When a place calls itself “Vacation-Land” you know you’re in for a treat. Maine, it would seem, specialilses in a few wonderful things: lobster, lighthouses and lovely lovely beer.
We drove along a coast dotted with retro motels and kitsch cafes before coming upon the impossibly cute Cape Neddick Light, aka the ‘Nubble Light’. It sits on a small, rocky island just 100 yards off the mainland. First lit in 1879, it’s regarded as one of the most picturesque lighthouses in the country—so much so that the crew of the Voyager II space probe, launched in 1977 in the hope of finding extraterrestrial life, brought a picture of the Nubble with them, intending to use its image to represent all earthly lighthouses. It felt a bit “Wes Anderson-y” and along with other tourists we snapped pictures of it and the inquisitive seagulls who hung out nearby.
We jumped back into the car and motored along to Kennebunkport – where the Bush family now reside – to eat a beautiful lobster (or should that be lobstah) roll at the Clam Shack before wandering around the small town, taking in the sea air and rifling through tourist tat. We didn’t see the 43rd President or the 41st, or any other Presidents for that matter but it was a lovely stop and the lobster roll was the best we’ve ever eaten.
We drove onto Portland, dropped our bags off at the comfortable Inn at Park Spring and then set off on foot for a wander. Portland, Maine attracted a slightly older crowd than Portland, Oregon but one that still wanted to eat and drink very well and felt relaxed and artistic. We walked past impressively stocked beer shops and attractive restaurants along the water’s edge up to the narrow gauge railway before embarking on a reasonably modest, but very determined pub-crawl. First we dropped by Sebago Brewery to wet our whistles, then onto Infiniti where we had beer flights and whiskey sours; mixed with whiskey they distil themselves. At Novare Res – a European-style beer garden – we drank more beer, sipped mead (can’t see the mead-craze taking off any time soon…) and ate small plates of exquisite cheese.
We then walked to the Great Lost Bear: a cavernous dive-bar/restaurant – for burgers and yes, more beer – as they have more than 70 on tap. After we were sated we walked home and tried to sleep despite the squawking of all the local seagulls.
The following morning we woke up nice and early and dropped by the majestic Portland Head Light; Maine’s oldest lighthouse, dating back to 1791. Though the tower isn’t open to the public, the grounds and outbuildings are. The former keeper’s quarters houses a museum, while the Cliff Walk trail winds along the coast, offering spectacular views. It is breathtaking and we were sad to leave beautiful Maine after so short a time. We hadn’t explored Acadia National Park and there were around 58 more lighthouses to gaze upon. But this was a whistle-stop roadtrip and we had to push on. We’re confident we’ll return.
Rate the state: 9/10
Good for: Lighthouse lovers, lobster, fine beer and the great outdoors
Bad for: It’s not the cheapest part of the States and the popular spots might get busy in Summer.