Celebrated as “the way life should be”, MAINE more than lives up to its unofficial motto. Filled with lobster shacks, dense forests, scenic lakes and seaside enclaves, the state offers ample opportunities for exploring, or for just lounging in Adirondack chairs and watching the leaves change colour – there’s a little something for everyone here. As large as the other five New England states combined, Maine has barely the year-round population of Rhode Island. In theory, therefore, there’s plenty of room for all the visitors who flood the state in summer; in practice, though, most people head straight for the extravagantly corrugated coast.
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At the southern end of the coastline, the beach towns of Ogunquit and Old Orchard Beach quickly lead up to Maine’s most cosmopolitan city, Portland. The Mid-Coast, between Brunswick and Bucksport, is characterized by its craggy shores, windswept peninsulas and sheltered inlets, though the towns of Boothbay Harbor and Camden are certainly busy enough. Beyond the idyllic Blue Hill Peninsula, Down East Maine is home to Acadia National Park, the state’s most popular outdoor escape, in addition to the bustling summer retreat of Bar Harbor. Farther north, you’ll find foggy weather and exhilarating scenery, capped by the candy-striped lighthouse at Quoddy Head, the easternmost point in the United States.
Inland, you’ll really begin to appreciate the size and space of the state, where vast tracts of mountainous forest are dotted with lakes and barely pierced by roads. This region is ideal territory for hiking and canoeing, particularly in Baxter State Park, site of the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.
Maine’s climate is famously harsh. In winter, the state is covered in snow, and often ice, while even in what is officially summer temperatures don’t really start to rise until June or even July. This is Maine’s most popular season, its start heralded by sweet corn and the re-opening of lobster shacks, and its end marked by the wild blueberry harvest. Brilliant autumn colours begin to spread from the north in late September, when, unlike elsewhere in New England, off-season prices apply, and the cool weather is great for apple-picking, leaf gaping or simply curling up with a blanket and a book.
Inland and western Maine
The vast expanses of the Maine interior, stretching up into the cold far north, consist mostly of evergreen forests of pine, spruce and fir, interspersed with the white birches and maples responsible for the spectacular autumn colours. Distances here are large. Once you get away from the two biggest cities – Augusta and Bangor – it’s roughly two hundred miles by road to the northern border at Fort Kent, while to drive between the two most likely inland bases, Greenville and Rangeley, takes three hours or more. Driving (there’s no public transport) through this mountainous scenery can be a great pleasure – it smells like Christmas trees as you go – but be aware that beyond Millinocket some roads are access routes belonging to the lumber companies: gravel-surfaced and vulnerable to bad weather. This is great territory in which to hike – the Appalachian Trail culminates its two-thousand-mile course up from Georgia at the top of Mount Katahdin – or raft on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway.