The Nature Guide to Maine

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I grew up in the Adirondacks, which is about as New England as it gets, even though New York state isn’t formerly considered to be one of the six New England states.

That said, Richard Russo who’s from my home town, has written extensively about upstate New York and the state of Maine which is where he spent a chunk of his life. In rural areas of both states, the culture and lifestyle is remarkably similar, at least in my experience over the years.

We used to get up to Maine all the time when I lived in Boston — quick weekend getaways, whether it be for camping or a luxe stay along the coast. And of course, I covered PopTech every year for many up in Camden, so have seen Maine in all her glory across every season.

Above: Ogunquit

There’s something magical about this state any time of year, however from late June (after the black flies die down) until October, it is pure heavy. It remains one of my favorite states and getaways, though I haven’t hung my hat there for a long stay in some time. From parks and lakes to the coast line and eating lobster every day, it’s hard to beat. Of course, eating lobster is one of my favorite things to do in Maine, however there is so much more that this incredible state has to offer.

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park spans 47,000-acres primarily on Maine’s Mount Desert Island. Its landscape is marked by woodland, rocky beaches and glacier-scoured granite peaks such as Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the United States’ East Coast. Wildlife lovers will be thrilled to learn that there are moose, bear, whales and seabirds.

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One of my favorite dining experiences of all time (in New England that is) is Bar Harbor, which is a popular gateway to the Park. Here, you can dive into some of the freshest seafood, all sitting outside on the harbor and breathing in the salty air while the birds fly overhead. 

Bar Harbor

I love Bar Harbor primarily to eat lobster outside on the harbor, but you can golf here, go boating, fishing or hiking.

You can also nature camp, visit the oceanarium, zoo or a lumberjack show. They also have craft beers and art galleries in the area as well.  It was apparently home to the largest hotel in North America in the 19th Century and to Millionaires’ Row, a line of summer estates built for America’s richest and most powerful families—including the Rockefellers, the Fords and the Vanderbilts.

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Historians will want to visit Abbe Museum to learn more about the Wabanaki Indians, the Dorr Museum of Natural History, or the Bar Harbor Historical Society Museum.  There’s plenty of history in and around Bay Harbor.

Casco Bay & Nearby Islands

Casco Bay is an inlet of the Gulf of Maine on the southern coast which you can reach via Cape Small and or from the west, Two Lights in Cape Elizabeth.

Photo credit: Casco Bay Lines

Casco Bay Lines offers year-round passenger, freight, postal and vehicle ferry service to the islands of Casco Bay from Portland.  It will take you to a number of islands, including:

Peaks Island – home to artists and retirees, it has a small town feel with unparalleled ocean views and access.

Little Diamond Island – the primarily private island was known as ‘Little Hog Island’ during colonial times and is part of the city of Portland.

Great Diamond Island – also part of Portland, you’ll be let off by ferry in the northeastern part of the island. The island is not easily accessible by motor vehicle and has a limited network of roads. The primary modes of transportation are golf carts and bicycles, which makes it both “car free” and “kid friendly.”

Long Island – here you’ll find art galleries, B&B’s and places to eat lobster. It is only six miles off the coast of Portland and super small, at only 3 miles long and one mile wide. Many residents, summer and winter, work in the lobster industry which shouldn’t be surprising.

Chebeague Island is nearly five miles long and 1½ miles wide, and is home to over 360 year-round people and more than 1,600 summer residents. Its name means “isle of many springs.” Chebeague Island’s history includes the story of stone sloopers, which are men who carried ballast for the sailing ships of the 19th century America and later granite to make buildings, including the Washington Monument. Here you’ll find many Greek Revival homes on the island.

Cliff Island – Cliff is the smallest year-round island in Casco Bay and the last stop “down the bay” on the Casco Bay Lines ferry. Shaped like an “H,” the island has extensive property in conservation land. While cars are allowed, most people walk, bicycle or use golf carts for transportation.

Photo credit: Chebeague Island Inn

If you’re an oyster or lobster lover, you’ll be in pure heaven. 

Monhegan Island

I LOVE this place. A home to or retreat for many artists, Monhegan is a plantation in that is around 12 nautical miles off the mainland.  I love how rugged it is, breeming with wild, raw natural beauty in all directions. 

The island is only accessible by boat and there are no cars or paved roads on the Island. Its mostly about tourism, lobstering or fishing and the year-round population has seldom exceeded 65 in recent times. Pretty wow right?

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For more than 100 years, Monhegan Island has been a summer haven for artists largely because of it’s raw beauty. When I was there (have gone twice), I have always seen an artist or two in the middle of nowhere painting something in the wild. It is so beautiful to witness and so serene to find yourself in the middle of it all.

There are 12 miles of trails that take you through wooded areas and over rocky ledges up to the highest ocean cliffs on the Maine coastline. The ecology of the island is protected btw, which is are words to warm the heart for any conservationist or nature lover.   

Lobster Cove and its meadow can be found on the southern tip of the Island, which is a must visit for bird lovers, to paint or draw, have a picnic or shoot (photography that is!)

There’s also an old shipwreck there. They don’t recommend swimming there because of the strong undertows. In other words, no one has been saved who has gone overboard from Green Point to Lobster Cove. Lobster Cove Photo Credit:

The Headlands lies on the back side of the Island, which is where you’ll find some of the highest ocean cliffs on the Maine coastline. From here, you can see Isle au Haut, Matinicus, Criehaven, and Matinicus Rock.  Another favorite spot of mine — Nova Scotia is eastbound, another must visit spot.

Quoddy Head State Park

Funny  name, right? There are tons of quirky things about Maine, and one of them includes some of their town and destination names.  Here, you can be one of the first people in the states to see a sunrise.

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Cape Neddick Lighthouse 

The Cape Neddick Light is a lighthouse in York on Nubble Island about 100 yards off Cape Neddick Point. It is commonly known as “Nubble Light” or simply “the Nubble”.

Cape Neddick Point is at the north end of Long Sands Beach and is so picturesque that you’ll think of storybook-like images when you first see it.

Apparently, the Voyagerspacecraft, which carries photographs of Earth’s most prominent man-made structures and natural features, should it fall into the hands of intelligent extraterrestrials, includes a photo of Nubble Light with images of the Great Wall of China and the Taj Mahal.

Cape Neddick Light is one of the last eight lights in Maine to still have its Fresnel lens and the lighthouse and island were featured in the movie “Lost Boundaries” with Mel Ferrer.

Gulf Hagas

You can hike part of The Appalachian Trail and see “The Grand Canyon of Maine” at Gulf Hagas, which is a 400-foot-deep gorge that cuts through the west branch of the Pleasant River. It’s also part of Maine’s 100 Mile Wilderness, the longest stretch of uninterrupted wilderness along the entire Appalachian Trail.

There’s waterfalls, chutes and swimming holes along an eight-mile loop that takes you through an old growth pine forest and up to the rim of the gorge. Pure beauty.

Photo credit: Maine Woods Tourism

It is also registered National Natural Landmark and remnants of a blast furnace and a charcoal kiln that were part of the Katahdin Iron Works, which operated during the 1800’s.


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