I know it’s February and you may be thinking, “Seriously, Maine?” I realize that as I write this article, temperatures in Maine are in the single digits and the ground is covered in snow. No one is saying you should move there! It can take a while to plan a trip, so I’m suggesting that you should start planning one. There is a reason Maine has been called Vacationland for decades. I recommend going to Maine in the summer or fall, when it is breathtakingly gorgeous there. Tom and I have been to Maine three times, twice together. We each went to Maine with our parents in August 1982, 15 years before we met. Tom and I are convinced we went on the same alpine slide while there and have to wonder if we crossed paths…. We love Maine!
In case you know nothing about the only US state with a one-syllable name, here are some facts about Maine:
- Nearly 90 percent of the United State’s lobster supply is caught off the coast of Maine. If you go it’s important to eat a lobster roll. It’s the equivalent of trying a crab cake in Maryland. Tom prefers crab cakes, but at least he can say he tried the local cuisine!
- Maine is the largest producer of wild blueberries in the world. Wild blueberry plants occur naturally in the understory of the forest in Maine. The cool coastal climate seems to offer the optimal conditions for blueberry production.
- Maine contains 542,629 acres of state and national parks. In my opinion, these are easily some of the most beautiful places in America.
- West Quoddy Head is the point farthest east in the continental United States. It is ironic that it’s called West Quoddy Head, but it makes sense when you know East Quoddy Head is in Canada on Campobello Island, which is east of Maine. Another irony is that West Quoddy Head sees the first sunrise in the country only 34 days of the year (around the equinoxes). Regardless, if you wake up at 4:30 a.m. to daylight it will be an odd experience for anyone from farther west! I checked every clock around me and got completely off schedule while we were there!
- The official state animal of Maine is the moose. Maine has the largest moose population in the lower 48 states. Not surprisingly, moose-watching is a popular tourist activity. I have yet to see one though I would love to catch sight of one (from afar!).
- Maine is nicknamed “The Pine Tree State.” The tree appears on the state flag, and, as of 2012, a full 83 percent of Maine was covered in forest, making it the second most tree-covered state in the lower 48 states (New Hampshire was first with 89 percent).
As I did in last month’s featured state article, I will give a recommendation for a campground as a base camp and then note the distance to each recommended location from the campground. We’ve stayed at some great campgrounds in Maine, but to choose one it would be Narrows Too Camping Resort in Trenton. This is on the coast of the mainland, just across the water (Mount Desert Narrows) from Mount Desert Island, where Acadia National Park is located. We were able to get a spot right on the water looking across to the island. At low tide you can walk far out from the beach and see all kinds of little creatures. You can also walk to Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound and get a complete lobster meal to take back to your campsite and then head over to Sugar Bakery for dessert! When you leave the campground, make a left and you’ll go over the bridge right onto Mount Desert Island, where your adventure awaits!
Here are our TOP 5 PICKS for places to visit in Maine:
Mount Desert Island: 2 miles
Mount Desert Island is definitely the first place you should visit if you’re heading to Maine. The island is home to Acadia National Park, the town of Bar Harbor, and many other quaint, postcard-perfect towns.
Acadia National Park covers 49,052 acres and has activities for everyone. There are information centers, a historical museum, and a nature center. You can go to the top of Cadillac Mountain (1530 feet high) and overlook the entire island or be the first to watch the sun rise in the US from October 7 to March 6. There are rocky cliffs, natural wonders, beautiful beaches, lakes and ponds, hiking trails, and plenty of wildlife. Acadia National Park has 45 miles of roads that take you through and past some gorgeous scenery. The park offers numerous guided tours and cruises. We chose to explore by vehicle and by foot.
Bar Harbor is a port town with plenty of places to eat local cuisine, shop for souvenirs, walk around and see the sights. Our kids were excited to see a cruise ship sail into the port while we were there. Bar Island, to the north, is an amazing place to explore, but only at low tide when it becomes accessible by foot.
Portland: 148 miles
Portland is a bustling waterfront city with fishing wharves, restaurants, shops, and plenty of breweries. Our family loves trains, so we typically jump aboard any opportunity to ride one, and Portland has the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Co. and Museum. We took a scenic ride along the Portland waterfront and the kids enjoyed the small museum with real trains to check out. Portland is home to all kinds of various museums, but the favorite in our family was the Maine Military Museum. Our son is a huge war history buff and this small-but-packed-with-stuff museum was a big hit.
You probably have figured out that I am a planner. I plan our itinerary ahead of time when we travel so we can pack the most into each trip. On our Portland visit my scheduling was off and we wound up having an extra day. Tom picked our destination. We went to Fort Williams Park, home of the Portland Head Light and Museum. What a breathtaking park with so much to explore! We had a picnic by the rocky cliffs and it wound up being the best day.
Old Orchard Beach: 162 miles
If you’re looking for an old-fashioned seaside resort, Old Orchard Beach is a great destination! Old Orchard Beach, south of Portland, offers seven miles of public beach. There is a family-friendly amusement park adjacent to the beach with a huge ferris wheel overlooking the water. They have tons of quaint shops, waterfront restaurants, and miniature golf. We were there on a random Thursday night and witnessed an amazing (and long!) fireworks display. Apparently they have fireworks weekly in the summer!
If the quiet of nature is more your style, Old Orchard Beach area also has miles of beautiful hiking trails with wildlife and pristine scenery. This is a fun place for sure!
Side note: Between Old Orchard Beach and Portland on Highway One in Scarborough, you have to go meet Lenny the Chocolate Moose (he has his own Facebook page). He lives at Len Libby Chocolatier and he’s 1700 pounds of chocolate awesomeness!
Freeport: 132 miles
You have probably heard that Freeport is the home to L.L. Bean. There is also an outlet shopping center with plenty of other retailers. We actually purchased boots for our son when we were there because he forgot his sneakers on this trip. He had only been wearing flip flops, which (conveniently) snapped just before we left for Freeport!
Tom had been to the Desert of Maine as a child and wanted our kids to experience it. I’m not sure why, but it was definitely an experience! If you like oddities such as acres of infertile silt in the middle of a forested state, then you will love the Desert of Maine! Seriously, though, the kids really liked seeing it. They got to search for gemstones and see a small butterfly sanctuary. We also got stickers saying we’d been to the Desert of Maine, so how much cooler can you get?
Anywhere in Maine on a lake or pond
The places I’ve named in this article are all coastal locations. I do love Maine’s unique coastline, but the whole state of Maine is pretty spectacular. When I was in Maine as a child we stayed in a cottage by a lake somewhere around Bridgton (in the southwest part of Maine) and had a fantastic time. Maine is one of those places that entices you to get outdoors and have fun enjoying nature, so I would venture to say that any lake or pond in the Pine Tree State would offer an exciting adventure.
We are always ready for another trip to Maine. Feel free to let us know where and what else we should check out on our next visit!