Why fall is the perfect time to spend a weekend in Maine

Think about it: the summer crowds have dispersed, the trees are blazes of red and gold, and New Shell lobster is coming in season. If you want to make the most of a coastal-focused two-day trip to Maine, fly into Bangor Airport – which is about an hour inland along the Penobscot River – and fly from Portland on the way back. Because Portland has grown exponentially over the past decade (meaning flights can get very expensive), you can usually save a few bucks by flying to Bangor. Plus, taking the long drive south along Highway 1 offers plenty of time to explore small towns, linger in forests, and feast on amazing Maine ingredients. This two-day itinerary will help you make the most of a quick visit to The Pine Tree State.

Day 1: Bangor to Camden

Collect your rental car after landing in the morning and gather supplies for the drive from two local favorites: the coffee shop at Wicked Brew (where you can also linger over their fire-infused Greek or Turkish coffee) and the amazing donuts glazed with molasses from Boulangerie Gosselin. Horror fans should stop by the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation, a vermilion Victorian behind cobweb-like wrought-iron gates. King and his family have lived here for more than 30 years – he said Bangor was the inspiration for Derry, the fictional Maine town that served as the setting for This — but because the author began dividing his time between his homes in Center Lovell, Maine, and Florida, the house became a writers’ foundation and retreat. You can’t go inside, but it’s worth admiring from the sidewalk.

Drive approximately 45 minutes south to the deepwater port of Searsport, where the Penobscot River empties into the bay of the same name. The Penobscot Marine Museum’s exhibits are only open until mid-October, but it’s worth a visit (especially for maritime history buffs) for the voluminous archive, which is open year-round on appointment. Two minutes south of town brings you to the gates of Moose Point State Park. It’s packed in the summer, but once its facilities close for the shoulder season in October, you’ll practically have the place to yourself. Park outside the gate (don’t block it) and enter. This is a low maintenance, 1.5 mile hike along the Big Spruce Trail through evergreens and apple trees. At the head, stairs lead to the rocky bank lined with a pond.

The next stop south of Searsport is Belfast, at the mouth of the Passagassawakeag River. The town center is a picturesque strip of red-brick buildings swooping down towards the waterfront, one of which is occupied by Chase’s Daily. The cafe, bakery and market are a Belfast institution, and their homemade vegetarian banh mi on baguette crackles with acid and spice. Continue to Camden and stop at Green Tree Coffee and Tea, a cozy log cabin and roastery near Route 1, if you need a pick-me-up. Smoky and rich with notes of tobacco, chocolate and leather, their Monsoon Malabar from India is particularly strong.

Royal Dutch Suite at Camden Harbor Inn

Camden Harbor Inn

In about 15 minutes, you’ll arrive in Camden, the jewel of the Mid-Coast, and check in at the Camden Harbor Inn, a luxurious Relais & Châteaux property shrouded in a kaleidoscope of changing leaves. Friendly staff, spotless beds, and spacious bathrooms stocked with the finest Molten Brown bath products are all reasons to love this place. After dropping off your bags and wandering the galleries and shops of Camden Harbor (Symmetree Base Camp’s graphic sweatshirts are so cool and comfy you’ll want to put one on right after purchase), step out of town to Waldoboro and Tops’l Farm. Owners Sarah and Josh Pike host seasonal dinners, like Chef Ken Burkett’s five-course game feast. The evening begins with cocktails and campfires before moving to the candlelit bar, where Burkett’s menu features wild game and turkey (hunted by Josh). Although the game dinners are over for 2022, the winter raclette experiences are just beginning, so definitely buy tickets for this traditional Swiss meal. Take it easy on the bar as you have to return to Camden after dinner, but in the worst case you can always spend the night in one of the modern farmhouses or cottages available to rent.

Day 2: Camden to Portland

At home, you probably don’t wake up and eat donuts two days in a row. In Maine, you do. Ruckus Donuts is two towns south of Camden in Rockland, and their glazed buttermilk and yeast bun ring is one of the softest and fluffiest in the country. Order the day before to make sure they don’t sell out. From there, head southwest for about an hour to Bristol and Broad Arrow Farm, where Dan and Maggy Sullivan raise heritage pigs just a minute’s walk from the timber farm. The Rooting Pig, their elegant cheese and charcuterie bar perched on the edge of the field, is one of the most special dining experiences in the state. Grab a stool and watch a nice board (the small one is enough for two) come together right in front of you with gossamer folds of Lambrusco-washed coppa, fiery Calabrese, crackers, bread, homemade pickles and more accessories.

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse

Visit Maine

Alternatively, you can order a bunch of items from the Broad Arrow Butcher and drive 15 minutes to enjoy a waterside picnic at Marble Beach or Jon’s Cove near the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse. You can also climb the alabaster tower dating from around 1827 for stunning views of the area, which is usually open to visitors until the end of October. Return to Route 1 and proceed south toward Portland, approximately 90 minutes. If you can make it, a hoagie at Ramona’s is a religious experience. Philadelphia native Josh Sobel reps his hometown with hot roast pork, Italian charcuterie combos and the masterfully flavorful Paulie, a blend of broccoli rabe, white bean spread, sharp provolone and tangy giardineria streaked with saba (cooked grape must similar to balsamic vinegar). Just opposite, Onggi is a chic little shop specializing in fermented products. Have a kombucha or Korean-style cinnamon punch to aid digestion.

Tonight, you check in to the Canopy by Hilton Portland Waterfront, an elegant year-old property that offers free bikes, sparkling water stations on every floor, and a rooftop bar with beehives. The property is just minutes from the city’s historic downtown, in case you want to burn off some calories before dinner. A nap in the comfy bed in the bedroom also works. Now, if you follow this route thinking, I’m going to Maine, I want lobster. WHERE’S THE LOBSTER?, we’re getting to that part right now.

Twelve’s decadent lobster roll

Twelve

Located at the industrial end of Portland’s waterfront, Twelve shines like a lantern in the dark, only a few months old and already overwhelming. Not surprising when you learn that the team here is made up of veterans from New York’s Per Se (general manager Daniel Gorlas) and Eleven Madison Park and Daniel (chef Colin Wyatt, who is also a Mainer native). Walnut farro turns into a velvety risotto. Ivory blue cheese sauce and ethereal onion rings complete an impeccable New York strip. Then there’s the lobster roll you’ve been waiting for – remarkable not only for the hearty shellfish, which is tender and sweet, but also for what holds it in place. Pastry chef Georgia Macon makes her “roll” from puff pastry, so what you get is something like a butterfly croissant. It looks like an old book, tastes like buttery toast and crunches like crisps.

Sure, a weekend in Maine is short and sweet, but it can all be done with the right itinerary. Visit any of the places above, and you can’t go wrong.

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. why fall is ideal time for spend weekend in Maine

. fall perfect time spend weekend Maine

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