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By Christine Lavosky
What comes to mind when you think of Maine? Lobster rolls and lighthouses? Maine’s peak season is currently the summer, but the state has so much to offer in the cooler months as well. This rustic state welcomes you to venture through each of its regions from the more widely traversed south to the final frontier of the north.
With eight lush, culturally stimulating regions to choose from, there’s truly something for everyone. New England travel experts, Jon Miksis, Kim Kalicky, and Matt Kepnes gave us their insider perspectives on exploring vacationland.
Let’s take a road trip in our mind’s eye.
Stop 1: A Minimalist Painting Come to Life in The Maine Beaches Region
Miksis, writer and photographer of the blog Global Viewpoint, recommends visiting the white sands of Ogunquit beach on the state’s southernmost tip. The ocean water drops to frigid temperatures in the fall and winter, but the views of the ocean’s horizon meeting the sand in straight, clean lines are worth the trip all on their own.
The waterfront stretches three miles and is just a leisurely stroll away from Ogunquit’s charming downtown area which features The Front Yard, an upscale Mediterranean/Italian fusion restaurant.
Wind down after a lovely day by watching a dreamy pink and yellow sunset at Biddeford Pool or Fortune’s Rocks Beach. The latter of the two is also an ideal spot for surfing, bodyboarding, skim-boarding, and surf kayaking.
Stop 2: A Magical Fairy Portal on Mackworth Island
Moving northward, to Maine’s second region; Greater Portland and Casco Bay; Kimberly Collins Kalicky, travel blogger and author of the novel, Eventide, recommends visiting Mackworth Island. The air in this secluded spot off the coast of Falmouth is thick with mysticism and the glimmering intrigue of the unknown. Legend has it that fairies flit through the trees on this island, yet remain hidden from the human eye. The island is known for its quaint village of fairy houses constructed out of rocks, branches, leaves, and any other natural materials found on its land. This is a great spot to bring your kids, but it’s also a wonderful place for an adult to get in touch with their inner child.
Stop 3: A Moose Safari Throughout the Lakes and Mountains Region
Chugging along in our imaginary RV, this region sits northwest of Greater Portland and is home to the state’s greatest concentration of moose. Head to Rangeley Lake State Park or Flagstaff Lake to spot one of these majestic, antlered galumphers in their natural habitat. Moose adore wading through wet boggy areas, strolling around in gravel pits, and prancing down trails. Enjoy the glorious view of the moose, but, for your own safety, resist the urge to approach the moose too closely. While they are usually peaceful animals, moose have been known to charge when they feel threatened. If you see a momma moose with her babies, be sure to give them a wide berth.
Stop 4: The Tranquil Oases of North Pond and the Belgrade Lakes
Kalicky also recounted the story of her family’s serene vacations at North Pond in the Kennebec Valley as well the Midcoast and Islands region on her blog, LivingMaineSeasons.
Of North Pond, she wrote, “We float on the lake… for hours. The depth of relaxation as we undulate on the waves (or tucked into our beds after a day filled with fresh air) is like none other. My body literally unwinds, unkinks the knots. My body seems to sink into, and become one with whatever I’m lying on.”
The bright green foliage, the stillness of the lake water, and the solitude of their remote rental home in the woods allows her to tune into a quiet place within herself that she’s seldom able to access amidst all the noise of work and worry in her day-to-day life.
The Belgrade Lakes network is another gem of the region. This cerulean necklace comprised of seven glimmering jewels of lakes and ponds is the epitome of serenity, plus it contains many popular spots for freshwater fishing, pontoon boat rentals, canoeing, kayaking, boat tours, and golfing.
Stop 5: Monhegan Island where Art Reflects Life
South of Kennebec Valley sits the MidCoast and Islands region. Monhegan Island’s soft, foggy light shed upon rolling hills speckled with wooden cottages draws artists from all over the country. Kalicky recommends the Lupine Gallery, a “tiny, sweet” haven home to a wide array of paintings ranging from realistic, cool-colored seascapes to impressionistic trees and fields. One of their artists who especially stands out is Carol Aronson-Shore. Her high contrast depictions of light and shadow create a moody atmosphere in her seaside landscapes of geometrically rendered houses and boats. Read more about Monhegan island in Kalicky’s blog post about it.
Stop 6: The Spooky Mansion in Bangor Where Brilliant Stories are Born
Buckle up your seat belt and get comfy again in your mind palace’s RV. We’re headed north to the Maine Highlands region known for Mt. Katahdin, Moosehead Lake and. . . Stephen King’s house! The author was born in Maine and despite his fame and wealth, he’s chosen to stay there in a towering red mansion behind a wrought iron spiderweb-esque fence. Matt Kepnes, creator of the travel blog Nomadic Matt, visited this noteworthy spot in Bangor and said that even though King wasn’t there at the time, “It was refreshing to see someone so famous (he’s sold 350 million books!) living a more down-to-earth lifestyle.”
Stop 7: Acadia National Park, A Playground of Rugged Terrain
Nomadic Matt is a dedicated fan of Acadia National Park, a breathtaking expanse located south of the Maine Highlands in the Downeast and Acadia region. He suggests “people spend more than just a day in Acadia,” to truly immerse oneself in all it has to offer. He goes on to say, “If you want to beat the crowds and really soak in the natural beauty of the park. . . I would also recommend coming early or late in the season to avoid the higher prices and crowds.” Let the vibrant views of massive mountains, cerulean blue waters, and spindly evergreens soak into your consciousness while hiking, skiing, camping, or watching the sunrise in the winter or fall.
The charming natural haven of Stonington just an hour and a half due south from Acadia is the perfect place to continue your grand exploration of Maine’s great outdoors. This adorable town hidden away on the southernmost tip of Deer Isle peninsula has a secret garden-esque mystique. Stonington’s dense woods are full of aromatic white pine trees as well as junipers, red oaks, and red maples. Look closely at the forest floor in this wet habitat and you might even find a resplendent red and green skunk cabbage in bloom!
Stop 8: Uncharted Territory in Northern Maine
And now dear mental traveler, we’ve come to the last region of our journey, Maine’s uppermost region, Arostook County. Miksis describes Arostook as “a massive wilderness area… that feel[s] totally untouched and unexplored.” He continues on to say, “Satellite images taken at night show Northern Maine as one of the most remote places on the East Coast. There’s virtually no light pollution here, making it a great place for stargazing. . . during the winter months, you can even see the Northern Lights on occasion.”
The Allagash Wilderness Waterway winds through the Arostook region and is the perfect destination for a guided canoe and camping trip. Allowing a seasoned professional to show you around the waterway takes the planning off your plate, so you can simply enjoy the clean Maine air and the burbling white waters.
Sustainability and Environmentalism in Maine — Take Only Photographs and Leave Only Footprints
No matter what region of Maine you choose to visit (or if you visit them all!), remember to be grateful for mother earth during each step along the way. Take as good care of her as she takes of you. Although each of the bloggers above come from different backgrounds and have different experiences, one thing they all have in common is their commitment to environmentalism and sustainability. Miksis, Kalicky, and Kepnes all adhere to the leave no trace and carry in, carry out philosophies. Littering in nature can make animals sick and even kill them in some instances. Miksis says to, “avoid dumping soapy water in Maine’s rivers and lakes,” so as not to disturb these precious ecosystems.
The ground beneath your feet as well as the wildlife, vegetation, water, wind, and air are alive, they’re vibrating all around you. Be sure to respect them as sentient entities while you’re enjoying your adventures throughout the glorious state of Maine.