MOUNT DESERT ISLAND, MAINE
It’s easy to pack summer days with pint-size adventures on this 108-square-mile island.
1. For a peek at the lives of the ocean’s most majestic inhabitants, book a BAR HARBOR WHALE WATCH COMPANY catamaran.
2. The endless family hiking options in ACADIA NATIONAL PARK come with sea views, forest trails, and rocky coasts.
3. Captain John Nicolai of the LULU LOBSTER BOAT RIDE offers educational encounters with harbor seals and lobsters.
4. For one week at summer’s end, every living, breathing person in the region heads to the BLUE HILL FAIR—as they have since 1891. It’s everything you’d want, including 4H club events, country music, tractor pulls, draft horses, fried dough, rickety carnival rides, and a cast-iron skillet throwing contest (no joke). 9/3–9/9; Rte. 172, Blue Hill, 207-374-3701, bluehillfair.com.
5. Searching out the world’s biggest sea mammals requires patience and knowledge of their watery world. Aboard the 100-foot-long Harbor Princess for the BOOTHBAY WHALE WATCH, kids will be able to see seals, sharks, petrels, and possibly even a humpback whale during the three- to four-hour journey. Pier 6, Boothbay Harbor, 207-633-3500, whaleme.com.
6. With 30 miles of trails and bald summits with ocean views, CAMDEN HILLS STATE PARK is perfectly suited for day hiking. The highest peak, Mount Megunticook, rises 1,300 feet above sea level along a vigorous mountain brook. The lower peak, Mount Battie, is accessible by car if the kids are too tired to walk. Either way, pack a lunch for al fresco dining with unbeatable vistas. 280 Belfast Rd., Camden, 207-236-3109, stateparks.com/camden_hills.html.
7. In the 19th century, British troops tried to seize control of the Penobscot River for access to up-country lumber. The U.S. responded by erecting the pentagon-shaped FORT KNOX in 1844. Children can explore the dungeonlike soldiers’ quarters, climb over historic Rodman cannons, and peek out at "enemies" from the narrow gun windows. 711 Fort Knox Rd., Prospect, 207-469-6553, fortknox.maineguide.com.
8. Winding its way along 57 miles of track, the MAINE EASTERN RAILROAD introduces visitors to the midcoast’s small towns minus noisy traffic and parking woes. An abundance of packages includes rail-and-sail trips, overnights at inns, and museum-hopping. Stations in Rockland, Wiscasset, Bath, and Brunswick, 866-637-2457, maineeasternrailroad.com.
9. The little-known OWLS HEAD TRANSPORTATION MUSEUM has one of the finest collections of early aircraft and automobiles in the world. Kids will love the more than 100 historic cars, bicycles, carriages, and motorcycles on display in the airplane hangar–size space. Among the exhibits is the extraordinarily rare 1935 Stout Scarab, the so-called first minivan. 117 Museum St., Owls Head, 207-594-4418, ohtm.org.
10. What was it like when shipbuilding and seafaring were based here? Find out at the PENOBSCOT MARINE MUSEUM featuring Seacoast Village, a collection of eight early 19th-century buildings including a sea captain’s home. Also on hand are historic boats and, for the kids, live demonstrations of period tools. 5 Church St., Searsport, 207-548-2529, penobscotmarinemuseum.org.
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