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While every state in the union boasts some type of one-of-a-kind attraction, Maine seems to be full of them. Part of that is thanks to its eastern-most location in the continental U.S. (there’s even a marker at West Quoddy Head to prove it). Its tucked-away coastal locale lends itself well to majestic windswept cliffs, sandy beaches and historic lighthouses, plus gorgeous mountain wilderness like no other. But nature aside, Maine locals do their best to ensure visitors have a one-of-a-kind experience, too, offering enchanting artisan studios, deliciously prepared seafood, especially warm welcomes at cozy historic inns, and more. For your next adventure, consider discovering all the unique things this spectacular New England state has to offer.
Take in America’s first sunrise of the day
The sun hits the U.S. here first! You’ll find it at the easternmost point in the U.S., ironically called West Quoddy Head, located in Quoddy Head State Park. Here you’ll find an iconic red and white striped lighthouse tower, the only “candy-striped lighthouse” in the U.S. Built in 1858, the lighthouse stands as a proud reminder of its role as a beacon in the night for harboring a safe return. Learn more about the lighthouse at the Visitor Center. While you’re in the park, hike the trails, go whale watching, or enjoy the magnificent views.
Experience a clambake on a private island
For those unfamiliar with this New England tradition, a clambake is an outdoor get-together that involves baking or steaming delicious clams and other seafood and sides between layers of seaweed over a pit. One popular iteration, the Cabbage Island Clambake, takes place on a private island where you can easily conjure visions of a “real nice” clambake from the musical “Carousel” as you sit on the beach, enjoying a splendid sunset. Come with an empty stomach: This traditional Maine feast will wow you with fish chowder, lobsters, clams, and other fixins like corn on the cob, potatoes, eggs, and Maine’s finest blueberry dessert.
Explore a 375-mile water trail
Navigate hundreds of miles of waterways along the Maine Island Trail that extends the length of the entire Maine coast. Paddle, sail, cruise, or kayak while you discover more than 240 wild islands and mainland sites. Stop at your leisure during the day or camp overnight in this pristine wilderness. Retrace the paths of the early adventurers who saw the beauty and majesty of these quiet waters.
Stay overnight in a historic lighthouse
Become a lighthouse keeper for a night at the historic Little River Lighthouse in Downeast Maine. Discover a true island getaway as you hike through the unspoiled trails and breathe in the fresh ocean breezes. Take the challenge and climb to the top of the lighthouse for expansive views as far as the eye can see. Be enchanted by the golden sunset. But wait until night when the real show begins, where you’ll see the stars twinkling against the clear, dark skies.
Rake your own wild blueberries
Wherever you wander in Maine, you’ll see the wild blueberry making an appearance…in pies, muffins, juices, even soap. This tasty superfood is the state’s official fruit, packed with high levels of antioxidants and bursting with sweet flavor. Buy them just-picked or go right to the source and rake your own at a family farm like Alexander’s Wild Maine blueberries.
Come face to face with meteorites from Mars
Known throughout the state for its research in geological history, the Maine Mineral and Gem Museum in Bethel will simply amaze you with its collection of renowned minerals and gems, plus the world’s largest collections of meteorites. Your kids will be fascinated by the extraterrestrial rocks, meteorites from Mars, the Moon and the asteroid belt that are out-of-this world, including the five largest pieces of Moon rock on Earth!
Release the sailor in your soul on a windjammer cruise
Ever wanted to hop aboard one of those striking windjammer tall ships? It’s not hard in Maine, where you can book a sunset cruise to sail around for a few hours and take in the sights, or even book a multi-day all-inclusive adventure. The Maine Windjammer Association, for example, offers various experiences along the rocky coast of Maine from the calm waters of Penobscot Bay. Take the helm for this seafaring adventure as you breathe in the gentle winds, watch lobstermen bring in the traps, spot whales, eagles and porpoises, and even join the crew to hoist the sails. Explore uninhabited islands, sleep under the stars and imagine the journeys crossed by the earliest seafarers. The oldest schooners in the 9-vessel fleet, the Lewis R. French and Stephen Taber, are celebrating their 150th anniversary this year.
Hike the beginning—or end—of the Appalachian Trail
The Appalachian National Scenic Trail, or the A.T., is considered one of America’s last frontiers, covering 14 states and over 2,000 miles in the Eastern United States. Maine boasts 282 miles of challenging hiking with the highest peak on Mount Katahdin, located in Baxter State Park, where you can hike, camp or explore more than 200,000 acres of remote wilderness. Along the trail, you’ll stand in awe of majestic summits, dramatic waterfalls, and rocky river crossings. Also called the “Hundred Mile Wilderness,” this part of the trail is the wildest, yet hikers thrill to the sightings of moose and other wildlife in their natural habitats. For day hiking and backpacking in an alpine environment, head to Saddleback Mountain and The Horn near Oquossoc, also known for excellent skiing.
Tour the solar system in Aroostook County
Take a road trip to Aroostoock County in Northern Maine and see the world’s largest three-dimensional scale model of the solar system. Recently updated, the model now includes the sun, nine planets, seven moons, and three dwarf planets scattered within a 40-mile radius from Houlton to Topsfield. All of the planets except the original Pluto can be seen from the road. Pull-outs let your family explore these three-dimensional models in more detail. For further investigation, visit the nearby University at Presque Isle or the Northern Maine Museum of Science.
Fly a floatplane to a secluded fishing camp
Let one of Maine’s expert guides take you on a journey you’ll never forget in the remote North Maine Woods. Set among rugged hills, clear waters and quiet streams, Chandler Lakes Camps and Lodge is a sportsman’s paradise teeming with Maine brook trout, landlocked salmon and smallmouth bass. Stay in a historic log cabin and enjoy wilderness fishing, nature photography and hiking along pristine trails. Keep your cameras ready while on the lookout for soaring eagles and other wildlife. Sporting camps have provided a unique Maine experience for over a hundred years.
Shop a charming downtown to find out why Mainers are so proud of their artisans
Experience the best of local culture—and find something uniquely Maine to take back home—in one of Maine’s nationally recognized historic downtowns. Discover local artisans, amazing chef-driven restaurants, boutique shopping, and classic architecture. Join the locals for annual festivals, live music, and farmers’ markets. Walk though these streets and you’ll feel the past blending with the future, all reflecting quintessential New England charm. Augusta, Bath, Brunswick and Rockland are just a few Maine destinations with beautiful downtown shopping districts.
Follow a trail to 80,000 works of amazing art
The Maine Art Museum Trail takes you through nine world-class art museums around the state, covering more than 350 miles. Along the way, you’ll have the chance to admire more than 80,000 paintings, sculptures, and other works from a variety of media. Learn more about the local artists who’ve created beautiful works in their natural surroundings; just be sure to check the website for current museum openings.
Soak up some sun in the “Riviera of New England”
Southern Maine is home to 90% of Maine’s sandy beaches, which is why Southern Maine is sometimes called the “Riviera of New England.” While there are plenty of great spots in the region to lay your towel, try Old Orchard Beach, Ogunquit Beach, York, and Kennebunk Beach for a fun day spent relaxing on long stretches of sand. Nearby, you’ll also find laidback beachside communities offering up unforgettable seafood dining and historic inns.
Stay in a historic inn
There’s certainly no shortage of charming historic inns in Maine (its oldest, The Seaside Inn in Kennebunk, has been in continuous operation since the 1600s). But if you’re looking for modern comforts with your historic stay, try The Francis Hotel & Spa in Portland. With 15 unique guest rooms and a small spa, the Francis combines Old World charm with contemporary amenities in a beautifully renovated historic mansion. Listed on the National Park Service’s Registry of Historic Places and located in the Parkside neighborhood, the hotel was designed by and named for architect Francis Fassett who helped create a new Portland in the late 1800s. Enjoy views of Portland on the outdoor terrace in some of the suites.
If a bed and breakfast is more your style, Maine delivers on that front, too. Stay in one of Maine’s most romantic B&B inns, the Berry Manor Inn in Rockland, known for its grand hospitality. Each of the 12 rooms is decorated in Victorian style with complimentary internet, TVs and DVD players, iPod docking stations, and more. Dine divine at breakfast with a multi-course feast and flexible scheduling.
Find out if you love or hate Moxie, Maine’s official soft drink
Some love it. Some hate it. But there’s no doubt Moxie holds a special place in the beverage pantheon of Maine. Invented by Mainer Augustin Thompson in 1876 as a medicinal called “Moxie Nerve Food,” the carbonated beverage gets its bitter—and hence, polarizing—aftertaste from gentian root extract. Think you’ll be a fan or foe? You’ll have to try one to find out!
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