Maine summer bucket list: 24 ways to make the most of it
Make the most of your summer because it won’t last forever
Written by: Staff Reports
Paddle somewhere wonderful
Who doesn't love a good paddle? Even if you don't have the luxury of owning your own canoe or kayak, there are plenty of places to rent one. Then you can paddle 'til your heart's content. Or, you know, until your time runs out and you need to bring back the boat. The Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center (on Pine Point Road in Scarborough) rents canoes and kayaks for easy-going paddles along the winding marsh waters. They also do guided tours during the day and under the full moon.
Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette
For me, summer officially arrives in Maine on the day I eat my first pier fries of the season. Admittedly, that's usually in April, when Pier French Fries At Old Orchard Beach opens up on weekends. I love summer, can you blame me for being impatient? These fries can be loaded up with salt and vinegar and ketchup and devoured in front of the Atlantic. Two warnings: You will long for them come February. And please, eat your pier fries after you hit the rides at Palace Playland.
Staff photo by John Patriquin
Eat dinner at a farm
Eating local is a great idea for lots of reasons, but maybe No. 1 is that it's so much tastier and fresher. This summer try eating as local as local gets: on the farm where the food was grown or raised. Watch animals graze, the sun set and the grasses blow in the wind while you eat some of the best food of your life.
Photo courtesy of Emilie Inc.
Eat lobster. At a lobster shack
Sure, sure. Lobster doesn't seem like such a fleeting summer thing when you live in Maine year-round. But the opporunity to crack one of those puppies open at a lobster shack, while sitting on a picnic table, with the sea sitting idly nearby and two dozen gulls taking turns diving for your fries...well, that's a summer-only sort of experience. The Lobster Shack at Two Lights is a popular spot near Portland, but there's no shortage of shacks up and down the coast.
Staff photo by Gregory Rec
See an outdoor concert
Live music, outside, because it's beautiful out there and Mother Nature has amazing acoustics. There are a host of free outdoor concerts around Southern Maine. You bring the blanket, some snacks, and someone you really like to share the evening with. Photo by Sarah Morrill of a 2013 concert at L.L. Bean.
Visit one of Maine's most beautiful places
Maine’s a beaut. Ain’t no doubt about it. She’s smart, too, and has quite the personality, but we can’t help stopping to stare at her rocky coast, cascading falls, and miles of mountaintops. No matter where you go in this state, there’s something unique to gawk at. But summer — that's when she's at her prime. Staff photo by Fred FieldSome stunning ideas: Maine's most beautiful places.
Classic. That's what drive-ins are. Netflix and Hulu are fine for winter or those night when you can't sleep until you've watched the entire season of Master Chef. But the drive-in is the best summer movie-watching experience. Try the Saco Drive-In, Bridgton Twin Drive-In, and Skowhegan Drive-InStaff photo by Pouya Diana
Maybe you want to tackle Mount Washington or Katahdin. Maybe something a little more casual is more your speed. Whatever the distance or elevation, get on a trail this summer. Sure, hiking's great in the fall and even winter, too, but we think summer isn't quite summer without a least one good, sweaty hike. Photo by Carey Kish
Destinations are nice. But taking the Casco Bay Lines ferry for no reason other than to ride the Casco Bay Lines ferry is equally swell. The ferry is a budget-friendly way to get onto Casco Bay. Bring some friends, some snacks, something to drink, and recline back on the red bench seats. Your destination? Who cares! Cruises include the Sunset Run, which departs nightly at 5:45 p.m. The equally scenic Mailboat Run takes to the waters at 10 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. through Sept. 7. And early birds will appreciate the 5:05 a.m. Sunrise on the Bay run. Check out the music cruises, too. Tickets are $16 for adults for scenic cruises, prices vary for music cruises. Staff photo by Doug Jones
Thank heavens for people who tie ropes to sturdy tree branches that hang over Maine's rivers, lakes and ponds. Who are these magical folks who so generously offer rope swings to the world? We may never know - but we can say "thank you" by grabbing hold of those ropes, taking a leap and flinging ourselves into the water with flair. (Rope swinging tip: Let GO. Don't procrastinate! Else you risk swinging back...possibly into tree, pile of rocks, or something likewise painful.) (A rope swing over Cobbossee Stream in Gardiner. Staff photo by Andy Molloy
Take yourself out to a Sea Dogs game
Baseball and summer go together like ice cream and chocolate chip cookies (which, for the record, you can get together at Hadlock Field. It's the Sea Dog Biscuit, and it's delicious). Going to at least one Sea Dogs game is a summer requirement for many, although I know some folks who've never been. How? How is this?! Tickets are $13-15 Staff photo by Gabe Souza
The ocean is a great place to go for a dip. But you know what the ocean doesn't have? A Liquid Lightning continuous water slide. Water parks offer the cooling-off pleasures of water with the glee-inspiring addition of slides, tubes, and ginormous overhead buckets that spill over at regular intervals. And no worries about sharks! Close to Portland, check out Aquaboggin Water Park and Funtown Splashtown, both in Saco. Which water park is best for you? Photo by Heather Steeves
Get out of dodge (at least for a little while) with a mini adventure. These excursions can be done in a day – sometimes an afternoon – and will hopefully lead you to places you’ve never been, like rock hounding in Auburn, fort exploring in Pemaquid, paddling in Poland, flea market and film watching in Brunswick and more. Photo by Michael Seamans
Because picnic! Frisbee! Blanket lounging! Grass! We're often lured to sandy areas in the summer, but a carpet of green and the shade of a tree make good companions on hot days, too. Pack a picnic lunch and rope in a friend for some down time in a local park any time. Press Herald file photo
Climb aboard for a summer sail
You know those gorgeous sailboats you often spot catching the wind in Casco Bay? Pretty, right? But have you been on one this summer? Is it even summer if you haven't? Check out Portland Schooner Company's day sails aboard Bagheera or Wendameen. Or how about taking a wine class on a sailboat? Or a sunset acoustic sail with local musicians? Check out the special events with Maine Sailing Adventures aboard Frances. Both Portland Schooner Company and Maine Sailing Adventures operate from Maine State Pier. Day sail tickets run about $38-$42. Staff photo by Gordon Chibroski/Press Herald file photo
Spending an afternoon cooling off in a local swimming hole is a summer staple. And while it's sometimes hard to know where the best ones are (some folks understandably want to keep their favorite spots a secret), there are a few popular water spots we're comfortable sharing. Where there's a rope swing (see aforementioned rope swiningin' suggestions), there's a swimming hole. But the two aren't mutually exclusive. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Press
In Kingfield, just north of Farmington, there's a rocky swimming hole on the other side of the falls. Swimmers can park behind Longfellow's Restaurant.
Also in Western Maine lies Coos Canyon, Byron's Happy Gorge conveniently set off the road to Rangeley (Route 17). There are three natural swimming holes in front of the park, and waterfalls above and below that. Cliff jumping is common, and snorkeling a favorite.
One of the cool things about living in, or visiting, Portland is that as amazing as the city is, it’s so easy to escape it — by water. Hopping on a Casco Bay Lines ferry to spend a day on one of the outlying islands can make you feel like you’ve been far, far away. And, of course, there's no better time to escape to a windy island than when it's sunny and hot. Photo courtesy of Chebeague Island Inn
Golfers start golfing as soon as a flick of green is visible beneath the melting snow. The rest of us? We'll pick up a mini-round when the weather's perfect. The great thing about miniature golf - aside from the neon balls, entertaining obstacles, and heightened hole-in-one potential - is the fact that you won't spend half your afternoon hunting a lost ball in the woods. True, there aren't any fun golf carts, but there is usually ice cream nearby! (Rich Beauchesne/AP photo)
Building a fairy house sounds like a kid thing. And it absolutely is. Kids get a kick out of building a fairy-sized house for a miniature friend they can't see. But it's cool for adults, too. Go ahead, scavenge for sticks, shells, leaves, and pine needles and see what you can construct. Think you're a better builder than a fifth grader? Head out to Mackworth Island in Falmouth (the road to the island is just off Route 1) and show the fairies what you're made of. Photo by Shannon Bryan
Cocktails, beer, wine, what-have-you. One of summer's perks is outdoor drinking (responsibly, of course!). From beachside patios to outdoor seating that's perfect for people-watching, Maine has plenty of places to imbibe outside. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette
Maybe you planned on picking your own strawberries this year but, like every year, strawberry season came and went in a flash. It happens. But late summer is when blueberry season hits, which means you can stop kicking yourself for missing out. I'm pretty sure that blueberries you've picked yourself taste better, too. Libby & Sons U-Picks in Limerick is my personal favorite (do not leave before stocking up on their amazing blueberry donuts. I tend to eat at least three just on the drive back to Portland). But you can't lose wherever you go. Ripe for the picking. Staff photo by John Patriquinr
A summer bike ride anywhere in Maine is a good idea (except on I-95.). But a pedal-driven cruise around Peaks Island is one of those annual summer excursions I always make sure to squeeze in. You can BYOBike or rent one on the island from Brad's Bike Rental and Repair on Island Ave. (just bang a left on Island Ave. after getting off the ferry). It's an easy and scenic coastal ride made even better with stops at the military battery on the Island's east side (look for the sign amid the foliage) and plenty of time spent climbing on the rocks. Don't worry, the bike won't mind waiting. And if you have time to grab a drink at the Cockeyed Gull, The Peaks Island House or The Inn on Peaks Island, then do! (Portland Press Herald file photo from way back in 1997!)
This doesn't really require much explanation, does it. It's summer. Eat ice cream. And lots of it. If you're feeling ice cream adventurous, skip the traditional and try something new. Press Herald file photo