Best of Maine | 2017 Editors’ Choice Awards

Looking for dining, lodging, and top-notch attractions in the Pine Tree State? Here are more than 40 of our editors’ picks for the best of Maine.

By Yankee Magazine

Apr 10 2017

The Clam Shack Maine

The Clam Shack on the bridge in Kennebunkport, Maine — or is it Kennebunk?

Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker

Need a reason to travel this summer? From dining and lodging to attractions that are well worth the drive, here are more than 40 of our editors’ picks for the best of Maine.

Castine Historical Society
The Castine Historical Society | Best of Maine
Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker


ADVENTURE PARK: Funtown/Splashtown

At this beloved Saco institution, you’ll find rides that range from kid-friendly excitement to heart-in-your-throat thrills, with the latter including Maine’s only wooden roller coaster, New England’s longest and highest log flume, and the 220-foot plummet of the Dragon’s Descent turbo drop tower. And don’t forget to bring your swimsuit, which you’ll want for the raft rides, slides, and other watery fun. 774 Portland Road (Rte. 1), Saco. 207-284-5139;

BIRD-WATCHING SPOT: Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center

Be on the lookout for egrets, herons, glossy ibises, and other shorebirds, plus birds of prey and songbirds, while exploring Maine’s largest salt marsh. This Maine Audubon nature center makes it easy with exhibits, a nature trail, canoe and kayak rentals, and naturalist-guided and self-guided programs. 92 Pine Point Road, Scarborough. 207-833-5100;

BOOKSTORE: Longfellow Books

Pick up the latest best-seller or choose from staff recommendations; peruse the extensive mix of new and used books; attend an author reading; join a book group; snuggle with the store cat—it’s all possible at this thriving, fiercely independent downtown Portland bookstore staffed by passionate readers. 1 Monument Way, Portland. 207-772-4045;


Inside Ellsworth’s rambling, three-story Big Chicken Barn, you’ll find more than 50 vendors hawking antiques, books, and all manner of other treasures, from toys to kitchenware, quilts to furniture, artwork to musical instruments. Trust us, you won’t go home empty-handed. 1768 Bucksport Road (Rte. 1), Ellsworth. 207-667-7308;

COLLEGE ART MUSEUM: Colby College Museum of Art

In a region with no shortage of well-funded and expertly curated university museums, Colby boasts one of the finest. Its strength lies in its permanent collection of 18th-, 19th-, and 20th-century American art: John Singer Sargent, Georgia O’Keeffe, John Marin, James McNeill Whistler, Mary Cassatt, Robert Henri, and Winslow Homer, to name a few. There’s also a wing dedicated to the works of Alex Katz—and don’t miss the Sol LeWitt stairway mural. 5600 Mayflower Hill Dr., Waterville. 207-859-5600;

FAMILY ADVENTURE: Dive-in Theater with Diver Ed

Go down to the bottom of the sea, virtually, with “Diver Ed” Monat while cruising off Bar Harbor aboard the Starfish Enterprise. Help Monat suit up, then push him overboard and watch on the big screen as he explores the depths, selecting lobsters, sea cucumbers, starfish, and other critters to bring aboard for everyone to examine before he returns them to their watery home. Departs from College of the Atlantic pier, Bar Harbor. 207-288-3483;

FARMERS’ MARKET: Belfast Farmers’ Market

Every Friday morning from April to October, dozens of farmers and vendors gather outside the Waterfall Arts building to sell their produce and products. There are fruits and vegetables in abundance, as well as meats and cheeses—but don’t miss the drool-worthy farm-baked breads and sweets, homemade condiments, and crepes made to order. Finish your shopping at the companion craft market, where potters, weavers, jewelry makers, and other local artisans sell their wares. In the winter, the action moves indoors to a space on Northport Avenue. 256 High St., Belfast.

GENERAL STORE: S. Fernald’s Country Store

Visitors to Damariscotta can take a quick side trip back in time at S. Fernald’s, where time-worn wooden floors, shelves sagging with penny-candy bins, a 1940s marble ice cream counter and old-fashioned cash register, and displays of retro toys and Moxie memorabilia are guaranteed to tickle the nostalgia bone. Feeling peckish? This combination country store, deli, and order-at-the-counter café specializes in hefty sandwiches and local ice cream. Sure, you can order the usual, but why not indulge in the Avenging Samurai (smoked salmon, avocado, cukes, sprouts, and horseradish mayo) or a hot Blackburn (corned beef, salami, Havarti, provolone, house-made beet relish, onion, lettuce, tomato, mustard, and mayo)? 50 Main St., Damariscotta. 207-563-8484;

HISTORICAL EXPERIENCE: Castine Historical Society

Though it’s hard to believe that such a serene village, with its beautifully preserved Federal and Greek Revival architecture, could have such a turbulent backstory, Castine was in fact a prize fought over by the French, English, and Dutch from the early 1600s through the War of Independence. Exhibits at the historical society bring Castine’s fascinating past to life, and signs posted throughout the village recall significant events and sites, including forts and battles. Join a guided walking tour, or do it yourself with a free map. 17 School St., Castine. 207-326-4118;

PADDLING OUTFITTER: Mahoosuc Guide Service

For nearly 30 years, Master Maine Guides Polly Mahoney and Kevin Slater have offered fully outfitted, guided canoe trips on Maine’s wilderness waters, including the Allagash Wilderness Waterway and the Penobscot, St. John, and St. Croix rivers. Their trips are not only an adventure but also an education, as the duo share their extensive knowledge of Native American ways, woods lore, and camp craft. 1513 Bear River Road (Rte. 26), Newry. 207-824-2073;

PUBLIC GARDEN: Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

Located in charming Boothbay, New England’s largest botanical garden encompasses 270 acres, including 8½ acres of ornamental display gardens filled with more than 91,000 plants. Among the highlights: a magical garden where Maine-themed children’s literature comes to life, a rhododendron oasis with a cascading 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. 132 Botanical Gardens Dr., Boothbay. 207-633-8000;

STATE PARK: Baxter State Park

Although the lands east of Baxter State Park recently became a U.S. national monument, most Mainers will say that if you want 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). Entrances near Millinocket and Patten. 207-723-5140;


SUMMER STOCK: Ogunquit Playhouse

Dating from 1933 and billing itself as “America’s foremost summer theater,” the Ogunquit Playhouse stages five musicals each season, representing both classics and new productions, in its 750-seat National Historic Register property. It continues to attract top Broadway talent—and even the occasional Hollywood star. 10 Main St., Ogunquit. 207-646-5511;

VINEYARD: Cellardoor

In the Cellardoor tasting room, sited in a restored 1790 post-and-beam barn in Lincolnville, visitors can nibble and sip while drinking in views of rolling vineyards and Levenseller Mountain. Other diversions here include attending classes and special events in the restored farmhouse’s commercial kitchen, visiting the gift shop for artwork and wine-themed merchandise, touring the winery, hiking the trails, and visiting the gardens on the 68-acre property. 367 Youngtown Road, Lincolnville. 207-763-4478;


ADVENTURE LODGING: Katahdin Lake Wilderness Camps

While it’s a little surprising that no cell service, no electricity, and no running water can figure into a heavenly getaway, these shorefront cabins in Baxter State Park deliver just that. Getting here requires either hiking 3-plus miles or flying in via floatplane, but it’s worth the effort. Guests lodge in individual cabins stocked with wood, ice, and drinking water, with outhouses nearby. Enjoy breakfast and dinner in the main lodge; box lunches allow for spending the day hiking, paddling, or wildlife-watching. Near Millinocket. 207-837-1599;


The aptly named Dunes, a collection of housekeeping cottages and guest rooms, features 12 landscaped acres bordering an Ogunquit tidal estuary. Rowboats waiting at the dock make it a cinch to access the beach, but the Dunes’ heated pool is equally inviting. To this, add a knowledgeable, helpful staff and a location that puts downtown attractions within strolling distance. 518 Main St., Ogunquit. 207-646-2612;

BOUTIQUE HOTEL: 250 Main Hotel

Industrial-chic design warmed with reclaimed wood sets the up-to-date tone for this 26-room Rockland hotel, which also boasts museum-quality works by contemporary Maine artists and midcentury-modern furnishings. Most rooms have harbor views and some have balconies, but all guests have access to the hotel’s rooftop deck, where daily afternoon wine tastings are held in good weather (otherwise, they’re relocated to the inviting lobby lounge). 250 Main St., Rockland. 207-594-5994;

CITY B&B: Inn at Park Spring

The tastefully updated Inn at Park Spring occupies an 1835 brick townhouse in Portland’s upscale West End neighborhood, putting guests within easy walking distance of the sights, shops, and restaurants of downtown and the arts district. The guest rooms and public spaces are decorated with restraint (nothing froufrou here), and attentive innkeepers pamper guests with hearty breakfasts and afternoon treats. 135 Spring St., Portland. 207-774-1059;

COUNTRY INN: The Waterford Inne

Slip away to this meticulously maintained 19th-century farmhouse on 25 rural acres amid the fields and forests of the western Maine foothills. Of course there’s a farm pond, as well as a big red barn, a screened porch, and a gathering room with hand-hewn beams, pine floors, and a fireplace. The comfy themed guest rooms are configured to suit everyone from weekending lovebirds to vacationing families. Do make reservations for the optional four-course dinner. 258 Chadbourne Road, Waterford. 207-583-4037;


Designed by renowned Maine architect John Calvin Stevens and opened in 1914, this sprawling, dog-friendly Kennebunkport landmark exudes a delightfully old-fashioned ambiance. Although the Colony lies a mere mile from Dock Square, the dreamy ocean views and on-site facilities—two restaurants, a beach, a heated saltwater pool, an 18-hole putting green—make it hard to leave. 140 Ocean Ave., Kennebunkport. 207-967-3331;

FAMILY LODGING: Sebasco Harbor Resort

This 550-acre oceanfront resort on the Phippsburg Peninsula has long been a favorite of families, who come for the blend of contemporary amenities with old-timey flavor, eye-candy scenery, twice-weekly children’s programs, and weekly special events ranging from bingo to lobster bakes. The icing on the cake is the array of recreational facilities—oceanfront saltwater pool, tennis courts, nine-hole championship golf course, three-hole regulation course—plus boat tours, sailing trips, kayaking and mountain biking excursions, candlepin bowling, and a spa. 29 Kenyon Road, Sebasco Estates, Phippsburg. 207-389-1161;

HISTORIC INN: Captain Lord Mansion

Built as a residence in 1814 by Captain Nathaniel Lord, this Kennebunkport inn retains the elegance and grandeur of seafaring’s heyday while making room for thoughtful updates: gas fireplaces, marble and tile bathrooms with heated floors, a wine cellar, and an in-house spa. 6 Pleasant St., Kennebunkport. 207-967-3141;

INN FOR FOODIES: Hartstone Inn

Chef Michael Salmon, a Culinary Institute of America graduate who’s cooked at the famed James Beard House, and his wife, Mary Jo, are the hands-on owners of this carefully maintained mansard-roofed Victorian on the edge of Camden’s downtown. Salmon not only prepares elegant dinners—choose from à la carte dishes or the chef’s tasting menu, all drawn from local, seasonal fare—but also offers private or group cooking classes. 41 Elm St. (Rte. 1), Camden. 207-236-4259;

ISLAND INN: The Island Inn

It’s hard to imagine a dreamier place in which to forget the world exists than the Island Inn. Commanding a bluff overlooking Monhegan Harbor and Manana Island, the three-story, cupola-topped inn is filled with simply decorated rooms (with private or shared baths) outfitted with painted wooden floors, antique oak furnishings, and crisp white linens. Suites are also available in the charming Pierce Cottage next door. Public rooms range from a cozy library to a covered sitting porch, and the inn’s restaurant serves all meals. 1 Ocean Ave., Monhegan. 207-596-0371;

LEARNING ESCAPE: Haystack Mountain School of Crafts

Artisans of all skill levels, from neophytes to professionals, can take part in Haystack’s one- and two-week summer workshops. The Deer Isle campus, set on a forested hillside, offers accommodations with private or shared baths, studios, a bookstore, and a cafeteria. Internationally known artists teach classes in ceramics, fiber, glass, metal, paper, blacksmithing, wood, and more, and participants can work in the studios around the clock (a handy perk for that 2 a.m. burst of inspiration). 89 Haystack School Dr., Deer Isle. 207-348-2306;

LUXURY GETAWAY: The Schooner Ladona

After joining the Maine windjammer fleet last season, the masterfully restored 82-foot racing schooner Ladona quickly earned a rep for its upscale amenities: hot and cold running water in every cabin, beds topped with premium linens, rain showers, chef-prepared meals, and complimentary wine served with dinner. Cruises run from three days up to a week, with charter service also available. Budding oenophiles are advised to save up for the six-day wine cruise, with each night featuring expert tastings of eight wines focused on different countries. Windjammer Wharf, Captain Richard Spear Drive, Rockland. 207-594-4723;

The Clam Shack Maine
The Clam Shack | Best of Maine
Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker


ALFRESCO DINING: The Well at Jordan’s Farm

Culinary Institute of America graduate Jason Williams is the whiz behind the Well, a mobile kitchen on the 122-acre third-generation Jordan family farm, now part of the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust. Williams makes nearly everything from scratch, sourcing many of the ingredients for the daily-changing menu from the farm’s bounty. Dine on picnic tables, in gazebos, or at the small kitchen counter. 21 Wells Road, Cape Elizabeth. 207-831-9350;

BAKERY: The Red Barn Baking Co.

Three days a week from spring to autumn, baker extraordinaire Kate Capra fills the glass cases in Lincolnville’s Red Barn Marketplace (which doubles as an antiques and collectibles store) with freshly baked breads, tarts, pies, strudels, cakes, cookies, brownies, and hand pies. Don’t miss the decadent cherries-and-cream brioches, the buttery yet light and flaky croissants, or, truly, anything. 2060 Atlantic Hwy. (Rte. 1), Lincolnville. 207-230-1272;

BAR FOOD: Parrilla

Watch the chef prepare meats and veggies on an Argentinian-style wood-fired grill as the bartender concocts you a memorable mojito at Parrilla, the casual open-air, streetside bar of Bar Harbor restaurant Havana. Cobble together a Maine-accented, Latin-inspired tapas meal of charcuterie or cheese plates, Mexican corn on the cob, seafood salad, or the chef’s-choice mixed grill. Still hungry? There are entrée-sized offerings, too, as well as a menu of sweet treats such as coconut flan. 318 Main St., Bar Harbor. 207-288-2822;

BREAKFAST: Café This Way

A bit quirky (yes, that’s a garage door opening onto the patio) and charmingly eclectic (artsy tabletops laminated with images of everything from Charlie’s Angels to Moxie), this Bar Harbor café ticks all the breakfast boxes: organic and vegan options, a slew of Benedicts and omelets, and pancakes and French toast with real maple syrup. We recommend planning a good hike after downing the Café Monte Cristo, a French toast sandwich loaded with fried egg, ham, and cheddar cheese served with home fries. 14½ Mount Desert St., Bar Harbor. 207-288-4483;


No one here would bat an eye if you just opted for a basic cheeseburger (albeit fancied up on a brioche bun). But since this Portland hot spot excels at piling it on creatively, why not get in on the adventure? Beginning with beef from grass-fed, grain-finished cows, Nosh serves up more than half a dozen memorable specialty burgers, including the coma-inducing Apocalypse Now: one to four patties laden with American cheese, crisp pork belly, smoked bacon, and foie gras pâté and topped with cherry jam. 551 Congress St., Portland. 207-553-2227;

CLAM SHACK: The Clam Shack

This takeout perched on the Kennebunk River tops a lot of lists for Maine’s best lobster roll, but it also earns raves for its fried clams, haddock, scallops, shrimp, and calamari, as well as its clam cakes, steamers, clam-rich chowder, and boiled lobster dinners. 2 Western Ave., Kennebunk. 207-967-3321;

COFFEE SHOP: Coffee by Design

Coffee by Design distinguishes itself most obviously with its eco-minded bean selection and a microroasting process that produces superlative single-origin, peak-roast, dark-roast, blended, decaf, and flavored coffees. But it’s also a standout for its commitment to the community, as it supports local arts, sells cause-boosting coffees, and helps fund nonprofits such as Boys to Men and Portland Trails. 1 Diamond St., Portland, 207-874-5400; 620 Congress St., Portland, 207-772-5533; 67 India St., Portland, 207-780-6767; 43 Washington Ave., Portland, 207-874-2234; 95 Main St., Freeport, 207-865-2235;

DINER: A1 Diner

Gleaming woodwork and chrome, a faded pink marble counter, and blue vinyl booths and stools welcome guests into this 1946 Worcester Lunch Car Company diner in Gardiner. The old-school decor, however, belies the nontraditional, internationally accented fare, made in-house and usually from local ingredients. Instead of biscuits and gravy, consider one of A1’s more exotic creations, which have included a Moroccan roasted veggie and hummus wrap and specials such as leek and bacon gratin, mixed-sausage ragu, kimchi burgers, and lamb and eggplant curry. 3 Bridge St., Gardiner. 207-582-4804


“Fresh from the farm” takes on new meaning at this Rockland gem, where ducks, pigs, guinea hens, and chickens are raised on the premises (along with fruits, vegetables, herbs, and honeybees). Even the cocktails feature farm-grown ingredients. Allow yourself time to tour the gardens and pastures before sitting down to enjoy the Mediterranean fare created by two-time James Beard Award–winner Melissa Kelly and her partner, Price Kushner. In the white-tablecloth dining rooms, the daily-changing dinner menu might include pork saltimbocca or grilled local swordfish with caldo verde; in the casual, tapas-inspired Counter Room, look for house-made salumi, pizzas, Tuscan-style ribs, and local and imported cheeses. 2 N. Main St., Rockland. 207-596-0770;

FINE DINING: Canterbury Royale

To experience one of Maine’s fanciest French restaurants, trek to Fort Fairfield. There, Canterbury Royale immerses guests in an intimate and elegant setting, with fine china, crystal, and silver adorning tables and elaborate wood carvings accenting the dining rooms. Guests order entrées for their five-course candlelit meal in advance, choosing from 20-plus possibilities, including pheasant under glass and lobster thermidor. 182 Sam Everett Road, Fort Fairfield. 207-472-4910;


Born in Maine and reared in the Mediterranean, chef Sara Jenkins made her name with two successful New York City restaurants and two cookbooks before opening Nina June, a charming trattoria with a deck overlooking Rockport’s harbor. Jenkins’s rich background informs the brunch menu, where favorites include a baked strata, white almond gazpacho, and lemon-ricotta pancakes. 24 Central St., Rockport. 207-236-8880;


Step out of Portland and into the Italian countryside at Piccolo, a pocket eatery on the edge of the Old Port, where chef Damian Sansonetti draws on the food of his childhood. The small, ever-changing menu emphasizes the rustic cuisine of the Calabria and Abruzzi regions with entrées—such as the signature house-made cavatelli pasta with lamb’s-neck ragu—created from a conscientious mix of ingredients sourced from Italy and Maine. 111 Middle St., Portland. 207-747-5307;

PIZZA: Owen’s Farmhouse

Owen’s has built a reputation for deliciousness in Kennebunk and beyond with its hand-tossed pizzas—always made with fresh dough—topped with seasonal ingredients from local farms and baked in a wood-fired oven. Choose from pies that range from basic to intriguing, such as the Kelly Orchard, made with apples, squash, Gorgonzola, and caramelized onions. 17 Main St., Kennebunk. 207-985-0870;

SANDWICHES: Rolling Fatties

Whether you catch Rolling Fatties at its 1974 Airstream Argosy, which meanders about the Kingfield region in summer, or at the downtown farmhouse where it lives in the winter, the menu’s the same: big, fat handmade tortillas stuffed with primarily natural or organic Maine-sourced ingredients. Options include grass-fed beef, naturally raised pork and chicken, seasonal veggies, and local bacon. 268 Main St., Kingfield, and area. 207-399-9246;

SUSHI: Miyake

James Beard Award–nominated chef Masa Miyake takes Japanese cuisine to a new level, using ultrafresh ingredients (some sourced from his own farm) and employing Japanese, Italian, and French techniques. While you can’t go wrong ordering from the à la carte options, you should splurge at least once on the omakase, or chef’s tasting menu, for a dining adventure. 468 Fore St., Portland. 207-871-9170;

Best New England Summer Events in 2017
Best of New England | 2017 Editors’ Choice Awards