Maine

Best of Maine 2020 | Hall of Fame

Yankee editors pick the top dining, lodging, and attractions in Maine in our first-ever Hall of Fame list.

By Yankee Editors

Apr 06 2020

Maine-Opener

McLoons, South Thomaston

Photo Credit : Carl Tremblay

A note from the editors: After Yankee published its summer travel guide, many of the terrific destinations that it showcases have changed their operations in light of COVID-19. But while you may not be able to dine out, book a stay, or go explore shops, museums, and other attractions right now, you can help ensure they are ready to go when the current crisis recedes. Just contact your favorite New England small business or nonprofit attraction, and they’ll be happy to tell you how.  


McLoons in South Thomaston
Photo Credit : Carl Tremblay
For almost half a century, Yankee’s summer travel guide has showcased New England’s must-visit destinations and diversions. This year, our first-ever Hall of Fame salutes 230 past winners that continue to wow us today.

Best of Maine | Hall of Fame

DINING

Back Bay Grill Portland

In one of the hottest foodie cities in the country, Back Bay Grill—founded in the late 1980s—remains a perennial favorite for a special evening. Though the eatery is a bit off the beaten path, chef-owner Larry Matthews Jr.’s creations have held their own against all newcomers. When critics rave about Portland’s culinary scene, the conversation often starts here. 207-772-8833; backbaygrill.com

Bob’s Clam Hut Kittery

A staple in Kittery since 1956, Bob’s built its fame on two styles of fried clams: “Bob’s,” which are dipped in a mix of unseasoned flours and fried to light crispness, and “Lillian’s,” which make two passes through the flours with an egg wash in between, creating a crunchier clam. In 2018, the double-barreled magic transplanted perfectly to a second Bob’s location in Portland. 207-439-4233; bobsclamhut.com

Eventide Oyster Co. Portland

Here is a restaurant that serves intelligent, just-imaginative-enough, and tasty interpretations of classic New England seafood like lobster rolls, chowder, and fried fish that has earned it a national reputation. The idea is so simple and winning that you have to wonder why anyone didn’t think of it before—or at least didn’t execute it so well. 207-774-8538; eventideoysterco.com

Fore Street Portland

The brick and soapstone hearth at the heart of Fore Street isn’t merely decorative: It’s where fresh fish, meats, and vegetables are roasted over hardwoods and fruit woods, providing a mouthwatering form of dinner theater. Award-winning chef Sam Hayward was a pioneer in the locavore movement long before farm-to-table was a concept (the restaurant opened in 1996), so his live-fire cooking always begins with exceptional ingredients. 207-775-2717; forestreet.biz

The Holy Donut Portland

It has long been a tradition in Maine potato country to add mashed spuds to doughnut batter, yielding a fluffier, moister dunker. So when Leigh Kellis decided to open a doughnut shop in Portland in 2012, it was only natural that she would make her rounds with potatoes. The results not only nail the perfect texture but also come in 20-odd flavors that are uniformly excellent (don’t miss the chocolate glazed sprinkled with sea salt). Locations in Portland and Scarborough. 207-775-7776; theholydonut.com

Long Grain Camden

Do make reservations to score one of the few seats at this storefront restaurant where Bangkok-born Ravin Nakjaroen creates flavor-rich home-style pan-Asian fare. Knockouts include mussels in spicy coconut–lemongrass broth, Maine crab-fried rice, and house-made noodles with kimchi and pork belly. 207-236-9001; longgraincamden.com

McLoons South Thomaston

When people all over the world dream of eating Maine lobster on the coast, they probably imagine themselves in a place like this modest red-clapboard waterfront shack. The surroundings are quintessential midcoast Maine, right down to rocky Spruce Head Island, where the seafood shack and its parent commercial lobster wharf sit. The simple lobster salad roll at McLoons is the best in the state. 207-593-1382; mcloonslobster.com

Miyake Portland

Chef Masa Miyake takes Japanese cuisine to a new level, using ultrafresh ingredients—some from his own farm—and employing Japanese, Italian, and French techniques. While you can’t go wrong with the à la carte options, you should splurge at least once on the omakase (chef’s tasting menu). 207-871-9170; miyakerestaurants.com

Mount Desert Island Ice Cream Bar Harbor

Crazy rich, crazy good, crazy flavors. MDI makes its indulgent ice creams and sorbets in small batches, and it’s hard to say which are more creative, the names or the ingredients. Among recent offerings: Girl Scouts Gone Wild, Chocolate Wasabi, and Uncle Marshall’s Fruitcake. Aside from its two hometown locations, there are shops in Portland; Washington, D.C.; and Japan. mdiic.com

Primo Rockland

“Fresh from the farm” takes on new meaning at this eatery, where ducks, pigs, and chickens are raised on the premises. Even the cocktails feature farm-grown ingredients. Allow yourself time to tour the gardens before sitting down to enjoy the Mediterranean fare created by James Beard Award winner Melissa Kelly. 207-596-0770; primorestaurant.com

Tao Yuan Brunswick

From the time that classically trained chef Cara Stadler joined with her mother, Cecile, to open Tao Yuan in 2012, the accolades haven’t stopped, including Food & Wine’sselection of Stadler as one of America’s 10 best new chefs. Small bites of distinctive Asian fare reveal nuanced flavors from primarily local ingredients, with a staple being steamed buns from her great-grandmother’s recipe. 207-725-9002; tao-yuan.me

LODGING

Attean Lake Lodge Jackman

Sunrise, observed from a dock on a Maine lake surrounded by deep woods—you can find yourself in such a blissful moment at Attean Lake Lodge, one of the few remaining family-owned lodges in the Northeast dating from the turn of the 20th century. Guests stay in comfy cabins, enjoy meals in the main lodge, and spend halcyon days swimming, paddling, hiking, and fishing. 207-668-3792; atteanlodge.com

Cliff House Cape Neddick

Set atop a cliff of black volcanic boulders, Cliff House has enjoyed an osprey’s view of the ocean since opening in 1872. Recent renovations have gone beyond mere restoration to create a sleek contemporary hotel with an ambitious spa for beauty and wellness treatments. All 226 rooms and suites come with private terraces and those same incomparable views that have been the resort’s calling card since Ulysses S. Grant was president. 207-361-1000; cliffhousemaine.com

The Dunes on the Waterfront Ogunquit

Knotty pine paneling, braided rugs, and cobblestone fireplaces are the signature décor at the Dunes, which first opened in 1936 and has not just survived but actually improved with age. The cluster of housekeeping cottages, plus a few motel rooms, sits on 12 acres down a pine tree–lined drive and overlooking an inlet and Ogunquit Beach. Guests can access the beach by rowing across—or opt to simply stay put, kick back, and relax. 866-530-7747; dunesonthewaterfront.com

Inn by the Sea Cape Elizabeth

Handsome rooms, suites, and cottages shelter guests at this seaside resort with an outdoor saltwater pool, a restaurant and lounge with indoor and outdoor seating, and a boutique spa. A boardwalk through a New England cottontail rabbit preserve links the ultragreen, dog- and family-friendly property with dune-backed Crescent Beach. 207-799-3134; innbythesea.com

Little Lyford Lodge & Cabins Greenville

Originally a logging camp from the 1870s, Little Lyford is now owned by the Appalachian Mountain Club as an off-the-grid retreat. The property borders 66,000 acres of conserved land and includes access to the Appalachian Trail and Gulf Hagas, a gorge known for its waterfalls. It’s all yours to explore when you book a stay at one of the nine private cabins or in the bunkhouse. 207-280-0708; outdoors.org

Loon Lodge Rangeley

The Ludeke family knew a great site when they saw it. Back in 1909, they built a log home on a hillside that provided sunset views down the length of Rangeley Lake, with the distant White Mountains as a backdrop. Now visitors to this rustic yet comfy lodge can enjoy that fabulous vista from the great room, back deck, private beach, or dock. 207-864-5666; loonlodgeme.com

The Norumbega Camden

Eleven luxurious suites and sweeping views of Penobscot Bay await at this high-end B&B, located in a stone “castle” built in 1886. Owners Sue Walser and Phil Crispo are welcoming hosts, and a stay here demands at least one dinner at the inn’s restaurant, where Crispo, a former instructor at the Culinary Institute of America, is known to wow. 207-236-4646; norumbegainn.com

Samoset Rockport

Samoset is the very definition of a summer escape. Facilities at this 230-acre oceanfront resort edging Penobscot Bay include an 18-hole golf course, indoor and outdoor pools, a spa, a fitness center, a children’s program, tennis courts, lawn games, and easy access to the Rockland Breakwater. 207-594-2511; samosetresort.com

Topside Inn Boothbay Harbor

The aptly named Topside caps an in-town hill with sigh-inducing views from Adirondack chairs on the sweeping lawn over the inner and outer harbors. Rooms in the three buildings are bright and airy, with contemporary nautical décor, befitting the main house that once housed a ship captain. 207-633-5404; topsideinn.com

White Barn Inn Kennebunkport

Is it an inn with amazing food, or an amazing restaurant with superb accommodations? Both. It’s one of those places where you splurge and love doing so. For nearly half a century this farmhouse turned elegant inn has been a star in Maine’s galaxy of luxury escapes. 207-967-2321; aubergeresorts.com

ATTRACTIONS

Acadia National Park Bar Harbor

Established on the sea-swept Maine coast as Sieur de Monts National Monument in July 1916, today Acadia National Park—the first national park in the East—preserves some 47,000 acres of forests and mountains, meadows and wetlands, lakes and coastal habitats. Accessible by parkway and crisscrossed by 45 miles of landscaped carriage roads, hiking trails, and footpaths, the park is a magnet for more than 2 million visitors each year. 207-288-3338;nps.gov/acadia

Baxter State Park Millinocket

To experience northern Maine’s most spectacular chunk of wilderness, this is the place. Crowned by Katahdin, Maine’s highest peak and the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, and edged by the Penobscot River, “forever wild” Baxter welcomes hikers, wildlife-watchers, paddlers, and outdoors lovers (but leave the bikes, motorcycles, RVs, and ATVs behind). 207-723-5140; baxterstatepark.org

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens Boothbay

New England’s largest botanical garden encompasses 295 shorefront acres, including ornamental display gardens filled with more than 91,000 plants. Among the highlights: a rhododendron oasis with a waterfall, a woodland fairy-house village, and a peaceful meditation garden. Trails lace the woodlands and hillsides as well as drop down along the tidal Back River. 207-633-8000; mainegardens.org

Farnsworth Art Museum Rockland

Enter the galleries of the Farnsworth and see how artists like Rockwell Kent, Marsden Hartley, and Winslow Homer portrayed the rugged Maine coast. Steps away is a 19th-century Methodist church that has been transformed into the museum’s Wyeth Center, where works by three generations of Wyeths are on display. In nearby Cushing you can visit the Farnsworth-owned Olsen House, the farmhouse that Andrew Wyeth depicted in the background of Christina’s World. 207-596-6457; farnsworthmuseum.org

L.L. Bean Freeport

Everything from kayak paddles to cocktail party togs can be found 24 hours a day in the flagship store of L.L. Bean, the legacy of Leon Leonwood Bean and his ingenious outdoor boots. But this is much more than a shopping experience: Bean’s guides lead all manner of adventure pursuits, and its “Summer in the Park” programs bring yoga, concerts, and movies to downtown Freeport. 877-755-2326; llbean.com

Maine Maritime Museum Bath

Flying along Route 1 at 50 mph, it’s easy to forget that the sea was the original highway when ships carried freight and passengers. Be reminded in a big way at this engaging museum, which offers everything from paintings of regal ships scudding before the wind to boat exhibits to workshops where you can see boats being built today. 207-443-1316; mainemaritimemuseum.org

Maine Wildlife Park Gray

It’s hard to know whether to look first at the majestic moose browsing on alders or the playful black bears splashing around their water feature. At this state-run sanctuary for animals unable to live in the wild, you might count as many as 30 species, most native to the Maine woods, in one afternoon. 207-657-4977; maine.gov/ifw

Marginal Way Ogunquit

Entirely paved and mostly flat, the Marginal Way is hardly a strenuous hike, yet it remains one of the most popular in New England. At just one and a quarter miles long, it offers more breathtaking vistas than any other trail you’ll find on the southern Maine coast. Benches along the way invite visitors to linger. 207-646-2939; ogunquit.org

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Bristol

Maine’s rocky coast doesn’t get any rockier than Pemaquid Point, where the vertical streaks of granite below the lighthouse look like the planet itself shipwrecked on this shore. The 1835 tower (seen on the Maine state quarter) greets 100,000-plus visitors a year, both for the astounding scenery and the fact that it’s one of the rare lighthouses open for tours. 207-677-2492; bristolmaine.org

Reid State Park Georgetown

Crashing surf, two beautiful sand beaches, a lagoon, tidepools, hiking trails, sand dunes, and marshlands—this 610-acre park has it all, along with shower rooms and picnic tables. Don’t miss Griffith Head, a rocky outcrop overlooking the park and an ideal vantage point for viewing nearby lighthouses and islands. 207-371-2303; maine.gov

White-Water Rafting The Forks

When Wayne Hockmeyer guided the first raftload of thrill-seekers down the Kennebec River in 1976, he started a new way of life in the Forks region, which fast became New England’s epicenter of white-water rafting. Whether it’s on the Kennebec, the Dead River, or the Penobscot, no two trips are ever alike. The adrenaline rush is real—and the adventure all the more memorable because of it. forksarea.com

Windjammers Camden & Rockland

These independently owned boats run the gamut—from a 1922 racing yacht to a 1950s ship built especially for windjamming cruises—but all offer a signature Maine experience and an unforgettable maritime adventure. 800-807-9463; sailmainecoast.com

See More: Best of New England 2020 | Hall of Fame