Maine is my favourite place on earth so we thought we’d share some of hot tips for those keen on heading north to moose / lobster country. This is by no means an exhaustive list- Maine is BIG. These are my top picks from my time in Maine and welcome any other Mainers or Maine-wannabes to send through their hots spots for our next visit.
1. Visit Acadia National Park
I could bang on about Acadia for several posts so I’ll try and keep this snappy. Arcadia National Park is perched (connected by a bridge) on an island just of Bangor. Once owned by the Rockefeller family, the whole island is filled with dense forests, mountains, bays, beaches, rivers and ponds. It has everything you’re looking for in a national park. You’ll need to stop at the ranger station and information spot after you cross the bridge to get a pass. Day passes start from about $20 or there are yearly passes available too.
The Rockefeller family built mansions throughout the island and connected each with immaculately crafted roads or in those days – carriageways. After the family donated most of the island to be conserved as a national park, these carriage ways still exist and are perfect for walking, running, biking or even via snow mobile (in the winter…obvs). You can rent bikes in Bar Harbour and catch the free shuttle to wherever you want to bike. There are lots of options but we’d suggest starting or at least aiming to get to Jordan Pond- a huge fresh water lake nestled in the mountains. There’s a restaurant there, bathrooms, water taps and a lawn great for picnics. There’s also a beautiful easy walk around the pond that takes about an hour. Highly recommended!
There are plenty of walks to do within the park – you can pick up a guide from the information centre in town or as you enter the park. They vary in difficulty so there is bound to be something for everyone. You can also visit a range of beaches for a swim (bring your wetsuit…), rocky cliffs, gorgeous towns or just drive along the scenic byway that will give you a little bit of everything.
We’re big campers. We don’t even know how it happened. Actually we do. Long before Air B’n’B we had a romantic plan of staying in actual bed and breakfasts up the coast of New England. However on arrival to the US and a little more research we found out they averaged $200 – $300 per night so that wasn’t happening. Instead we went to Target, bought a bunch of camping-esque things, hired a car and set off for the woods. And funnily enough we loved it!
Now I know camping isn’t for everyone but I’d suggest dipping your toe in. America is MADE for car camping. Beautiful spots are all over this great country and non more beautiful than in Maine. Camp sites tend to differ a lot so make sure you do your research and avoid sites that are heavily focussed in hosting RVs. No offence to those guys but I feel like bringing your whole lounge room is missing the point. Find sites that have “tent only” or “car camping” options. Many sites have platforms to pitch your tent, running water to drink and wash your plates, fire pits, flushing toilets and hot showers. Yes. Showers. All while keeping the “out in the woods” vibe alive.
Camp sites range in price but most are around $25 – $40 per night. Being on the coast and speckled with rivers and water ways there are some beautiful water sites in Maine too. These usually cost you a bit more but are worth it. I’d also suggest checking out the state parks. Reserve America does a good job in breaking things down if you get overwhelmed too.
My camping must haves:
- pillow, good sleeping bag or duvet (treat yo self) and a sleeping mat to get you off the ground. You’re sleeping outdoors but no need to go feral.
- red wine (the real secret for a delicious s’more)
- head lamp
- a little gas stove top because cooking of the fire stinks and takes waaaaaay too long.
My favourite camp sites:
Mt Desert Island Campground
Great quiet, wooden sites along the water. Hot showers, wifi spot, water on site and platforms. Book online and try and get a water site. The BEST. It’s also a short drive to Acadia National Park and Bar Harbour. This is good for those people who like scented candles that smell like the woods but are a little nervous about committing to flat out sleeping in the woods.
Recompence Shore Campground
Nestled just outside of Freeport, this pet friendly campground is idillic. It’s tent only sites get you away and into the woods. There are also lots of activities on site and bike, kayak and canoe hire. If you’re still not that keen on tents, they also have a few cabins you can hire.
3. Have a Chowder in Portland, Maine
If you’re a seafood lover, there is no better place than Maine. When I say have a chowder in Portland, it could really be have a (insert a wide range of seafood options) in Portland, Maine. Chowder is a new love of mine. The hearty, creamy nature is a god send on those misty, chilly days that are so frequent in Maine. Plus I’m a huge carbohydrate fan so the fact I can have a creamy soup that has potato in it AND add crackers. I’m in!
There are are lots of seafood places but our favourite is Gilbert’s Chowder House. Right down by the water on Commercial Street, this no fuss seafood joint is perfect for a quick lunch stop or a lazy afternoon on the beers out on the back deck.
Ryan usually sets about attacking a lobster or has a lobster roll and we share a seafood chowder. I get a fish sandwich. Thumbs (claws) up!
4. Go to the Maritime Museum in Bath
We stumbled on Bath after a planned camping trip was rained out. And although I love camping, I was pretty glad to find Bath. A tiny little town about 2.5 hours out of Boston, Bath is cute as a button. We were there on a wild and misty weekend. The fog rolled off the river and set the scene for the Steven King novel. The huge Iron Works down by the river gave an eery light and as we walked through the rain and the mist we felt like we were sure to stumble upon a couple of mismatched detectives investigating some kind of strange happening. I digress.
We stayed in an air b’n’b and just dow the road was the Maritime Museum. Being a rainy day and having spent max time in our pyjamas, we rugged up and set out. I’m not going to lie- I wasn’t too keen. I’ve seen boats. Whats the big deal? Well! As one fan raved it “not just boats!”. It has a great deal of information re. wooden boat design, construction and it’s impact on not only the town but the country. They’ve got a great array of multimedia exhibits to show the history of the place and the role boats and boat making has had there. You can take a tour through each stage of the process and even hop on a boat and zip around the Kennebunk River. Sadly the actual boat making all came to an end when the big guys (iron works next door) came into town and shut them down with their fancy technology.
Address: 243 Washington Street, Bath, Maine 04530
Price: Adults $16 | Kids (6- 12) $10 | Kids under 6 FREE
5. Visit a Lobster Pound
Maine is full of lobsters. They. Are. Everywhere. And everyone knows seafood is best when it’s fresh so why not take the opportunity to head to a lobster pound where you can literally pluck out your own lobster and take him home and cook it! Can’t get much more fresh than that. It’s also pretty interesting seeing just how lobsters are caught and the efficiency of the lobsterman catching them out. They stack those cages up high on their boats, burn out to sea, drop em and wait for the little suckers so slide in then BOOM! Dinner!.
There are lobster pounds all over the coast so a quick Google will help you find near wherever you are. If you’re not into looking into your lobster’s eyes, slaughtering your own lunch or dinner and living with the level of guilt there’s usually a little cafe or restaurant close by that will serve fresh lobster meals.
HOT TIP: Reach Knolls Campground in Brooklin, Maine is a cute, newish campground right on the ocean front. They offer big lobster pots to borrow (free of charge) so you can grab a few lobsters from the pound, make a fire on the beach and cook those suckers up! You don’t need much- there’s plenty of rocks to help you crack them open and the ocean is the perfect cooking water AND washing up sink. Voila!
6. Visit Wolfe’s Neck Farm
One of our little hidden secrets is Wolfe’s Neck Farm. The farm is kind of connected to Recompence Shore Campground so perfect if you’re being adventurous and camping too. It’s just outside Freeport though so worth a visit if you’re driving through.
The farm has been function for nearly 60 years and growing steadily over the years offering educational activities, summer camps, community gardens, loads of fresh produce, sheep, goats and cows and even a few farming internships. It’s the perfect spot for an event or party if you’re looking for a truly unique venue.
They are definitely stepping things up a notch to include more of an education focus, honing in on sustainable agriculture and providing more training programs for young farmers.
The farm is open 365 days a year for visits. It’s a perfect excursion if you have littles ones (or not!). This past summer Ryan and I went on a “goat walk” with a mama goat, 3 kids and one of the farm’s instructors who taught us (and the other 5 year old on the walk…) all about goats.
There’s always something going on at the farm so check out their website for more details.
7. Visit the Outlets in Freeport
Freeport is a little town with a big reputation- mostly for the L.L Bean Outlet store. A classic New England brand, L.L Bean has been providing all-things outdoors since 1912. Their headquarters are in Freeport so it makes sense that their biggest and best stores along with their biggest bargains are in one spot. If you’re looking to dress like a mountain man, pick up a fly fishing pole, upgrade your bedsheets, buy a tent or just see a really, really big stuffed moose- then L.L Bean store is for you. But seriously, they have everything outdoors so beware, visiting may make you want to quit your job, buy a cabin and sip cocoa for the rest of your days.
L.L Bean also have a no questions asked return policy so it’s a big plus if you’re dazzled by the call of the outdoors but realise that fly fishing pole just doesn’t fit in with your life in NYC.
Many other chains have taken LL Bean’s lead a located their outlet stores in Freeport. J Crew, Patagonia, North Face, Banana Republic, Gap are some of the others jumping on board. So if you’re trying to convince your significant other that camping can ALSO include shopping I’d suggest sliding the outlets into the conversation.
8. Have a Pizza at the Cabin
I have already sung the praises of Bath, Maine but one of key elements in it’s success as a charismatic little town is….PIZZA. Hiding down beside the HUGE walls of the Iron Works in Bath, the Cabin is an awesome snug restaurant serving piping hot delicious pizza.
Let’s face it, Maine can be pretty miserable. So on those cold miserable day I suggest you hunker down at the Cabin for a slice or two and a beer. The inside is all wood panels and cosy booths- perfect to hiding away and waiting out the rain. Website: www.cabinpizza.com
9. Go to the movies at Reel Pizza
The Cabin may be good for a snug pizza dining experience, but what if you don’t wan to have to look at the person across the table and hold a conversation? Well I have the perfect place for you! Bar Harbour, Maine has one of my all time favourite pizza places- Reel Pizza.
Not only does Reel Pizza make delicious highly-customisable pizza by the slice, they also show MOVIES! Reel Pizza’s theatres are filled with vintage couches and sofas for the ultimate comfort while watching a feature film. Add in some fresh pizza and you’ve got yourself a deal!
Buy your ticket to the movie (make sure you get in early during peak season because screens quickly sell out) then order your pizza at the snack bar before heading into the cinema. They will give you a buzzer and when your pizza is ready your buzzer will go off and you can sneak out, pick up your steamy slice and eat it while watching whatever feature film they have on.
10. Check out the Boats in Camden
My final hot tip is non-pizza related (although come to think of it pizza would go nicely with this activity…). Maine has many, MANY adorable towns dotted along the coast. Camden is one of it’s finest and one of my favourites. Route 1 goes straight through the middle of Camden so it’s hard to miss if you’re taking the scenic route. Nestled on Penobscot Bay, Camden is home to adorable little shops, cafes and a marina housing some spectacular boats. Ranging in sizes, these boats will make anyone want to wear exclusively white linen and deck shoes.
Right next to the harbour is a grassy hill that looks out over the town and rolls down towards the water. There’s nothing much better than grabbing a sandwich or a coffee and basking in the sun, looking across the water while pondering buying a boat.