Occupying the great northern frontier of New England, the state of Maine has long been a favoured getaway for work-weary residents living in the more densely populated places in the region (Boston, Providence, Hartford, etc). The endless boreal forest and mountains of its interior, and the inspirational power of its rugged rocky coastline have kept them coming back for years, while also drawing an increasing number of visitors from Ontario, Quebec, and the Canadian Maritimes on summer vacations.
While much of the northern half of the state is covered by the Great North Woods, where wilderness reigns, and few people make their permanent home (aka the perfect escape for the desperate introvert), the south contains enough culture, history and urbanity for those that seek it.
Portland, Maine’s largest city, contains numerous historic buildings just waiting to be appreciated by visitors, numerous shopping outlets just to its north and south are available for those looking for a juicy bargain, and the most northerly of the classic American beach boardwalks is also within an easy drive, as Old Orchard Beach will give you your first of many tastes of this classic piece of Americana.
By the end of your tenure in America’s Vacationland, you’ll understand why it is deemed by many to be this way, and you’ll find yourself pining for a return trip, as the state motto, The Way Life Should Be, will ring true as you relive your memories of the time you spend here!
What To Do – Culture & History
Much of Maine’s cultural and historical attractions can be found within the Greater Portland area … as such, our tour of Maine will begin in this city, as we make our way to Wadsworth-Longfellow House for our first stop. Being the childhood home of one of America’s most famous poets, all artifacts and articles belonged to the wordsmith and his family members.
This collection of belongings from four different generations during the 18th and 19th centuries illustrates perfectly the evolution of style and attitude during these periods of American history, making it a perfect place for those interested in the anthropology of culture to visit and study.
Portland’s history, unsurprisingly, is defined heavily by its trading past on the high seas. Having endured many fires in its past, much of the Old Port area was eventually rebuilt in red brick, resulting is a striking place to visit in the present day. These days, one can find many fine shops, restaurants and cafes along its narrow cobblestoned streets, making it one of the more urbane places in a state primarily defined by its rural and wilderness spaces.
Before the use of radio, ship to shore communication was conducted using flags positioned atop high towers that resembled or doubled as lighthouses. One of the oldest existing examples of a tower used exclusively for this purpose is the Portland Observatory, a tower that was built in 1807.
While the structure itself can be a draw all by itself for some people, others will find that the view that it grants of Portland’s waterfront skyline will make scaling the 65 foot high tower well worth the nominal admission fee.
While many houses in Portland’s well-aged neighbourhoods are worth viewing on a causal stroll, one place where you take the next step and head inside to admire their interior is the Victoria Mansion. Built before the Civil War and named to the Register of National Historic Landmarks in 1971, the furnishings within this exquisitely designed manor will turn home and garden enthusiasts into squealing kids, as its polished wood interior and state of the art high end furniture will even impress the most cynical of visitors.
One significant historical attraction that isn’t located within the Portland area is Fort Western, a British-era fort located near the present day capital of Maine, Augusta. Built to fortify this section of British territory during the Seven Year War. While it was never directly attacked, it remained it good enough repair over the centuries to be restored fully in the modern era and thus, it is the largest example of a log fort still standing in the United States.
What To Do – Natural Attractions
Much of what Maine has to offer its visitors lies in its nature, particularly the kind that can be found along its indented and lengthy seacoast. If you’re coming into Maine from the New Brunswick, then stopping at Quoddy Head State Park will be of interest to geography nerds, as this point is the furthest easterly point one can travel to in the lower 48 states.
The rocky and wild coast in this area will also be an appropriate introduction to this vital region of Maine, but this state saves its best scenery for the area that lies within Acadia National Park. The fragrant pine forests, the highlands of Mount Desert, and some of the best coastal scenery in the entire state can be found here, all factors that led to it being named as the first national park east of the Mississippi River.
If you are looking to hike your first section of the mighty Appalachian Trail, or whether you’re looking to truly escape the maddening crowds to start that novel that you’ve always meant to write, then getting away to Baxter State Park will help you accomplish either of these two goals.
Surrounded by the massive and nearly unpopulated Great North Woods, and crowned by the highest peak in the state of Maine (Mount Katahdin at 5,267 feet), you won’t be able to help but get inspired during your visit here, and if you’re looking to kick off your life-long obsession of hiking one of the longest trails in the world, you can’t ask for a better start by hiking one of the peaks in this ageing mountain range that still stands out dramatically from the surrounding landscape!
While the peaks in this chain may be slightly lower further downstate, many of them have been developed into well-loved mountain resorts, which offer top-grade skiing to winter sports enthusiasts from across New England and the Canadian Maritimes. Of the hills in the area, Sunday River and Sugarloaf are the most popular by far, offering some of the best glade skiing in the region.