Nearly as big as the rest of the New England states put together, Maine is known for its long coastline, rocky islands and majestic mountains. Outdoor types love the hiking and biking, and in winter, skiing and boarding. Year-round, there is great shopping, the freshest seafood, and fine museums.
One of the USA’s most popular national parks, Acadia covers 40,000 glorious acres (16,000 hectares) on the Maine coast, 3.5 hours northeast of Portland. Follow the 27-mile (44 km) Park Loop Road around Mount Desert Island, one of the largest islands on the USA’s East Coast. Hike the 120-mile (195 km) network of trails, or pedal along the 51 miles (82 km) of gravel-surfaced “carriage roads.” Originally built for horses and carriages, these are perfect for mountain biking. Other activities include rock climbing and sailing around and between the islands. On the summit of 1,532-ft. (467m) Cadillac Mountain, you can be first in the United States to see the sun rise.
“Maine” and “lobster” go together like love and marriage. What could be better than a freshly-steamed lobster with melted butter — eaten with your fingers? But why not learn more about lobster aboard a lobster boat? Tours are offered at fishing villages along the coast; go out with a captain and watch him pull traps. As well as eating in “lobster shacks,” enjoy the freshest seafood and local produce prepared by award-winning chefs; choose from world-class restaurants, charming mountain inns and rustic sporting camps.
Which is the prettiest route in a state crisscrossed by gorgeous, empty roads? The National Scenic Byways Program highlights three of Maine’s most spectacular drives, along with the All-American Road encircling Mount Desert Island. As well as stunning views, expect history and local culture. Canny vacationers know that the best time to see the spectacular scenery is the autumn/fall when millions of Maine trees show off their true colors.
With some 5,000 miles of coastline, Maine is famous for its lighthouses. More than 60 stand along the shore, and some are centuries old. Spot them on coastal Route 1; drive down the peninsulas to find the most dramatic settings; and see them from the water. Take a lighthouse cruise from the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath or see them from the deck of an historic windjammer, a traditional schooner (see below).
Windjammer is the New England word for a schooner and Maine is the only state to have a large, historic fleet of these romantic ships of yesteryear. Take a cruise to enjoy salt spray, grand sunsets and close-up views of whales, seals and puffins. Go for a weekend or longer; stop for a beach picnic on an island. With their solid hulls, masts and billowing sails, windjammers are part of the region’s maritime heritage. Help to haul the mainsail or just sunbathe on deck; The Maine Windjammer Association has a special package for you.
Also see: Camden/Rockport
Winter in Maine is great for skiing and boarding, with 18 downhill ski areas and a wide variety of on-mountain lodging. With consistent snow and challenging runs, Sunday River and Sugarloaf boast international reputations. But Maine also has more than 375 miles (600km) of safe, well-maintained and well-groomed cross-country ski trails at dozens of Nordic ski centers. Most offer equipment rentals and instruction, as well as snowshoeing and ice-skating, often on natural ice. Then, there is the Maine Winter Sports Center, with six sites in the state; the 10th Mountain Ski Club in Fort Kent, for example, is a world-class cross-country and biathlon center — and, it’s open to the public!
Enjoying Maine’s rugged beauty is easy; choose a “trail” and get out into the great outdoors.
- The Maine Island Trail is a 375-mile (600 km) ‘water trail’ extending from the New Hampshire border on the west to Machias Bay on the east. Along the way, the route winds through protected saltwater rivers and quiet bays and between islands large and small.
- The Northern Forest Canoe Trail is a long-distance paddling route connecting major watersheds across the Adirondack Mountains and Northern New England. Almost half of its 740 miles (1,200 km) are in Maine, providing plenty of water adventures.
- The Appalachian Trail stretches for 2,178 miles (3,500 km) from Maine to Georgia. The most challenging section is generally considered to be the 281 miles (450 km) in Maine. As well as lakes, streams, and bogs, hikers often see moose, loon and other wildlife.
Every year, millions of bargain hunters head for Maine’s outstanding outlet shopping destinations: Kittery and Freeport, with their designer labels and well-known brands. But there are also collectibles made in Maine. For more than a century, craftspeople have produced fine furniture, jewelry, ceramics, paintings, glass and carving: see them in galleries devoted to Maine artisans. Nationally-recognized designers Jill McGowan and Angela Adams, and furniture maker Thos. Moser, all call Maine home.
Back in the mid-19th century, artists such as Frederic Edwin Church and Thomas Cole were inspired by Maine’s dramatic scenery. They were followed by Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe and photographer Berenice Abbott. Then, there are the three generations of the Wyeth family. Discover more on the Maine Art Museum Trail that links seven leading galleries, including the Farnsworth Art Museum (Rockland), the Ogunquit Museum of American Art (Ogunquit), the Portland Museum of Art (Portland).
The first North American sea-going ship was built in Maine and, ever since, ‘Mainers’ have sailed the world. Lively museums tell stories of shipbuilding, lobstering and trading, lighthouse keepers and lenses. See how a shipbuilder’s family lived in the 1890s; listen to tales of dangerous voyages to distant lands.
- The Maine Lighthouse Museum in Rockland houses the country’s largest collection of lighthouse equipment and memorabilia.
- The Maine Maritime Museum in Bath features a fascinating collection of maritime-related art and artifacts, an original 19th century shipyard, and many hands-on activities.
- The Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport is a complete 19th-century village where visitors can learn about the sea captains who helmed Maine’s most storied ships.
For more travel adventures in Maine: www.visitmaine.com