We all know that Maine has things like Acadia National Park and an amazing coastline, but there’s so much more to do and see in Vacationland. Our attractions and activities are as unexpected as our weather can be and there’s always something new to add to your list. Here are some of our favorite things that you might have never thought of doing, but should!
1. Experience a Maine general store.
A general store? Epic? While it might not seem like a huge adventure, the burger you'll eat at Owls Head General store is definitely epic! Sure, you can get a $17 gourmet burger in Portland, but head out to this Midcoast general store to chow down on the big, sloppy 7 Napkin Burger. Voted the best burger in Maine by the Food Network, it's more under-the-radar than it is underrated. But at just $8.75, it's definitely worth the journey.
2. Drive an awesome scenic byway.
We recommend the Pequawket Trail Maine Scenic Byway, also known as Route 113. This 60-mile route makes for a lovely 2-hour trip in chilly autumn temps for leaf peepin' or in the winter for views of snow covered trees. Make a day of it in the summer for picnics, hikes and swimming holes. Throughout the trip along the Saco River and the Mountain Division Rail, you'll pass sustainable working farms, artisans and pure nature. The byway runs between Standish and Fryeburg.
3. Take the ferry to Peaks Island.
This island's proximity to Portland makes it an easy day-trip. Simply take one of the fourteen daily departures to Peaks Island and rent a golf cart to explore. Once known as the Coney Island of Maine, it became an important outpost during WW II. Today you'll find and inviting community, home to everyone from artists to Portland commuters.
4. While on Peaks Island, pay homage to the venerable umbrella cover!
A huge thank you to Nancy Hoffman for curating not just this museum, but joy on Peaks Island. Hoffman's museum began when she realized that so many umbrella covers get tossed aside, but kept for no real reason. The museum is "dedicated to the appreciation of the mundane in everyday life. It is about finding wonder and beauty in the simplest of things, and about knowing that there is always a story behind the cover." Take the ferry from Portland to Peaks Island to check this out!
5. Visit the eastern-most town in America.
Not only is Eastport unique for being the easternmost city in the US (not to be confused with Lubec, which is the easternmost municipality), but it is also a city comprised solely of islands. Come in July for the annual July 4th Codfish Relay (which is actually part of a larger celebration of both the US and Canada) and stay for the Salmon Festival in September. If you leave and crave more, come back for the New Year's Eve sardine drop at midnight.
6. Take in two state parks in one day.
Kettle Cove and Crescent Beach in Cape Elizabeth offer incredible views of the Maine coast. The mile-long sandy crescent-shaped beach is perfect for easing into some more rocky exploration. At the eastern end, scramble among the rocks searching for tide pool oddities. You'll also come to a trail taking you through a meadow that with an abundance of milkweed. This plant is the only plant that its Monarch butterfly larvae can eat and the area attracts the gorgeous butterflies in late summer and fall.
7. Honor the US Armed Forces by visiting a very special site in the woods.
Head to Elephant Mountain near Moosehead where, on January 24, 1963, a United States Air Force Boeing B-52C Stratofortress went down over Maine while flying a training mission. Of the nine crew members, only the pilot and navigator survived. Elephant Mountain, near Moosehead Lake about six miles from Greenville, is the final resting place of its shredded fuselage. A half-mile hike will get you to the wreckage, where a stone memorial commemorates the seven fallen soldiers.
8. Appreciate Maine's art scene.
Thanks to a substantial endowment and a recent expansion, the Colby College Museum of Art on the Colby campus has emerged as Maine's most diverse collection of American art. With over 8,000 influential works in a stunning glass-and-steel space, it's the perfect way to introduce outsiders to Maine's legendary art scene.
9. Head Downeast for a seldom-visited coastal hike.
The Cutler Bold Coast Preserve in Cutler is a gorgeous place to visit with very few tourists. This 12,334-acre area has a variety of ecosystems including 4.5 miles of headlands overlooking the Bay of Fundy.
10. Hook a smelt!
It might be called ice-fishing, but the vibes are warm and the experience is fun! A roaring woodstove, a thermos of cocoa and a bag of bloodworms are all you need.
11. Pan for gems.
If you're all about the reward that comes with adventures, you'll want to visit Maine Mineral Adventures. Open since 2007, they've honed relationships with local mine owners which allows for special access to gem-rich areas. They stay open as long as the weather permits and as of this weekend, the gemming is on! If you're lucky, you'll unearth some tourmaline or aquamarine. Call to reserve a spot or check hours: (207) 674-3440.
12. Visit a state classic - Perry's Nut House!
Perry's Nut House was once known for its variety of taxidermy animals and outdoor painted animal sculptures. In 1997, many of these things were sold at auction making the place much less exciting. But then, in 2009, new owners began searching for and buying back the previously sold relics. Last I heard, Ape-Raham the gorilla was back in the store, but the old elephant was still at large.