10 Things That Make Maine Paradise In The Summer

1. Get your own lobster, cook it, and eat it.

cara fealy choate
cara fealy choate

If you’re visiting Maine, you’re going to be tempted to hit up the first seafood restaurant you see for a lobster feast– stop! Instead, go to a local lobster pound or keep your eye’s peeled for a lobsterman parked on the side of the road selling the morning’s catch out of the back of his pickup. Get yourself a live lobster– and cook it yourself!

2. See the ocean.

photo of Rockland, Maine courtesy of Rebecca Stuart
photo of Rockland, Maine courtesy of Rebecca Stuart

In many places along the coast, you can drive for miles with the ocean at your side. In my coastal town, just driving to the grocery store I get a full view of the bay. The hospital where I work is also adjacent to it, and every morning when I park my car in the back lot, I can see the fog rolling atop the surf, whisping up into the morning light.

3. Frolic in a blueberry field — and get a pint of real Maine blueberries.

photo courtesy of Dawn Staples-Knox of Staples Homestead in Stockton Springs, Maine
photo courtesy of Dawn Staples-Knox of Staples Homestead in Stockton Springs, Maine

Chances are you’ve been duped about what constitutes “real Maine blueberries” your entire life. If it’s bigger than a pea, it ain’t a legit Maine blueberry. Those giant jawbreaker sized blueberries are ridiculous and pumped full of unnatural growing juices — do you really want that dribbling down your chin when you bite into a piece of pie? In Maine, it’s not too hard to find a blueberry barren where you can rake your own berries. Raking blueberries is a right of passage for a lot of Maine teens, and you’ll see plenty of high school kids making dat cheddah by spending hours out in the fields. In the same way cooking your own lobster makes it infinitely tastier, raking your own berries and walking away with a pint you picked yourself, hands covered in non-hormonal, totally organic, blueberry blood is one of the sweetest parts of a Maine summer.

4. Eat (and drink) local.

A true Maine philosophy--taken out front of Marriner’s Restaurant in downtown Camden
A true Maine philosophy–taken out front of Marriner’s Restaurant in downtown Camden

No matter where you go in Maine, you’ll find your standard chain restaurants, but I encourage you to indulge in local eateries instead. Not only is much of the food grown locally, but it benefits the local economy, much of which is based in agriculture. I can speak to the wide array of quality restaurants up and down the Maine coast. Whether you’re looking for a seafood fix or a unique burger (made from a cow at the farm you passed on your way into town I might add). . .there’s a lot of variety, and you’ll meet some interesting folks waiting tables.

5. Hike (don’t drive) up a mountain.

view from the top of Maiden’s Cliff in Camden
view from the top of Maiden’s Cliff in Camden

One thing about watching people summer in Maine that really ticks me off is when otherwise healthy people (who are just lazy/need instant gratification) drive to the top of one of our mountains instead of hiking it. They want the view without seeing all the cool stuff on the trails. If you have the ability to hike up a mountain, do it. The view is so much better when you’re sweaty and covered in bug bites. Also? Hipster pictures of yourself with/inside of trees only happen along the trail as you hike up.

6. Experience waterfront concerts (in Bangor and Portland)

Mumford & Sons on the eastern promenade in Portland, Maine, photo by Ian Brooks
Mumford & Sons on the eastern promenade in Portland, Maine, photo by Ian Brooks

By far one of my favorite things about Maine is being able to go to a concert that happens right next to the ocean. Not only does that off shore breeze make being in a throng of sweaty, drunk people actually tolerable, but it really enhances the entire concert experiences for me. Bangor,
Maine has a waterfront concert series that this summer alone is featuring the likes of Lil’ Wayne, Barenaked Ladies, K$sha, Larry the Cable Guy and The Avett Brothers. A similar set up exists in Portland Maine on the promenade, where I got to see Mumford & Sons last summer. But if you’re
looking for something inside and a little more intimate, the State Theatre hosts lots of great shows, from the obscure to the very well known (a couple of years ago I saw Hanson there, of “Mmmbop” fame). Some of the folks coming to the State Theater this summer include Tegan and Sara, Beck, Explosions in the Sky and Jimmy Eat World.

7. Hipster antiquing at flea markets.

The Big Chicken Barn
The Big Chicken Barn

Macklemore couldn’t handle the quantity of grandpa sweaters that exist in the state of Maine. Between a slew of outdoor and indoor flea markets and antique shops, there’s plenty of vintage ephemera to go around. Perhaps the best kept secret of all such places is the “Chicken Barn” on route 1 in Ellsworth, Maine. If you’re already planning to go to Acadia National Park or the Bar Harbor area, a stop at the Chicken Barn is an absolute must. Literally an old chicken barn repurposed to be a giant antique mall, you can peruse 21,600 square feet of cool shit that you never knew you wanted. Jewelry, books, records and clothes are wall-to-wall in this place, and it can be a day trip in and of itself to walk through each nook and cranny of the place. My favorite part? It’s a big enough place that even when it’s crowded, no one will bother you or protest when you pop a squat mid aisle looking at yearbooks from obscure high schools in Ohio from 1963 seeing if you can spot any famous people.

8. Play hide and seek at the L.L. Bean outlet in Freeport

MIKI Yoshihito
MIKI Yoshihito

The L. L. Bean outlet in Freeport looks like a college campus, and to the average Mainer, it does kind of feel like the headquarters of the Bean franchise. Even if you aren’t from New England, chances are you know all about L.L. Bean either through your family’s consumption of it’s high quality camping gear or Your L.L. Bean boyfriend (Tumblr). Anyone who owns something from L.L. Bean knows that it’s well worth the money, but if you’re like most of us and you’re a poor college student, the thought of looking at an entire college campus worth of cool shit you can’t afford probably sounds like a terrible way to spend your vacation. But the L.L. Bean outlet is as much about the experience as it is the goods. Whether you’ve got a thing for hiding in tents or petting a taxidermy moose, the outlet can be a fun afternoon adventure, especially if you find yourself in Freeport on a rainy day. And of course who doesn’t want to have their picture taken next to a giant boot?

9. Creep on Stephen King’s house in Bangor.

Madeleine Holland
Madeleine Holland

Even if you’re not a fan, you have to admit that Stephen King is a pretty cool dude. If you’re from Maine, you know that in addition to being a master of horror, he’s actually a really nice guy and he and his wife have done an awful lot of charity work for their community in Bangor. For someone as well-known and well-off as King, who has his name forever attached to cult classics like “It” and “Carrie”, his house is actually pretty modest– with the exception of the bat emblems on his gate. You’re not likely to spot the author on your trip, but you can at least take a creepy picture of yourself by his spidey gate.

10. And finally, when you’re almost out of Maine on your way home, go to Smuttynose Island in Kittery. Because don’t you want to tell people you went to a island called Smuttynose?

Wikipedia
Wikipedia

Six miles off the coast of New Hampshire, Smuttynose Island is only really known for one thing: in the 1870s, two Norwegian women were murdered there. Anita Shreve wrote a book about the story called The Weight of Water, which would have been the type of book your mother would have been reading when you were in middle school. It’s actually a great story — three sisters attacked by some scuzzy fisherman, the only one to survive does so because she hid in a sea cave– and then they finally catch the guy, imprison him, he escapes, everyone wants him dead. . .you get the idea. In addition to being murderous, it’s also a beautiful place for a picnic! TC mark

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