The mythical town of Brigadoon is on the opposite side of the Atlantic Ocean from the Maine coast. In legend, as well as Broadway musical, Brigadoon was an enchanted village in the Scottish Highlands that would appear, unchanged by time, for a single day every 100 years. Not much time for a vacation. But plenty for a leading character to fall in love.
So what do the coastal towns in Maine have in common with Brigadoon? They’re enchanting, legendary and, this is most important, they remain in many ways as they were 100 years ago – or more. Of course, the differences with the Scottish Highlands are notable too. For one, the beaches. For another, Maine lobster shacks. Not to mention 5-star restaurants, craft breweries, art museums, schooner excursions – for starters. Plus the accents are easier to understand. And kilts are optional.
As far as falling in love, between the cobblestone passageways, sublimely weathered clapboard houses, endless ocean views and people as charming as the coastal towns they call home, it’s only a matter of when.
Let’s start the lovefest with Kittery. Folks visiting Maine have been starting here since colonial times. Known as the “Gateway to Maine,” Kittery is the first town over the bridge and across the border from New Hampshire. Originally settled in 1623, Kittery became the first incorporated town in Maine in 1647. Indulging in all that past and enjoying each new moment come with ease in Kittery.
There’s plenty of room to park the car or dock a boat at Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier, serving up classic Maine faire in a rustic setting for generations. Need provisions? Frisbee’s Market on Kittery Point is the oldest continuously-run family store in North America. Speaking of long running, a leisurely boat cruise is the best way to see Maine’s southernmost shoreline, including Whaleback Light, a shining example of Maine’s historic lighthouses.
Moving right along and right up the coast, we arrive at York, where settlers have been arriving since 1624. So settle in at a vintage seaside inn near York’s legendary beaches, where the sands of time don’t need an hourglass, or a watch. The most famous is Long Sands, a two-mile stretch of gorgeous white sand beach. More diminutive, but tall enough for the big rides, is Short Sands Beach and its post card-worthy amusement park. Can you smell the cotton candy?
More complex aromas abound in York’s seafood restaurants, a favorite destination of foodies. While enjoying your meal, focus on your table’s candle and picture Nubble Light at Cape Neddick, arguably America’s most photographed lighthouse. But who wants to quibble when you’re dining, exploring and relaxing on the coast of Maine?
And then there’s Kennebunkport, the classic, quintessential seaside community – with one notable exception. To find it, take a relaxing drive on beautiful Walker’s Point and you’ll see the summer home of George H. W. Bush, 41st President of the United States, referred to by the locals as “41.” It’s American history, without the pop quizzes.
You might even find yourself whistling “America the Beautiful” as you discover all Kennebunkport has to offer. From unique boutiques and restaurants to vintage inns and real live lobstermen working on the pier. The beaches are classic Maine. Goose Rocks Beach features three honking miles of pristine coastline. And the Seaside Trolley Museum will take you back a hundred years – but have you back in time for a delightful bite at the iconic Clam Shack.
Neither a Maine vacation nor the world of art would be the same without Rockland, Maine. Take a stroll on Museum Street and you’ll find the local art museum that’s recognized around the world. It’s the Farnsworth Art Museum, home to a fantastic collection, including the works of Maine’s royal family of art, the Wyeth’s. And just around the corner is the radiant architecture of the Center for Maine Contemporary art – and the brilliant works inside.
An invigorating walk to the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse is sure to put wind in your sails. If you want to brighten your knowledge even more, a visit to the Maine Lighthouse Museum is just the ticket. Speaking of tickets, make sure to pick up yours for tonight’s classic film at the historic Strand Theater.
Even if you’ve never picked up a brush, you’ll feel the urge to paint a picture of Rockport. Rockport Harbor is a true working harbor, from the lobstermen doing their diligence by day to the squid fishermen plying their trade by night. The views from a boat or schooner will thrill, as will the sighting of porpoises and seals. And save a moment – and a place in your heart – for the statue and story of Andre, the abandoned baby seal who was adopted by the town.
From the natural world of Beech Hill Reserve you can see the mountains to the west and the ocean to the east. We recommend a healthy dose of both. And you can one giant step back in time and several small ones forward as you aim for the classic candlepins at Oakland Park Bowling Alley.
With a coastline that sparkles like Maine’s, being known as the “Jewel of the Coast” is a great source of pride in Camden. For a source of inspiration, it doesn’t get any better than a hike or mountain bike on Mount Battie in Camden Hills State Park. From there you’ll get a view of the town and the harbor that makes even the local birds envious.
In town, the charm is waiting with open arms, from Camden’s clothing boutiques and handcraft shops to the historic inns and creative galleries. History buffs, opera buffs and buffs of all kinds will enjoy the exquisite beauty and excellent performances of the Camden Opera House. Home to the annual Camden International Film Festival, this lovingly restored Victorian opera house also features music and local theater. Who knows, if you pick the right day you might get lucky and wander into Brigadoon.
© 2017 Maine Office of Tourism