Best of New England: Maine

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Lodging

Inn : Classic
ASTICOU INN
If you simply can’t leave home without your sports jacket and Bermuda shorts, the Asticou Inn is your getaway par excellence. Located far from the riffraff of Bar Harbor, this classic resort is a throwback to a time when summer was a verb. Dating to 1883, it’s surrounded by formal English- and Japanese-style flowerbeds against a backdrop of craggy granite. Of course, there are plenty of modern amenities, too, in the form of WiFi and a heated pool, plus a well-maintained clay tennis court for spirited games. // 15 Peabody Dr., Northeast Harbor, 207-276-3344, asticou.com.

Inn : Seaside
INN BY THE SEA
There’s no better way to spend a summer afternoon in Maine than wandering miles of sandy beaches or taking a kayak for a sunset paddle in the surf — that is, if it weren’t for those tired calves and triceps after the sun goes down. The new high-end spa added to the 57-suite Inn by the Sea as part of a recent multimillion-dollar renovation is a great place to rejuvenate your muscles. The signature Sea Waves massage uses an undulating bed and flowing strokes that simulate the rhythms of the ocean — and are almost as good as strolling along its shores. // 40 Bowery Beach Rd., Cape Elizabeth, 207-799-3134, innbythesea.com.

Inn : Romantic
THE WHITE BARN INN
Looking for the perfect place to pop the question? Relax, nervous suitors: The five-star service at this inn will fulfill your bride-to-be’s needs before she’s even aware of them. Rooms with double-sided fireplaces facing plush beds and oversize Jacuzzi soakers will put anyone in the mood for love — but save your recitation of “Sonnet 18” for the romance-inducing restaurant, which has seen its fair share of popping champagne corks. To seal the deal, book a couples’ massage at the heavenly spa. // 37 Beach Ave., Kennebunk, 207-967-2321, whitebarninn.com.

Resort : Backwoods
HIDDEN POND
When you vacation in Maine, you want to see log cabins, pine trees, and campfires. But you don’t necessarily need all the dirt that comes with them, right? Hidden Pond showcases the best of Maine without sacrificing luxury; cabins here are appointed by the state’s top interior designers. Guests can grill vegetables from the on-site organic garden, enjoy a forest clambake, or be pampered in the “tree spa” — yes, it’s a treehouse spa — then retire to lodgings overflowing with art. // 354 Goose Rocks Rd., Kennebunkport, 207-967-9050, hiddenpondmaine.com.

Resort : For Outdoor Sports
THE BETHEL INN AT SUNDAY RIVER RESORT
Maine’s biggest and baddest ski resort, Sunday River, needs no introduction to serious powderhounds. But those who know snow can satisfy all kinds of urges for adventure at the Bethel Inn. Ditch the downhill for dogsledding, snowmobiling, ice skating, cross-country skiing, or tubing. And once everything melts, there’s still tennis, horse-drawn wagon rides, golf…well, you get the idea. Whatever the season, you can unwind at the spa or heated outdoor pool, then tuck into grilled veal chops in the candlelit dining room. // 21 Broad St., Bethel, 207-824-2175, bethelinn.com.

Resort : Golf
SAMOSET RESORT
It’s hard to say what’s more challenging: the 474-yard par 14 on the 18th hole, or ignoring the gorgeous ocean views that threaten to distract your swing on the other 17. Even a bad game is rewarded with inspiring scenery, and the rocky cliffs and sea spray make a good game downright magical. Those less inclined to putt around will enjoy copious amenities at this newly renovated resort, which sits on an astounding 230 oceanside acres and features four separate dining rooms, a zero-entry outdoor pool, and 178 rooms and suites — each with its own outdoor terrace. // 220 Warrenton St., Rockport, 207-594-2511, samosetresort.com.

Antidote to Overly Cutesy New England–Style Accommodations
CAMDEN HARBOUR INN
Overstuffed wingbacks and Laura Ashley, begone. The Camden Harbour Inn swaps the antiques and bric-a-brac for a northern European, contemporary approach to décor. That’s because the owners came to Maine by way of the Netherlands, bringing their clean aesthetic with them. The inn offers rooms and suites with every amenity (plus spectacular views of Camden Harbor); spa treatments; and on-site four-star dining. // 83 Bayview St., Camden, 207-236-4200, camdenharbourinn.com.

Dining

Divine Experience
GRACE
The more devout members of your party may titter at the pulpit turned hostess stand. If they’re showing signs of discomfort, don’t let them see the enormous bar running down the apse. The owners of Grace spared no expense converting this pre–Civil War church into a spectacular restaurant space that plays up the soaring ceilings and sumptuous wood details. But then again, maybe sinning is okay when it involves a devilishly good selection of fresh ingredients and creative libations in a setting that is truly, well, divine. // 15 Chestnut St., Portland, 207-828-4422, restaurantgrace.com.

General Excellence
FIVE FIFTY-FIVE
If Five Fifty-Five’s customers had a say, the eatery’s truffled lobster mac and cheese would become an edible landmark. In their brick-and-copper-accented restaurant, owners Steve and Michelle Corry offer compelling seasonal pairings like pan-seared diver scallops with vanilla emulsion, and mussels in a cherry-pepper sauce with chive butter and garlic. Move over, Portland Head Light. // 555 Congress St., Portland, 207-761-0555, fivefifty-five.com.

New American
RED SKY
A lot of restaurants bill themselves as “elegant without being stuffy,” but too often that’s just jargon for expensive food and no dress code. At Red Sky, the changing New American menu consists of organic produce from local farms, and the bread is baked daily in-house. Don’t miss the lobster polenta (pictured above), featuring sauteéd tail meat, zucchini, and baby peas served over crispy polenta with tomato-basil concasse and a light lobster sauce. The Magical Lemon Cake lives up to its name. // 14 Clark Point Rd., Southwest Harbor, 207-244-0476, redskyrestaurant.com.

Bistro
ARBORVINE

Just up the road from the cutesy village of Blue Hill, this 1823 house/fine-dining establishment has charming covered with all the essential elements: exposed wooden beams, antique linens, and stone fireplaces. But don’t get distracted. Offerings from chef-owner John Hikade (think succulent Moulard duck with mushroom risotto, or poached arctic char fillet) will compete with any modern bistro for flavor. Hikade’s superbly fresh concoctions rely on organic ingredients from the many small family farms in the area. What swims is caught wild; what walks does so freely. // Main Street/Tenney Hill, Blue Hill, 207-374-2119, arborvine.com.

Comfort Food
SHEPHERD’S PIE
When they say Maine is “the way life should be,” they mean denim, sailing, and low-maintenance décor. What they don’t mean is fancy, uptight dinners. Thankfully, this distilled version of a New York City bistro is doing its best to update the Pine Tree State’s motto. Located in the tiny seaside town of Rockport, Shepherd’s Pie serves up a menu tending toward homey with a twist (clam tacos, a pork-belly sandwich, and of course, that eponymous shepherd’s pie). It gets crowded fast here, so be sure to arrive early. // 18 Central St., Rockport, 207-236-8500.

High-End Casual
REDBIRD PROVISIONS
Originally a deluxe takeout joint for cottage renters, Redbird Provisions has developed into a pretension-free destination for savvy gourmands. Now in his second year as executive chef, Samuel Herndon serves a seasonal menu drawing from local farms and fisheries. Enjoy laid-back meals in the dining room or on the porch overlooking the quieter side of Mount Desert Island: Northeast Harbor. // 11 Sea St., Northeast Harbor, 207-276-3006, redbirdprovisions.com.

Slow Food
ARROWS
How long does it take chefs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier to prepare a meal at Arrows? Would you believe it if we said months? These two insist on growing their own, well, everything, as close to the French tradition as possible. Prosciuttos and charcuterie are created on the premises; fish of all types are prepared in the on-site smokehouse; breads and pastries are baked by a master pastry chef; cheeses are taken from curd to finished product in the kitchen; and mushrooms, cranberries, and fiddleheads are foraged from the surrounding forest. Oh, and they have their own vegetable garden, too. // Berwick Road, Ogunquit, 207-361-1100, arrowsrestaurant.com.

Sushi
MIYAKE
They don’t call Masa Miyake the Sushi Whisperer of Portland for nothing. Taking advantage of his bustling port city’s proximity to the ocean, Mikaye pulls butter-soft, gorgeous fish off the boats to offer diners the freshest raw food around. From September through April, he serves astoundingly fresh uni, while the rest of the year offerings might include wild salmon, geoduck, or diver scallops. And where does he get those exotic mushrooms and sea greens? Some of them may have been picked by a forager from the surrounding regions. // 129 Spring St., Portland, 207-871-9170.

Unexpected World-Class Meal
PRIMO
The parking lot packed full of late-model Volvos with out-of-state plates offers the first hint that there’s something special going on in this unassuming Victorian home in the middle of a bustling fishing village. Well-heeled retirees join culinary pilgrims from New York and beyond to sample James Beard Foundation Award winner Melissa Kelley’s subtle alchemy, which transforms New England cuisine with flavors of the Mediterranean. The menu changes nightly to take advantage of whatever is ready to be harvested from the massive garden out back. // 2 S. Main St., Rockland, 207-596-0770, primorestaurant.com.

Lobster in the Rough
CHAUNCEY CREEK LOBSTER PIER
A splintery dock, well-worn picnic tables, lobster rolls and fries on the menu…clearly, you’re in shack country. Originally a working lobster pound, this is local seafood lovers’ go-to for raw oysters, steamed mussels, and boiled red crustaceans. The menu’s stripped to nothing, so bring your own green salad and wine for fine dining without fuss. Trust us, there’s nothing like taking in a Maine sunset over home-baked blueberry pie. // 16 Chauncey Creek Rd., Kittery Point, 207-439-1030, chaunceycreek.com.

Shopping

Home Accessories
ANGELA ADAMS
Textile designer Angela Adams has won national renown for her talent in creating pieces with bold curves and glorious colors and patterns. But she says she owes all of her designs to her native Maine’s rugged coastline. Inspired by woodland moss, stones, footprints, and leaves, Adams creates patterns that pay homage to nature without mimicking it. The little store at the foot of Munjoy Hill holds popular seasonal sales that ensure her rugs and totes are familiar sights inside Mainers’ homes. // 273 Congress St., Portland, 207-774-3523, angelaadams.com.

Hardware Emporium
THE HULLS COVE TOOL BARN
H. G. Skip Brack is an expert on all things hand-tool related, and before you start yawning, consider how critical these things were to the advancement of civilization. Without gizmos like jointers, planers, and saws, we’d still be hunting and foraging instead of typing and tweeting. ’Nuff said. Real fanatics should check out the on-site sculpture garden, which features works made entirely out of old tools. // 17 Breakneck Rd., Hulls Cove, 207-288-5126, jonesport-wood.com.

Antiques
BIG CHICKEN BARN BOOKS AND ANTIQUES
The chickens at this barn may have flown the coop, but in their stead you’ll find 21,600 square feet of antiques, books, records, curios, and so much more. Because you can get lost pecking about the Life magazines, vintage knickknacks, and old china, plan accordingly — you’ll spend hours dreaming up new ways to feather your nest. // 1768 Bucksport Rd., Ellsworth, 207-667-7308, bigchickenbarn.com.

Bookstore : Art
PENOBSCOT BOOKS
The garish yellow building that houses this store certainly isn’t winning any awards for good taste. Inside, however, is one of the finest displays of art and architecture books we’ve ever seen. Room after room of current and out-of-print (and often very expensive) coffee-table tomes might put off the bargain hunter, but this is the place art-book aficionados come to plan their next masterpieces. // 164 W. Main St., Searsport, 207-548-6490, penobscotbooks.com.

Bookstore : Culinary
RABELAIS
Books about what to eat, how to eat, and how to make it line the walls of Rabelais, the refuge of dinner dreamers everywhere. Journals like Meatpaper and Alimentum lie near old, hopelessly complicated cookery volumes that once reduced kitchen amateurs to tears. Word to the wise: Don’t come hungry. // 86 Middle St., Portland, 207-774-1044, rabelaisbooks.com.

Attraction

Place to Hike
ACADIA NATIONAL PARK
The first national park east of the Mississippi sports some impressively rough terrain: rocky shores, crashing waves, and magnificent ocean views from rugged peaks. Yet there’s a surprising diversity of hiking trails within its confines. You can opt for the Precipice Trail, which will have you scrambling up rungs placed on nearly vertical rock faces, or take the family on a quiet but no less scenic jaunt along the ridge atop Otter Cliffs. No matter which direction you choose, make sure to cap off a really hot day with a dip at Sand Beach, Maine’s most picturesque swimming spot. // Eagle Lake Road, Bar Harbor, 207-288-3338, nps.gov/acad.

Hidden Museum
OGUNQUIT MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART
Once a thriving artists’ colony, Ogunquit is the only museum in Maine — and one of just a few anywhere — dedicated exclusively to American art. With 1,600 paintings and sculptures in its permanent collection and a three-acre outdoor sculpture garden, it’s considered by aficionados to be one of the most beautiful small-scale museums in the United States. // 543 Shore Rd., Ogunquit, 207-646-4909, ogunquitmuseum.org.

Kids’ Attraction
OWLS HEAD TRANSPORTATION MUSEUM
“Wow!” “No way!” “Cool!” Haven’t heard enough of this from the backseat of the minivan? Then accelerate to the little-known Owls Head Transportation Museum, featuring — we kid you not — one of the finest collections of early aircraft and automobiles in the world. With more than 100 historical cars, bicycles, carriages, and motorcycles, this place houses enough big machines to engage anyone’s imagination — including an extraordinarily rare 1935 Stout Scarab, the so-called first minivan. // 117 Museum St., Owls Head, 207-594-4418, ohtm.org.

Place to Appreciate the Gilded Age
BAR HARBOR
The Gilded Age of the late 19th century often gets a bum rap, what with all the tales of robber barons and Pinkertons keeping down the masses. But that era’s legacy gets a makeover at the once-exclusive resort village of Bar Harbor on the fringes of Mount Desert Island, which is now very much open to the hoi polloi. Charming shingle-style estates cluster around the central square, offering affordable lodging to a curious mix of foreigners, RVers, Deadheads, and surfers, along with remnants of the old-money clan that made MDI all the rage. They all flock next door to Acadia National Park, a natural wonder set aside thanks to the forward-looking conservation efforts of tycoons of long ago. // 207-288-5103, barharborinfo.com.

Way to Beat Summer Traffic
MAINE EASTERN RAILROAD
If you haven’t dealt with Maine’s coastal Route 1 in the summer, then heed this warning: Getting stuck behind a rambling RV means waiting practically until autumn to reach your destination. The Maine Eastern Railroad is the antidote: Meandering its way along 57 miles of track, it introduces visitors to the midcoast’s small towns via stainless steel railcars from the art deco era, fully restored to today’s standards of safety and comfort. Abundant packages are available, including rail-and-sail trips, overnights at inns, and museum-hopping. // Stations in Rockland, Wiscasset, Bath, and Brunswick, 866-637-2457, maineeasternrailroad.com.

Source URL: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/2011/05/best-of-new-england-maine/