As the Down East license plate declares, Maine is Vacationland. But who wants to be another tourist family in a seaside town? In order to truly appreciate the way life should be in Maine you want to be more like a Mainer, less like the Griswold family. It’s wicked tricky to master the Maine accent overnight, you can’t just drop your R’s, you also have to extend your A’s, slow your dialect way the heck down, then add a dash of snark. So instead of trying to talk like a local, go for the Maine look – nothing too fancy or matchy matchy, something practical from The Beanah (LL Bean), any New England sports t-shirt, or something vintage – which in Maine means just plain old. Don’t tote a big camera, your wicked smahrt phone will suffice. Now you are ready to tour the coast incognito on your Maine vacation.
First stop, jail — York, Maine
Instead of throwing a frisbee at York’s Long Sands Beach and taking the kids to Goldenrod for deliciously sticky homemade salt water taffy, throw them in Maine’s oldest jail for some humah. The Museums of Old York offer tours and creepy tales of the 1719 Gaol sure to spook the kids, and don’t miss the primitive one-room Schoolhouse. Your kids will just love the incarceration education on vacation.
Next up, a quick hike up Mount Agamenticus promises beautiful coastal panoramas and a picnic (you can drive instead but where’s the family fun in that?). Then visit Sohier Park, home of one of the most photographed lighthouses, Nubble Light, which you can’t actually get to from here (more Maine humah) – it’s on an island just a few yards from shore, surely part of its beauty.
Next up, Kennebunkport, home to presidents and paddleboards
Kennebunkport is President Bush and his family’s summer home, so you have to drive out coastal Ocean Ave. and do a little Bush peeping. Along the way, you can drool over the seaside “cottages’’ clinging to the cliffs that are larger and grander than your primary residence, only difference – these delightful mansions are occupied about two weeks a year. Now that you’re done gawking and stalking, take the kids to Gooch’s Beach, locals know to go at low (an 11’ tide here) when this big sandy beach has the most turf to body surf, sun bathe and walk to the breakwater to watch the lobster boats, sailboats and whale watch tours come and go. The Kennebunks offer five beautiful beaches, so you may decide to stay and play here for a few days, and poke around the boutiques and shops of Dock Square in the evening with the well-healed from away, and a few locals.
Portland — port of fabulous food, ferries, and Fenway’s little brother
Portland, as the name implies, is a bustling port of yachts, waterfront activity and places to stay in port for a few nights. Walking the cobblestone streets of the Old Port is one way to tour this part-cosmopolitan part-crunchy seaside city. But a boat ride to the outlying islands is even cooler, especially on a sunny summer day. Casco Bay Ferry Line runs regularly, and rather inexpensively to islands like Peaks for $7.70 where you can rent a bike for $6.50 and get a taste of humble Maine island living (code for the land time forgot).
1791 Portland Head Light
Back in Portland after a day seafaring, dive into some seafood at one of Portland’s waterfront restaurants or pack a picnic and head to Fort Williams Park, home to Maine’s oldest lighthouse, 1791 Portland Head Light
For local flavor, take in a Sea Dogs Game, the Boston Red Sox Double A Ballpark is a blast and a bargain at $11 for tickets, $5 for kids.
Newry — what’s new to do at Sunday River in the summer
Though Newry isn’t new – very few folks know the Maine mountain town, but everyone has heard of Bethel – home of ski resort Sunday River. Well, zip the family up to Newry, where Sunday River Resort is actually located, for some summer fun. Sunday River operates six ziplines plus a twin zip that they promise is “no skills, all thrills.’’ The zipline operates Thursday – Sunday, June 26 – Labor Day. You can ride the Chondola for $15 or hike for free. After your workout on the snowless ski slopes, go find a refreshing swimming hole, just follow a local car loaded up with kids, dogs and windows down. Maine’s mountains and rivers are wicked pretty in summah.
Bar Harbor — pronounced Bah Haahbah as a Mainah
Won’t the family just love seeing the first light of day? Imagine the joy of waking the wife and kids and driving them to the top of Cadillac Mountain to watch the first sunrise on a vacation day? After such an early morning adventure, you will have bragging rights at breakfast back in Bar Harbor, essential ingredients: Maine blueberries and maple syrup.
Downtown Bar Harbor
When the cruise ships arrive in Bar Harbor, think like a local and beeline it to Acadia National Park for a bike ride along the beautiful 50 miles of carriage roads or hike The Beehives before “chillin’’ at Sand Beach – one of the coldest swimming spots in Maine. Crack into a fresh Maine lobster after exploring Acadia National Park, then crash at your Bar Harbor hotel room – remember you were up before 5 a.m. – and sleep to the sound of foghorns and the fragrance of sea air.
On your way home, be sure to buy some Maine sweatshirts to show your neighbahs that you have been to Vacationland and experienced the way life should be.