Down East 2013 ©
More than once in the past few years the word "resort" has been used to describe Millinocket. Sure, the North Woods community has been grudgingly making the transition from its mill town roots to an economy that takes advantage of the millions of spectacular acres of woodlands right out the town's back door. But resort? Maybe a frontier resort. Better yet, outdoor recreation center.
LODGING Cabins have been a Millinocket-area tradition for more than a century. You can take your pick from those on Baxter State Park's (1) Daicey and Kidney ponds (207-723-5140; www.baxterstateparkauthority.com ) or head over to nearby (2) Twin Pine Camps (207-723-5438; www.neoc.com ) on Millinocket Lake, which are arguably the nicest cabins around. More posh digs can be found on South Twin Lake at (3) Five Lakes Lodge (207-723-5045; www.5lakeslodge.com ), where they have things like in-room hottubs. A handful of motels are scattered along the main drag between the Interstate and Millinocket's downtown; try the (4) Gateway Inn (Route 157; 207-746-3193; www.medwaygateway.com/gateway ), which has fantastic views of the mountain from its second-story rooms, or the more centrally located (5) Best Value Heritage Motor Inn (935 Central St.; 207-723-9777; www.heritageinnmaine.com ).
FOOD Despite popular misconceptions, there's actually a lot of good food in Millinocket. And there's no place finer than (6) River Drivers' restaurant (1221 Medway Rd.; 207-723-8475), which is part of the New England Outdoor Center (www.neoc.com ) and has a nice menu of American cuisine. Similar sitdown fare is also served nightly at Fredericka's, the dining room at (7) Big Moose Inn (Route 157; 207-723-8391; www.bigmoosecabins.com/dine.php ), famous for the cinnamon rolls that precede main courses like fresh Maine shrimp scampi in pinot grigio or veal porterhouse. For lunch you can't beat (8) Orvieto (67 Prospect St.; 207-723-8399; www.dicensiinc.com ), an Italian deli located in the mill town's Lil' Italy neighborhood. For breakfast take yourself to the (9) Downtown Restaurant (53 Penobscot Ave., 207-723-9910), located, well, right downtown.
ACTIVITIES With the wondrous North Woods as its neighbor, Millinocket has no end of outdoor things to do. The hiking in Baxter State Park is unrivaled in the Northeast. One of the state's great rafting rivers - the Penobscot - surges through Ripogenus Gorge just twenty minutes north of town. (10) Katahdin Air Service, Inc. (Golden Road, Ambajejus Lake; 888-742-5527; www.katahdinair.com ), and (11) West Branch Aviation LLC (16 Medway Rd., 207-723-4375; www.westbranchaviation.com ) all offer spectacular bird's-eye tours, and (12) Katahdin Scenic Cruises (Route 157; 207-723-2020; www.katahdinsceniccruises.com ) runs daily boat trips out on Millinocket Lake with a jaw-dropping view of the mountain. If the weather is less than clement, peruse (13) North Light Gallery's (256 Penobscot St.; 207-723-4414; www.artnorthlight.com ) intriguing collection of upcountry artwork or take the Katahdin Scenic Cruises trip over to Ambajejus Lake Boom House to see displays of life during the area's river-driving heyday. You certainly won't run out of things to do before you run out of time to do them.