When you think about the most popular states in America to vacation, California and Florida probably come to mind. After all, both states are beloved for their beautiful beaches and family-friendly attractions. But did you know that there is another state with more miles of coastline than California—roughly 5,000 miles to be exact—if you include its 3,166 off-shore islands?
If you guessed Maine, you’d be correct. Maine’s nickname is the Vacation State, and as the northernmost state in the continental United States (with the Canadian province of Quebec bordering it to the north and New Brunswick to the east), it’s the perfect summer destination for those looking to experience a slightly cooler kind of trip, literally and figuratively. The temperature averages in the 70s in summer months, making it one of the most pleasant spots on the East Coast this time of year, and its laid-back, outdoorsy sensibility will be a welcome respite from crowded boardwalks and boulevards. Rest assured, after one climb up Acadia National Park’s Cadillac Mountain, a bite of a buttery lobster roll, and a siesta against the backdrop of Moosehead Lake, you’ll be hooked.
Recreate the Maine Way
With a larger landmass than the other five New England states combined, Maine has infinite possibilities for exploration. If you’re looking to feel the dirt between your toes or sleep under the stars, Maine’s many outdoor experiences await.
Hiking in Acadia
Acadia National Park is located on 47,000 acres of incredible wilderness along Maine’s coast. It was the first national park founded in the eastern US, and its opportunities for hiking and mountain climbing have made it one of the top ten parks to visit in the country.
There are over 150 miles of hiking trails to choose from, all offering very different experiences. If you’re looking for something a little more challenging, the Pemetic Mountain Loop begins at a low elevation and winds upward four miles toward a summit with spectacular views, while the Cadillac North Ridge Trail reaches the highest point in the park (and on the East Coast) at an elevation of 1,530 feet. For a slightly shorter excursion, the Bubbles hike encompasses one-and-a-half miles through the park’s North Bubble, South Bubble, and Bubble Rock areas.
Boating and fishing
Maine’s thousands of miles of coastline and many inland bodies of water make it the ideal spot for water sports enthusiasts, boaters, and fishers alike.
One of the most popular water activities (historically and still today) is sailing. According to the Maine Windjammer Association, Maine’s rugged shores and coastal winds create the perfect conditions for setting sail. The organization offers six-hour cruises on each of its eight historical sailing ships, as well as special-event cruises during the summer months. These excursions provide a hands-on opportunity for passengers to learn the ins and outs of Maine’s maritime history, and they make sightseeing stops at some of the state’s many inhabited and uninhabited islands.
No matter what kind of camping experience you’re looking for, Maine has countless places to do so. For those with RVs, the state’s numerous private campgrounds invite vacationers to park and enjoy camping sans tent. One of the most popular is Moorings Oceanfront RV Resort, located on Penobscot Bay. The resort has forty-four designated parking spots, and it puts campers in close proximity to several exciting outdoor activities, such as sea kayaking, fishing, golfing, or simply enjoying a day at the beach. It is also a short distance from historic Belfast, voted one of the most culturally exciting towns in the entire country by USA Today, thanks to its charming architecture and arts scene.
If you’re looking for a backcountry camping experience, campsites are available in a handful of Maine’s state parks, including Sebago Lake Park and Lily Bay State Park. Both parks offer campers access to endless recreational activities and spectacular views, not to mention a chance to witness some of the state’s prominent wildlife.
Speaking of wildlife, Maine is home to some of the most diverse animal and plant life anywhere in the country. One of the most recognizable animals (and most sought-after for photos) is the moose, which number close to 75,000—the highest concentration in the continental US. You can try your luck spotting moose on your own or you can better your odds and embark on one of many “moose safaris,” which are led by expert guides.
If seafaring creatures are what you seek, then whales, puffin, porpoises, and the illustrious Maine lobster can all be observed (or in the case of the lobster, caught) along the state’s coast. Whale watching is a highly popular activity from mid-April to October, when most species migrate south. Humpback, pilot, and finback whales are among the most common, but orcas and sperm whales occasionally make their way through.
To spot a moose or a whale in Maine is exhilarating, but no trip here is complete without a lobster excursion. Lobster boat tours are a great opportunity to see how one of the state’s largest industries operates, and you’ll get a chance to pull up a trap yourself! Tours set sail from a variety of different locations, including Bar Harbor, Camden, Portland, and Southwest Harbor, and on some of the tours guests can even select a lobster fresh from the sea to prepare themselves.
From Land to Sea
Farming and fishing are hugely important to Maine’s economy, and visitors have ample opportunities to experience the agricultural side of the state, whether firsthand or by enjoying the fruits of its labor.
If you don’t love the thought of catching your lobster yourself, not to fear. Maine is home to hundreds of lobster shacks and restaurants, and it hosts the Maine Lobster Festival the first week of August each year to celebrate the state’s biggest export. In addition to chowing down on a lobster rolls, you’ll find plenty of entertainment by way of live music, arts and crafts shows, and cooking contests.
As the official fruit of Maine, blueberries are another popular export—specificially the wild or low-bush variety. Harvesting season runs from late July to early August, so late summer is the perfect time to pick some for yourself at one of the many farms throughout the state. Alexander’s Wild Maine Blueberries, located about forty minutes from Bangor, is one such place. Alexander’s u-pick fields are full of native blueberries for harvesting, and guests can bring their own baskets or purchase quart-sized boxes for just twenty-five cents.
Craft beer and wine
What could be better after a long day of hiking and exploring than sitting down to relax with a cold pint of beer or a glass of wine? Maine has made a name for itself as one of the top states for craft beer enthusiasts, with one hundred breweries now along the Maine Beer Trail. Some of the most famous breweries in the country got their starts here, including Allagash, Shipyard, and Rising Tide brewing companies. The cool coastal climate has also made Maine the perfect place for growing grapes, and that has spurred a rise in the state’s number of wineries. Its oldest, Bartlett Maine Estate Winery, is located en route to Acadia and produces some of the most highly regarded fruit wines anywhere in the country.
The Magic of the North
While America’s coasts tend to get crowded with vacationing beachgoers this time of year, Maine’s wide-open spaces and cool summer breezes call to those looking for something a little more restorative. From its tall pine forests to its rocky seaside cliffs, Maine holds an adventure suited for every solitary explorer, family of campers, and pack of outdoor enthusiasts. To find it, one must only look up.
For more info, visit visitmaine.com.