Celebrated as “the way life should be”, spectacular MAINE lives up to its laurels. As large as the other five New England states combined, Maine has barely the population of Rhode Island. In theory, therefore, there’s plenty of room for its exuberant influx of summer visitors; in practice, the majority of these head for the extravagantly corrugated coast. You only really begin to appreciate the size and space of the state, however, farther north or inland, where vast tracts of mountainous forest are dotted with lakes and barely pierced by roads. This region is ideal territory for hiking and canoeing (and spotting moose), particularly in Baxter State Park, home to the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.

North America’s first agricultural colonies took root in Maine: de Champlain’s French Protestants near Mount Desert Island in 1604, and an English group that survived one winter at the mouth of the Kennebec River three years later. At first considered part of Massachusetts, Maine became a separate entity only in 1820, when the Missouri Compromise made Maine a free, and Missouri a slave, state. Today, the economy remains heavily centred on the sea. Thanks to careful planning among Maine’s hearty lobstering community, lobster fishing in particular has defied gloomy predictions and boomed again, as evidenced by the many thriving lobster pounds (seaside shacks where patrons choose their very own lobster to be steamed and served to them on a plate).

Maine’s climate is famously harsh. In winter, the state gets quite snowy and the landscape is marked by buzzing snowmobiles and the crisscrossing of skis. Officially, summer is spread between two long weekends: Memorial Day, the last Monday in May, and Labor Day, the first Monday in September. This is Maine’s most popular season, heralded by sweetcorn and lobster shacks; its end is marked by wild blueberry crops – ninety percent of the nation’s harvest comes from Maine – and the cheery blue berries show up in everything from pies to pancakes to chicken dishes. Brilliant autumn colours begin to spread from the north in late September – when, unlike elsewhere in New England, off-season prices apply – and the sweater weather is great for apple picking, leaf peeping and curling up with a book.

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