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Maine is a beautiful state with lots to offer from charming fishing villages and picturesque oceanfront towns to lakeside retreats. If you plan to visit, here is a look at some of the most unforgettable spots to experience along the coast and inland.
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Bar Harbor, perched on Mount Desert Island at the gateway to Acadia National Park, is a historic resort town that’s managed to hang on to its Victorian splendor of bygone days. The downtown area is especially walker and bicycle-friendly, and streets are lined with magnificent Victorian-era mansions that have been converted into romantic B&Bs and elegant eateries. However, one of the most popular things to do is to enjoy the miles of trails in nearby Acadia National Park, where you’ll have the opportunity to soak up spectacular coastal and mountain scenery. Both hiking and biking trails can be found throughout the park, though the most popular is the trek that leads to the top of Cadillac Mountain, where breathtaking vistas await. The park comprises over 35,000 acres on Mount Desert Island, Isle au Haut and the Schoodic Peninsula, and includes all of the state’s quintessential features, from the rocky coastline to the mountains, dense forests and peaceful ponds. Some of the wildlife that calls this area home include seals, whales, moose and peregrine falcons.
Old Orchard Beach is home to the only beachfront amusement park in New England, Palace Playland. It sits on a boardwalk along the oceanfront, with food and entertainment hosted on the wooden pier. Visitors can enjoy shopping, dining, dancing, concerts, fireworks, fishing and more, as well as hop aboard a boat to take a whale watching tour. Nearby, the Dunegrass Golf Club offers 18 holes of golf, and the town also boasts a seven-mile beautiful stretch of beach.
This island town can be reached by taking a 25-minute water taxi ride from Portland. Chebeague Island itself is the largest in Casco Bay and has a long history of sailing, particularly stone sloopers, who were men that carried ballast for 19th-century sailing ships, and later granite for one of America’s most iconic landmarks, the Washington Monument. The impressive Greek Revival homes you’ll see on the island were built by those very sloopers. One of those homes has been restored and transformed into the Greek Revival Inn, which overlooks the ocean and features unique furnishings and works of art from Maine artisans and artists. It’s an ideal place to stay to experience the island’s history and enjoy exploring and discovering gorgeous vistas, like those that can be had by walking to the rocks at Deer Point.
Many visitors come to Maine for the lobster, and if that’s your goal, you may want to head to Rockland in late July or early August to enjoy the annual Maine Lobster Festival. Held over five days, this quintessential Maine experience features an astounding 20,000 pounds of lobster for indulging that craving as well as a Food Network cooking contest, a storytelling talent search, live entertainment and a crate race in which participants run across lobster crates floating in the water. The town itself offers lots to keep you busy no matter what time of year you visit, with museums, art galleries, interesting shops, outstanding restaurants and the always popular Project Puffin Visitor Center.
One of the cutest beach towns in New England, the name Oquinquit means “beautiful place by the sea,” and it’s aptly named as the home of southern Maine’s most beautiful beach. When the sizzling heat of summer hits, visitors and locals alike head to a flat stretch of sand that rolls down the bank of Ogunquit River with their inner tubes and rafts to cool off and enjoy floating with the current. Ogunquit is famous as the birthplace of summer stock theater, and its Ogunquit Playhouse is a must-visit, still thriving after more than eight decades. The town also hosts classic seafood shacks and boutiques selling locally-made goods.
Some of the country’s largest wilderness areas are found in Maine – it has more undeveloped land than any other state. Paddling across one of the Rangeley Lakes region’s many waterways, you’ll not only get to enjoy peaceful solitude and tranquility but the chance to spot moose, eagles and herons, which are all found in abundance in this area. Rangeley Lakes consists of six major lakes, as well as hundreds of smaller lakes, ponds, rivers and streams that stretch below Saddleback Mountain. In addition to paddling, during the warmer months of the year, swimming, boating, fishing and lake cruises are popular.
Camden is known as the “jewel of the Maine coast.” This former manufacturing haven is now a popular vacation destination with its picture-postcard looks. It’s so charming that it’s been used as the setting for a number of movies, including the 2001 film “In the Bedroom.” You’ll see sailboats gliding across the water in Penobscot Bay and you’ll have the chance to enjoy delectable seafood in waterside eateries. The High Street Historic District, with its classic New England architecture, is a perfect place for a stroll, and if you’re looking for something more challenging Camden Hills State Park offers scenic hiking trails.
Kennebunkport is a pretty Maine beach town that is renowned for its colorful eateries, like Mabel’s Lobster Claw Restaurant, and its historic district that’s steeped in local lore, with the chance to tour the homes of sea captains and shipbuilders. Many also come to enjoy the unique treasures that can be found in the shops at Dock Square, though they often discover that the highlight of their experience is taking a scenic drive on the back roads, gazing at the lobster traps piled high on Cape Porpoise, a small strip of sand at Goose Rocks Beach. Driving down Ocean Avenue with its Blow Holes, amazing ocean vistas and view of former President George Bush’s summer home is also a must, while charming accommodation can be found around every corner.
Portland is an impressive seaside city on Maine’s southern coast that draws visitors with its wild, rugged beaches and picturesque lighthouses as well as its abundance of museums, art galleries, fantastic restaurants and bars. It’s also a great place for brew lovers, with a long history of micro-brewing and excellent local institutions, like Allagash and Shipyard. The Old Port area is known for its East Coast charm that’s yet to be spoiled by tourism and offers a foodie scene that’s known as one of the best in the nation. You’ll find a lot more than clam chowder and lobster rolls, Sam Hayward’s Fore Street kicked off Portland’s food revolution some 20 years ago with his daily changing menu of locally-sourced items prepared in a wood-burning oven.
Rockport is a scenic fishing village that has had a resurgence in recent years, with its once boarded up shops now colorfully decorated, welcoming visitors in. Today you can enjoy lots of fresh, local seafood in oceanfront eateries, explore the Farnsworth Art Museum and Wyeth Center with its diverse Maine artisan collection, and visit Andre the Seal. Andre was a harbor seal who spent his winters in Boston at the New England Aquarium and his summers here. His story was the subject of the 1994 film, “Andre,” and a book, A Seal Called Andre. A life-sized granite statue of Andre sits at harborside and makes for the ideal selfie.
Wiscasset overlooks the Sheepscot River and is known for its historic charm that represents quintessential Maine, with lovely old churches and grand historic homes. Practically every corner has something interesting to see, including some of the area’s most famous architectural landmarks, like the Nickels-Sortwell House on Main Street with its Federal-style architecture, an elliptical stairway with rope-like carvings and a beautiful oval skylight. The downtown area is filled with shops, antique stores, restaurants and attractions, like the 1812 Jail and the Musical Wonder House.
Castine is known for its pretty harbor and as the home of one of the finest stands of elms in all of New England. Like many other Maine towns, it has a rich history, with well-preserved 18th- and 19th-century Georgian and Federal homes. The walkable village is lined with historic sites, a variety of eateries, shops and galleries. Some of the activities offered include kayaking, golf, sunset sails and concerts on the pier. It also hosts a great farmers market and the Wilson Museum, which features rocks and fossils from the earliest geologic times.