Photo by Peter Frank Edwards

The Perfect Maine Summer | Destinations Worth the Drive (or Boat Ride)

Exploring Maine is easy with or without a destination in mind, but these stops are worth the extra planning required.


Twelve miles off the midcoast, this rustic island has long been a summer home for artists. Accessed by ferry from Boothbay Harbor, Port Clyde, or New Harbor, Monhegan can be experienced on a day trip or an overnight at one of several inns and bed and breakfasts (the island quiets down considerably after the last boat leaves). Be sure to wear good walking shoes and pick up a trail map when you get off the ferry. Wander through the majestic Cathedral Woods or take a more challenging hike out to the rocky headlands. Stop in for a pint on the deck at Monhegan Brewing Company—the only place you can find the brewery’s beer. For lunch, the lobster and crab rolls at Fish House Seafood Market are best enjoyed on a picnic table at Fish Beach (a good spot for sea glass). The Monhegan Museum of Art and History on the lighthouse grounds is also well worth a visit. —Susan Axelrod

Harpswell Islands

Only an hour outside of Portland, Harpswell’s island communities come alive in the summer, and it’s easy to spend a day exploring the winding, woodsy roads. Orr’s Island, situated between the mainland and Bailey Island, is mostly residential; it has an ocean-side hiking trail called Devil’s Back that snakes through the woods on either side of the road. Continuing down the street, and connecting the two islands, is the historic Bailey Island Bridge, also known as the cribstone bridge. The drive across the bridge is worth it to see all that Bailey Island has to offer. There is an assortment of restaurants and an oceanside trail known as the Giant’s Stairs. Follow the road all the way to Land’s End where you’ll find a beachfront parking lot and a gift shop overlooking the ocean. —Emma Simard.

Cabbage Island Clambakes

Clambakes have taken place on this island in Linekin Bay since 1956, and even today the experience has a vintage feel. This will be the Moore family’s 30th summer operating the Cabbage Island Clambake, which begins in Boothbay Harbor aboard the Bennie Alice. After a harbor tour, the boat makes the short run to the island. Many head for the rocky shoreline to watch the crew tend the wood fire steaming the lobsters, clams, corn, and potatoes in classic Maine style. Others claim a picnic table or play a game of badminton or horseshoes. When the bell is rung, everyone lines up for a feast that starts with fish chowder and ends with blueberry cake. There is a lodge with a large covered porch, a stone fireplace, and a small bar serving beer, wine, and cocktails. Not just a tourist attraction, Cabbage Island Clambakes is a delightful Maine tradition. —Susan Axelrod

Gulf Hagas

Located near Greenville in the 100-Mile Wilderness, Gulf Hagas is a bit of a haul from Portland, but my husband and I try making it there at least twice a summer. The West Branch Pleasant River that cuts through the slate-walled gorge created the canyon. You access the gorge through Katahdin Iron Works, a state historic site where iron ore was once smelted. You can either pick a site and car camp or grab your gear, ford a stream, and camp on the other side of the Pleasant River—we always choose the latter. Since the trail along the gorge is part of the Appalachian Trail, we usually run into through-hikers on the eight-mile loop. Along the way we plunge into ice-cold pools of water and explore amazing waterfalls. Gulf Hagas is also home to the Hermitage, one of the few remaining old-growth forest stands in New England. If you want a secluded camping experience with a hike that will, quite literally, take your breath away, head to Gulf Hagas, and who knows— maybe we’ll run into each other. —Chris Kast

Puffin Tours at Eastern Egg Rock

It has been more than four decades since the National Audubon Society’s Project Puffin began restoring more than 1,000 puffin pairs to three Maine islands. These endangered black and white birds had not lived in the region since the 1800s. Stephen Kress of the National Audubon Society introduced newly hatched puffins from another colony to the nesting burrows on Eastern Egg Rock, where they were hand-fed until they reached fledging age. The puffins have returned and re-established a breeding colony. Hardy Boat Cruises runs a puffin watch cruise beginning in mid-May that departs from New Harbor and circles the island. Another cruise leaves from Boothbay Harbor in June, July, and August and also includes views of several lighthouses and a seal ledge. —Danielle Devine

Moxie Falls

Located in the township of Moxie Gore, Moxie Falls is one of New England’s tallest waterfalls, boasting a nearly 100-foot vertical drop. The two-mile round-trip hike to the falls is considered moderate due to some sharp inclines in part of the journey. After reaching the falls, there are several observation platforms for getting different views. There are a handful of unmarked swimming areas above and below the falls, but swimming is not recommended for children since the terrain can be tricky to maneuver. Among the swimming holes, a remarkable cascade and pool sits just upstream of the main fall, but the best ones are found 100 feet downstream. —Emma Simard

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