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Maine: Off the Beaten Path in Maine

Updated on August 21, 2011

Maine is filled with majestic mountains, pristine lakes and miles of craggy coastline. No matter where you are in the state, you get the distinct feeling that time has stood still.

In the "Pine Tree State", hunting, fishing, logging and tourism feed both the people and the economy. Winters are long, the fall foliage is spectacular and the locals are warm and friendly. On many roads, you will see "Moose Crossing" signs, and they mean it. In a recent two-year period, over 2,000 car accidents involving moose were documented.

The Maine accent is noticeable most everywhere ("Yuh cain't get theyah from heeah.") and there are a lot of expressions you'll never hear anywhere else. If you fall down, you took a "digger" (dig-gah). If it was a bad fall, it was a "wicked digger". If you're very busy, then you're "right out straight", and if you're pretty sure something isn't going to happen, then it "taint likely". Stop pronouncing your "r's" while you're there and you'll sound more like a local. "Ayep, that lobstah suppah was wicked good." ("Yes, that lobster supper was very good.")

There are so many spectacular places to visit in Maine that no tour guide can cover them all. So let's discover the best of Maine that is off the beaten path.

Portland Head Lighthouse
Portland Head Lighthouse
Whale watching tour in Maine.
Whale watching tour in Maine.

Seafaring Adventures in Maine

  • Approximately 20 miles off of Maine's coast is the feeding grounds for hungry whales. Bar Harbor is where most of the whale watching tours originate, but you can find others up and down the coast. There are so many whales to be found that a lot of tours offer a money-back guarantee. Cap'n Fish's in Boothbay Harbor is one of the best. And if you stay overnight at their Inn just across the street, you'll get a nice little discount on your tour fare.
  • If you want to truly experience Maine, then a Windjammer ride is a must. The Heron, a classic wooden schooner yacht, sets sail out of Rockport. You can enjoy their "Maine Lobster Lunch", "Gourmet Sunset Sail", "Maine Lighthouse" tours or book a private tour for you and your group. If you happen to be in the area in late-June, be sure to stop and watch the classic yacht regatta held every year.
  • The Casco Bay Lines Ferry was started in 1878 as the Casco Bay Steamboat Company. Its purpose was to provide regular, year-round transportation between Portland and the Inner Islands: Peaks Island, Little Diamond Island, Great Diamond Island, Long Island, Chebeague Island, and Cliff Island.Take a ferry ride to one of the islands, particularly Cliff Island with a year-round population of 90, and you will think you have stepped back in time.

Atlantic Puffins
Atlantic Puffins

Maine's Flora and Fauna

  • Maine is home to the only Atlantic Puffin nesting colonies anywhere on the East Coast. There are five islands off of the Maine coast that are home to Puffins, and while many Puffin Tours can get you close, very few have landing permits. Puffins live on the water and only come to land to lay eggs and raise their chicks, so the best time to see them is late spring through late summer. Norton's in Jonesport offers Puffin Tours in season, and they are one of the few with a landing permit for the most inhabited island, Machias Seal Island.
  • McLaughlin Garden on Route 26 in South Paris is a horticultural paradise. Bernard McLaughlin moved into this property in 1936 and began planting flowers. Although he had no experience or formal training, He eventually became known as the "Dean of Maine Gardeners", and his two-acre garden became renowned across the state. If you're near South Paris in late-May or early-June, be sure to stop into their annual Lilac Festival.
  • Dump watches rarely happen anymore in Maine. Yes. I said dump watches. But if you do manage to find one, it is something that you cannot miss. I attended many years ago in Rangeley, where every Saturday night pretty much the whole town would head up to the dump just before nightfall. Everyone would circle their cars around facing the dump and wait. As the bear came out to feed, the headlights were turned on and everyone would enjoy the show. In an effort to keep bear in the forest where they belong, most of the open dumps in Maine were replaced with giant incinerators. But I hear they may still have some in Greenville and Kokadjo...

Whoopie pies
Whoopie pies

Where to Eat in Maine

  • Maine lobster has a distinct sweet taste and it is found in abundance all over the state. "Lobster pounds" are an institution in Maine. At these casual roadside eateries, you purchase your live lobster by weight, and they are then boiled in huge wood-fired vats outside in sea water. Stop by at Wells Beach Lobster Pound in Wells, and Troy and his uncle will cook you up some fresh sweet lobster better than you've ever tasted.
  • Red's Eats in Wiscasset is universally acclaimed for having the best lobster roll in Maine. More than one whole lobster, including plenty of claw and tail meat, is set in the butter toasted bun and served with a side of mayonnaise and melted butter. Travel and Leisure Magazine named Red's Eats one of the top 10 lobster shacks in the country. Red's founder, Al Gagnon, passed away in 2008, but his family is continuing on the tradition.
  • Moody's Diner in Waldoboro is a place you must visit. Their Whoopie Pies garnered a mention in Saveur Magazine's "Top 100 Food Finds" in 1999. They didn't stop there. Their Maine blueberry muffins have received a gold medal from the Culinary Hall of Fame and Gourmet Magazine requested the recipe for their scrumptious walnut pie.

Road sign in Norway, Maine.
Road sign in Norway, Maine.

Maine: Way Off the Beaten Path

  • You're not seeing things. The picture on the right is an actual sign in Norway, Maine. Imagine telling your friends that while you were on vacation, you visited Lisbon, Vienna, Belgrade and Rome! These aren't the only towns in Maine named after cities in other countries. In fact, some towns are named after the countries themselves. Did you know that there is a China, Mexico and Peru in Maine? There are some towns with extremely bizarre names as well. But who wouldn't want to visit Lobster, Maine or Masachusetts Gore, Maine?
  • Bar Harbor is a cute little town just next to the Acadia National Park. It's got all the obligatory cute little shops and things that tourists just love. But if you head over to Bridge Street at low tide, you can actually walk across the sandbar that appears twice a day over to explore Bar Island, that is owned and maintained by the Acadia National Park. Be careful, though, and head back to shore no later than 1-1/2 hours after the official low tide or you risk getting stranded!
  • The Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, located 35 miles northwest of Portland, is the home of the last four surviving Shakers in the world. The Shaker community has been living a very simple life here for over 220 years. The Shaker religion was founded around the 3 C's -- celibacy, confession and communalism. This means that they do not bear children and instead rely on converts to keep the community going. With only four Shakers left, it is feared that they might be the last of the community. The village lets you peek into life as it was 200 years ago, and the 340-acre Sabbathday Lake is surrounded by orchards, forest and farmland.

A Tour of Portland, Maine


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    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 5 years ago from California

      Mother attended nursing school in Maine. It's been many years since I have been there, but the lobster made my mouth water.

      We had many fiends stationed in Winter Harbor. We were there in November and even then Acadia National Park was stunning. Winter Harbor is the only place I have been in the US where the streets didn't have names.

    • profile image

      Kelly 7 years ago

      I grew up in Maine and get back as often as I can. I liked your post except for ONE thing... there is no such word as "Ayep" or "Ayup". It's Ayuh. Also, check out Shaw's Wharf and lobster pound next time your in New Hahbah! It's great!

    • Miss Lil' Atlanta profile image

      Miss Lil' Atlanta 7 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Wow, I've never really wanted to visit Maine before, but this hub has got re-considering things. Sounds like an awesome State to visit. Really nice, well written Hub too.

    • Danielle Woerner profile image

      Danielle Woerner 7 years ago from Global via internet

      Delightful to see this hub! I know some of the places you write about here.

      My husband and I have a second home in Milbridge, 'way Downeast, which we spend as much time at as possible, and share with vacationers from all over the country who also know how unique Maine is. I'll be writing a hub soon on our part of Downeast!

      Best wishes to you.

    • lrohner profile image

      lrohner 7 years ago from USA

      And thanks for reading, purpleangel! You really do need to visit there one day. It's beautiful.

    • purpleangel47 profile image

      purpleangel47 7 years ago from Baltimore, Maryland

      Great hub lrohner.

      I have visted nearly every state on the East Coast; but have never ventured up as far as Maine. The only reference I ever had to Maine was Stephen King. I believe that's where he and his wife Tabitha live and I know that a couple of his works are centered there: Deloris Claiborne is one. It looks like a beautiful place - thanx for the birds-eye view! :)

    • lrohner profile image

      lrohner 7 years ago from USA

      GP-Ayup, you're a Mainer allright!

      Benny-You really need to visit Maine. It is truly spectacular.

    • BennyTheWriter profile image

      BennyTheWriter 7 years ago from Northeastern U.S.A.

      Awesome info about Maine. Something about it seems so peaceful and inspiring. I really have to visit there someday!

    • goldenpath profile image

      goldenpath 7 years ago from Shenandoah, Iowa, USA

      Thanks a bunch for this article! I was born in Maine but have not been back since I was very young. Even 35 years later my heart still longs for my hometown of Portland, Maine.

    • lrohner profile image

      lrohner 7 years ago from USA

      Thanks so much Nell!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 7 years ago from England

      Hi, I had never heard of Shakers before, amazing. And I love all the different accents! loved the way you wrote them! ha ha another great visit. thanks nell

    • lrohner profile image

      lrohner 8 years ago from USA

      Thanks Denn! Too funny!

    • profile image

      Denno66 8 years ago

      Great Hub! But, then again it's always nice to read about Home. Ayuh, you nailed the local accent. You did a wicked good job on capturing the feel of this Paradise. Thank you. :-)

    • profile image

      divinemercylover1 8 years ago

      Hello there. I am pleased to see you are from New England. I have always wanted to live there, especially in Maine. My wife and I as well as her mother are planning on retiring there.

      In 2006 I traveled to Maine and went sailing for the first time on a 116 ft. schooner. It was the absolute best time I have ever had. I fulfilled a boyhood dream that week and I loved it. The harbor at Camden was so beautiful and I believe I would like to retire right there in Camden.

      I had an opportunity to move to Connecticut years and years ago but turned it down to raise my daughter Vanessa who is in her last year in college now studying Criminal Justice/Forensic Science...she is applying for an internship this spring I believe with the US Marshals. I am praying she continues to do well.

      Thanks for allowing me the privilege of chatting with you...I really hope I was no trouble.

      Blessings and Kindest Regards,


    • euro-pen profile image

      euro-pen 8 years ago from Europe

      I guess, the lucky people of Maine do not venture out of their beautiful state since so many famous cities are just around the corner. Heck, they even can cycle by bike from Vienna to Lisbon in a few hours :).

    • lrohner profile image

      lrohner 8 years ago from USA

      Don't you know it, Euro! And I would bet that most of the people who live in Maine have never even ventured out of the state, let alone the country! :)

    • euro-pen profile image

      euro-pen 8 years ago from Europe

      Fascinating. I love your off the beaten path series of hubs. With this hub I was particularly amused by the road sign: quite a bunch of "European" cities in a very narrow area :).

    • lrohner profile image

      lrohner 8 years ago from USA

      Denny - Coming from someone who has lived there, I take that as a great compliment! Thanks!

    • Denny Lyon profile image

      Denny Lyon 8 years ago from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA

      Spent the youngest part of my gypsy styled childhood in Maine and you sure have the accent nailed to the wall! :) Wonderful place in so many ways other than the snow. Only in Maine would a lost Russian be welcomed and helped out during the Cold War - remember that news story? - as they are a fearless bunch who are all about independence. Great hub!

    • lrohner profile image

      lrohner 8 years ago from USA

      Thanks UW! Now, you really need to plan a visit!

    • Uninvited Writer profile image

      Susan Keeping 8 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

      Your travel hubs are wonderful. I can't wait to read more.

    • Uninvited Writer profile image

      Susan Keeping 8 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

      Your travel hubs are wonderful. I can't wait to read more.

    • lrohner profile image

      lrohner 8 years ago from USA

      Leave your monitor alone, Dohn, and head up to Maine. You will love it. I swear.

    • dohn121 profile image

      dohn121 8 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      The only things that I know about Maine was taught to me by Stephen King and various college brochures such as Bowdoin and Bates (until today). I applied to those colleges while in high school but got turned down because I wasn't very smart :( However, I was smart enough to get a scolarship to Northeastern University, yet opted to stay close to home and so attended SUNY New Paltz. When you were talking about lobster, I began gnawing on my monitor. Not very tasty you know...Another wonderful hub and not too far away from me!

    • lrohner profile image

      lrohner 8 years ago from USA

      Allergic to shellfish? You mean, you couldn't try any Maine lobster? Wow! All I can say is if I were allergic to shellfish and I were visiting Maine, I'd leave there dead! :)

    • Jane@CM profile image

      Jane@CM 8 years ago

      We were in Maine two years ago this week! It was one of the hottest summers - so it was great for us. We traveled from Boston, MA to Bar Harbor and enjoyed each & every moment. One of the best pictures is my daughter eating her first whole lobster. I LOVED it there and your hub does capture the feel for Maine. I wish we would have had time to visit the inland area. My only problem, I'm allergic to all shellfish so I had to be cautious when eating out.


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