It’s easy to see why Maine is dubbed the ‘Vacation State’.
It offers breathtaking scenery, outdoor activities and quaint architecture that transposes you into a world of relaxation.
Its culinary delights are definitely worth mentioning, evident from the flourishing farmer’s markets, famed seafood industry, and increasing number of culinary extraordinaires.
Lest I wax lyrical for hours, let me keep it concise. Here are my top five quintessentially Maine experiences!
1. Spectacular Fall Foliage
Maine is marketed as an all-season destination, but in my opinion it’s in fall that it really dazzles.
Nature is a flamboyant exhibitionist during fall in the otherwise low-key New England state.
There’s something wonderful about the crisp air and brilliantly-coloured maples against the backdrop of jagged coastlines and pristine highlands.
The vivid colours of scarlet, orange and yellow appear as early as mid-September in the north, and as late as end-October in the south. This year, the peak of fall was at least a week late when we visited but the hues were still a breathtaking sight!
Some hotels charge a fall surcharge of more than $10. But the canopy of colours form a sight that may be worth paying for.
And you know it’s practically a commodity when there are foliage websites and hotlines for visitors to track the changing hues.
2. Romantic Lighthouses along Coast
These lighthouses were built since 1974 as beacons of light for ships to navigate complicated peninsulas of the Maine coast.
With the advent of GPS technology, lighthouses don’t carry the same burden today.
Nonetheless, they still embody the nostalgia and mission of yesteryears.
If you are driving north from Portland towards Bar Harbor, be sure to stop by some lighthouses along the way, such as the above-pictured Portland Head Lighthouse at Cape Elizabeth.
3. First to Witness Sunrise in USA
Go to Cadillac Mountain before the break of dawn in fall and winter, and declare yourself as first in the USA to view sunrise that day.
Cadillac Mountain is situated within Acadia National Park – a must-see in Maine – and hosts the highest point of the North Atlantic Seaboard.
Or if you’re dorky like us, go at sunset too and take some awesome silhouette pictures.
Fellow travellers saw what we were doing and asked for help to capture their silhouette moments too, as pictured here!
4. Lobsters Feasts
There’s more to fall than foliage – it’s also prime season for lobsters.
This is significant for a state that accounts for 80 percent of the nation’s lobster haul.
The best places to eat them are at lobster shacks, or casual outdoor pounds that boil lobsters on the spot. Diners eat alfresco by the coast, breathing in the sea-salted air and enjoying views of the horizon.
Take no prisoners when indulging in lobsters. Wear your plastic bibs and follow the instructions on your tray on how to ravage the crustacean – flesh, tomalley (lobster liver) and all. Dip the flesh in warm melted butter if desired.
In three days, we had eaten nine whole lobsters between us… and by then knew the anatomy of the lobster very intimately!
We also devoured awesome lobster rolls – mounts of cold, sweet flesh served on hot, crisp rolls. They were especially impressive at Harraseeket Lunch & Lobster, a favourite of George and Barbara Bush according to this New York Times article.
Note that lobster pounds start to close for the season by the second week of October. We really wanted to try the lobster rolls at Red’s Eats in Wiscasset, for example, but they had closed just a few days before our trip. Perhaps the first week of October is a good time to catch both lobster shacks and peak of fall foliage – if fall arrives on time.
5. Wild Blueberry pies & Popovers
Get me started on food and I can’t stop.
The last item in this list was a toss-up between outdoor activities – hiking, kayaking etc, all of which I’m a fan of – or more food.
I decided that the utility I got from the latter far beat the outdoor activities on this trip, partly because it was getting a little cold for the outdoors (and my body needed more blubber for the cold weather, as I rationalised). But yes, do the outdoor activities, which would then give you more reasons to binge on Maine courses.
Well, how good can blueberry pies be, I thought.
Apparently, really good. Many of the pies I’ve previously eaten taste ‘preserved’, but the wild blueberry pies I ate in Maine were bursting with fresh, plump and tasty goodness without the artificiality of added preservatives. I can’t rave enough about the freshness – and blueberries are pumped with anti-oxidants!
It shouldn’t be that surprising, as Maine produces 98 percent of the US’ wild blueberries and is the largest producer in the world.
We also sampled popovers for the first time at Jordan’s Pondhouse in Acadia National Park.
Light, fluffy, warm, buttery, almost creamy on the inside, these popovers really lived up to the hype.
So there, you’ve got my top-5 list. If it inspires a visit, or if you’ve got your own top-fives, be sure to share!