Best of Maine 2021 | The Outdoors Edition

Yankee editors pick the top Maine attractions, dining, and lodging that highlight having fun in the New England outdoors.

By Yankee Editors

Apr 26 2021


The Chebeague Island Inn, getting spruced up after a long winter.

Photo Credit : Mark Fleming
TRAVEL NOTE:Before setting out to visit any of our Best of New England winners, please contact them or check online for updates on hours and operations this summer.
The Chebeague Island Inn is a century-old inn that embodies everything one desires in an island escape.
Photo Credit : Mark Fleming

Best Maine Outdoor Attractions

DRIVE-IN THEATER Saco Drive-In, Saco Located a mere 20 minutes from Portland, the state’s first drive-in theater is still going strong. Visitors kick back among the trees at this 1939 single-screen standby, which hosts new releases, old favorites like The Goonies, and the occasional quirky treat, such as a screening of The Hunchback of Notre Dame set to music from one of the oldest working municipal pipe organs in the U.S., Portland’s own Kotzschmar Organ. thesacodrivein.comFARM ANIMAL FUN Maple Crest Farm, Hermon Cancer recovery, love, and serendipity have all played roles in this manicured farm’s adoption story. From one donkey, Garry and Trish Martin’s collection of rescues has grown to include 27 alpacas, four mini donkeys, four goats, two horses, nearly 40 sheep, peacocks, pheasants, and innumerable chickens. On no-charge, pre-booked tours, families can help with feeding and other chores, learn about solar-powered living, and meet the newborns at this little piece of heaven. maplecrestfarm.meOUTDOOR FLEA MARKET Montsweag Flea Market, Woolwich While Maine’s Route 1 is not short on roadside eateries and attractions, it’s worth keeping your eyes peeled for this one. Actually, it’s hard to miss: At the height of summer the biggest flea market in Midcoast Maine boasts roughly 100 vendors, who pile their outdoor tables with collectibles and yard sale miscellany. Need another reason to pull over? Parking and admission are free. Wednesdays and weekends May to MUSEUM Langlais Sculpture Preserve, Cushing Maine native Bernard “Blackie” Langlais created over 3,500 “wood paintings,” as he called his sculptures and carved reliefs, before he passed away in 1977 at age 56. Encounter a dozen of these massive works, including a life-size elephant, on the artist’s former homestead, now a Georges River Land Trust property. If they pique your interest, seek out more Langlais pieces in 50-plus other settings along Maine’s Langlais Art Trail. GOLF COURSE Belgrade Lakes Golf Club, BelgradeLakes When Maine philanthropist Harold Alfond hired British golf course architect Clive Clark to transform 240 acres in the Belgrade Lakes Region into an 18-hole course, he said, “Anyone can build a clubhouse, but not everyone has this”—and he opened his arms to take in the stunning view of lakes and forest. Alfond also said he wanted a golf club “to be open to everyone,” so here the emphasis remains on golfers from around the country who have put this Golf Digest five-star course on their bucket list. Bonus: Your pooch is welcome to keep you company on the links. belgradelakesgolf.comPYO FRUIT FARM Libby & Son U-Picks, Limerick High-bush blueberries are a wonder crop at this 40-acre family fruit farm, which also grows summer and fall raspberries, peaches, and apples. Through late October, long after other farms’ blueberry seasons are kaput, you’ll still find deep-blue clusters of these antioxidant-rich berries to pick. Visit on weekends, when you might hear live music wafting through the fields, and you can get some extra vitamin C from fresh-fruit smoothies and homemade fruit doughnuts. libbysonupicks.comZIPLINE Take Flight Aerial Adventure Park, Kittery At what is touted as Maine’s largest aerial adventure course, it should come as no surprise that your Adventure Zip Line Tour would begin with a giant lobster trap climb. Your friendly flight crew will put you at ease as you whiz between platforms on a series of six lines. Added challenges will wobble your knees and whet your appetite for even more adrenaline-boosting bonding experiences on the park’s 65-plus other swinging, swaying, balance-testing rope elements.

Best Maine Outdoor Dining

CITY PATIO DINING Chaval, Portland Set against a Technicolor two-story mural, the back patio at Chaval has served as an open-air dining room in the summer and a greenhouse village during the colder months. Whatever the setup, it’s a perfect spot for enjoying the Spanish and French stylings of chef-owners Ilma Lopez and Damian Sansonetti. Carnivores flock here for the famous Chaval burger, but seafood lovers will find plenty of local catch on the menu. chavalmaine.comCRAFT BREWERY Bissell Brothers, Portland Word spread quickly about Bissell Brothers’ signature ale, The Substance, after it was first tasted back in 2013 at the late-night hot spot the Thirsty Pig. Now, Noah and Peter Bissell run their namesake brewery and taproom at Thompson’s Point in Portland, as well as a second brewery, Bissell Brothers Three Rivers, in their rural hometown of Milo. Start with the tropical IPAs, but don’t overlook the highly original barrel-aged saisons like Fire Road and creamy oatmeal stouts like Umbra. bissellbrothers.comFARM STAND Jordan’s Farm, Cape Elizabeth Before Cape Elizabeth became known as a well-to-do bedroom community of Portland, it was largely farmland. Jordan’s Farm put down roots here in 1948, and the family-run farm stand has only grown over the years. Jordan’s is known for its sweet corn, but that’s only a fraction of what it sells; an expansive selection of vegetables, fields of cut-your-own flowers, and locally raised and harvested meat and fish are also available. jordansfarm.comICE CREAM STAND Bresca & the Honeybee, New Gloucester Ice cream lovers will find this gem of an ice cream stand, which has been making its own full-flavored product since opening in 2013, on the shores of Sabbathday Lake. Owner and acclaimed Maine chef Krista Kern Desjarlais makes a firm commitment to using milk and cream from nearby dairy farms, a dedication that pays off in the finest, freshest ice cream possible. While grabbing a cone, visitors can also opt to use the boating, tubing, or picnicking facilities at nearby Outlet Beach. brescaandthehoneybee.comLAKE-VIEW DINING Blair Hill Inn, Greenville Set on 80 lush acres with a commanding view of Moosehead Lake, Blair Hill Inn is one of only two Maine properties that belong to Relais & Châteaux, the international association of luxury hotels and restaurants. The 10-guestroom mansion serves breakfast daily and dinner to guests five nights a week and opens to the public for dinner each Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The six-course menu changes throughout the season (May to November) and is peppered with ingredients sourced from the inn’s own gardens. blairhill.comLOBSTER SHACK McLoons Lobster Shack, South Thomaston Maine boasts so many legitimately great lobster shacks that choosing just one is nearly impossible, but factoring in both the food and the views, we return again and again to this picture-perfect cove-side shack where the lobster for your steamed dinner is pulled fresh from the dock and the terrific rolls come with butter, mayo, or a combination of both. Don’t miss the roast clams appetizer or, for dessert, the homemade pies. mcloonslobster.comSEASIDE DINING Aragosta, Stonington With an absolutely gorgeous location on Goose Cove, Aragosta is one of Maine’s most beautiful restaurants, and chef-owner Devin Finigan composes every plate like a work of art. As befits a restaurant in some of the world’s most fertile fishing grounds, the menu changes frequently: One week, lobster might fill a ravioli; the next, it could be a garnish for a spring pea soup. Whatever is on the menu, though, it’s always delightful. aragostamaine.comWINERY Oyster River Winegrowers, Warren Forgot stuffy tasting rooms: From June through September, visitors are invited to visit Oyster River’s post-and-beam barn to purchase a bottle to take home or to drink on-site (ask about the Wednesday pizza nights). The natural wines, made with Maine-grown organic fruit and precious little intervention from the winemaker, are shockingly good. The Morphos sparkling wine is especially quaffable, so stock up when you go.

Best Maine Lodging: The Outdoors Edition

COASTAL CAMPGROUND Hermit Island Campground, Phippsburg Located on a private island, this family-owned 271-site campground has been luring ocean-loving campers since 1952. If you crave a water view, check the map and try to book one of the Ocean Prime sites. Even if you’re bunking down in the forest, though, it’s an easy walk to the water to swim, sail, kayak, and fish. hermitisland.comFARM STAY Toddy Pond Farm, Monroe Weeklong summer stays in the pond-view, three-bedroom cottage at this 500-acre-plus farm will place you amid cows and sheep … and on a path to discovering a Maine-led trend toward sustainable farming. Help with morning chores; cook with produce, meats, and cheeses from the farm store; forage for blueberries; loll away hours on the screened porch. By your final evening by the fire pit, you’ll feel utterly unwound. toddypondfarm.comHOTEL ON THE BEACH Inn by the Sea, CapeElizabeth You’ll feel a childlike heart-thump of anticipation with each step along the boardwalk as you descend through native vegetation to the vanilla sands of Crescent Beach. This wood-planked pathway to the ocean is a favorite amenity of Inn by the Sea, which is known for its groundbreaking green initiatives, coastal spa experiences, exquisitely prepared seafood, and dog-friendliness. (Speaking of which, leashed pooches can join in the beach fun in the off-season.) innbythesea.comHOTEL PORCH Cape Arundel Inn & Resort, Kennebunkport The scene of many champagne moments, the front porch at this Ocean Avenue resort’s Victorian main building is a favorite spot for overnight and dinner guests alike. Away from the bustle of Kennebunkport’s Dock Square, its white wicker chairs can be turned toward the wind-fluttered American flag flying over the Bush family’s summer compound on Walker’s Point or angled so that almost all you’ll see is wavy ocean and wide sky. capearundelinn.comISLAND INN Chebeague Island Inn, ChebeagueIsland Here is a century-old inn that embodies everything one desires in an island escape: a strikingly lovely porch facing west to the bay; dinners that become island-wide events for tasting and socializing; easy access to tennis courts and a nine-hole golf course; and free use of bicycles to roam the 3.5-mile-long island. chebeagueislandinn.comRV PARK Searsport Shores, Searsport “Located right on Route 1 … no windy dirt roads, no tight turns”—could anything be more musical to the ears of weary rig drivers? But easy access is just the opener in this 40-acre campground’s bid for your affections. It ups the ante with 125 RV/tent sites, trailer and cabin rentals, kayak rentals, nature trails, lobster bakes, a quarter mile of private beach, and a small friendly flock of sheep and goats. maineoceancamping.comWILDERNESS LODGE Attean Lake Lodge, Jackman From the time your boat captain deposits you at this island outpost, where vacationers have retreated since 1893, your agenda will be far from ordinary. Paddle to uninhabited isles, hook a salmon, pick blueberries on a mountaintop, hike crowd-free trails, put more than one lobster on your plate, bonfire-toast marshmallows, and snuggle up in your gas-lamp-lit cottage to read until loons’ calls induce sleep. 

See More: Best of New England 2021 | The Outdoors Edition