply all the equipment, set up camp, feed you, and, most important, lead you safely through the wilderness.

Secret Beach
South Beach
Long Island

Unless you’re one of the lucky souls with a home or rental on Long Island, a three-mile long, one-mile wide haven in Casco Bay, getting to South Beach is, well, no day at the beach. First, you have to catch a ferry at the Casco Bay Ferry Terminal in Portland (boats leave several times a day in summer and, no, you can’t take your car). Then, after a forty-five-minute ride, you must hoof it to the other side of the island, a twenty-minute walk. None of this is unpleasant, mind you, but it does require planning. This serene largely state-owned beach has fine white sand (rare in Maine) and views of an island-sheltered cove.

Show of Patriotism
Patriot’s Day Weekend Ogunquit

Paul Revere rides again! Maine separated from Massachusetts in 1820, but one Bay State tradition we maintain is Patriot’s Day on the third Monday in April. Mainers might be forgiven for thinkingthe holiday honors the Boston Marathon — the Patriot’s Day road race is as synonymous with the day as fireworks on the Fourth. Only Ogunquit, it seems, remembers that Patriot’s Day commemorates the anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. The program includes reenactments of historical events like the signing of the Declaration of Independence, colonial games workshops, fife and drum concerts, even dinner with 
the likes of John Adams, Betsy Ross, John Hancock, Benjamin Franklin, and, of course, Paul Revere.

Music Venue
State Theatre
609 Congress St., Portland

Since taking over management of the State Theater two years ago, entertainment promoter Lauren Wayne has not merely booked acts for the 1929 movie palace-turned-performance hall; she has transformed Portland’s concert scene. Wayne has been bringing noteworthy acts to Portland for nearly a decade, but at the State, she is notching things up and providing rare opportunities to see home-grown talent as well as international performers like Snoop Dogg, Elvis Costello, My Morning Jacket, and Aziz Ansari in an intimate setting, where it is virtually impossible to have a bad seat. Best of all, the State is right downtown, within walking distance of many great restaurants. Lauren Wayne, take a bow!

Personal Best

Nervous Nellie’s James & Jellies
598 Sunshine Rd., Deer Isle 800-777-6845;

“Nervous Nellie’s James & Jellies is impossible to describe. You have to see it to understand why. My wife loves the tearoom and the yummy jams and chutneys they cook up in an impossibly small kitchen (the hot tomato chutney is now her favorite). I love wandering around Nellieville, a surreal village of buildings ranging from a saloon and a general store to a “Grail Castle” and a jail, all furnished and peopled with folk art sculptures made mostly from stuff found at the dump. We both like the Australian shepherd, Scout, who really does smile! Last time we stopped at Nellie’s we were entertained by a family of foxes cavorting at the edge of the meadow. It’s that kind of place. You have to see it.”
— Terry Breggy, Down East Books sales representative

Fly-fishing Destinations
1. Rapid River, Township C and Upton. Fish for brook trout at Middle Dam, Pond in the River, and between Lower Dam and Cedar Stump in the Rapid, which flows six miles from Lower Richardson Lake to Lake Umbagog.

2. West Branch Penobscot River, Townships 2 and 3. The best fishing for landlocked salmon is found in the eleven-mile stretch between Ripogenus Dam and Abol Bridge.

3. Grand Lake Stream, Grand Lake Stream. Landlocked salmon swim in this three-mile waterway connecting West Grand Lake and Big Lake in eastern Maine. The best fishing is often at Dam Pool.

4. East Outlet Kennebec River, Sapling Township. The East Outlet flows a little over three miles from Mooshead Lake to Indian Pond. Fish for wild and stocked brook trout and salmon in a series of pools near the Route 15/6 bridge.

5. Roach River, Lily Bay and Spencer Bay townships. Just thirty to forty feet wide, the Roach flows six miles from Kokadjo to Moosehead Lake’s Spencer Bay. Several pools, accessed by a short hike in the woods, yield salmon and brook trout.