The Maine Less Traveled: 3 Destinations Worth Exploring

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Situated in the valley of New Hampshire’s White Mountains, Cornish and its surrounding towns offer amazing views. Photos courtesy of Scott Rowley

Summer tourists will swarm Maine’s beaches, bars and beautiful vistas before long. While we locals still want to enjoy Pier Fries in Old Orchard Beach, beers on a patio in Portland or a hike in Acadia National Park, we may also long for a very Maine experience minus the crowds. Not to worry—Maine offers endless possibilities for adventure across its more than 35,000 square miles.

Here are a few less-congested options for you to consider:

DOVER-FOXCROFT

Situated south of Sebec Lake in the Piscataquis River Valley, Dover-Foxcroft has plenty to offer for year-round fun, but June is a great time to go for one reason: the Maine Whoopie Pie Festival. Scheduled for June 24 this year, the admission is $5 and samples are only 25 cents. In fact, if you are a real whoopie pie lover, the festival has mapped out spots from just south of Augusta to downtown Dover-Foxcroft where you can sample along your way.

While whoopie pies are a draw, there are more reasons to visit Dover-Foxcroft. From May 15 through Oct. 1 you can make reservations to stay at Peaks-Kenny State Park. The 839-acre park offers a full mile of shoreline access to Sebec Lake where you can swim with views of Borestone Mountain in the distance. If you prefer to stay dry, the park has 10 miles of gentle hiking trails suitable for all ages and skill levels.

For a break from all the outdoor beauty, check out Center Theater, located on Main Street. The 1940s-era moviehouse closed for nearly 30 years until a group of locals rallied to resurrect it in 1998. The theater now offers first and second-run movies, documentaries, local films and productions from the community theater group Slightly Off-Center Players.

To learn more about Dover-Foxcroft, visit dover-foxcroft.org.

Cornish has a quintessential Maine downtown with lots to do.

CORNISH

Settled in the foothills of the White Mountains is the quaint little town of Cornish. Once a spot on the Pequawket Trail, a commonly traveled path by the Sokoki people during the 17th century, the town’s Main Street is now flush with local shops, restaurants and an inn to sleep for the night. It is the type of town that offers such a Stars Hollow vibe you’re just waiting for the Gilmore girls to stroll by, coffee in hand.

If you want to make a weekend of your exploration of the Sacopee Valley, grab a room at the Cornish Inn. The 16 guestrooms feel more like a stay at grandma’s house than a hotel, and the inn’s Lincoln Pub boasts farm-to-table eats. Enjoy the gorgeous wraparound porch for people watching. The Perkins House Bed & Breakfast is another option, and if you prefer snoozing in a tent, venture east to Acres of Wildlife Campground in Steep Falls or west toward Windsong Campgrounds in Parsonsfield.

There are enough shops along Main Street to fill an afternoon, and if you’re an antique hunter, a cruise around town and nearby will have you stumbling upon wonderful spots to cull for treasures. When you want to take in some scenery and breathe the fresh air, take a hike on Sawyer Mountain or any of the parcels managed by the Francis Small Heritage Trust, which owns 1,472 acres in northern York County that are open for hiking, hunting and fishing (and cross-country skiing and snowmobiling in the winter).

After a long day or for brunch before you head out of town, it is a requirement to dine at Krista’s. Reservations are recommended for this small Main Street restaurant nestled by the Little River. The cozy atmosphere and friendly staff exemplifies everything that Cornish is, and you won’t be disappointed with your meal or beverage.

For more information to fuel your Cornish adventure, visit cornish-maine.org.

RACHEL CARSON NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE

In high school or college, there is a good chance you read “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson. The world-renowned marine biologist published the book in 1962, addressing how human actions have a rippling effect in the natural world around us. A wildlife refuge was established in her name just four years later. In Maine, the hub for the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge is in Wells. (There are 11 divisions of protected land that span nearly 50 miles of coastal York and Cumberland counties with the goal of containing 14,600 acres once all acquisitions are complete.)

With so many parcels of land preserved, and not often trodden, you could enjoy many weekends working your way up the coast visiting each of the divisions.

One of the latest acquisitions is Timber Point in Biddeford. The 1.4-mile loop at the end of Granite Point Road provides wonderful coastal vistas and you may spot some wildlife in the marshlands alongside the trail. At low tide, visitors can reach Timber Island, but be sure to check the tide clock on the trail to avoid getting trapped by an incoming tide.

For more information and maps, visit fws.gov/refuge/rachel_carson.

Emma Bouthillette is a legal assistant and author of “Biddeford: A Brief History.” She lives in Biddeford with her copilot, Miss Savvy, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi.