Hilary Nangle answered your questions about vacationing in Maine on June 1, 2004
Hilary Nangle answered your questions Tuesday, June 1, 2004 at noon EST.
Freelance writer Hilary Nangle has lived in Maine since childhood. Her articles have appeared in publications such as Budget Travel, Yankee, New England Travel and Life, Where to Retire and Ski, and she appears regularly as a travel expert on "207," a nightly news magazine show on WCSH6, the NBC affiliate in Portland, Maine. Hilary's contributed the Maine chapters to dozens of guidebooks, and she's currently researching the second edition of Moon Handbooks Coastal Maine. Although she grew up in the Portland area, she's been migrating up the coast since and now calls the Mid-coast home. An avid skier, she spends much of the winter at Sugarloaf, in Maine's Western Mountains. She travels throughout the state frequently with her husband, photographer Tom Nangle.
Hilary Nangle: Hi,
Thanks for joining me. I'm looking forward to answering your questions during the next hour.
Edgewood, KY: Hi, we are going to Alden Camps in Oakland for a week for the fourth time the end of Aug. For our post-camp sidetrip this year we would like to visit Deer Island and Isle au Haut. Can you recommend a clean, basic, inexpensive place to spend a couple of nights? Any restaurant recommendations in that area (lobster, of course!)? Thanks for any help you can give.
Hilary Nangle: Check out Eggemoggin Landing (acadia.net/eggland), just over the bridge on Little Deer Isle and facing Eggemoggin Reach. Rooms are basic motel style, but clean and comfortable, and rates include a continental breakfast.
A bit pricier but worth the money, is the Inn on the Harbor (innontheharbor.com). It's right on Stonington's Main Street; easy walking distance to the Isle au Haut ferry. It has a huge deck hanging over the harbor, where you can enjoy the continental breakfast that ' included in the rates.
For lobster-in-the-rough, head to Eaton s'Lobster Pool, on Little Deer Isle. Nice ocean view, especially at sunset. Make reservations for weekends, 207-348-2383.
Both Finest Kind Dining and Fishermans Friend have long-established reputations are equally popular with locals and tourists. Last summer, I enjoyed meals at both Lily's and the Island Star Cafe, both on Route 15. Both are casual and creative, catering more to the areas 'rtistic and summer-resident population. If you re'up for a splurge, ask locally about Pilgrim s 'nn. It s 'lways had a stellar reputation, but it just changed hands.
Isle au Haut is wonderful to visit for a day. If your wallet s f't, you might consider splurging on a night at The Keeper s H'use. You ll 'leep in a renovated lighthouse keeper s h'use or the primitive oil house, and get three meals, but the rates are gasp-worthy; keepershouse.com.
Pittsburgh, PA: Are there nice and warm beaches in Maine in August? Can you give me some your best recommendations?
Hilary Nangle: Maine has beautiful sand beaches. As for warm, well that depends on your definition of warm. As a child, I swam in Maine waters from late May into September. These days, older and perhaps wiser, I'm a bit pickier.
The best bets for warm water are the beaches lining the southern coast: Old Orchard, Ogunquit, Wells, Kennebunk and York. Popham Beach, at the tip of the Phippsburg Peninsula, is another possibility. For the warmest water, time your swim with the tides. It will be warmest when the tide rolls in over sun-warmed sands.
Mt. Airy, MD : Are reservations necessary for a driving trip or are motel/hotel rooms usually available? I am interested in the blueberry festival and events. Thanks.
Hilary Nangle: Reservations are highly recommended. If you're thinking about the Machias Blueberry Festival, lodging in that region is limited, so do make room reservations or you might end up driving a long distance. Reservations aren't as necessary in the spring or fall except for holiday weekends and peak foliage but still, it's a good idea to make them, at least for your first night or two.
Seattle, WA: What are the best locations for vacationing with kids, 10-20 years of age? And when is the best time weather-wise?
Hilary Nangle: Let's start with weather. You know the old saying, if you don't like it, wait a minute. It's oh-so-true in Maine. In general, August tends to be nice. September is undoubtedly the best, but that's difficult if you're traveling with kids.
As for where, here are a few possibilities:
Portland: Honestly, I don t'see how anyone could get bored in Portland. It s'a very walkable city and a comfortable one no skyscrapers, and it has a vibrant, but not overwhelming, cultural scene, and it s'an active seaport. Take a ferry to the islands of Casco Bay and spend an afternoon or a day exploring one or more. Ride a Narrow Gauge railway along the waterfront. The Old Port has fabulous restaurants and shops. One often cited but unverified statistic boasts that Portland has more restaurants per capita than any other city but San Francisco, and it s'easy to believe. Good food is plentiful in all price categories. Portland has a world-class art museum, a renowned Victorian house museum, a quirky museum of African Tribal Art, a number of performing arts houses. Architectural walking tours are available. Excursion, sailing and fishing boats leave from the waterfront (Eagle Island is a fun trip). And Freeport, home to L.L. Bean and scores of outlets, is just 20 minutes or so away.
Mt. Desert/Acadia/Bar Harbor: Acadia National Park and its wealth of outdoor-oriented activities is the big draw, but there are plenty of other activities, too. Museums, shops, restaurants, a good range of lodging/camping possibilities, a couple of theaters, etc. I went into more detail in another thread about vacationing with kids.
Now let me throw one more possibility into the mix: Bangor, Aug. 27-29, for the free, three-day, National Folk Festival. It s p'rhaps the best value in Maine: three days of non-stop entertainment on five stages, all free. The entertainers are all top notch, most of national caliber, too.
By the way, it s fo'k as in multi-ethnic traditional and roots music and dance, not folk as in Peter, Paul and Mary. Fabulous blues, great bluegrass, everything from Portuguese to Vietnamese, Native American to Congolese. It all takes place along the Penobscot River, under tents and it outdoor stages. Plentiful food, fabulous crafts, children s ac'ivities and more. Check nationalfolkfestival.com for this year s li'eup and lodging links.
Bangor is about an hour from the coast; about two hours from Maine s whi'ewater rafting rivers and the wilderness of Baxter State Park.
Haverhill, MA: Driving on I-95 to and from Maine last summer on vacation was a nightmare. The traffic south of Portland was gridlocked. Has anything been done to alleviate the traffic problems?
Hilary Nangle: The Maine Turnpike is in the final year of a five-year widening project. The result will be worthwhile, but until it's completed, delays are inevitable. While there are plenty of backroads get yourself a current copy of DeLorme's Maine Gazeteer map and guidebook it does take time, and even those can be crowded at peak times.
Best strategy is to avoid peak times and to check the Maine Turnpike ' web site (wineturnpike.com) or 511maine.gov before hitting the road or dialing 511 on a cellular phone, when on the road, for current reports.
Oh, and if you haven t'already heard, all the exits have been renumbered to reflect mileage from the border. More info on eturnpike.com.
Washington, DC: I'd like to travel to Aroostook County to take advantage of white water rafting and the wilderness. What do you recommend? Where should we go and stay?
Hilary Nangle: Aroostook County is big, beautiful, remote and undeveloped, but it's not whitewater rafting country. (whitewater canoeing, yes: Allagash, St. Croix and St. John Rivers).
Maine has three dam-controlled whitewater rivers that provide Class III-V rafting from May through September, all are in west/central Maine. The Kennebec and the Dead meet in The Forks (follow Route 207 north from Augusta on a map), where numerous outfitters are based and have lodging facilities (campgrounds, B&Bs, lodges, etc.). The Penobscot flows in the shadow of Mt. Katahdin on the edge of Baxter State Park, near Millinocket (north of Bangor). Again, most of the major companies also have bases with full facilities here. (raftmaine.com).
Greenville is smack in the middle, about an hour-plus drive from either over back roads. You can get to the Kennebec from Greenville via paved roads, but getting to the Penob requires traveling over often rough, dirt roads. If you v' got an SUV or any rugged vehicle (our Suburu Outback handles it just fine). In any case, you l' want a car with good road clearance, and you l' want to drive slowly to avoid potholes as well as wildlife and also logging trucks this road is privately owned, and these rigs have the right of way.
Now here s 'nother idea, if wilderness is your goal. Consider staying at a traditional Maine sporting camp. These usually comprise lakeside log cabins and a central lodge, where all meals are provided. Cabins are usually rustic, but comfortable heated by woods, oil lanterns for light, bathrooms with running hot and cold water, flush and shower or tub. No TV, no phones (and cell phones usually don t 'ork). Fabulous star-gazing, wildlife watching, canoeing, hiking and fishing. Do these on your own or hire a Registered Maine Guide for a photo or wildlife safari, whitewater canoeing or fishing. Two favorites are Libby Camps, liamps.com and Bradford Camps, bradfordcamps.com. Neither is easy to get to, but well worth the effort.
Lumberton, NJ: We're trying do decide where to go in August. Where is there more to do for kids: Bar Harbor or the Mid-Coast?
Hilary Nangle: I'd probably lean toward Bar Harbor, if only because it's a defined spot. The Mid-Coast stretches from Brunswick through Bucksport, and while there's plenty to do, it is spread out (although the Bath area, with the Maine Maritime Museum, Popham Beach one of Maine's finest and Fort Popham has potential, as does Rockland, with its museums and ferry service to Vinalhaven for a day trip).
Depending upon your kids 'ages, here are a few ideas in Bar Harbor:
- Of course, begin with the park. Start at the Visitor Center and pick up a copy of the Beaver Log, the weekly newspaper detailing all the activities. You ll find guided hikes, nature walks, presentations, etc., many geared to kids. Get into and enjoy the park, bike the carriage roads, go hiking, etc.
- Consider visiting one of the islands off Mt. Desert. Ferries service Cranberry and Swans.
- Go out on a whale watch
- Go out with Diver Ed s Dive In Theater (a real winner, ask any local; divered.com)
- visit the Abbe Museum, which chronicles Maine s Native American history; check its web site to see if any special family events are scheduled, abbemuseum.org.
- Bar Harbor Oceanarium, a low-tech, aquarium-style museum and lobster hatchery
- Bar Harbor has two great theaters: the Criterion, an Art Deco classic, and Reel Pizza, where you can lounge on couches, eat pizza and watch flicks.
- Ben and Bill s Chocolate Emporium. The ice cream and the chocolate, both made on site, are out of this world, and you can dare your kids to try lobster ice cream.
- There s a passenger ferry that connects with Winter Harbor, at the tip of the Schoodic Peninsula, and the Explorer Bus coordinates with that schedule and travels to the Schoodic section of the park.
Norman, OK: We'll be traveling to Maine in late July/early August. What's the one thing not to miss?
Hilary Nangle: The ONE thing? Hard to say, without knowing your interests, but Acadia National Park is hard to beat. Here's the thing, though: Most folks just stay in the car and drive the Park Loop Road, perhaps popping out for a sight or two. To really enjoy Acadia, you have to escape the crowds by getting out of your car and into the park: walk or bike the carriage roads, take a hike (some are really easy), kayak along the shorefront, ferry to an off-shore island.
If you 'e visiting inland, Baxter State Park is a gem as is Moosehead Lake.
If lobster s'on your agenda, the Maine Lobster Festival is a don t'miss event. It takes place in Rockland, Aug. 4-9, (elobsterfestival.com). And do visit the Farnsworth Museum of American Art, while you r' in town.
If you re'vacationing on the coast, make it a point to get out on the water. Take a cruise, go out on a lobster boat, take a sunset sail, ferry to an island, go whalewatching just don t 'iss the opportunity.
Windjammers head out of numerous ports, cruising from a few hours to a week. Inexpensive ferries (out of Portland, Rockland, and other ports) service offshore islands, making for fun day trips pack a picnic lunch, perhaps rent a bicycle and explore.
One of my favorite events is a real sleeper of a crafts fair, July 24-25, in Grand Lake Stream, way up in way down east Maine. If your travels take you to that part of Maine, and you re a'fan of folk art-style crafts and blue grass music, it s a 'un event, with about 50 vendors and three or four musicians or groups. ( No web, 207-796-8199). Grand Lake Stream is the literal town at the end of the road. It s su'rounded by lakes, and is renowned among anglers. Not the kind of place most folks would consider a don t mi's, but if you prefer more understated things and a wilderness setting near the coast, it might be right for you.
Columbus, OH: Would you recommend a first-time visitor to rent a car and travel the coast, staying at multiple hotels or to book a single spot to stay and travel back and forth to sites?
Hilary Nangle: I think the best way to explore Maine is to use a hub-and-spoke strategy. For one thing, changing hotel rooms every night is exhausting. It also gives you no place to just chill out on that inevitable rainy day. I'm on the road a lot in Maine, and whenever I have the opportunity to plant myself in one place for a few days, I always find things I never would have found otherwise. Return to the same coffee shop two or three days in a row, and you're practically a local.
Beginning in the Mid-Coast region, around Brunswick, through Down East, the coast comprises long peninsulas that are just plain fun to explore, and you need time to do so. While it may appear that you can do Rockland in a day, if you want to head down the St. George Peninsula, add at least another half-day; if you want to continue out to Monhegan, another day.
While it's tempting to want to cover a lot of territory on your trip, I think you l' enjoy it more if you allow yourself time to really explore a region or two.
Princeton, NJ: I am an older single mom with some health issues and have a 7-year-old daughter who gets carsick on long trips. I just learned recently that you can get to Portland by train from NYC now in 3 hours and am considering coming with her in August for a week or two but am concerned about being the sole entertainment, especially if I'm not feeling well some time. Where would you go and where would you recommend our staying in and around the Portland area? I will rent a car but would like to be able to walk in a town and want some areas with character and charm. I've considered both Portland itself and have heard some talk about Blue Hill, but am open to your suggestions of where to stay and what to do that's fun and kid-friendly and that would also maybe help me scope out the area for relocation and retirement potential in a few years. Many thanks.
Hilary Nangle: Portland is a great town to explore, and it's walkable (with hills, uneven brick sidewalks). First though, yes you can arrive by train, but you do have to switch stations in Boston, from South Station, where you'll arrive, to North Station, where you'll depart for Maine. Easy to do via the T-subway system, but keep it in mind when packing or take a cab pricier, but easier with luggage.
Portland has a great children's museum with Maine themes, well suited for your daughter's age. Also, consider a ride on the Narrow Gauge Railway along the waterfront. On a calm day, take a ferry ride to one of the Casco Bay Islands, a quick hop to Peaks, a half-day Mail Boat ride taking in a number of islands, or a fun and educational trip to Eagle.
Shops and restaurants are plentiful. You might want to check the Eastland Park Hotel, a recently renovated historical hotel in the Arts District, across from the Portland Museum of Art and the adjacent Children's Museum. It s'well suited for exploring and is family friendly, and it's reasonable for a full-service city hotel. Another choice, a long walk but short bus ride from intown attractions, is the Inn at St. John (although not as nice a neighborhood).
Within easy rental car driving: Fort Williams Park, in Cape Elizabeth bring a kite and do visit the lighthouse; L.L. Bean and the outlets of Freeport; Maine Maritime Museum, in Bath a bit more of a drive, but worth it. Take an easy walk around Mackworth Island, in Falmouth. Spend some time at the beach: Crescent Beach State Park in Cape Elizabeth is gentle and has facilities. Old Orchard is a bigger, busier beach with an amusement area and a short pier.
Fort Pierce, FL: Hi Hilary, we are planning to visit Maine, hopefully this year but the fuel prices may delay it till next year. We are seniors traveling by motorhome. My question is, can you steer us to the campground that you would consider a good one for a base to see lighthouses and small seafaring towns, for good eats and photos?
Hilary Nangle: I've heard good things about Searsport Shores Campiing Resort, in the Mid-Coast region. Searsport, is home to the Penobscot Marine Museum, and nearby Belfast is a wonderful harbor town. From there, you're within easy striking distance of the Blue Hill Peninsula, which has numerous small seafaring towns and is very picturesque. Visit campmaine.com or call 207-782-5874 and ask for a copy of the 2004 Maine Camping Guide.
New Port Richey, FL: My ancestors settled in Shirley, Maine in the early 1700's. Where is that in relation to a major airport? I would like to visit and look up the family records. Does Delta fly to Maine?
Hilary Nangle: Yes Delta flies to Maine. Shirley Mills is just west of Greenville (which is where you'll find lodging). Closest airport is Bangor.
Pittsburgh, PA: I would like to do a summer vacation in Maine and wanted to know were you think the best beach would be. I have a family of four. My kids are 9 and 12. Thank you.
Hilary Nangle: Ogunquit, Kennebunk, Old Orchard and Scarborough. The first three are in active tourist communities, with lots of lodging and dining opportunities and other things to do (Ogunquit is artsy and gay friendly; York has a small zoo, great saltwater taffy and ice cream shop; Kennebunk is more upscale, with boutiques and such, but also the Trolley Museum, great for kids; Old Orchard has an amusement pier and is popular with Canadians, too, giving it a French accent). Scarborough is more of a bedroom community for Portland.
The one beach that always gets named in Best Beach contests, though, is Popham, at the tip of the Phippsburg Peninsula. That ' home to a state park, but otherwise is probably less busy than those in the southern part of the state. There's an adjacent fort, and it ' near Bath and the Maine Maritime Museum.
If you're going for natural beach, probably Popham. For a more active vacation, one where your kids would likely meet other vacationing kids, probably one of the southern ones.
Minneapolis, MN: We will be visiting Portland, Maine in September. Where's the best place to get lobster (the more casual the better!) within walking distance of the cruise ship pier?
Hilary Nangle: Two to consider, both real casual:
The Port Hole OR Portland Lobster Co.
Clinton, NJ: Hi, is there a best time to go to Maine when the mosquitoes are not out? We will be going to Perry, Eastport area and the mosquitoes drive me crazy. Thanks.
Hilary Nangle: Aim for August or later.
Atlanta, GA: Into which airport would you recommend flying in order to travel to Maine? Thank you.
Hilary Nangle: You'll likely get your best fares into Boston or Manchester (NH), but Portland is closest for Southern and most of the Mid-Coast; Bangor's best for the Down East Coast (Bar Harbor and Acadia) and the Moosehead area.
If you do fly into Boston, Concord Trailways bus lines provides reasonable, regular service, picking up at each terminal and dropping you off at the Portland Transportation Center. It's much preferable than trying to rent a car and drive out of Boston.
Ennis, TX: If I vacation in Maine, how close could I get to Stephen King's house and might I be lucky enough to meet the man himself, even getting a book signed? Thank you.
Hilary Nangle: You can walk right by his house in Bangor. You can usually get signed copies of his books and other King-related goodies at Bett's Bookstore, in Bangor. Bett's is the best place to check in to see whether King is around or where he might be spotted (perhaps at the so-called Field of Screams Little League Park).
Mexico Beach, FL: We are going to be in Maine, staying in Portland from July 10 to 24. What are some activities such as festivals, plays, and music programs going on throughout the state during that time?
Hilary Nangle: Wow, there's so much that happens in that period. Your best bet is to log on to visitmaine.com and go to the calendar section. You can enter your dates, and all the events scheduled will be listed. I'm betting there will be pages of them.
Louisville, KY: Leaving our husbands behind, the two of us will fly into Portland, ME Sept. 22 thru Oct.7. We will rent a car and travel to the Canadian Maritimes and Maine coast. What places should we stop overnight, and please recommend hotels and B&Bs.
Hilary Nangle: Lucky you!
Spend your first night or two in Portland. The city has some wonderful small inns and B&Bs on its historic West End The Danforth, West End Inn, Inn on Carleton and the Pomegranate are all wonderful.
Mosey up to Freeport if outlet shopping and L.L. Bean are on your to-do list, consider a night at the Harraseeket Inn, a handsome full-service inn just a couple of blocks from the shops.
The Pemaquid Peninsula is another good bet. I mentioned a couple of places in the BT article, but if you're looking for something a bit fancier (and pricier): the Newcastle Inn or the Bradley Inn.
Everyone loves Camden, and you'll probably want to spend some time here, but just another 20 minutes up the coast is Belfast, where lodging and dining tend to be a little less expensive. I love Belfast as it is less touristy than Camden and has a real feel to it. Try the Jewelled Turret B&B.
You'll likely want to spend a few days meandering around the Blue Hill Peninsula and down to Deer Isle and Stonington, perhaps even out to Isle au Haut. Good places to call it a night are Castine (the Castine Inn or the Pentagoet), Brooksville you might be able to get a cottage or room at the Oakland House at that time of year; Deer Isle and Stonington (see other threads).
In Bar Harbor, my favorite inn is the Ullikana. It's tucked behind Bar Harbor's main street, within walking distance to everything, yet quiet and full of character. The innkeepers really know the park, and the inn itself comprises two buildings, one a tudor manse filled with antiques and contemporary art; the other a cottage done in Old Bar Harbor style.
Another choice on the quieter side of Mt. Dessert is the Island House, in Southwest Harbor.
In the Schoodic area, Oceanside Meadows is THE place to stay.
Lodgings get fewer and farther between as you continue up the coast, but this is one of my favorite areas. In Lubec, try the Homeport Inn; in Eastport, try the Weston House, lovely but shared baths.
New Hartford, NY: Hi. We are vacationing in Wells in August, and are interested in visiting some lighthouses in close proximity. Can you give us some information?
Hilary Nangle: Contact Lighthouse Depot in Wells (lighthousedepot.com; 207-646-0608). It is THE spot for lighthouse lovers and it has all the info you could possibly want about lighthouses in the area or anywhere.
Among the ones you'll be able to easily see is Cape Neddick Light. Most others can be viewed from various mainland points or on light-house viewing cruises.
Riverside, NJ: Hello Hilary, I will be traveling to Owl's Head in July, the week of the 17th. I am interested in visiting museums, nature areas (photography) and, of course, sampling the regional cuisine. Do you have any suggestions?
Hilary Nangle: For museums, there are quite a few: the Owls Head Transportation Museum is a must for old-car buffs, and its weekend events often include an aerobatic airplane show. The Farnsworth Museum, in Rockland, has a fabulous collection of American Art and a whole center devoted to the Wyeths. You can also visit the famed Olson House. The Shore Village Museum is great for lighthouse buffs.
Do take a cruise to Monhegan island for nature and photography. It's a must (but don't do it if it's foggy).
Regional cuisine: Waterman's Beach Lobster, in So. Thomaston. Chef Melissa Kelly, of Primo, in Rockland, on the Owls Head line, is a James Beard award winner. It's pricey.
St Paul, MN: Is it possible to find a oceanfront home, anywhere along the coast, for two people in their 50s that is 'affordable' - within $250k?
Hilary Nangle: Only if I get first refusal!
Not easy...but prices do drop the more Down East you go. Check Machias through Eastport.
Las Vegas, NV: I am on a budget and would like to stay at a place where you don't feel like a tourist and get a feel for the lifestyle and the local people...a place that is cozy and friendly and hopefully make a friend. I would be gone at least two weeks. Thanks.
Hilary Nangle: Belfast and Portland come to mind. Hit the local restaurants and coffee shops and go to local church or community suppers.
Menifee, CA: Is it possible to use Maine as a home base to visit Montreal, Quebec, and Prince Charles Island? Is there a train system you can use to get there?
Hilary Nangle: Not really. All are quite distant. Rail links Canadian points, but not Maine ones.
Manasquan, NJ: We will be vacationing for the first time in Maine 2 weeks in August. We are staying at a house on Big Sebago Lake in Raymond. What would be some great day trips to do while there?
Hilary Nangle: Portland for its wealth of activities.
Take a driving loop through Naples, Bridgton, the Waterfords, perhaps even to Bethel, to get a taste of the mountains. Lots of antiques shops; even a bison ranch.
Freeport, for L.L. Bean and outlets, then up to Bath for the Maine Maritime Museum.
Check visitmaine.com's calendar for area events.
Houston, TX: My wife and I have never been to Maine. We would like to take 3 or 4 days this summer to drive the coastal area. What itinerary would you suggest?
Hilary Nangle: For beaches, concentrate on the Southern Coast, from York up to Portland.
For a more rural, scenic route, loop around the Blue Hill Peninsula.
Great Barrington, MA: We want to go to the Yarmouth Clam Festival. Where should we stay for a Thursday-Sunday weekend? We'd like quaint and nice accommodations, near the ocean with A/C and TV.
Hilary Nangle: Now I haven't been there yet, but I'm hearing good things about the Chebeague Island Inn, a short ferry ride from Yarmouth.
In nearby Freeport, try the Harraseeket Inn.
Or, try some of the inns on Portland's West end noted in another answer.
Hilary Nangle: I've really enjoyed answering your questions. I'm sorry I wasn't able to get to all of them, but you might find the answers to your question in another answer, so do browse through.
Enjoy your summer wherever you go, but I truly hope your plans include Maine.