The Maine Thing is More than Lobster

WIndjam 5

The more you talk to Mainers, the more you learn that Maine is more than lobster, L.L. Bean, and Stephen King. With over 5,000 miles of coastline, the northernmost state in the U.S. is one of the country’s least densely populated, which perhaps partially explains why the state is such a favorite for tourists—and, increasingly, for new residents.

Known as the “Accidental Oyster Farmer,” Abigail Carroll founded Nonesuch Oysters, an award-winning boutique oyster farm. As a business consultant with stints in Paris and Manhattan, Carroll had roots in Portland but had not seriously considered a return to Maine—until an oyster farm fell into her hands. Located south of Portland, Carroll’s oyster farm grows free range Maine oysters, which are featured at Manhattan’s Grand Central Oyster Bar.  Nonesuch offers oyster tasting tours on their workboat in Scarborough, just 20 minutes from Portland. As well, Carroll also utilizes locally harvested Maine marine ingredients for Nonesuch Skincare, her line of natural skincare products.

©MRNY

©MRNY

More than a dozen oyster farms populate the coast of Maine, as well as over 195 marine farms that follow the coastline. Mussel farming has been a part of Maine’s maritime economy since the 1970s. Apart from seafood, Maine is at the vanguard of “sea greens” production, thanks to a bounty of nutrient-packed seaweed such as kelp, dulse, and alaria.

Each October, gourmands head to Portland for the annual Harvest on the Harbor, Maine’s premier food and wine festival now celebrating its ninth year. Maine’s largest metropolitan area, Greater Portland is a vibrant mélange of artistic towns and charming islands, located only 90 miles north of Boston.

©Inn by the Sea

©Inn by the Sea

By the Sea, By the Sea: Flanking Crescent Beach State Park and just a short drive from Portland, Inn by the Sea is a contemporary beach resort with five acres of indigenous seaside gardens. The luxury waterfront property features 61 rooms and suites with modern interiors, as well as Sea Glass, Chef Steve Sicinski’s award-winning restaurant which serves sustainable seafood from the Gulf of Maine.

Apart from visual beauty, the indigenous gardens at Inn by the Sea enable the restoration of food and habitat for the endangered New England Cottontail bunnies. Equally alluring for fans of paranormal activity, a resident “spirit bride” materializes for guests who enjoy the company of a 19th-century bride who drowned with her bridesmaids during a storm off Crescent Beach.

©Chebeague Island Inn

©Chebeague Island Inn

Chebeague Island: Located ten miles off the coast of Portland, Chebeague Island is accessible by a 15-minute ferry ride from the mainland. The largest of more than 200 islands in Casco Bay, Chebeague (pronounced “shuh-Beeg”) is approximately 5 miles long and 3 miles wide—and home to 400 year-round residents.

Originally constructed in the 1880s (and then rebuilt in the 1920s following a fire), Chebeague Island Inn sits on more than 2 acres of oceanfront land. The three-story, Greek Revival-style inn features 21 guest rooms detailed with the work of local artisans. The absence of phones or televisions in guest rooms guarantees serenity and peace of mind (though free WiFi is available).

Guests at the inn dine on seasonal produce procured from Secondwind Farm and mussels from Bangs Island, which is available for guest tours. Complimentary L.L. Bean beach cruiser bicycles are available, as are lawn games such as bocce ball, corn hole, and croquet.

©MRNY

©MRNY

Rockland Arts and Sweets: Founded by Kate McAleer in 2011, Bixby & Co. in Rockland produces deliciously addictive craft candy snack bars (many of them vegan) made with ethically sourced chocolate certified by the Rainforest Alliance. Designated as one of Maine’s Young Entrepreneurs of the Year, as well as the 2016 winner of the Tory Burch Foundation Fellows competition, McAleer offers a mouth-watering range of confections that are available in over 1,500 natural food and grocery stores throughout the United States.

While in Rockland, take a wander through the new Center for Maine Contemporary Art (CMCA), which was designed by Toshiko Mori with an iconic sawtooth roofline. Founded in 1952, the museum is located in the heart of Rockland’s downtown arts district (near the Farnsworth Art Museum and Wyeth Center). Throughout the year, CMCA presents exhibitions that feature emerging and established artists with connections to Maine, such as Alex Katz and Jonathan Borofsky, the works of whom will inaugurate the new building.

©Maine Windjammer Association

©Maine Windjammer Association

Windjamming Weddings and Wellness Cruises: Sailing out of Camden and Rockland, Maine Windjammer Association, which is North America’s oldest fleet of commercial sailing vessels, offers 3-day to 6-day sailing vacations. The nine historic windjammers are available with captains licensed to perform windjammer weddings at sea or ashore. Themed cruises include a wellness cruise with massage therapists and yoga instructors—or a bluegrass and beer cruise.

For those who wish to wander into Canada, consider a “Two-Nation Vacation,” from Maine to New Brunswick along the Bay of Fundy-Arcadia corridor and the coastal Maritimes.

Better yet—think about relocating your life to Maine, in which case Live and Work in Maine, a privately-funded workforce recruitment program, will help get you established.

You won’t be the first to fall in love with the spellbinding bounty of Maine.

Mark Thompson

About Mark Thompson

A member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) and New York Travel Writers Association (NYTWA), Mark Thompson is an editor, journalist, and photographer whose work appears in various periodicals, including Travel Weekly, Metrosource, Huffington Post, Global Traveler, Out There, and OutTraveler. The author of the novels Wolfchild (2000) and My Hawaiian Penthouse (2007), Mark completed a Ph.D. in American Studies. He has been a fellow and a resident at various artists' colonies, including the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, and Blue Mountain Center.

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