Not being able to travel has really made me slow down and appreciate where I live. Maine really does have so much to offer, it is called Vacationland after all! The other day I shared my favorite beaches in Maine and today I’m going to share with you my favorite places to spend a day. When I was young my parents would pack a cooler full of food and tell my brother and I to get in the car. We wouldn’t know what we were doing or where we were going but usually within an hour or so we’d find ourselves in a cool Maine spot. Here are some of my favorite places to spend the day.
Greater Portland Area
Fort Williams is a former United States fort in Cape Elizabeth which operated from 1872 to 1964. It was part of the Coast Defenses of Portland, a command which protected Portland’s port and naval anchorage 1904-1950. After its closure, it was redeveloped into Fort Williams Park. I grew up and currently live about 2 miles from the park so I visit it often. There are forts to explore, cliff walks to take, big open spaces to play Frisbee or Bocce Ball, and one of the most photographed lighthouses in the world; Portland Head Light. A few years ago they also created a children’s garden which includes a gopher tunnel, tree lookout fort, water features and a sliding stone.
Explore Casco Bay
Casco Bay is speckled with many islands and you can catch a ferry to most of them multiple times a day. Peaks Island is the most popular and closest island to visit, I taught out there for two years and I loved it so much. You can rent a bike and explore, relax on one of the sandy beaches or grab a bite to eat. Another fun way to explore the bay is by paddle board or kayak. You can find rental info here and here. We have sea kayaks but I have this really unhealthy fear of sharks so I have only been out in the bay once, I’m more of a lake kayak type of gal. Recently my fear was justified when we had our first fatal shark attack in Maine! Lake kayaker for life! The one time that I did kayak in the bay we explored Fort Gorges early one morning with friends and brought breakfast to have there. You can only access the fort by small boat so it was super cool and not over run with people.
Enjoy a Beer Outside
I know this doesn’t seem like an all day event but it can be, just make sure someone is your DD! In case you weren’t aware Maine has a TON of breweries, especially in the Greater Portland area. One of my favorite things to do year round is to have a drink with friends at one of the many breweries near my work or home. Austin Street is one of my go to places, the Patina, Bennu, Florens and Six Grain are my favorites. Just up the road, you can literally walk there so do it, is Allagash Brewery. Allagash is a Belgian style brewery that is known for their White beer but they have so much more to offer! Try the River Trip, Saison, or the House Beer and try the White it is quite good. They brew some really funky beers too that are right up Andrew’s alley, Fox Leap is a current favorite. Another stop you should make if you are into sours and farmhouse style beers is Oxbow. They do some really creative beers and definitely have a European influence. My favorite beers that they brew are Farm House Pale Ale, House Hold, Life on Biere de Mars, Sasuga and Noel. They have more than one location, so if you’re up for venturing outside of the Portland area it’s worth the drive up to visit their New Castle location. If you’re into really juicy New England IPAs then Bissell Brothers is the place, try the Substance, Nothing Gold or Lux. Best brewery to grab a bite and a beer hands down is Foulmouthed in South Portland. They have great French fries, pulled pork nachos, mac and cheese, falafel and burgers. Oh man, I’m getting hungry. Oh and beer, they have beer! Rubarb de Garde (which hopefully they’re brewing now), Blue Balls, and Dark and Foamy are my favorites! These recommendations don’t even put a dent in the breweries around here but are just the ones I frequent most often. Check out the Maine Brewers Guild for more breweries.
Within 3 hours of Portland
Visit the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. About an hour north of Portland is Boothbay Harbor. A small fishing community with lovely shops and restaurants. It’s also the home of the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, tucked away in the woods it is a horticultural maze of blossoming beauty. You can spend 2-3 hours wandering along trails through tulips, daffodils, and other blooms of every size and color. There are ponds filled with frogs and lily pads, charming wooden bridges stretching across streams, and shaded nooks with benches where you can rest and take it all in. They have a theme every year and for 2020 it’s Wicked Wetland Wonders, Maine has many different wetlands across the state and the Botanical Garden alone has over 250! In the winter months, they host a Gardens Aglow which I have heard that is quite magical, maybe I’ll pop up there this winter.
Explore Another Old Fort
I love forts, I always have. We don’t have lovely old castles in Maine but we sure do have forts! Fort Knox State Park is located on the western bank of the Penobscot River in the town of Prospect. Built between 1844 and 1869, it was the first fort in Maine built entirely of granite; most previous forts used wood, earth, and stone. It is named after Major General Henry Knox, the first U.S. Secretary of War and Commander of Artillery during the American Revolutionary War. As a virtually intact example of a mid-19th century granite coastal fortification, it was added to the National Registrar of Historical Places in 1969 and later declared a National Historic Landmark. It is a beautiful place to explore and get lost for a day.
Check out Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park
Bar Harbor has that wow factor. Even though it’s a popular tourist destination it still has that quaint fishing village charm, which makes it worth the three-hour drive from Portland. Acadia National Park is a hikers dream, pick a seaside stroll or a meandering path through forests that crest mountains. The views are worth the soreness you’ll feel the next day. Make sure to stop for a local dinner before heading back to Portland, or pack a bag and stay the night.
Hike Mount Battie
Camden Maine is one of my absolute favorite places in Maine. Whenever Andrew and I want to get away, whether for a weekend or just a day this is always my area of choice. The center of town is quintessential New England, with rows of quaint shops and restaurants, Long Grain and 40 Paper are two of our favorites. Similar to Acadia, the stretch of coast where Camden is located is lined with mountains that dive straight into the ocean. Mt. Battie, is an 800 foot peak that can either be reached via different short hiking trails or by the auto road. Regardless of how you reach the summit, Mt. Battie provides sweeping views of Penobscot Bay including distant views of Cadillac Mountain. One of the best parts of the Maine coast is the ability to be rewarded with ocean vistas when you summit a mountain. You really can’t get this type of experience anywhere else on the east coast, another reason why Maine is so special.
There are so many things to do in Maine and honestly when you live here you tend to take the beauty of your surroundings for granted. I hope that you are able to enjoy some one of my favorite places in Maine, if not now some day soon.