An A-to-Z Guide to the Ultimate Summer Vacation in Maine
From A (Acadia) to Z (Ziplining) and every letter in between, a Bostonian’s Guide to crushing summer in vacationland.
Edited by Brittany Jasnoff
Additional reporting by Madeline Bilis, Matthew Reed Baker, Thomas Stackpole, Abby Bielagus, and Katy Kelleher
Pitch a tent, light a campfire, and get ready to see this national treasure the way it was meant to be seen: under the stars.
Located along Route 3, Blackwoods is Acadia’s most popular place to camp, and for good reason: It features 300-plus sites tucked between pines. Pick up the nearby Cadillac Mountain trail when you’re feeling adventurous, or take a 10-minute stroll to dip your toes in the ocean.
Schoodic Woods Campground
Want to really get away from it all? The park’s newest campground is the spot. Opened in 2015, this 94-site hideaway across Frenchman Bay on the Schoodic Peninsula is about an hour’s drive from Bar Harbor but promises secluded splendor in the form of spruce-fir forests and rugged headlands to explore.
Bar Harbor Campground
It’s okay to be spontaneous at this campground just beyond park borders: No reservations are required. Ocean views from select sites are coveted, but the heated pool, hot showers, and WiFi are for everyone. —Madeline Bilis
Five fresh twists on Maine’s most iconic fruit.
Sweetgrass Winery “Bluejolais”
Unlike most fruit wines, this dusky stunner is refreshingly dry, even as it maintains the lush flavor of those baby blues. Try it at the winery’s tasting room in Portland’s Old Port, or at the actual farm in Union, which features a hiking trail and deck views over the Midcoast hills.
Capt’n Eli’s Blueberry Pop
Make like the locals and enjoy this antioxidant-rich soda, sweetened with cane sugar and available all over the Pine Tree State, on a lake- or oceanside dock.
Two Fat Cats’ Blueberry Pie
Maine’s bossest berry tastes even better under a crust—especially at this Portland institution, which bakes it up alone and blended with blackberries, cranberries, raspberries, or rhubarb.
Beth’s Farm Market Blueberry Jam
Swing by this farm store in Warren for fresh wild blueberries during the peak season (late July through August) and some of the best jam (pictured) in the state.
Stonewall Kitchen Wild Maine Blueberry Syrup
Fast becoming everyone’s favorite high-end grocery-store brand, Stonewall Kitchen sells a fruity syrup that’ll make your kids forever forswear anything maple.
If you’re going to do luxury in Maine, this is the place to do it. Thanks to a recent top-to-bottom renovation, this historical hotel perched on Cape Neddick’s ocean cliffs is packed with creature comforts, from light, bright rooms with Atlantic-facing terraces to a day spa featuring dazzling views. New this summer are Sunday clam and lobster bakes capped off by prismatic fireworks displays, as well as trails perfect for exploring the landscape by foot. Nature or nurture? You can have both here. —B.J.
Damariscotta River Oysters
Planning to spend your summer slurping oysters al fresco? As you savor the subtle differences among such varied Maine mollusks as Pemaquid, Glidden Point, and Norumbega, keep in mind that these and many other farmed oysters actually come from one 12-mile Midcoast estuary called the Damariscotta River. Sample all of them fresh from the river at the second annual Damariscotta Oyster Celebration (June 13–15) or the Pemaquid Oyster Festival (September 29). Better yet, hop on one of the Damariscotta River Cruises through October and enjoy them with bubbly or beer as you get a close-up look at the farms themselves. —M.R.B.
Eastern Egg Rock
What is it?
Though it’s just a treeless, 7-acre scrub of land in outer Muscongus Bay, Eastern Egg Rock boasts major ecological cred as the world’s first restored seabird colony. Implemented on the island starting in 1973, its methods of reestablishing populations of puffins and other threatened birds have been replicated worldwide.
How can I see it?
The National Audubon Society, which manages the site, doesn’t allow the public to set foot on the island during the summer breeding season. But the organization more than makes up for it by having its Project Puffin naturalists emcee Hardy Boat Cruise tours around the island to explain its ecology every afternoon at 5:30. Cap’n Fish’s Island Lady also offers two-and-a-half-hour cruises during the week at varied times.
What can I expect?
Keep your eyes peeled for precious avian inhabitants like puffins, guillemots, and the endangered roseate terns. And—bonus—you may even spot some harbor seals and minke whales along the way. —M.R.B.
Ready to hook Maine’s famous fightin’ wild brook trout (a.k.a. the brookie)? All you’ll need is the right guide to help you find one.
Red River Camps
Wayyyy up in Aroostook County, in spitting distance of the Canadian border, you’ll find Portage’s Red River Camps. Built as a luxurious 19th-century getaway, it hasn’t changed much. If you want cell service, you’re out of luck. But if you want some of the best fishing in Maine, you’ll find it in the ponds around the camp.
North Maine Woods
You can’t talk about fly-fishing in Maine without talking about Libby Camps, the world-renowned getaway nestled on Millinocket Lake. At the headwaters of three of the best fishing rivers in the state—the Allagash, Penobscot, and Aroostook—Libby Camps has been an angler’s paradise since the 19th century, with a seaplane to drop brookie hunters into pristine, remote fishing spots.
Peterson’s Guide Service
Don’t want to schlep up to the north woods? You don’t have to. Sebago Lake and the Presumpscot River that flows south from it have all the action you could want and only half the driving. No matter what you want to catch, registered Maine guide Jon Peterson can design a trip for you—including one with overnight camping options. —Thomas Stackpole
If you love the campfires and s’mores but hate pitching tents and swatting away what’s buzzing in your ear, welcome to a modern glampers’ paradise. Decked out by local interior designers, Sandy Pines’ spacious safari tents and A-frame cabins in Kennebunkport feature plush king-size beds, chandeliers, and a refreshing dearth of mosquitoes. New accommodations this year include an Airstream, a white-canvas covered wagon, and a transparent “Oasis Dome” offering 360-degree views. No matter where you stay, you can stroll up to the on-site general store to order a lobster dinner brought directly to your spot. Room service in the woods? Vacationland, indeed.—M.B.
Mount Kineo State Park, Moosehead Lake
Level of Difficulty: Easy
Hiked by both Henry David Thoreau and President Theodore Roosevelt, Mount Kineo is popular with explorers willing to board a boat to get to the trailhead. Catch the waterborne shuttle from Rockwood, then trek about a mile to reach the top of this stunning 700-foot lakeside cliff.
Debsconeag Ice Caves
Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness Area, Millinocket
Level of Difficulty: Moderate
Skip nearby Mount Katahdin for this (much cooler) treasure. A short one-mile hike over grounds gripped by thick roots and glacial erratics leads to the Debsconeag ice caves. With the right equipment, you can climb inside them to explore chilly caverns where icicles hang from the walls—yes, even in summer.
Blueberry Mountain Trail
Evans Notch, north of Stow
Level of Difficulty: Advanced
Come for the whimsically named peak, stay for the plump trailside berries: Rising near the New Hampshire border, Blueberry Mountain is a lesser-known gem that promises an invigoratingly steep 4.8-mile out-and-back climb with beautiful views. —M.B.
Looking for a modern twist on the same ol’ ice cream cone on a hot summer day? Churning out small-batch, artisanal scoops in Bar Harbor and Portland, Mt. Desert Island Ice Cream just might have the coolest lineup of flavors around. —B.J.
1. Kulfi (pistachios, cardamom, saffron, and sweetened condensed milk)
2. Pretzel-Toffee Swirl
3. Blueberry-Basil Sorbet
4. Bay of Figs (fig ice cream studded with Mission figs)
5. Lemon-Poppy-Seed-Berry Ripple
6. Brigadeiro (inspired by the Brazilian truffle of the same name)
7. London Fog (Earl Grey tea, vanilla bean, and a hint of bergamot)
8. Blueberry–Sour Cream Crumble
9. Maine Sea Salt–Caramel
Hoist the sails and bring your appetite: This Rockland windjammer cruise is for the foodie. Several times this summer, chef and co-captain Annie Mahle will take a group out on the water for a multi-day cooking lesson (and eating extravaganza) that culminates with a lobster bake set up wherever the wind takes you to—be it a state park, preserve, or even a deserted island. —B.J.
Do you love dogs? Have kids? Hate crowds and gridlock? If you answered yes to any of these questions, the only place you should be heading for your next beach day is Kennebunk, a mere hour and a half from Boston and in the opposite direction of Cape traffic. Arrive at Middle Beach anytime before 9 a.m. or after 5 p.m. to join in the shoreline pooch party, with canines of all shapes and sizes allowed to play fetch, dig holes, and splash in the surf.
At Mother’s Beach, meanwhile, you can rest easy knowing there are lifeguards and a playground nearby when the babes get tired of building sandcastles. Just a bit farther up the road is Goose Rocks (pictured), which offers a wide, quiet stretch of soft white sand perfect for working on your tan and napping. When the sun starts to fade, simply walk across the road to the Tides Beach Club to finish the day with a cocktail. —Abby Bielagus
Sure, you could stop for a lobster roll along Route 1 and wait in a line that can take as long as your entire drive to the Midcoast. Or you could do what Mainers do and spend a little extra time on verdant back roads in search of McLoons, a quintessential lobstah shack on Spruce Head Island. There, seated at picnic tables, families tuck into Maine’s most famous export prepared every which way—steamed, in a stew, and, of course, on a roll—overlooking picturesque McLoons Wharf, where salty lobstermen bring in the crustaceans on your plate. It’s the definition of fresh—especially since you don’t have to wait. —M.R.B.
Pack your binoculars and get ready for a wild ride: three ways to spot Maine’s most majestic creature.
Northwoods Outfitters Tour
Hop into a canoe or kayak to see moose on the shores of a remote pond, or follow them on foot to discover the animals’ secret hangouts in the Moosehead Lake region’s backcountry.
New England Outdoor Center Tour
If the weather’s just right, you can scan the trees for antlers from a pontoon boat on Millinocket Lake on a half- or full-day tour with this Katahdin region outfitter.
Northeast Whitewater Tour
Getting up close and personal with massive mammals not your thing? Opt for a land tour by van with Northeast Whitewater. Guides bring you on roads your own car couldn’t possibly reach, and since you can cover more ground on wheels, you’ll see more moose than you would by foot. —M.B.
North Maine Woods
How to survive (and thrive) while exploring Maine’s remote wilderness.
Choose the Right Footwear
Yes, Gulf Hagas (a.k.a. the “Grand Canyon of the East”) is beautiful, but if you lose your footing on rocks near the waterfalls, know that help is likely hours away. Swap sandals or sneakers for sturdy boots with ankle support. If you do end up with a sprain, run cold water from the gorge over your foot in place of ice.
Know Your Trail Snacks
In the event you’ve decimated your granola-bar supply, you can subsist on lamb’s quarters, a common weed that grows all over the state of Maine. Look out for a plant with 1-to-4-inch leaves and tiny greenish flowers. They taste a lot like spinach when you cook them in boiling water.
Bear in Mind
Black bears dwell in much of Maine’s woods. While they’re known to be docile, it’s still smart to avoid run-ins. To keep them from approaching, try singing a hiking song, whistling a tune, or wearing a bell—anything to make noise in thick tree cover. —M.B.
Don’t mistake this little playhouse in southern Maine for a community theater. The beloved institution is a small but mighty legend, known for putting on blockbuster shows all summer long. This season boasts Tony Award winner Jersey Boys, the tap-dancing sensation 42nd Street, the iconic Broadway hit Cabaret, and Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. Don’t be surprised if you recognize a face on stage, too—Golden Globe nominee Sally Struthers is a regular player, and other stars have rotated through. The best part? The cozy quarters mean there’s not a bad seat in the house. —T.S.
A tick-tock guide to spending your best day in this food lover’s paradise.
Resist the allure of your Matouk blanket at the Francis hotel to take the short stroll down Congress Street to Hot Suppa, where you’ll find hearty spins on southern fare—think: eggs Benedict with fried green tomatoes and spicy bloody marys topped with pickled okra.
Walk off your meal along the Western Promenade, where you can gaze at historical mansions on one side and the working harbor on the other—or take a detour onto the trails of the leafy 12-acre Western
Water, water everywhere—even inside the Portland Museum of Art, where visitors are greeted by images of waves crashing, streamed live via webcam from Winslow Homer’s studio on nearby Prouts Neck. Venture farther into the museum to catch this summer’s “In the Vanguard,” the first major museum exhibition focused on the work of Haystack Mountain School of Crafts artists such as Dale Chihuly.
Rob Evans is something of a local celebrity, thanks to his repeat Food Network cameos and his 2009 James Beard award. But don’t go to Duckfat because the chef’s a star. Go because it serves the best poutine this side of the border.
Spend the afternoon in Portland’s up-and-coming Bayside neighborhood, filled with breweries and creatives of all stripes showing off their wares. Sample the kombucha and hard cider at Urban Farm Fermentory before popping into Rising Tide for a beer flight. Looking to knock down some pins after knocking back a few? Hit up Bayside Bowl for a game or two.
Popular small-plates spot Central Provisions (pictured) doesn’t take reservations, but it’s worth the wait for chef-owner Christopher Gould’s spicy beef salad and bone-marrow toast served on reclaimed-heart-pine tables.
It’s time for something sweet: namely, soft-serve honey ice cream or a slice of layer cake (can’t it be both?) at noodle bar the Honey Paw. The treats taste even better paired with the “Strong Paw” cocktail, a refreshing blend of tequila, mezcal, and honey.
End your evening with a nightcap at the Scandinavian-inspired Portland Hunt & Alpine Club, which offers some of the best libations in town, whether you prefer dark liquors or barely-there botanicals. —Katy Kelleher
Quoddy Head State Park
What’s red and white with stripes all over? It’s not a candy cane—it’s Lubec’s West Quoddy Head Light, a bright beacon that’s about as iconic New England as you can get. Peep the landmark (and maybe even some offshore whales in warmer months) just before the Canadian border before setting out on the park’s 5 miles of breathtaking trails, some boasting arctic and subarctic flora typically seen only in our northern neighbor’s landscape. —B.J.
It’s summertime and the swimming’s easy in the Rangeley Lakes Region, which boasts six major lakes and 105 smaller bodies of water. But what do you do when it’s time to dry off?
Set up Camp
The best way to enjoy the sprawling wild is sleeping in it. There’s camping all over the lakes, but the rustic Stephen Phillips Memorial Preserve (no electricity, RV hookups, or shower facilities) along the delightfully named Mooselookmeguntic Lake offers a chance to truly get away from it all.
Take a Walk
Saddleback, one of Maine’s 4,000-foot peaks, towers over Rangeley Lake, with gorgeous views and miles of trails. The relatively new Berry Picker’s trail, however, is among the loveliest, arcing through fields of blueberry bushes and lush woods, and over granite ridges to the summit.
Cast a Line
What brought the first tourists up to Rangeley? The legendary fishing. Today, anglers still swear it’s the best in Maine, though reports of 12-pound brook trout haven’t been heard in a while. Fishermen can also aim to hook salmon, perch, and even catfish in the pristine lakes. —T.S.
Whether your style is more Antiques Roadshow or hip city fete, there’s a Maine fair for you.
Old Port Festival Portland
It’s not summer in Portland until this celebration gets under way. This marks the last year for the beloved fete, so be sure to head to the historical waterfront for a day of music on multiple stages, a parade, and plenty of local vendors showcasing Maine’s cuisine and fine arts and crafts.
Maine Lobster Festival Rockland
July 31–August 4
Is it possible to eat too much lobster? Find out at this almost-weeklong festival in honor of the state’s beloved crustacean. Festivities include the Maine Sea Goddess pageant, a cooking competition, an aquatic crate race, and, of course, more than 20,000 pounds of lobster served in countless ways.
Maine Antiques Festival Union
Your living room will thank you for visiting the largest antiques show in Maine, which brings more than 100 dealers to the Union Fairgrounds to showcase wares ranging from furniture and porcelain to folk art from the early 18th century. Celebrate your finds over blueberry pie, lobster rolls, and craft brews in the beer garden. —A.B.
All aboard: Rail travel is hardly dead in Maine, with plenty of scenic, vintage trains waiting to whisk you away on your next adventure. The Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad cruises along Casco Bay in Portland, while the Belfast & Moosehead Lake Railroad hugs the Midcoast. Heading farther north? The Downeast Scenic Railroad offers a 90-minute historical jaunt from the town of Ellsworth. And if you’re set on leaving the car at home, consider Amtrak’s Downeaster, which departs from Boston with stops at all the summer favorites, from Wells to Portland to Brunswick. —M.R.B.
Umbrella Cover Museum
They hang from the ceiling! They hang from the walls! Curator Nancy Hoffman’s quirky Peaks Island attraction has found a home for the one accessory that no one actually uses: the often-discarded umbrella cover. Visitors can peruse 600 of her 2,000 covers donated from all over the globe—a Guinness World Record. Who knows? Maybe your own idle parasol protector can become part of the collection when you stop by on the next rainy Maine day. —B.J.
The Volvo Line
About 40 minutes north of Portland, though no one knows exactly where, locals tell of an invisible line that divides cosmopolitan Maine from the state’s wilder regions, a place where shiny new Volvos give way to dented old pickup trucks, dense pine trees stretch for miles, and you can finally take a long, deep breath and exhale. How to get there? Set your course north on Route 302 for the interior, or for the long haul up 95, and go wherever the spirit takes you. The Volvo Line is a state of mind, after all. —T.S.
The best thrill ride in Maine isn’t in Old Orchard Beach—it’s on one of these raging river adventures.
Allagash River, Piscataquis County
Make splashy memories with help from Canoe the Wild’s experienced guides, who teach kids and parents alike the basics of paddling and how to read the river. Opt for the six-day trip, which begins at Churchill Lake and traverses Chase Rapids, an easy-to-moderate 9-mile stretch of rapids.
Kennebec River, West Forks
Booking a weekend with Three Rivers (pictured) is as much an excuse to get all of your pals together as it is a chance to raft. The outdoor adventure outfit offers a base camp with an inn (complete with bar and restaurant) and nearby cabins on the banks of the Kennebec River that can sleep small and large groups. Daytime adventures on the rapids of the Kennebec are wild but controlled; the nighttime shenanigans are up to you.
For Whitewater Pros
Machias River, Washington County
A free-flowing river formed by glaciers and not disrupted by humans, the Machias is remote, rugged, and offers occasional stretches of Class III rapids best traversed by experienced paddlers. Even the most capable canoers will benefit from a seven-day guided trip from Smoking Rivers, whose guides can modify the excursion based on your preferences. —A.B.
XL Bean Boot
As far as monuments go, it’s impressive: 16 feet tall and full of intricate detail. But you don’t have to travel to a national park to see this manmade wonder: We’re talking about the larger-than-life L.L. Bean duck boot that sits in front of the brand’s 200,000-square-foot flagship at the Freeport outlets. Get a shot for the ’Gram before heading inside to browse three levels of clothing, jackets, shoes, and hiking gear. And if that’s still not enough for you, the mega retailer’s campus also boasts separate buildings dedicated to hunting and fishing; biking, boating, and skiing; and even décor, should you want to take a (much smaller) piece of Maine home with you. —M.R.B.
It’s Saturday night—what’s for dinner? If you’re vacationing in Maine, there’s a good chance it’s a bean suppah. A crop staple here for centuries, mild, creamy yellow-eyed beans remain a local tradition, cultivated at places such as Green Thumb Farms in Fryeburg and sold at markets across the state. So do like the locals do and whip up a big batch of hearty baked beans in your rental or over the campfire: They’re “a great companion to the infamous Maine red hot dogs,” says Green Thumb Farms’ Julie Thibodeau. –B.J.
Daredevils meet their match on these high-octane courses.
For the Nature Lover
Sugarloaf, Carrabassett Valley
What goes up the mountain must come down—in this case, via ziplines that stretch through the woods and over the waters of Gondi Brook 20 to 30 feet above the ground. Guides can pump the brakes for those who want to play it safe or show adrenaline junkies how to ride upside down while traveling at speeds of about 25 miles per hour.
For the Competitor
Sunday River, Newry
In the mood for a good old-fashioned face-off? Gather up your pals for a race on Sunday River’s Twin Zips. Located at the base of the ski resort’s South Ridge Lodge, the side-by-side lines are 750 feet long, providing ample opportunity to sail past your friends.
For the Kid at Heart
Take Flight Aerial Adventure Park, Kittery
Leave your skepticism in the car and get ready to embrace your inner child at this adventure park, which features two guided zipline tours in addition to catwalks, bridges, swinging tires, and more than a dozen cargo nets to climb. —A.B.