On November 12, 2011Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question:The ultimate outdoorsman’s paradise, the Acadia National Park region bears the tempting tagline “Where the mountains meet the sea.” With a population of more than 20,000 people, the nearby Bar Harbor is the biggest community on Mount Desert Island (home to much of Acadia). An ideal destination for hikers, sailing enthusiasts and leaf-peepers, the city is peppered with hotels, resorts and traditional New England inns which can serve as excellent base camps for these top adventures:
Acadia Mountain. By all accounts, it’s a strenuous hike to the top of Acadia Mountain. But once you reach the summit, you’re rewarded with dream-like views of Somes Sound, the mountains and the ocean.
Aquaterra Adventures. Chances are you’ll be interested in gliding across the waters of Bar Harbor, so we suggest you check out Aquaterra Adventures. They employ some of the best certified guides to lead sea-kayaking tours. There’s no better way to see the shorelines surrounding Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park than while paddling through the serene waters.
Atlantic Climbing School. You, too, can scale the craggy granite cliffs of Acadia National Park with the help of the experienced climbers and guides at Atlantic Climbing School. Even if you’ve never climbed a day in your life, you can join in on the fun and sign up for what they call The Climbing Experience. It’s a half-day outing with a focus on taking in the scenery and enjoying the experience (rather than learning the technicalities of rock climbing). On the flip side, there are several courses for the more experienced and those that wish to be.
On November 12, 2011Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question:The majestic rocky coastline and thick woodlands filled with wildlife have made Acadia National Park legendary to the people of Maine and far beyond. The 47,633-acre park takes up almost half of Mount Desert Island, a 14-by-12-mile lobster claw-shaped isle made predominantly of rugged granite. The park also comprises smaller areas on surrounding islands and part of the mainland at Schoodic Point. Although small compared to other national parks, Acadia still hosts more than 2 million visitors annually, and it’s the only national park in the northeastern United States.
Native Americans were the first inhabitants of the Acadia area, and they lived here for more than 6,000 years before French explorer Samuel de Champlain officially founded a settlement on Mount Desert Island in 1604. Until 1713, the island was a part of French Acadia, and not until after the Revolutionary War was it officially settled. Predictably, the majestic beauty of the area became a popular summer destination for wealthy vacationers who erected mansions, er, summer cottages .
The eventual expansion of the park is largely thanks to land donated by private citizens who loved the area and wanted to preserve its natural beauty. One of the best-known contributors to the park was John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who built the popular carriage road system to avoid motorized vehicles. He later donated 11,000 acres of land and because of private gifts like these, the park grew piecemeal throughout the 20th century. In fact, Congress could only establish its official boundaries in 1986.
Today Acadia National Park’s mountains, inlets, wildlife, and granite sea cliffs are best seen by kayak, on foot or by bike - and there are a slew of adventure outfitters nearby to will help you gear up and get you exploring.
On November 12, 2011Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question:Come summertime, Maine fills with sojourners who feast on lobster, poke through antique shops and sail the rugged, rocky coast. If you, too, want the quintessential seaside experience, put these three historic hotels at the top of your list:
The Colony Hotel. Ocean porches, gazebos, poolside bar service - it’s no wonder this family-owned hotel has such a long history of attracting Brahmin types. Located on a rock promontory overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and the mouth of the Kennebunk River, the majestic Colony Hotel is within walking distance of town. The resort features a heated saltwater pool, beach and gardens. Other nearby activities include golfing, tennis, kayaking, bicycling, boating, shopping and touring art galleries. Best of all, you’ll find Maine lobster and local seafood on the menu at the in-house restaurant.
White Barn Inn. Built in the 1820s, White Barn Inn is one serious romantic getaway. This quaint, coastal Four-Star resort is made up of cottages, restored barns and a main house circa-1860. No matter which room you book, you’ll enjoy elegant appointments: antiques, wood-burning fireplaces, whirlpool tubs and flat-screen TVs. Simple pleasures here include swimming in the stone pool, biking the coast, experiencing a treatment from the Four-Star spa or taking afternoon tea by the fire in the comfortable sitting room. The inn houses one of the region’s most acclaimed restaurants, the Five-Star White Barn Inn Restaurant, where diners enjoy New England cuisine in a rustic, candlelit setting.
Kennebunkport Inn. Colonial on the outside, updated on the inside - the 1799 Kennebunkport Inn has all the old-world charm of centuries past but offers all the modern accoutrements of today. The property (which was once the home of a successful tea merchant) features a terrific onsite restaurant, is convenient to downtown Kennebunkport, and offers onsite spa services and exceptional service.
On November 11, 2011Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question:Augusta is the state’s unusually quaint capital city and it is rife with historical architectural treasures. We suggest you grab a map and scout these three standouts:
Blaine House. The Blaine House is the epitome of mish-moshed New England architectural styles. Originally, this 1883 mansion was home to James G. Blaine, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and an 1884 presidential candidate. But since 1919 this 28-room house has functioned as the official residence of Maine’s governors. Though once built in the Federal style, it has been remodeled several times and today appears semi-colonial.
Old Fort Western. Old Fort Western has two distinctions: First, it has never been attacked. Second, America’s oldest surviving wood fort is still visitable. It was built in 1754, as an effort by Boston merchants to promote settlement near Augusta. Today the grounds feature the original fort, watch boxes and palisade. You can also take a tour with a costumed interpreter to get a feel for what 18th-century life was like on the Kennebec River.
State House. The 180-foot dome represents classic Augusta architecture and belongs to the State House, the city’s capitol building. The original 1827 design has been continually remodeled and enlarged over the years, including a major renovation in 1910 that established the capitol’s current look. Perhaps its most defining feature is a 150-foot copper dome crowned by a statue that depicts the female character Wisdom. It was designed by W. Clark Noble and installed, along with the building’s new dome, in 1910.
On November 11, 2011Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question:Home to quaint bed and breakfasts, fishing villages and pictorial outdoor sights, Maine’s Middle Coast is a great place for restful and rugged vacations alike. And although this area may feel a little sleepy at first, it has plenty to offer would-be adventurers. Be sure to visit Camden, one of the prettiest towns in the region and situated between the waters of Penobscot Bay and the peaks of the Camden Hills. Three more classic New England experiences include:
Camden Snow Bowl. Pack up your skiing gear and head to Camden Snow Bowl. The community-owned ski and recreation area uses a double chairlift and two T-bars to climb 1,300-foot Mount Ragged. (Once skiers reach the top, they’re treated to great views of the Atlantic Ocean.) Non-skiers will appreciate the toboggan chute, snack bar and lounge. Ski patrol runs regularly, and novices can rent equipment and attend ski school.
Windjammer Sailing. Book a Windjammer trip on an old-timey schooner departing from Camden or Rockport Harbor. (Voyage options range from 12 hours to six days.) While at sea, you’re treated to views of lighthouses, seabirds, seals and whales. You’ll be well fed, too. The operators provide generous meals, including a traditional Maine lobster feast.
Mohegan Island Lighthouse and Museum. Constructed in 1824, the Mohegan Island Lighthouse and Museum resides atop a hill on Monhegan Island. Today it’s surrounded by a museum (where you’ll learn everything there is to know about Middle Coast history) and an art gallery, both filled with artifacts of the island. Notably, the museum also owns the large bell portrayed by Jamie Wyeth in his famous painting Bronze Age, on display at the nearby Farnsworth Museum.
On November 11, 2011Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question:Portland, Oregon gets all the attention, but Portland, Maine is just as deserving. With cobblestone streets, red brick buildings and plentiful public parks, the city of 60,000 evokes a relaxed, old-world feel. These days the town is enjoying a bit of a modern renaissance, thanks to a new wave of stylish boutiques, stunning art galleries and red-hot restaurants - many of them within walking distance of each other. If you’re prone to wander by foot, head to these three happening hoods:
Arts District. The bohemian blocks situated along Congress Street are known as the arts district and are populated by galleries, arts studios and the terrific Portland Museum of Art. The largest and oldest art museum in the state, this organization has three buildings full of American and European paintings, sculpture, prints and decorative art. Of particular interest is the State of Maine Collection, featuring works by Andrew Wyeth and other artists associated with the New England state.
Munjoy Hill. This emerging neighborhood features two must-see sights -the Portland Observatory and the 68-acre Eastern Promenade, both of which offer great views of Casco Bay. The former is the only remaining maritime signal tower in the nation and was built in 1807. The observatory provides spectacular harbor views to anyone willing to hoof up the 102 steps to the top. The Eastern Prom, as the locals call it, offers trails, basketball courts, baseball fields and every outdoor activity you can think of.
Old Port and Waterfront. Almost every city in the U.S. has one - a classic warehouse district that’s been revitalized. Old Port and Waterfront is Portalnd’s version and it’s now filled with independent restaurants, bars and hip boutiques. It was here, in a local tavern, that colonists first launched a separation movement from Massachusetts (Maine became a separate state in 1820). Today the spot is best known for its shopping scene. Cobblestone streets connect the area with the nearby waterfront and all of its classic fishing piers.
On November 11, 2011Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question:It’s pricey by Portland standards, but Fore Street is currently the city’s hottest kitchen. Quite literally, too - many fans credit the restaurant’s excellence to its 900-degree wood-fired oven, though surely the James Beard Award-winning chef Sam Hayward deserves some credit, too. He helms the cozy spot in Portland’s Old Port District and remains devoted to creating fresh, seasonal, inspired cooking. Local producers provide the ingredients, everything from day-boat scallops to organic arugula. We like the wood-oven roasted mussels, though other standouts include the marinated hangar steak and lamb. Be sure to save room for the delicious housemade desserts, especially the ice cream and cakes.
On November 11, 2011Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question:Many Americans know about the Bush family’s compound in Kennebunkport, a postcard-perfect town along Maine’s southwest coast. Fewer know about the town’s history - it’s been a blueblood magnet for more than a century. Today the town is packed with upscale establishments, from notable restaurants and Victorian inns to fashionable boutiques and even a couple world-class spas. Here are three other Southwest Coast towns you’ll definitely want to hit:
Old Orchard Beach. A destination for more than 170 years, Old Orchard Beach has an old-fashioned pier flanked by miles of sandy beach (a Maine rarity). In warm-weather months, the pier features nightly entertainment like dancing, live concerts and fireworks. If you’re traveling with kids, the amusement park Palace Playland is nearby on the beachfront. There, your little ones will be mesmerized by Maine’s largest arcade, while you can relive memories of your own on the classic Ferris wheel.
Ogunquit. This resort town has an artistic heart and a cluster of galleries to match. When you’re done perusing the town’s art houses, check out the Ogunquit Museum of American Art. The museum overlooks the ocean and nearby sculpture gardens, and also features an excellent collection of 20th-century American sculpture and painting, with a special emphasis on arts affiliated with Ogunquit’s own arts colony.
Kittery. A quaint town with plentiful discounts, Kittery features 120 outlet stores for upscale retailers such as Izod, J. Crew and Calvin Klein. After you’ve scored a few good deals, head to nearby Fort Foster Park for some equally affordable fun. This impressive 92-acre park offers a pavilion, beach, baseball field, park and a fishing pier for a small entrance fee.
On November 11, 2011Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question:Maybe it’s the flannel-clad Lobstermen, or maybe it’s the salty sea air. Whatever it is, there’s just something about Maine. With the highest tides in the country and a full spectrum of seasons on display, Maine promises an intense sensory experience so long as you know where to look. Arcadia National Park is one of the nation’s wildest and most beautiful areas, filled with a resurging bald eagle population. Lobster dishes, and therefore lobster festivals, are a Maine staple, and shopping and eating in the quaint Kennebunkport is practically mandatory. Similarly, shoppers will want to spend some time (and money) at Freeport’s outlet stores. Need further inspiration to visit? Take a look at our picks for Maine’s must-dos:
Arcadia National Park. The park is a playground for bald eagles and those who love to observe them. Located off the central coast of Maine, the rugged granite terrain is a hiker’s dream, while the surrounding sea, with its many bays and inlets, makes for excellent sailing.
Maine Lobster Festival. Nothing says Maine quite like lobster. Celebrate the state’s premier crustacean at the annual Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland with harbor cruises, a parade and more lobster-inspired dishes than you can possibly eat.
Kennebunkport. The Bush family isn’t the only gang of bluebloods that flocks to this fishing village. Set at the mouth of the Kennebunk River, this arresting little town is chock-full of antique shops, Victorian inns and dockside restaurants. Although summer is the area’s busiest season, the fall foliage provides a handy excuse to visit off-season.
Freeport outlets. When in Maine, you’ll want to dress like a Mainer, and you can stock up on chinos and flannel at the famous outlets in Freeport. Along with more than 170 different stores, Freeport is also home to L.L.Bean’s flagship, a mega-store that stays open 24 hours a day.