Four Cold-Weather Destinations in Maine to Visit This Winter

From a dip in a cliffside hot tub to dining with views of a snow-covered Katahdin, these experiences can only happen in wintertime in the Pine Tree state.

Four Cold-Weather Destinations in Maine to Visit This Winter

From a dip in a cliffside hot tub to dining with views of a snow-covered Katahdin, these experiences can only happen in wintertime in the Pine Tree state.

By Paul Keonig
Photography by Peter Frank Edwards

Issue: January/February 2022

Whoever first called our state Vacationland certainly didn’t have our winters in mind, but don’t let that dissuade you from planning an overnight trip or two this season. We rounded up our favorite wintertime escapes to make the most of these shorter days. From a dip in a cliffside hot tub to dining with views of a snow-covered Katahdin over a frozen lake, these experiences can only happen in wintertime in Maine.

1. Western Maine

What to do

Shawnee Peak in Bridgton is a family-friendly ski resort with six lifts and more night skiing than anywhere else in the state. If you’ve never skied before or want to brush up on your form, the mountain offers a package with a 90-minute group lesson, ski or snowboard rental, and a lift ticket starting at $119. For an animal-powered adventure, plan a tour with the Ultimate Dog Sledding Experience, which offers a variety of trips on snowmobile trails in Hebron, Casco, and Bethel, ranging from a one-hour ride to a two- or three-day intro to dogsledding package.

Where to stay

You’ll need a place to relax, and the Lovell Center Inn is a classic and elegant setting to unwind after a day on whatever kind of trails you chose. Built in 1803, the Georgian-style farmhouse and adjacent carriage house on Main Street in Lovell has ten guest rooms and historic details throughout, including exposed wood beams and two original fireplaces.

Where to eat

If you’re looking for a cozy, candlelit dinner, don’t go farther than the Lovell Center Inn’s dining room. Come for the five-course tasting menu, stay for the rum flight. For a more casual meal, head to Standard Gastropub in Bridgton for dinner and a fill-up. Located in a renovated gas station building, the restaurant serves from-scratch versions of your favorites, like macaroni and cheese with bechamel sauce and fried chicken sandwiches made with local, free-range birds.

2. Millinocket

What to do

There are multiple groomed cross-country ski trail systems in the Millinocket area that are free to use. The Northern Timber Cruisers Snowmobile and Cross-Country Ski Club maintains around 20 miles of trails, including Bait Hole trails off Route 11 and another from their headquarters off Millinocket Road. New England Outdoor Center (NEOC) has nearly 16 miles of groomed cross-country ski trails for both Nordic and skate skiing. If you want more speed to go with the trailside views, rent a snowmobile at NEOC.

NEOC is a perfect home base for a weekend getaway to Millinocket, with more than 20 cabins and lodges, including large ones that can fit up to 14 people. Plus, dogs are allowed in the cabins.

Where to eat

There’s no need to venture too far, with River Drivers Restaurant at NEOC overlooking Millinocket Lake with Mount Katahdin in the background. If you want a more lively dinner scene, head to Blue Ox Saloon in downtown Millinocket for reliable pub food and cold beer.

3. Camden, Rockport and Rockland

What to do

If your idea of a winter escape involves escaping the cold, try a trip to the midcoast’s museums and galleries. There’s no better place in Maine right now to see art. Rockland is the epicenter, with the Farnsworth Art Museum’s vast collection of work by American greats, the Center for Maine Contemporary Art’s unparalleled exhibition space, and well-curated galleries like Dowling Walsh Gallery. In Camden, artist Colin Page’s Page Gallery has a modest but mighty roster of distinctive artistic talents, and Peter Ralston’s iconic coastal photographs can be seen at Ralston Gallery in downtown Rockport (open by chance or appointment in winter).

Where to stay

The castle-like Norumbega Inn on Camden’s High Street is a beacon of warmth come winter. The interior’s intricate wood details are best appreciated while sitting by the parlor’s fireplace (perhaps with a glass of cognac in hand), and the 11 distinctive guest rooms offer a range of amenities to keep you cozy, including in-suite fireplaces and deep soaking tubs (one even has its own Jacuzzi-style tub).

Where to eat

While there’s nothing wrong with warming up with a bowl of noodles at Suzuki’s Sushi Bar, go with the chef’s omakase tasting menu for an extraordinary experience. Just call ahead for a reservation. Chef Keiko Suzuki Steinberger has received multiple James Beard Award nominations for her year-round, seasonally driven restaurant.

4. Ogunquit

What to do

With its miles of white-sand beaches, Ogunquit has long been a summer destination, but a wintertime visit allows you to avoid the crowds and see the coastal beauty in a new, snow-covered light. Marginal Way, the just-over-a-mile paved walkway along the water, is especially beautiful after a winter storm. Just keep in mind: The trail isn’t maintained in the offseason, so conditions are at the whim of Mother Nature.

Where to stay

The luxurious Cliff House Maine isn’t cheap but staying there is a singular experience matched by few other lodging destinations in the state. Many rooms at the cliffside resort offer uninterrupted ocean views, and watching whitecaps disappear into the horizon as steam rises around you from the waterfront hot tub is magical.

Where to eat

Northern Union feels welcoming no matter why you’re there. The wine-focused restaurant located in a former home on Shore Road is just as suited for a multi-course romantic dinner as it is for drinks with friends. The food, wine list, and cocktail program are all stellar, and the setting makes you feel like you’re visiting a thoughtful, stylish, and absurdly talented friend.

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