Exploring Maine

“I shot an arrow into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For, so swiftly it flew, the sight
Could not follow it in its flight.”

Standing along a coastline of Maine, I am reminded of 7th grade in northeast India where I first read Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, The Arrow And The Song. Little did I know then that several years later I would be walking through the Wadsworth-Longfellow House in Portland, Maine. It’s sublime when life makes such interconnections.

Located in the northeast of USA, Maine is known for its coastlines, heavily forested interiors, moose, blueberries, lobsters, and more. You can fly into Portland to explore the city or state, or fly into Bangor if you wish to use the city as your base while you explore the different regions. You can also fly into Boston and drive up to Maine. Be warned that road traffic can be slow during the months of May through August.

During my travels in Maine, I found people to be genuine and generous.

Coastline and Lighthouses

Maine has a rocky and rugged coastline. If you have time during your visit, I would recommend a drive along the coast with stops at lighthouses, fishing villages, and onward to Lubec, the easternmost point in the contiguous U.S. If you are visiting for 2-3 days, Portland can be a good starting and end point. A 25-minute drive from Portland to Cape Elizabeth will bring you to Portland Head Light. The adjacent Fort Williams Park has good facilities for picnic, hiking, and recreation.

Old Port

On July 4, 1866, an intense fire destroyed over 1,500 buildings and left over 10,000 people homeless in Portland. The fire transformed the city, now a mix of small business owners who take pride in their offerings—food, clothing, arts and crafts, etc., and an equally hardworking fishing community. I would recommend taking the guided Walking Tour with the Maine Historical Society.

Seafood

You’re in Maine; you have to try lobster. There are several good places to eat all across the city of Portland and beyond. Your lobster meal may be priced depending on the day’s catch. Hence, it is okay to ask the price for the day as you decide on your order.

Travel Brochures

Just as there are several guidebooks to choose from for your trip to Maine, the state’s information centers are great places to browse a wealth of brochures. My favorite information center is located in Yarmouth, a 15-minute drive on I-295 N from Portland. There are travel counselors to help you plan your Maine visit or you may choose to browse through the wide range of brochures for lodging, activities, and sightseeing. All this and more for free; the U.S. is amazing!

Forested Interiors

Approximately ninety percent of Maine is forested. The state is a perfect destination for recreationists to canoe, fish, hike, ski, etc. My travels in Maine took me to forested interiors and I was pleasantly surprised to find secondary roads to be compact but this can change during the rains or winter months. The Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument has limited services at this point but it has tremendous potential for public good.

Waterfalls of Maine

The northwest border between Maine and New Hampshire has several waterfalls that one can easily reach by driving or hiking. Some of these waterfalls are along the roadside, which are easily accessible. A search for "Maine waterfalls" on the web will provide you with results that can help with planning for your day hike or a drive visiting waterfalls.

Shaker Village

A unique opportunity for me was to visit a Shaker Village in New Gloucester. The Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, established in 1783, is home to the only active Shaker Community in the world today. Do take a guided tour of the village. Your ticket gives you access to the museum. A shop in the village sells Shaker herbal products, oils, yarns, baskets, etc.

Art, Film, Lectures

Some of the most overlooked places to visit in the U.S. are institutions of higher learning, especially small liberal arts colleges. They have an abundance of offerings—art, film, lectures, etc.—that are free and open to the public. In Maine, the colleges of Bowdoin, Bates, and Colby have an excellent art collection. Their museums are free to the public and you will be pleasantly surprised by the collections. If you cannot make it to the colleges, visit the Portland Museum of Art.

National Parks

The U.S. has an impressive list of national parks it can be proud of as a part of its national heritage. These national parks are extremely well-managed and make a visit comfortable or sweaty, depending on whether you wish to drive or hike to a summit. If you plan to visit several national parks in the U.S., buy the National Park Pass for $80. There is a free Annual Pass for the U.S. Military. A Lifetime Senior Pass costs $80 and the Annual Senior Pass is $20. Note: Read my "10 Tips for Visiting U.S. National Parks."

The Acadia National Park in Maine is a 47,000-acre recreation area on Mount Desert Island. I would recommend that you begin your visit to Acadia National Park at the Hulls Cove Visitor Center. You will have to climb 52 steps to get to the Center from the parking lot. However, there is access through a back entrance for those with special access needs. The Center has a film that runs every 30-minutes and you should plan on this viewing. Drive up to Cadillac Mountain to watch a sunrise or sunset, hike the paths, or take a carriage ride. Tip: Drive the Park Loop twice; scout out and plan the places to stop on the first drive, and then on the second drive make your stops.

A Personal Note

If it weren’t for the harsh winters and chilly springs, Maine would be my favorite state in the U.S. Currently occupying this slot is New Mexico but I could be persuaded to change this ranking. Maine, like New Mexico, has a lot to offer. As interesting as Portland is as a city, my favorite part of Maine is DownEast—from Acadia National Park to Lubec. The small fishing villages, lighthouses, islands, etc., might seem remote and bleak to many, but isn’t so for me. Go there. You will know what I mean.

4 Replies to “Exploring Maine”

  1. Blue skies, waterfalls, lighthouses, forests that seem very mysterious and lobster……..what more could a traveller ask for. The photograph of the views from the National park is absolutely captivating. Another story of another amazing place.

  2. Loved it! Now I have to plan this road trip soon. Heard and read great things about this part of the US, but haven’t been there yet. I’m going to use this as my Maine travel guide. 😉
    Thanks!!

    1. Thanks Paul! I hope you get to visit Maine and take a road trip. You will enjoy it. I’ll have another story on Maine focusing on my drive along the coast. If you wish to know when a Pxley story is published, feel free to use the Subscribe option or do check back when you can.

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