From 1898 until 1984, trains carrying lumber and passengers chugged along the Calais Branch Railroad Corridor between Brewer and the mouth of the St. Croix. In 2005, the bulk of it was rechristened the Down East Sunrise Trail, an 87-mile multi-use corridor from Ellsworth to Pembroke. Bikers, ATVers, and others park at any of a dozen or so lots along the route and hit the unpaved, mostly flat, sometimes-dusty trail through remote marshes and forests and towns like Cherryfield and Machias. Along the way, they spot hills like bald-topped Schoodic Mountain and plenty of wildlife, including deer, bald eagles, and maybe the occasional moose. ► Find a trip planner with maps and access info at sunrisetrail.org.
Selfie: Take an afternoon ride or stroll or make a whole weekend out of it, just get a selfie from somewhere along the trail.
#2 Take a History Tour in Castine
Tiny Castine packs in a lot of New England history. It was founded by the French in the 17th century and seized multiple times by the British, who then briefly occupied it during the War of 1812. In the 19th century, it was a port for the salt trade and a shipbuilding center, and it’s been home to Maine Maritime Academy since World War II. All of the above is brought to life during the Castine Historical Society’s free, hour-long walking tours five days a week, hitting highlights like Fort George, a 1779 earthwork fort, and the schooner Bowdoin, built in 1921 to explore the Arctic. ► castinehistoricalsociety.org
Selfie: Grab a shot in front of your favorite historic structure along the way.
#3 Climb Mars Hill Mountain
The International Appalachian Trail picks up right where the Appalachian Trail leaves off, at Katahdin, winding some 140 miles through northern Maine before continuing on into Maritime Canada. Shortly before it does, it ascends 1,749-foot Mars Hill Mountain, an Aroostook County high point and one of several spots in the state with a claim to seeing the country’s first sunrise. It’s also home to New England’s largest wind farm, a forest of 28 gargantuan, 389-foot wind towers that you’ll see up close after hiking the mile-long trail to the summit. It starts at the base of the triple chairlift for Bigrock Mountain ski hill and alternately follows the grassy ski trail and wooded switchbacks to magnificent views up top. ► 37 Graves Rd., Mars Hill. 207-425-6711. bigrockmaine.com
Selfie: Snap your pic inside the IAT lean-to at the top or at the base of the nearest giant turbine.
#4 Benefit Butterflies in Southwest Harbor
The Charlotte Rhoades Park & Butterfly Garden, on Mount Desert Island, is more than just a pretty place for a stroll (though it’s certainly that) — it’s habitat for some dozen different species of butterflies. The garden is designed with butterflies in mind, from the selection of its perennial nectar flowers and herbaceous plants (which serve as larval foods) to the placement of water sources and windbreaks. The nonprofit pocket garden, a certified “way station” for migrating monarchs, relies on volunteers for maintenance and research. On Thursday mornings, volunteer crews tend to the beds, while any visitor can be a citizen scientist by recording what they see on a provided observation sheet. Volunteers use the data to survey species and assess population health. ► 191 Main St., Southwest Harbor. 207-244-9264. rhoadesbutterflygarden.org
Selfie: Show up for a Thursday volunteer shift or complete an observation form, and get a pic near any of the vivid flowerbeds.
#5 Admire Portland’s (Ever More Historically Faithful) Grand Dame
Eighty years ago this summer, a New York educator (and Augusta native) named William Holmes bought a striking 1860 brownstone manor at the edge of Portland’s West End, saving it from demolition. Eight decades of steadfast conservation and restoration have made Victoria Mansion one of the country’s best preserved examples of Italianate architecture. The restoration of the original interiors is gobsmacking (the opulent rooms house more than 90 percent of the house’s original furnishings), and conservators are in the middle of an exacting two-year conservation project in the mansion’s parlor — an effort that involves everything from gently, painstakingly cleaning plaster walls and ceilings to re-adhering flaking paint from the impressive trompe l’oeil wall paintings. The pandemic has Victoria Mansion indefinitely closed to visitors, but admiring its pillars, balustrades, and tower is still a quintessential street-level Portland experience. ► 109 Danforth St. Portland. 207-772-4841. victoriamansion.org
Selfie: The mansion’s exterior is every bit as impressive as its interior. Stand out front and get the grand, four-story tower in your shot.
#6 Join a Coastweek Cleanup
Since 1986, volunteers in more than 100 countries have hit the beach the third Saturday in September for the nonprofit Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup. Here in Vacationland, the Maine Coastal Program designates the week that follows as Maine Coastweek, a time for collecting and documenting the trash that winds up on beaches from Kittery to Calais. In the last decade, Maine Coastweek cleanups have removed more than 110,000 pounds of trash from our coast — and more than 18,000 people have enjoyed a day of sun and sand while getting rid of it. Visit the Maine Coastal Program online to sign up for a cleanup in one of dozens of towns (or you can start a cleanup of your own). ► mainecoastalprogram.org
Selfie: Let’s see you with a nice full trash bag on the stretch of coast where you filled it.
#7 Place an Order at Congdon’s After Dark
Wells institution Congdon’s Doughnuts started inviting food trucks into its parking lot after hours in 2017, and the pop-up food court is already a Maine summer classic. The pandemic summer has led to some changes — no kids play area this year, no indoor bathrooms, no weekly classic-car shows, and lots of new spread-out seating to accommodate distancing — but the variety of food in family-friendly setting is still the draw. A nightly rotating cast of as many as 10 trucks each night serves up everything from coconut-glazed grilled corn to beef num pang sandwiches to chicken and waffles, and Saco’s Barreled Souls Brewing Co. hosts a beer garden (serving brews inspired by Congdon’s doughnuts). ► 1100 Post Rd., Wells. 207-646-4219. cadfoodtrucks.com
Selfie: Find your favorite food truck and get a pic witht the menu.
#8 Scavenger Hunter’s Choice – Volunteer in Your Community
As Maine and the country navigate the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, the volunteer sector has been hit hard. During periods of self-isolation, everything from shelters to community meal programs to arts organizations find themselves without a critical volunteer workforce — often when the populations they serve are most in need. Loving a Maine summer means caring for the communities that facilitate it, and as Maine bounces back from the health crisis in the coming months, we want you to find a place where you can be of service in your own community and lend a hand. If you live outside Maine, find a Maine town that means something to you. Volunteer Maine, the state’s nonprofit service commission, is a good place to start. ► volunteermaine.org
Selfie: Show us how you did your part in whatever way makes sense. And thank you.
#9 Sip Vino at Anthony Lee’s Winery
Mark Libby started what’s arguably New England’s mom-and-pop-iest winery after he “got in a fight with a blackberry bush and won.” After getting scratched up trying for five years to beat back the monster in his yard, Libby decided to make wine out of it. Now, there are few fruits he won’t ferment. On a visit to his Dexter tasting shed (with a covered outdoor tasting garden this summer), you might try wine made with Maine-grown blackberries, cranberries, pears, or raspberries. He and his wife, Karen Walsh, offer tastings and tours (aka, visits to their cellar) Thursdays through Sundays. They’ll even show you where the bush was out back, though it’s been replaced with grape vines. ► 377 Dover Rd., Dexter. 207-924-2209. anthonyleeswinery.com
Selfie: Gather around one of the aging barrels used as outdoor tables and say cheers.
#10 Find Our Commemorative Capstan
Down East founder Duane Doolittle grew up in Boothbay Harbor, but after stints in advertising in New York City and teaching at Syracuse University, he settled in greater Camden with his wife, Katherin. In 1954, they started a scrappy regional magazine at their kitchen table. “We don’t pretend that we can define this evocative term, ‘Down East,’” Duane Doolittle wrote in the first issue. “All that we can honestly say is that we are tuned to this particular parcel of land, and that we like its music.” We still do, and this old capstan on the Camden waterfront commemorates the magazine’s founding, 66 unbeatable Maine summers ago.
Selfie: Find this marker on the Camden waterfront, just south of the patio for the Waterfront Restaurant, off Bay View Street. Bonus points if you get a windjammer passing behind you in the harbor.
#11 Salute Forestry in Rangeley
Sharpen your axes for a trip to the Maine Forestry Museum, where antique chainsaws and chainsaw art share space with artifacts and photos showing what life was like in a Maine lumber camp a century ago. Easy walking trails out back lead to a tranquil picnic area on the shore of Haley Pond. Exhibits inside include old photos and tools from 19th-century logging camps, and the gift shop is your source for hand-carved wooden bric-a-brac. ► 221 Stratton Rd., Rangeley. 207-864-3939. maineforestrymuseum.org
Selfie: Outside the museum is a pavilion with vintage gear and machines once used to cut and haul timber. Pose alongside one with your best stoic lumberjack face.
#12 Call on a Loon in Lincoln
Little Lincoln has 13 lakes within its borders and a very healthy population of its unofficial garnet-eyed mascot, the loon. Unveiled in 2016, this 6-foot-tall, 13-foot-long graven gaviidae overlooks Mattanawcook Pond. Another of the town’s claims to fame is the annual Redneck Regatta, when locals float (briefly) upon Mattanawcook in boats made from cardboard and duct tape. ► At the intersection of Rtes. 2 & 155, Lincoln.
Selfie: Alongside your fine, feathered, fiberglass friend.
#13 Visit a 19th-Century Downtown Anchor in Gardiner
In the 1950s, as retail entrepreneur R.H. Reny looked to expand beyond his original store in Damariscotta, the most economical sites were often historic buildings in downtowns where new shopping centers had siphoned away traffic. The third Renys location, in the Patten Block of downtown Gardiner, was one such spot, a stately Romanesque Revival building built in 1896. Renys later expanded into the 1940 Masonic Block two doors down — today, the store fills the building between, but longtime Gardiner shoppers recall wheeling their carts out onto the sidewalk, to get from one part of Renys to the other. The whole of downtown Gardiner is now on the National Register of Historic Places, and it’s enjoying a comeback, its Water Street lined with restaurants, shops, and the lovely Waterfront Park. Maine’s favorite department store, meanwhile, is as bustling a mainstay as ever. ► Visit Gardiner’s Renys at 185 Water St., Gardiner. 207- 582-4012. To find another of Renys’s 16 locations, use the store locator at renys.com.
Selfie: Stand outside Gardiner’s Patten Block, designed by architect and local boy Edwin E. Lewis, and get a shot with the old red brick and the classic green Renys awning.
#14 Protect Dark Skies and Trails at Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument
In its fourth summer since designation, Maine’s woolly north woods national monument is welcoming more visitors than ever. Still a largely backcountry-ish experience, the park is short on infrastructure and long on peaceful trails and starlight. Join Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument staff on July 18 or 19 to help with trail maintenance, using hand tools, along the beautiful Wassataquoik Stream and the Maine International Appalachian Trail, some 30 miles of which run through the park. On the evening of July 18, weather permitting, join National Park Service staff and others to participate as a dark-sky monitor. The monument was recently designated an International Dark Sky Sanctuary by the International Dark-Sky Association — only the second such property in the National Park System — and volunteers gather data on the eastern seaboard’s largest light-pollution–free area. ► Volunteers gather at 9 a.m. at Sandbank Stream campsites at Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, Swift Brook Rd., west of Stacyville. Groups are limited to 25 participants per day and must have their own vehicle. Sign up in advance with volunteer coordinator Susan Adams at [email protected]. 207-456-6001. nps.gov/kaww
Selfie: Any nighttime or trail selfie will do.
#15 Hoof It to the Jefferson Cattle Pound
In 1829, the town of Jefferson paid local resident Silas Noyes a hefty $28 (nearly $800 today) to build a stone structure where wayward cattle could be kept and collected. Barbed wire made it irrelevant by the end of the century, but it’s still fun to come upon this odd fieldstone circle in the woods, 40 feet in diameter, with walls about 7 feet high. It made the National Register in 2004, one of Maine’s 21 surviving animal pounds. ► Rte. 126, less than a mile west of Rte. 213, Jefferson.
Selfie: Pretend you’re a lost heifer and step inside the neat old pen.
#16 See the World in Lynchville
Apparently, you can get there from here. Or so it would seem from this famous marker at the crossroads of Route 35 (Valley Road) and Route 5 (Crooked River Causeway), which went up in the 1930s and launched a thousand postcards in the decades that followed. Fun facts about how these Maine places got their names: Several were named out of solidarity with regions struggling for independence from colonial powers (Peru and Mexico) or fending off invasion in the Napoleonic Wars (Denmark). China and Poland, meanwhile, have little to do with their geographic name twins — they were actually named after popular hymns. ► On the northeast side of Route 35, Lynchville.
Selfie: Use caution parking and walking on the side of the road to get a shot next to Maine’s famous world-traveler signpost.
#17 Explore the Colonial Era at the Tate House
What tea taxation was to colonial Boston, the mast trade was to Maine. All white pines of suitable size were deemed property of the Crown and shipped to England to build naval ships — anyone who used them for another purpose was fined 100 pounds per tree. Captain George Tate, senior mast agent for the British Navy, oversaw Maine’s pine and lived in this grand 1755 home, Portland’s only pre-Revolution house that the public can tour. The unpainted clapboards and gambrel roof hearken back to the 18th century, as does the exquisite garden, where keepers grow botanicals in use in Tate’s day. This summer, tours of the grounds (but not the interior) are offered on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through August ($5–$12). Advanced reservations necessary. ► 1267 Westbrook St., Portland. 207-774-6177. tatehouse.org
Selfie: Stand out front and get the Tate House’s natural clapboards and yellow trim.
#18 Check Out the Upgrades at Maine Maritime Museum
Partway through a $3.4 million renovation, Bath’s Maine Maritime Museum is more welcoming than ever. A lovely new park on the museum’s south campus, shaded with groves of native Maine trees traditionally used in shipbuilding, is open to the public, with new displays exploring the history and ecology of the adjacent Kennebec River. Still to come: a nearly 150-foot riverside boardwalk that will offer views of coastal wetlands, MMM’s restored 1906 schooner Mary E, and handsome little Doubling Point Light, built in 1898 to guide ships upriver to Bath. This summer’s exhibits include a fascinating deep dive the shipwrecks that dot the Maine coast, exploring everything from how they got their to how the sites ought to be managed. ► 243 Washington St., Bath. 207-443-1316. mainemaritimemuseum.org.
Selfie: Check out the dyed-concrete inlay map of the Kennebec in the museum’s new arrival plaza. Walk the river from its source at Moosehead lake to its outlet at the Atlantic, and grab a photo somewhere along the journey.
#19 Watch the Former Presidential Yacht Get Rebuilt
From 1933 through 1977, eight American presidents called the USS Sequoia their “floating White House.” After Jimmy Carter sold it at auction, the 104-foot vessel became a tourist charter on the Potomac River, then moved to a shipyard in Virginia, where it fell into disrepair. Last year, it was barged to Belfast Harbor for restoration at the French & Webb boatyard. You can see the grand old boat from the Belfast Harbor Walk, and the yard has plans to open a viewing platform, incorporating historical photos and memorabilia from President Roosevelt’s floating summits, JFK’s final birthday bash, and other moments that took place aboard. ► 21 Front St., Belfast. 207-338-6706. frenchwebb.com
Selfie: Make like the Sequoia here and ship over to Belfast. Get the famous boat in your selfie (or some of it anyway — it’s a biggie).
#20 Take a Kid Tide-Pooling
Hands-on learning about marine life, also known as messing around in tide pools, is a quintessential part of a Maine childhood. The state’s rocky shores and dramatic tidal changes provide plenty of habitat for periwinkles, limpets, barnacles, crabs, and more. So grab a budding ecologist and go looking for sea stars at Wonderland in Acadia, try to catch a hermit crab on Sandy Point in Yarmouth, or poke around for pretty blue mussels and sea urchins along Marginal Way in Ogunquit. Check a tidal chart first, use caution on the rocks, and don’t be afraid to pull back (gently) the rockweed curtains.
Selfie: Find a kid (doesn’t have to be yours) and find a rocky beach (pick your favorite) and let’s see you admiring some intertidal critters.
THE SAVE-MY-MAINE-SUMMER PLANNER
Read How to Participate in the Mini Maine Scavenger Hunt
Even in this difficult year, a great Maine summer awaits.