By Debi Lander
Visit Maine in the summer, and you’ll wish to spend June through August in the New England state. Cool temperatures and low humidity create an ideal environment, not to mention the scenic beauty.
Maine’s landscape runs from evergreen pine forests to tall craggy mountains and rocky coasts studded by lighthouses. The Atlantic provides pristine breeding grounds for lobsters, mussels, clams, and scallops. Wild blueberries thrive, especially in northern Maine.
The state’s crowning jewel, Acadia National Park, ranks among the most beloved and visited of our 63 natural treasures. Hike from a sand beach to outcroppings on boulders battered by the sea and climb (or drive) to the summit of Cadillac Mountain, the tallest peak on the east coast. Kayak on serene Jordan Pond and bicycle along the historic carriage roads. I suggest two to three days, depending on your desired activities.
Acadia sits on Mount Desert Island in mid-Maine, along with Bar Harbor, a small town that’s unfortunately been overrun with souvenir and tacky tee-shirt shops. Stay there for quick access to the park, or consider quieter respites in Southwest Harbor.
Drive fewer than two hours and arrive in a quintessential Maine village, Camden. White steepled churches, non-chain restaurants and shops, and art galleries dot the two-block main street overlooking Penobscot Bay. There, pleasure boats and windjammer schooners fill the docks.
I boarded the Lewis R French, a sailboat, for a three-night cruise. The French, the oldest known two-masted schooner in the United States, remains one of the few in active service. She operates much as she would have when she was built in 1871.
She carries 20 passengers in single, double, and bunk bed cabins. Each cabin included a sink, a window, reading lights, and a USB charger, but no toilet. Two heads (bathrooms) were located on the main deck. The cabins felt cramped, but I reminded myself I was aboard a historic sailing ship. I spent most of my daylight hours on deck. The sound of the waves and creaking of the wooden boat made it easy to imagine stepping back in time on a similar journey.
Once we set out into Penobscot Bay, the wind, weather, and tide dictated the destination. Captain Becky let Mother Nature determine the path as the French is pure sail and carries no inboard engine. A small boat in the rear uses a motor to help guide the schooner in and out of the busy Camden harbor.
The passengers help raise and lower the sail and anchor, but the rest of the time is spent watching the coastline, relaxing, and dining. Chef prepares fine meals on a wood-burning stove. One evening, we anchored near an uninhabited island and devoured a lobster bake prepared by the crew.
Camden’s neighbor, Rockland, a mere 10 minutes away, features a lighthouse that rests almost a mile offshore. It’s accessed by a massive granite breakwater path. When you walk out, you understand why this project took 18 years and a billion and a half pounds of granite to complete.
Rockland’s other highlight sits downtown — the fabulous Farnsworth Art Museum, home to hundreds of artworks by Andrew, N.C., and Jamie Wyeth, among others. The Wyeth family summered in the area, and numerous paintings reflect the New England coast.
I flew in and out of Bangor, an ideal small airport with excellent access to Acadia — but I can’t recommend much to see or do in Bangor. Other gateway options are Boston or Portland, Maine.
I’m not ready for a sailor’s life, but I cherish the memories of my unforgettable windjammer adventure, hikes in Acadia National Park, and eating lots of lobster and blueberry pie.
Visit www.bylandersea.com to read more of local travel writer Debi Lander’s stories and travel tips.
Photo courtesy Debi Lander
Helping with the sails.