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Enjoy vacationland the way our visitors do!

At the beginning of every summer I tally up the number of times I hope to walk on the beach, make field-picked strawberry jam, paddle a kayak to the sound of loons singing and savor wild blueberry pie with home-churned vanilla ice cream. A season sprinkled liberally with moments spent with my besties, gal pals and friends from away, doing that “Maine thing,” feels well and happily spent.

Living in Vacationland, we have the best of both worlds. It’s easy to take a precious, consciously screenless, few hours and do some of the things that folks from afar have to squeeze into just one week a year. Becoming a petite touriste, starring in our own staycation-land, is truly delightful.

We can hang out on the pier in Old Orchard Beach, peruse the dunes at the Desert of Maine and walk among the summer flowers at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. Sounds like a blast, right? Do all of those things and more this summer. Here are a few special favorites to put on your sandcastle bucket list.

Puffin Watch Cruise and Lighthouse Exploration in New Harbor
If you want to see some gorgeous plumage, take a Puffin Watch cruise on the Hardy Boat. Since 1986, the Crocetti family has ferried folks out to Monhegan Island to share the beauty of the natural coastal world through Puffin and Seal Watch tours. Eastern Egg Rock is home to over 150 nesting pairs of Puffins. From the beginning the Hardy Boat has collaborated with the National Audubon’s wildlife programs, welcoming naturalists aboard to share their passion for sea life. To date, the Hardy Boat has given over $125,000 directly to Project Puffin. Their mission is focused on education and connecting the local community to their environment, which makes the trip all the sweeter.
Hardy Boat, 132 State Rt. 32, New Harbor
www.hardyboat.com/project-puffin

More in New Harbor and Pemaquid
For the full experience while you’re in the area, be sure to grab a cinnamon roll at The Cupboard Café, 137 Huddle Road, New Harbor (www.thecupboardcafe.com,
(207) 677–3911), tour Fort William Henry at Colonial Pemaquid, Colonial Pemaquid Drive, New Harbor (www.friendsofcolonialpemaquid.org) and climb the rocks at Pemaquid Point Lighthouse, 3115 Bristol Road, Pemaquid (www.pemaquidpoint.org/about.php).

Sand Dunes and Sunshine in Freeport
The Desert of Maine is a geological phenomenon. Once a lush, 300-acre farm, the glacial desert emerged in the early 20th century after the perfect storm of clear cutting, over grazing and soil erosion. The agricultural disaster turned into a financial gold mine in 1925 as new owners welcomed folks to see the unbelievable dunes. Almost 100 years later, you can see the mica sparkle in the sun, meander through the surreal, sandy woods and peruse the antique farm buildings. Join tour guides for a 30-minute tram ride around the desert and hear the history and science behind this natural phenomenon. It’s a tourist stop, for sure, but also a really neat spot for locals to see at least once.
The Desert of Maine, 95 Desert Road, Freeport
www.desertofmaine.com

More in Freeport
A stop at L.L. Bean, Main Street, Freeport, is a regular thing for locals and visitors alike, but maybe this summer you can pose with the giant L.L. Bean boot, just like the tourists do. And be sure to check out one of the free summer concerts offered throughout the summer on the L.L. Bean campus (www.llbean.com). Swing into Sherman’s, 128 Main St., and pick up a great summer read to enjoy on the beach, at camp or somewhere cozy and quiet (www.shermans.com, (207) 869–9000). You can also head over to Wolfe’s Neck Farm, 184 Burnett Road, and hike around the 626 oceanfront acres or rent a canoe or kayak and paddle the calm waters of Casco Bay (www.wolfesneckfarm.org).

A Walk in the Garden and Fish & Chips in Boothbay
Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens is a glorious 295 acres of verdant tidal shoreland perched on the Boothbay peninsula. Imagine the lovechild of the expansive, opulent, formal Versailles with a wild, windblown, earth-mother of rocky coastline. She is spectacular. A decade ago, a handful of folks—horticulturalists and philanthropists alike—planned a gigantic gardenscape bursting with brilliant color, and sprinkled with living and stone-carved sculpture. Over the years, the gardens have evolved, and the walking tours, educational programs and events welcome over 100,000 visitors each year. Staff horticulturists post what’s in bloom on the website, so you can look forward to discovering something new. Artists come to paint en plein air. Bring along your easel and capture a memory in living color. The Lerner Garden of the Five Senses, the Kitchen Garden, Woodlands, Arbor, Children’s Garden and Meditation Garden all whisper sweet welcomes. Come walk the garden path!
Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, 132 Botanical Gardens Drive, Boothbay
(207) 633–8000, www.mainegardens.org

More in Boothbay
Catch some lunch at Bet’s Famous Fish Fry—perhaps a plate of fish and chips or a fish sandwich. There’s no pretense at this popular stop off the town square on Route 27, just delicious fresh fish, fried to perfection. A paddling excursion with Tidal Transit kayak tours is the perfect thing for a sunny summer day. Tidal Transit offers kayak and paddleboard rentals (bikes, too, if you want to remain on land), as well as full-day and half-day lighthouse and wildlife tours.
Tidal Transit, 18 Granary Way, Boothbay Harbor,(207) 633–7140
www.kayakboothbay.com

Top Tourist Tips

There’s a reason vacationers are so happy here—they’re on vacation! But even if Maine is our home all year long, we can still approach our summer the way the visitors do (and pretend like we’re on vacation, too, even if just for the afternoon).

Pretend time doesn’t matter. Put the watch away and take it easy peasy.

Eat whatever tickles your fancy. (Think buttery lobster and blueberries.)

Unplug. Stop posting, snapping, tweeting and liking for a bit.

Be like a kid again. What did you love to do when you were 10 years old? Find new ways to explore it.

Embrace wonder. Take a look at things around you, as if for the first time (even if you’ve seen that lobster shack/mountain summit/bookstore 100 times before).

Cynthia Finnemore Simonds loves to cook good food, bring people together and write about how squishing life’s lemons make a fantastic cocktail. www.facebook.com/mindfulmouthful

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