When the world has us down, Maine travel dreams can bring our spirits up.
The thoughts of returning to this beautiful state in a post-coronavirus world offer wellness for the mind and a hope for a better tomorrow. What can never be taken away from us are the memories. We can use those precious moments as a catalyst for hope, comfort and reflection.
Sometimes late at night while sitting on the couch, I think of Maine’s salt-sea air, picturesque small towns, the ocean beaches, rocky coast and the beautiful lighthouses. The taste of Maine lobster, New England clam chowder and maybe something sweet made with wild Maine blueberries just enhances those memories even more.
I’d love to hear some of your favorite Maine memories. You can post them in the comment box at the end of this article. Here are some personally overwhelmingly joyous memories that I can hardly wait to return to in when it is safe to travel again…
Just the feeling of arriving at Nubble Lighthouse at Cape Neddick at the end of a day trip is enough to gently linger in the memory bank for a long, long time. The architectural beauty of the lighthouse — framed by a sea exhibiting many personalities and colors — mesmerizes the senses in the most wonderful way. It’s the perfect place to fall in love with Maine over and over again. More on Nubble Lighthouse
Acadia National Park
The spectacular 47,000-acre Atlantic coast recreation area features an unforgettable mix of rocky beaches and glacier-created granite peaks. Every step of the way is simply breathtaking. Cadillac Mountain, in particular, is a must-see. It’s the highest point on the United Staes’ East Coast and affords some of the most incredible sunrises and sunsets you’ll ever see. The 26-mile Loop Road at Acadia, however, is all special whether strictly driving the expanse or getting out of the car to discover the pristine beauty and memorable scenery where the ocean meets the mountains. Additional tip: We prefer to stay in Northeast Harbor when vacationing in the Acadia area. It’s a cute, unspoiled scenic harbor community with a quaint downtown and no tourist traps. We stay in Northeast Harbor at Kimball Terrace Inn with its nice clean rooms, outdoor heated pool and views from the private balcony of the harbor and hills. More on Acadia National Park
Lenny the Moose
Lenny is the world’s largest chocolate moose at seven-feet tall, nine-feet wide and 1,700-pounds. He can be found in Scarborough Len Libby Candies, one of the best candy shops in all of New England. Kids of all ages love Lenny but equally adore the original candy recipes that date back to 1926. Len Libby’s also serves homemade ice cream during the warmer weather season. My favorite candy from Len Libby Candies: The Maine Blueberries with layers of white and milk chocolate covering this local fruit. More on Lenny the Moose and Len Libby Candies
If I had to choose one picture-perfect Maine town that best represents the state, it would be Kennebunkport. The quaint seaside vibe, plenty of places to shop and eat around Dock Square, magnificent coastal scenery and the beaches possess the right combination of relaxation and fun. Plus, you don’t have to drive too far up the coast to enjoy the quintessential feeling of coastal Maine — about a half-hour from the New Hampshire border. We like staying at the Rhumb Line Resort. It’s family-friendly, affordable and offers a continental breakfast and indoor and outdoor pools. More on Kennebunkport
Homemade Bread from When Pigs Fly
It’s amazing to think that a bread company has become one of Maine’s most popular travel attractions. Once arriving here and tasting the different varieties of bread, it’s easy to understand the popularity of When Pigs Fly. From sourdough to chocolate, this is far the best bread I have ever tasted. There’s also a pizzeria on the premises that makes really delicious wood-fired pizza in a spacious restaurant setting.
The story behind When Pigs Fly is the kind of stuff made from the American Dream. For about six months, the Siegel brothers, Ron and Andrew, worked 20-plus hour days taking on two shifts of milling, rolling, baking, slicing, bagging and delivering. Ron would go to work at 10 p.m., get home and then Andrew would take the next shift until 2 p.m. Today, Ron and Andrew employ 90 in the bread store/ bakery and 60 in the restaurant. What started as Ron making 80 loaves of bread by hand and with basic appliances on his first night in the business has led to 12,000 loaves of bread made each day with state-of-the-art equipment.
“I would have (rather) died before giving up on bread making,” said Ron. More on When Pigs Fly
A Walk Along Marginal Way
What a special feeling walking along the 1 1/4 mile path with unobstructed views of the ocean. And, oh, that special mix of flowers and salt sea air freshening the senses. The 39 benches along the way provide opportunities to view different perspectives of the rocky Maine coast while affording the chance to unwind and reflect by the mighty Maine sea. More on Marginal Way
Maine Lobster and the Magic of Regional Restaurants
Yes, many New England regions serve lobster from Maine but there’s just something better about having Maine lobster in Maine! Maybe it’s knowing that the lobster is delivered fresh from the boat to the restaurant. In the case of Warren’s Lobster House in Kittery, they have a lobster pound right next to the restaurant capable of holding 28 tons of Maine lobsters! Plus, this waterfront dining spot has a 60+ item salad bar that makes it hard not to fill up before the main meal. Some people, however, make the salad bar the main meal. I say, though, when in Maine, go for the lobster! More on Warren’s Lobster House
For a memorable meal out, I suggest Jonathan’s in Ogunquit. Owner Jonathan West has a true gift for creating creative cuisine that is yet wonderfully familiar. Jonathan knows the virtues of local seafood, as well as the superiority of local produce — after all, he owns his own farm just up the road. The atmosphere at Jonathan’s can serve as a date night out place but also a casual destination for families. This cozy restaurant also offers entertainment and has seen national acts perform here like Arlo Guthrie, Judy Collins, Tom Paxton, Tom Rush, The Indigo Girls, The Irish Rovers, the late Laura Nyro and Leon Russell, Jonathan Edwards, George Winston, Marty Stuart and Tiny Tim.
Jonathan is one of the nicest restaurant owners I have ever met. He is authentic, kind and also loves Maine. His spirit rubs off on staff and customers. This welcoming atmosphere makes the overall experience that much better. Jonathan also has a great story to tell: The restaurant you see today was actually his parents’ home back in the 1970s. When they moved, Jonathan bought the property and turned it into a restaurant that kept growing and growing– and gaining significant customer and media attention. While living in Maine his whole life, Jonathan did travel a bit throughout Europe in the late 1960s and learned his culinary craft over there. He often combines the wonders of coastal Maine cuisine with European flourishes.
“I believe in people first, money second,” said Jonathan. “Being in good company, that’s what it’s all about. I love seeing our customers and working together with staff. You also have to be current and relevant but keep what people want, too. There are some things we will never take off the menu. But we are creative, always trying new things.” More on Jonathan’s
DiMillo’s On the Water could easily be mistaken for a tourist trap restaurant as it is located in a huge, colorful car ferry at the Portland waterfront. The reality is, DiMillo’s serves most of its seafood fresh off the boat within a mile from the restaurant and generally takes on the presence of a fine dining restaurant with a real chef cooking real food. The last time dining here, I enjoyed the most delicious lobster bisque, lobster roll and wild Maine blueberry cobbler.
Additionally, the waterfront views from inside and outside make the overall experience one of the true dining out joys in Maine.
Generations of the DiMillo family faithfully carry on the tradition of what the late Tony DiMillo started in 1954. More on DiMillo’s
Short Sands Beach, Salt Water Taffy and a Classic Maine Gift Shop
Summer at Short Sands Beach in York Beach just feels so right with its rocky coast, spectacular oceanfront homes, fun arcades, and a lively, small downtown virtually starting right across the street. The Short Sands Beach area also features a nice paved walkway, lifeguards, a gazebo where concerts are held, grass fields and a playground. The water is chilly, but many visitors get used to the brisk feel after repeated visits. If not, just a chance to view classic coastal Maine from the quarter-mile of sand is a special treat. More on Short Sands Beach
Speaking of treats: Within sight of Short Sands Beach, the seasonal Goldenrod has been making salt water taffy since 1896. Crowds often gather outside from the windows to see the taffy being made.
It’s such a memorable scene as a traditional, annual rite of passage into a classic Maine summer. There’s nothing like spending a day at Short Sands Beach, then walking across the street to the Goldenrod for a box of saltwater taffy! More on the Goldenrod
Joan’s Beach and Gift Shop is one of those local gift shops that seems like a requisite part of a Maine vacation. Every isle brings a smile with its clothing, gifts and locally-made products with Maine themes.
Joan’s Beach and Gift Shop has been in business since 1969 with a friendly face always there to help. The owners are exceptionally pleasant and the staff is well chosen. It just makes the shopping experience that much better. More on Joan’s Beach and Gift Shop
L.L. Bean Campus
The L.L. Bean outlets stores that we know all so well in suburbia are nice but there’s nothing like the original L.L. Bean Store in Freeport. That store has expanded greatly to a campus also featuring home, outlet, hunting and fishing, and bike, boat & ski stores in separate, beautifully laid-out buildings. While I do miss the days of a quiet little town with one modest L.L. Bean store, the modern version, nevertheless, has great appeal and should be visited by anyone vacationing in Maine. Rarely does a retail store attain such popular travel attraction appeal! More on L.L. Bean in Freeport
Maine Whoopie Pies
Right across the street from L.L. Bean, Wicked Whoopies makes more than 20 varieties of whoopie pies. It’s a bright, cheerful place to sit and enjoy this sweet snack.
By the way, Whoopie pies are a local huge industry. In 2011, the Maine State Legislature voted to make the whoopie pie the official state treat! That means many local companies create delicious whoopies pies. I think that Wicked Whoopies is definitely one of the best. My favorite: the raspberry and cream wicked whoopie. More on Wicked Whoopies
Old Port District, Portland
The cobblestone streets, 19th-century brick architecture, fishing piers and hilly streets create a charming foundation for an abundance of things to enjoy in the form of shops, boutiques, galleries, restaurants and bars. It’s like bringing the best elements of big cities and small towns — that is, lively and trendy elements matched with the quaint vibe of a smaller historic community.
I hope you enjoyed my Maine memories. Often, the memories of being there become joyously overwhelming. Do you ever feel the same way? What places bring about those feelings for you?
Prayers to you all for optimal health and the chance to soon see beautiful Maine!