There's just one thing wrong with summer in Maine: it's too short. Most Mainers know how to make the most of their every waking moment during the summer months, but for those who find themselves with a free moment (or fifty) we've created the ultimate summer to-do list. Whether you're hoping to discover the best place to see a breaching humpback whale or the ideal auction to find an antique dresser, this guide will help steer you to the best of Maine this year. Looking for the perfect place to people-watch in Kennebunkport? We've found it. Want a surefire spot to hook a bass? We'll take you there. And don't worry if you don't get to everything — there's always next summer.
Visit a Lighthouse
What better way to kick off August in Maine than to explore one of the state's maritime icons? One of our favorite lighthouses is the still-operational Rockland Breakwater Light in Rockland. Everyone from starry-eyed honeymooners to the tiniest tykes make their way each summer over the mile of granite blocks comprising the great breakwater to this impressive lighthouse, which was first built in 1888. The views of Penobscot Bay and Rockland's working waterfront are well worth your effort, and you might be lucky enough to get an up-close view of a windjammer sailing past. Park at the small lot at the end of Waldo Avenue and Samoset Road or call the Rockland-Thomaston Chamber of Commerce at 207-596-0376 for more information.
Set Eyes on a Moose
So what are your chances of seeing a Maine moose in the wild? Generally pretty good (although there's been some talk in the North Woods that the state's annual October moose hunt has made the lumbering creatures more skittish of humans than in decades past). To improve your odds of spotting one of the estimated 25,000 moose wandering the state, you should definitely head north, following one of Maine's so-called Moose Alleys: Route 201 between Bingham and Jackman, Route 16 between Stratton and Rangeley, and the area around Greenville. Bogs and ponds are excellent spots to train your binoculars, especially in the early morning and around dusk. One word of warning: be extra careful when driving at night through inland Maine. From 2002 to 2004 there were 2,009 moose-car collisions that resulted in police accident reports. Some of these even occurred on the state's major roads, including the turnpike. A dark-brown moose is next to impossible to see at night, and having one come crashing through your windshield is an experience no Maine traveler wants to have.
Have a Whale of a Time
There are a number of whale watch tours on the coast of Maine. Among the better ones is the Bar Harbor Whale Watch Company in Bar Harbor. Its fully narrated trips leave from 1 West Street at the town pier and tend to run about three and a half hours long. The sight of a humpback, finback, or minke whale surfacing in the Gulf of Maine is not something you will forget. You may also be treated to the sight of dolphins, porpoises, and seals, as well, so don't forget the camera. If you're worried about seasickness, do yourself a favor: stay out in the fresh air, watch what you eat beforehand, and consider the many prescription or homeopathic remedies available. Observing these great creatures in such pristine surroundings is worth persisting through an upset stomach. 888-533-WALE. www.barharborwhales.com/index.htm
Sit in the Sand
Reid State Park in Georgetown is one of Maine's best beaches, broken into three distinct sections so you may take your pick. The water's nippy at this one-and-a-half-mile beach and the surf can get rough, but fortunately for parents there's a warm-water lagoon for kids to safely splash around in. Designated picnic spots, many with charcoal grills, dot the beach, but if you're too relaxed to grill your own burger there are two snack bars along the sand as well. Post-swim, there are bathhouses with freshwater showers to rinse off if you're not a big fan of beach hair. Call 207-371-2303 or visit www.state.me.us/cgibin/doc/
Tell a Ferry Tale
Let yourself get ferried away as you take advantage of an inexpensive way to see Maine's winding coastline (and one of the easiest ways to visit an island) on a ferry ride. Casco Bay Lines offers ferry service to several of the larger islands in Casco Bay, namely Peaks, Cliff, Long, Chebeague, Great and Little Diamond. They run several trips a day, including scenic cruises and sunrise, sunset, and moonlight runs. Discount rates apply for groups of twenty or more if you make reservations, and private charters may be arranged. For more information, contact the Casco Bay Lines at 207-774-7871 ext. 105 or visit www.cascobaylines.com
Surprisingly few canoeists know the Pemaquid River, one of the more pleasant places to dip a paddle in the midcoast. It's a tranquil waterway that links saltwater Pemaquid Harbor with freshwater Boyd Pond, and the surroundings change frequently along it, from quiet, woodsy stretches to wide-open marshes. Because of these varied environments you can spot many animals — watch for painted turtles below the surface of the clear water. There's good swimming all along the way, and canoe rentals are available at the put-in, which is just off Route 130, a few miles north of Pemaquid Point. For more information call the Damariscotta Region Chamber of Commerce at 207-563-8340 or visit www.damariscottaregion.com
Many people who fish have their old tried-and-true fishing spots, but branching out never hurts, either. If you're a fan of black bass, then Lake Cobbosseecontee will be your new favorite spot. The sprawling, five thousand-acre lake — known locally as Cobbossee — southwest of Augusta hosts more than its share of bass tournaments for one good reason: this is where the fish are. Smallmouths and largemouths abound here in a weedy, shoal-speckled lake custom-made for bass. For information on bass tournaments, visit www.maine.gov/ifw/fishing/basstournaments/page2.html
Whip Up a Maine Dish
Much of Maine's culinary reputation relies on seafood, and Marjorie Standish was just the woman to instruct on the matter. The First Lady of Maine Cooking left a rich legacy of recipes when she died in 1998, many of which can be found in Chowders, Soups & Stews and Seafood (both from our affiliate Down East Books, Camden; paperback; $7.95). In the kitchen, Standish was a traditionalist, not much interested in haute cuisine or the latest fads. But when it came to Down East mainstays like fish cakes, clam chowder, Maine crab stew, or blueberry muffins, she was a perfectionist, guided in everything by one simple standard: taste. Put her know-how to work and spend some time in the kitchen, because fortunately, Maine in August is rarely too hot. [For a few delectable new Maine recipes, see page 64.]
Put on Your Walking Shoes
Thomaston's self-guided two-mile walking tour offers a closer look at this historic maritime community, with twenty-five bilingual (English and French) plaques leading the journey along Main and Knox streets. Explanations of current architectural aspects of the buildings, as well as details on how they would have looked more than a century ago and snippets about the people who lived in them highlight this "Museum in the Streets." A map of the route can be found in the center of town on the side of the Thomaston Café, with smaller portable versions available in many local shops. For more information, call the Rockland-Thomaston Area Chamber of Commerce at 207-596-0376 or visit www.therealmaine.com
Still long for the days when you could board the bus, sing songs, and arrive at summer camp for a weeklong stay? It's not quite the same, but Maine offers many sporting camps and lodges that allow you to at least pretend. Libby Camps in Ashland offers fishing for salmon, trout, and bass, and there's even a library at the lodge filled with books on angling. In the fall, it also offers trophy hunting for deer, bear, and moose, as well as hunting for grouse and woodcock. Stay in one of eight log cabins at the base camp, all with indoor plumbing, or in one of ten outpost cabins. You'll be sure not to stay up past lights out, as the loons will lull you to sleep. 207-435-8274. www.libbycamps.com
Go to the Fair
You might come away looking like a member of Blue Man Group, but that's no reason not to celebrate Maine's agricultural identity at the Union Fair and Maine Blueberry Festival in Union — a doubleheader that runs August 20 - 26. Blueberries abound in every baked good: cakes, pies, gingerbread, pancakes, as well as in jams and jellies. There are also many livestock exhibits, amusement rides, craft booths, tractor pulls, and even a bubblegum-blowing contest. And don't forget the fireworks that will light up the sky on Friday. Tickets are $7 daily or $25 for the whole week and are available at Mic Mac Market on Route 17 in Union. Kids and teens under fifteen get in free. For more information call 207-594-5563 or visit www.unionfair.org
Bid on an Antique
Scratch your nose, raise your hand, or wave your number as you jump up and down — the weekly auctions run by Houston Brooks in Burnham provide ample opportunity to display your bidding antics. A Waldo County institution, the Burnham auction is in its thirty-sixth year and is always crammed with a trove that can range from highboys to hi-fis. Weekly possibilities may also include cookbooks, cabinets, frames, rugs, tables, vases, prints, and much more. Visit www.houstonbrooks.com
for partial listings of offerings for upcoming auctions. Auctions start every Sunday throughout the summer at 7 a.m. and run until the mid-afternoon. Located at Horseback Road in Burnham. 800-254-2214 or 207-948-2214.
Read Something by a Mainer
No list of essential Maine books could exclude The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett (University Press of New England, Hanover, New Hampshire; paperback; 326 pages; $15.95). Born in South Berwick in 1849, Jewett has sometimes been dismissed as a minor (if artful) writer by academics who view her stories of life in rural Maine in the 1800s as too regional in subject and too narrow in scope. But Willa Cather once called The Country of the Pointed Firs an American classic equal to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Scarlet Letter, in part because of the vividness and dignity with which Jewett evokes the "ordinary" lives of the farmwomen and fishermen of fictional Dunnet Landing, Maine. In this book and others, Jewett demonstrates that being called a regionalist is nothing to be ashamed of when your real subject is the human heart.
Well, hopefully you won't have to, but if you do, this is the place to do it.Name d the number one golf course in Maine by Golfweek and a member of Travel & Leisure Golf's list of the Top 10 Best New Courses in the World, Sunday River Golf Club in Newry opened last summer to great fanfare. Robert Trent Jones, Jr., designed this eighteen-hole championship course with fairways that weave through the picturesque woods and offer views of the surrounding Mahoosuc Range. A putting green and driving range round out the practice facilities, which, like the course, are open daily to the public. It's highly recommended that you reserve a tee time, however, and you may do so up to two weeks in advance. The club is located in the Jordan Bowl Area of the Sunday River Ski Resort. Call 207-824-GOLF or visit www.sundayriver.com/summer/golf.html
Buy from a Farmer's Market
Bring your own canvas tote and load it up with veggies fresh off the farm. The Portland Farmer's Market, which operates Wednesdays at Monument Square from 7 a.m. - 2 p.m., and Saturdays at Deering Oaks Park from 7 a.m. - noon, is an excellent option. Both markets are open through the end of October. Call 207-883-5750 for more information.
Go for an Island Walk
Monhegan is the king of Maine islands when it comes to strolling, with seventeen miles of trails and handy maps that help you navigate them. The scenery — plunging cliffs, soaring forests, wave-beaten headlands, and the funky village itself — is unbeatable, reflected by the artwork produced by such names as George Bellows, Jamie Wyeth, Edward Hopper, and Rockwell Kent. Though many people make the island a day trip from the mainland, there are comfortable accommodations on Monhegan, and it's certainly worth a whole weekend. Make sure to stroll through the wildlife sanctuary, home to more than six hundred types of wildflowers and two hundred species of birds. Boats to the island leave from Boothbay Harbor, Port Clyde, and New Harbor. Visit www.therealmaine.com/islands.html#monheganorcalltheRockland-ThomastonAreaChamberofCommerceat207-596-0376or800-562-2529formoreinformation
We can't think of a much better way to spend a Maine evening than to stroll along a moonlit beach, and Sand Beach in Acadia National Park is the perfect place to do so. Hollywood thought this Down East strand was a romantic place as well — Tobey Maguire and Charlize Theron frolic on it in the movie The Cider House Rules. The Park Loop Road, which winds through Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island, provides access to this 290-yard-long stretch of sand. Acadia's Island Explorer Shuttle Bus, which travels between Bar Harbor, Northeast Harbor, Southwest Harbor, and various places within the park, offers pickup and drop-off service to the beach. The entrance fee to the park per vehicle is $20 for a weekly pass. For more information on Sand Beach and Acadia, visit www.nps.gov/acad/sandbeach.htm
or call 207-288-3338.
Visit an Old Haunt
Any state with a history as rich as Maine's is bound to have some ghosts. By definition, phantoms aren't often seen, but in Bucksport you'll find what some people claim is cold, hard evidence that they exist. On Route 1 opposite a small shopping center and parking lot is the distinctive obelisk marking the grave of Colonel Jonathan Buck, the town's namesake. Sometime shortly before he died in 1795, so the story goes, Buck condemned an innocent woman to death — some say for witchcraft. Upon her execution, she cursed Buck with her dying breath, declaring that her foot would forever hold him in his coffin. More than fifty years later, Buck's descendants replaced the simple headstone over his grave with a massive monument. Within days the dark image of a lower leg and foot appeared in the granite. Repeated attempts to scrub off the outline failed, and some local accounts claim that the image even reappeared on a replacement stone. (Others say the current marker is the original.) Whatever the case, to this day visitors can see the foot of a woman imprinted in the stone over Jonathan Buck's final resting place. The cemetery is located right on Main Street. For more information, call the Bucksport Bay Area Chamber of Commerce at 207-469-6818 or visit www.bucksportchamber.org
Take Time to Gawk
There's no better time to people-watch in Maine than in the summer, when the population swells with the heat. Public benches are a cost-effective way to do so, and a nice rest for your feet as well. Be sure to rest your behind on one of the benches on Ocean Avenue in Kennebunkport, and bring your binoculars — you'll either catch a glimpse of a presidential family returning to Walker's Point, a Hollywood hotshot at the Colony Hotel, or a cormorant diving under the bold Atlantic stretching out before you. For more information call the Kennebunk/Kennebunkport Chamber of Commerce at 207-967-0857 or visit www.visitthekennebunks.com
Take Maine With You
Shops throughout Maine offer their share of pastel sweatshirts emblazoned with town names, but if you're looking for something truly unique, then be sure you have a can of Maine air packed in your luggage when you leave. It's hard to find, but that's half the fun. This classic Maine collectible has the fresh, invigorating smell of . . . the inside of a tin can. Look in antiques stores for these venerable keepsakes.
Take a Ride on a Railroad
Running full-throttle with the theme of railroading is the Boothbay Railway Village in Boothbay. A narrow-gauge locomotive pulled by a steam engine gives visitors short rides around the grounds of this collection of old buildings. Besides exhibits, the museum also has the original Belfast and Moosehead Lake train station from Thorndike, plus cars and engines from several of Maine's once-common narrow-gauge lines. In addition, the museum boasts an impressive antique auto collection. Admission is $8 for adults and $4 for children ages three to sixteen. Call 207-633-4727 or visit www.railwayvillage.org
for more information.
Entertain the Kids
Parents long ago figured out that the park-sponsored programs led by rangers at Acadia are a good way to get a few hours' break from their little darlings. And kids are often fascinated by outings like Life Between the Tides, a three-hour tour exploring the natural world from the edge of the forest to the waterline; Mr. Rockefeller's Bridges, a two-and-a-half hour expedition enjoying the extraordinary stone bridges of the area; and Acadia's Animals, an hour-and-a-half program that serves as an introduction to the charismatic critters who inhabit Acadia, from deer to turtles to beavers. But it's not just for the kids! Everyone may enjoy the ranger-led programs at Acadia. Check the park's Beaver Log, visit its Web site, www.nps.gov/acad/ranger.htm
, or call the park at 207-288-3338 for more details.
Remember the Maine
A wellspring of Maine history, the Maine Historical Society houses the Maine Historical Society Library, a comprehensive historical and genealogical library with upward of 125,000 books and two million manuscripts. The Maine Historical Society Museum includes changing exhibits and a collection of more than eight thousand items. Don't miss the Wadsworth-Longfellow House, once home of three generations of one remarkable family that made significant contributions to the political, literary, and cultural life of New England and the United States. Research library hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., year-round. The museum is open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. and Sunday noon - 5 p.m., year-round. $2-$4. Wadsworth-Longfellow House is open May 31 - October 31, Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. and Sunday noon - 5 p.m. $3-$7. 207-774-1822. www.mainehistory.org
Be a Bit Bird-brained
In the search for our fine, feathered friends, don't step far from your binoculars while in Biddeford Pool. One of York County's premier birding spots, this arm of land surrounding a vast tidal pool is one of those places where just about anything can turn up at any time of year. People flock to Fortunes Rocks Beach along the ocean side of the spit, but birds tend to prefer the mudflats and shallow salty waters of Biddeford Pool itself. Look for black-crowned night herons and glossy ibises and occasional cattle and tri-colored egrets here.Com
mon terns and Bonaparte's gulls are numerous around the pool in the summer. For more information on the area call the Biddeford-Saco Chamber of Commerce at 207-282-1567 or visit www.biddefordsacochamber.org
Save Some Cash
If you're looking for a way to keep your wallet closed and still enjoy yourself, there are plenty of inexpensive opportunities in the Pine Tree State. One of the most intriguing is Jasper Beach. Located way Down East near Machias, this pebble beach, composed of red, green, and brown rocks and pebbles, sings with the advancing and retreating waves. (It actually clicks and pitters and patters as the surf-smoothed stones rise and fall with the tide.) It's mesmerizing. And free. For more information call the Ellsworth Area Chamber of Commerce at 207-667-5584 or visit www.ellsworthchamber.org/visit/visit_machias.shtml
Maine forts dating back to early European settlement have long been attractive to those with a fondness for history, and Fort Western in Augusta is one you won't want to miss. Built in 1754 during the French and Indian wars, Fort Western, on the banks of the Kennebec River, is a monument to Maine's colonial history. Though many forts have been reduced over time to little more than ruins, Fort Western has been preserved and functions in a historical capacity, with visitors not only welcomed into the fort but also into the adjacent house and store. Open from 1 - 4 p.m. daily. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors fifty-five and over, $3 for children between the ages of six and sixteen, and free for children under six. Call 207-626-2385 or visit www.oldfortwestern.org
for more information.
Stop and Smell the Flowers
Enjoy August's many blooms at Merryspring Horticultural Nature Park on Conway Road (just off Route 1 at the Camden-Rockport line). The center's sixty-six acres include herb, rose, and perennial gardens, as well as meadows, woodlands, a ten-acre arboretum, and a visitor's center with one of the finest libraries of gardening books in the region. Catch their annual Kitchen Tour on August 2, and their week-long Children's Ecology Camp August 14 - 18. Merryspring is open free of charge every day. Call 207-236-2239 or visit www.merryspring.org
Visit a State Park
Maine is lucky enough to have many state parks, but Grafton Notch State Park, located on Route 26 between Newry and Upton, is one of our favorites. Some fantastically scenic gorges — Screw Auger Falls and Mother Walker Falls — and a pair of great peaks to climb in Old Speck and Baldpate mountains contribute to the overall appeal of this park. Signs even explain the glacial influence on the formation and structure of these two falls. And if sightseeing and hiking makes you hungry, then visit one of the picnic spots at Spruce Meadow and Screw Auger Falls, where you'll find picnic tables and grills. Call 207-824-2912 for more information or visit www.state.me.us/cgi-bin/doc/parks/find_one_name.pl?park_id=1
Dance with the Stars
Drew Lachey probably won't be there, but the contradances held at the West Farmington Grange the second Saturday of every month from 8 - 11 p.m. will probably turn up some local celebrities. Not unlike square dancing, with its caller and traditional music, contradances are big at grange halls across Maine, and they're fun because you get several new partners to hang onto during the course of a song. Admission in West Farmington is $6 per person and $15 per family. And if you've never contradanced before or would simply like a refresher, arrive at 7:30 p.m. for the beginner or brush-up workshop. Check out their Web site at www.starleft.org/dance
Eat a Whoopie Pie
The whoopie pie, two round chocolate cakes stuffed with sugary white frosting, Oreo-style, is a portable dessert for Mainers on the move. Whoopie pie historian (really, that's what he calls himself) Peter Schlichting has traced the origins of the state's signature pastry back to the 1940s. Big G's in Winslow, home of giant celebrity-themed sandwiches, makes an enormous — and delicious — whoopie pie. With nontraditional flavors such as a peanut butter variety and a pumpkin variety (complete with cream cheese filling) complementing the old standby, Big G's should be one of your first stops on a whoopie pie tour of Maine. 207-873-7808.
Take to the Sky
Make cars look like bugs and trees and mountains look . . . amazing. There are several flight sightseeing tours you can hop aboard in Maine, but the aptly named Katahdin Air Service out of Millinocket provides flights that start at fifteen minutes of air time and travel over Mount Katahdin and other points of interest in Baxter State Park. Flights range in price from $40 to $95 per person, depending on the amount of time in the air and whether you choose a flight that includes a meal. There's even an option to fly in and canoe out for $75, canoe included. Call 888-PICK-KAS or 207-723-8378 or visit www.katahdinair.com/scenic.html
Pack a Picnic
You pack the basket and the checkered blanket, and we'll tell you where to put it: Fort Edgecomb. Another great old fort, this one is an octagonal 1808 blockhouse on the tidal Sheepscot River, and a great place to picnic. Just a stone's throw from one of the most notorious bottlenecks on Route 1, the park is a good stress-relief valve, and on the way there you can grab some cheese and crackers at Treats (207-882-6192), a basket of fried seafood and fries at the always excellent Sea Basket (207-882-6581), or a pizza at Sarah's (207-882-7504), all located in Wiscasset. Call 207-882-7777 or visit www.state.me.us/cgi-bin/doc/parks/find_one_name.pl?park_id=32
for more information.
Order Room Service
Room service isn't easy to find in Maine. But some locations are so comfortable and scenic you'd like nothing better than to stay in bed and enjoy the view. Such a spot is the Colony Hotel in Kennebunkport, where there are no such things as guilty pleasures. This fine old summer hotel has built itself a reputation for environmental sensitivity coupled with historic preservation. It is also one of Maine's grandest summer hotels, with quaint rooms, great views, and a location to die for. When you're done feasting, stroll around the hotel grounds and see if you can spot any political-looking folks zooming by offshore in a Cigarette boat. Walker's Point is about a mile east of the Colony, and Dock Square is an easy stroll in the other direction. Call 207-967-3331 or 800-552-2363 or visit www.thecolonyhotel.com/home.html
Scream for Ice Cream
Smiling Hill Farm on Route 22 in Westbrook is one of the few ice-cream stands that still has its own dairy operation — fifty head of prime milk cows at last count — and its own line of glass-bottled milk. Started more than forty years ago, it offers 150 flavors during the season, from apple pie to grapenut. Call 207-775-4818 or visit www.smilinghill.com/Dairy_Store_icecream.html
Feel the Road
Many a winding Maine road offers automotive pleasure, but head your vehicle along the route from Cooks Corner to Land's End and you may not believe your eyes. For a trip that begins amid the fast food and strip malls of Cooks Corner in Brunswick, Route 24 cleans up its act quickly as it drops south through a minor archipelago of linked islands to Land's End. The highway twists and turns through trees thin enough to offer occasional glimpses of water on both sides of the narrow pavement. The famous cribstone bridge that carries the road from Orrs to Bailey islands puts the traveler right into the scenery, along with lobsterboats and saltwater as well as several nice restaurants. The road ends above a cobble beach popular with scuba divers and below the hugely popular Land's End Gift Shop with a panorama of Casco Bay. For more information on the area, call the Southern Midcoast Maine Chamber of Commerce at 877-725-8797 or 207-725-8797 or visit www.midcoastmaine.com
Catch a Flick
Maine weather is unpredictable ("If you don't like it, wait a minute"), so it's a good idea to have a backup plan in case that August sunshine gives way to rain. The Colonial Theatre in Belfast is a true movie experience. Costumed ushers, themed movie premiere parties, a lobby full of interesting movie information, perhaps the nicest staff in any cinema, and ticket giveaway games make going to the pictures here a real pleasure. And somehow this small independent theater manages to get some of the big blockbusters before they open elsewhere in Maine. From the elephant on the roof to the wacky art-deco decor, the place is hard to miss (or beat). Call 207-338-1930 or visit www.colonialtheatre.com
for more information.
Practice a Little Plein Air
If your feet are sore from hiking, a quieter activity may be in store. Break out the brushes and take advantage of the scenery at Daicey Pond Campground in Baxter State Park. Any campground in Baxter State Park makes for a pretty painting, but Daicey offers a two-for-one deal (or even a three-for-one deal, depending on the direction you look) to the budding Marsden Hartley. Not only do you get a picture-perfect view of mighty Mount Katahdin rising above the still waters of the pond, you also get quick access to the equally spectacular Little Niagara and Big Niagara falls, a short hike away through the trees. Care to make a few paintings of this gorgeous scene? Make reservations for one of the ten wilderness-type cabins onsite. Be sure you note the wilderness description, however: you'll need your own bedding and food supplies, there are no showers, and you must purify your own drinking water. $25 per person per night. For more information call 207-723-5140 or visit www.baxterstateparkauthority.com/camping/daicey_pond.html
Leave the Light On
Maritime museums all over Maine chronicle the state's rich history on the sea. The Museum at Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth, however, tells the tale of the structures that protected those at sea. Situated in the former lighthouse keeper's residence on the craggy shore beneath the impressive tower, the smartly designed museum on Shore Road houses artifacts, navigational aids, lenses, and other memorabilia chronicling the history of the lighthouse, which was built when George Washington was in office. Open daily from Memorial Day to the Friday after Columbus Day. From mid-April to Memorial Day and from Columbus Day to just before Christmas the museum is open weekends only. The hours are 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. $1-$2. 207-799-2661. www.portlandheadlight.com/park.html
Blow Some Hot Air
Enjoy a bird's-eye view of the Greater Portland area with Balloon Rides in Portland. Their name says it all, with one-hour trips departing at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. and concluding with a champagne snack. Two to four people may ride in a balloon, and flights are always weather permitting. Launch sites vary on the wind (they'll let you know where to meet them), but are mostly within the Greater Portland area. You'll meet Balloon Rides at commuter parking lots generally off either Exit 42 or 47 of the Maine Turnpike, and they'll take you to the launch site. Enjoy aerial views of Casco Bay, the Sebago Lake Region, and, of course, the ocean. $225 per person. Call 727-510-9609 or visit www.hotairballoon.com
Easily one of Maine's best-loved festivals, the Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland is celebrating its fifty-ninth anniversary this summer. Hot-boiled lobsters and more abound at this venerable, citywide crustacean celebration, held August 2 - 6. Side dishes include the Sea Goddess coronation, the Great Lobster Crate Race, a grand parade, carnival rides, crafts, exhibits, and live entertainment. Headliners of this summer's performances include country stars Andy Griggs and Julie Roberts, Don McLean, and Blood, Sweat & Tears. Admission is free on Wednesday, but after that it ranges from $2-$10. For tickets call 207-596-0376 or 800-LOB-CLAW. www.mainelobsterfestival.com
Just a skip from L.L. Bean, the little eatery of Harraseeket Lunch & Lobster in the South Freeport neighborhood seems a world away. You can enjoy great views of Casco Bay, watch boats at work, or simply listen to the gulls as you wait for your boiled crustaceans and steamers. The lobster is as fresh as could be, and people line up for it in summer. 207-865-4888.
Take in the View
Every one of Maine's sixteen counties boasts a number of breathtaking views, but one particular spot in Franklin County ranks high on our list. A few miles west of Rangeley, Route 17 curves around the corner of Spruce Mountain and pauses at a pullover that the locals call Height of Land. Mooselookmeguntic Lake stretches across the foreground, its surface punctuated by forested islands, before blending with the waters of Cupsuptic Lake in the distance. To the right, Bald Mountain rises one thousand feet above Mooselookmeguntic's shore; to the left sunlight ripples off Richardson Lake. With more than two hundred species of wildlife in the area, binoculars could come in handy to take a closer look, but only if you can tear your eyes away from the big picture. For more information visit www.maine.gov/local/franklin/rangeley
Have a Hot Dog
Bolley's Famous Franks, on Water Street in Hallowell, is a hot-dog stand that turned into a restaurant but never forgot its roots. Located just a hop and a skip south of the State House, Bolley's offers standard hot dogs along with Polish, sweet, and hot sausages and tons of toppings, including its famous sautéed-all-day onions. 207-622-2951.
If you'd rather make camp than head up to camp, Attean Pond near Jackman is a prime place to plant your tent poles. This big basin is largely undeveloped and unspoiled, and there are some wide, private tenting sites on its north shore underneath Sally Mountain. Part of the Maine system of public lands, they boast private beaches. You can even make reservations for your campsite online. Check the Bureau of Public Land's Web site for more information at www.state.me.us/doc/parks/programs/db_search/index.html
, and select Holeb from the Public Reserved Lands list .
Get Psyched to Cycle
Throw your banana seat in the backseat and head up to the County to check out the Aroostook Valley Trail and the Bangor and Aroostook Trail. This pair of interconnecting greenways links up to form the largest bike path in the state, threading through the wilds of the County for more than seventy miles. Owned by the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, they follow old railbeds through Caribou, Woodland, New Sweden, Washburn, Perham, Stockholm, and Van Buren, paralleling the Little Madawaska River for miles and passing bogs, marshes, and streams. Wide and flat, they're comfortable for anyone to stroll — just keep your eyes open for ATVs. There are parking lots and access in Washburn, Caribou, New Sweden, and Van Buren. Read more about it at www.state.me.us/spo/lmf/projects/project_detail.php?project=1516
Take a Hike
The Bigelow Mountains are a prime spot to lace up your boots and throw on your pack. The Bigelows — aka the "Bigs" — have been the site of controversy more than once. But the humpbacked quartet of peaks that form the range have always remained high on the Maine hikers' list because they offer nice views of Flagstaff Lake, Sugarloaf Mountain, and the sea of woods all around. Scads of trails scale the rise here — try the Cranberry Peak Trail, which takes you up the peak of the same name at the west end of the range. It's a 3.2-mile route and takes about three hours. For more information, call the Rangeley Lakes Chamber of Commerce at 800-MT-LAKES or 207-864-5364 or visit www.rangeleymaine.com
Buy the Book
Especially if you're in search of something rare, collectible, or first of its kind, Big Chicken Barn Books, located halfway between Bucksport and Ellsworth on Route 1, is the place to go. The upper floor of this cavernous two-story former chicken house stocks books, books, and more books, most of them thoughtfully sorted by topic. (The bottom floor is devoted to antiques and collectibles.) A haven for both the serious bibliophile and the casual browser, more than 120,000 books, pamphlets, posters, first editions, and more await. They'll also buy or trade for your used, rare, or collectible books, if you're willing to let them go. Trades aside, the Maine section alone (now on the first floor) is worth the trip. Call the store at 207-667-7308 or visit www.bigchickenbarn.com
for more information.
Peek at Puffins
Familiarize yourself with the (obvious) differences between a seagull and a puffin with Hardy Boat Cruises out of New Harbor. In addition to these signature birds, bonus sightings often include black guillemots, eider ducks, double-crested cormorants, and a few different species of terns. Cross your fingers for whales, dolphins, and porpoises as well — it's been known to happen! Daily trips run through the end of August, leaving at 5:30 p.m. Cruises last about an hour and a half and are narrated by Maine Audubon Society naturalists. Reservations are highly recommended, and be confident — they guarantee sightings or the next trip is on them. Call 207-677-2026 or 800-278-3346 or visit www.hardyboat.com
August is generally the hottest it gets in Maine, and what better way to cool off than with white-water spray? Maine has many white-water rafting opportunities; you can check them out at www.raftmaine.com
, the industry's promotional arm, or call 800-723-8633. We particularly like Northern Outdoors in The Forks, with their three options of rivers to ride: the Penobscot, the Kennebec, or Dead River. Take a single-day trip on which your guide will cook you lunch on the riverbank or plan a longer adventure and stay a few days. Don't forget a dry change of clothes! Trips and rivers differ in age requirements, so check out www.northernoutdoors.com
or call 800-765-7238 or 207-663-4466.
Go to the Zoo
It used to be that the only wild creatures at the Gray Game Farm were pheasants — thousands and thousands of pheasants bred by the state's Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife for release during bird-hunting season. Today the renamed Maine Wildlife Park in Gray, twenty minutes north of Portland off the Maine Turnpike at Exit 11, is the closest thing we have to a state zoo, a place where Mainers can get up close and personal with thirty species of orphaned and injured animals. You're likely to see moose, black bears, deer, bald eagles, coyotes, even a mountain lion on display at the pine-shaded park. You'll also find a nature store, snack shack, and fish hatchery with trophy-size brook and lake trout. The park hosts night hikes — all the better to see nocturnal animals — and on the weekends sponsors special events ranging from wildlife wood-carving demonstrations to fishing education talks to wild turkey hunting exhibits. The Maine Wildlife Park opens daily at 9:30 a.m. and the gates close at 4:30 p.m., but you're welcome to stay until 6 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, less for kids and seniors. And don't forget quarters! You can use them to purchase feed for some of the animals. For information call 207-657-4977 or visit www.maine.gov/ifw/education/wildlifepark/index.htm