Maine travel reccomendations
August 3, 2005 12:32 PM   Subscribe

We're taking a trip to Maine for a few days.

Taking a three day vacation to Maine with my girlfriend -- we'll be driving there from Vermont. Thinking we'll spend our time somewhere between Portland and Bar Harbor, but we're not gung-ho about that area, we just want to be near a beach. We'd love to have recommendations for affordable (very affordable if possible) accommodations, the best beaches, unique restaurants, and any other attractions.
posted by Xalf to Travel & Transportation around Maine (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I found Bar Harbor pleasant outside of the cruise-ship madness. The back of the island is quiet and lots of great hiking spots and beaches to veg on. Beale's lobster dock is worth a trip to Maine all by itself (if you like lobster, that is). Across Frenchman Bay from Bar Harbor is a beautiful national park - Acadia - which actually encompasses a chunk of the island itself but also, over near Winter Harbor and Gouldsboro, is much less visited and, I think, much prettier.

There are plenty of nice towns along the water out here, though, and even Blue Hill and Ellsworth are worth a drive through.

A bit further south are Lincolnville and Rockport and the beaches around there, although much further and you hit the 95 going down into Boston and things get a lot busier. Alternatively, think about taking 202 up to the Canadian border and crossing up past Danforth, because there are some great areas to explore around Hwy 1 on the Canadian side.
posted by luriete at 1:37 PM on August 3, 2005

You must eat a lobster roll (shredded lobster and a little mayo on a hot dog bun); they're really fabulous. Also, have blueberry pancakes for breakfast. Both are Maine specialties, especially during the summer.
posted by Asparagirl at 1:51 PM on August 3, 2005

And please keep in mind that the water temperature at the beaches is very, very cold. Ogunquit is a particularly nice beach, with a sandbar that stretches out far, keeping the water shallow (and thus warmer) for quite a ways, but I believe it's south of Portland, not north. It's in a lovely little town, too, with nice restaurants. Worth a stop on the way back to Vermont, maybe?
posted by Asparagirl at 1:53 PM on August 3, 2005

Having just spent three days in Maine myself, I cannot recommend it enough; if you have not been, Acadia National Park is waiting for you - my friend who has been there many times said "you cannot choose the wrong thing to do in Acadia" and he was right. We watched the sun rise on the top of Cadillac Mountain (amazing, and I am not usually the type of person to say that), ate blueberry pie from the Give Thanks bakery in Bar Harbor (you can skip Bar Harbor otherwise), and spent time at Sand Beach. Next time? Sea kayaking, for sure, and seal watching. We stayed at the Quietside campground not too far from Southwest Harbor; while there are arguments to camping in a centrally-located campground on Mount Desert Island because it cuts down on the time needed to get places, I loved the quieter, less touristy side of the island. That said, despite the fact that it's a tourist magnet, the Jordan Pond House popovers are great. We also ate great lobster rolls at Red's in Wiscasset *before* they were plugged by the great Roadfoodies, Jane and Michael Stern; they're worth seeking out. I'm sure there are other things, but now I'm just hungry for lobster roll - have a good time!
posted by deliriouscool at 1:56 PM on August 3, 2005 [1 favorite]

I'd second the Acadia Nat'l Park recommendation. I'm a Georgia resident, but have spent summer in Maine for the last 15 years or so (My wife and I are both teachers). I never cared much for Bar Harbor, but fell in love with all of the hiking inside the park. There's even a sandy beach (named "Sand Beach") but keep in mind that the water is COLD (incidentally, this is where they shot the beach scenes in "The Cider House Rules" starring Michael Caine).

There's a neat little restaurant in Winter Harbor called "Mama's Boy," too. So called because it was funded by the creator of the Burt's Bees products (she sold them out of her car) for her son, who wanted his own restaurant. Kind of pricey, but the food is great.

Also, there's a great restaurant in Portland called "The Great Lost Bear." An annual tradition for our family on the drive from Boston to Acadia!
posted by richmondparker at 1:58 PM on August 3, 2005

A bit out of the way, but if you're ever in Gardiner (just south of Augusta) check out the A1 Diner. Diner food plus gourmet food plus gourmet desserts all in the same 50s truck-pulled diner atmosphere. My favorite eatery in Maine.

(BTW: If you're in Gardiner, you'd might as well head up the road to the always charming Hallowell, which has a number of fine eateries as well as a good used bookstore and general prettiness)

If you're in the Portland Area at any time, Two Lights is a lovely place and has the advantage of having the Lobster Shack about 5 feet away. So you can take in your scenery and then get a lobster roll.

There're a ton of eating locations in Portland itself... I don't really know where to begin. I like the Pepper Club, for one: spicy, semi-veggie food with a nice atmosphere and a good wine selection.

Acadia is lovely, but can be quite crowded in summer. I second the Jordan popovers: yum.
posted by selfnoise at 2:03 PM on August 3, 2005

Wow, what symmetry! My wife and I are spending 3 days in Vermont this weekend.

You didn't say when you were planning your trip, but I assume it's soon. This time of year I recommend you stay away from Bar Harbor. It will be packed. The lobster festival is this weekend in Rockland, so that will be a busy place as well.

Maine is known more for the rocky coast than beaches and most of the coast is privately owned, but as far as I'm concerned the best beaches areound here are just south of Portland, in Scarborough. Pine Point beach spreads down the coast to Old Orchard Beach. Just northeast of there is Higgins Beach, which is nice as well.

As for affordable accomodations, I'd imagine those will be hard to find this time of year. There is a Motel 6 not far away (South Portland).

And for food, you can find practically anything in Portland, from street vendors to ethnic (including African) to white tablecloth joints. My favorite places are Bintliff's for breakfast, Benkay for sushi, Street and Company for italian/seafood, and Hugo's for fancy (REALLY pricey but worth it). More about restaurants here.

Have fun!
posted by SteveInMaine at 2:04 PM on August 3, 2005 [1 favorite]

Yeah, Hugo's will kill you with goodness. I didn't mention it because it's pricey as all get-go. Cinque Terra is another eat-your-wallet-but-leave-you-happy place.

Bintliff's is still a great place, but I can't help but feel it's fallen off a bit of late. Not sure why, but both the food and service seem to have taken a bit of a spill. Barbara's Kitchen in South Portland is an alternative for breakfast.
posted by selfnoise at 2:12 PM on August 3, 2005

In my personal opinion, the best sandy beach (if that's what you're looking for, I do enjoy the "regular" rocky shores myself) can be found at the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve, or Popham Beach State Park. Unfortunately, while Wells' beach is protected and usually very quiet, it is hell on earth to drive up Rt. 1 this time of year. But, if you don't think you'll make it all the way to Acadia, the Wells Reserve is a pretty neat area and you can't tell at all you're smack in the middle of a toursit trap town (Full admission: I worked there for a summer!)

Similarly, Popham can be very, very busy on the weekends. The trick with Popham is to drive past the entrance to the state park and try to find parking at the Fort, where it's free to park anyway, and the beach is usually quieter. There's a huge stretch to beach to walk, and ice cream to be had near the fort!

My favorite place to eat in Portland is hands-down Flatbread Pizza. You have a ridiculous number of choices though, the Old Port especially is great for pubs/clubs and seafood. SteveinMaine pointed out a great resturant review site! For all other Portland happenings, start here.

I haven't spent enough of my teen/adult years further up the coast to be confident in any reccomendations, although I know Acadia is very beautiful. You are visiting near the peak of the tourist season, so expect most everything to be busy, and not terribly kind on your wallet.
posted by nelleish at 3:18 PM on August 3, 2005

I lived in Brunswick for two years and would second Popham Beach State Park as my favorite.
posted by noether at 7:07 PM on August 3, 2005

Take it from someone rasied in Maine just north of Portland:

best beach: Reid State Park in Georgetown (accomodations in Brunswick or Bath)

best lobster roll: Red's Eats in Wiscasset (an hours drive from Reid State Park). Some people will claim that Red's is a tourist trap and insist that you go to some dump in some village that you'll never find. Ignore them-- this is reverse snobbery because tourists eat there. But it's the real thing.

Bar Harbor is going to be infuriating in the summer. Seriously. Do yourself a favor and skip it.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:08 PM on August 3, 2005

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