Last year, we sent you on six day trips that were less than an hour from Bangor, to see the sights, climb the hills, take in the art, drink the beers, eat the foods and just generally devour the beauty of a Maine summer.
This year, we’re sending you just a bit farther afield — instead of just an hour’s drive from Bangor, these places are all under two hours’ drive from there. Here are six more day trips that you can enjoy during this summer in eastern and central Maine. Most if it is free, some of it is inexpensive and few things are worthy splurges. As always, check with a business or organization before you visit to make sure they’re open when you’re coming. Enjoy!
Do/See: Some of Maine’s oceanside state parks can be overrun this time of year, but Roque Bluffs State Park, just south of Machias, is a peaceful place to soak in the beauty of the coast. Birds, flowers and fresh, salty air abound at this rocky beach, where you can take a dip in the bracing Atlantic or go for a less-chilly swim in adjacent Simpson Pond. Looking for more natural diversity? Great Wass Nature Preserve, located at the very bottom tip of Jonesport-Beals, teems with seals, seabirds and one of the most diverse assortments of plant life in Maine — it’s one of the few places in the U.S. where cloudberries grow wild.
Eat/Drink: Skywalker’s Bar & Grille and Machias River Brewing are sister businesses in downtown Machias. For years now, Skywalker’s has been a local favorite, serving up tasty pub food and live music on the weekend. Two years ago, it expanded to offer an on-site craft brewery, including beers including the popular Mopang IPA and Crooked River Porter.
Searsport & Stockton Springs
Do/See: Don’t drive through Searsport this summer without stopping at the Penobscot Marine Museum, which has highlighted Maine’s rich seafaring history since 1936. Exhibits this year include “Where In The World?,” featuring paintings of Maine cargo ships in ports around the world; “Weather or Knot,” about day to day life on the sea; “Lobster Women of Maine,” paintings by Susan Tobey White; and photographs by Ed Coffin and from the museum’s collection. Also this summer, shipbuilder Joao Bentes will be building on site a canoa da picada, a Portuguese sailing sardine carrier. Want a pleasant, easy walk before or after your museum trip? Stop at Sears Island and meander along its winding seaside trails.
Eat/Drink: It may be a splurge, but as the BDN’s Waldo County reporter Abigail Curtis will assure you, The Hichborn in Stockton Springs is absolutely worth the money. Featuring an ever-changing menu of seasonal Maine produce and local meats and seafood, served in an 1849 shipbuilder’s home that’s on the National Register of Historic Places. Try the hanger steak and the key lime tart. The Hichborn is open for dinner Thursdays through Sundays, and reservations are required (207-322-8307).
Deer Isle & Stonington
Do/See: Deer Isle and Stonington have been known as artists’ colonies for decades, and there are open studios on both islands all summer long, such as the Turtle Gallery, which will feature works from more than 20 Maine artists in four exhibits throughout the summer, and Nellieville, where you can buy delicious homemade jam and tour Peter Beerits’ quirky wooden sculptures. In the evening, Opera House Arts at the Stonington Opera House offers an array of theater, concerts and film screenings at its historic opera house overlooking scenic Stonington harbor.
Eat/Drink: A California-style Mexican taqueria in Sargentville, Maine? Yes, it’s true, and it’s delicious. El El Frijoles has for the past 13 years brought Mexican food to the peninsula, operating out of a cool, old barn just a few miles from the Deer Isle bridge. In addition to traditional Mexican classics, there are things such as local crab quesadillas and lobster burritos. Fancy a pint afterward? Strong Brewing in nearby Sedgwick has got the tasty local brews, served up on its expansive patio, which also hosts live music most weekends.
Do/See: When’s the last time you went to the Maine State Museum? Was it on a fifth grade class field trip? If it’s been that long, you’re due a visit as an adult. Displays on natural history, indigenous peoples, Maine culture and much more can offer a good refresher on the great state of Maine during this bicentennial season. Admission is just $3 for adults and $2 for kids, and it’s open Tuesday-Saturday. Also in Augusta, the Viles Arboretum is open during daylight hours every day, with 6 miles of trails on 224 acres featuring botanical collections of trees, flowers and other plants from all over the world.
Eat/Drink: A few miles down the road from Augusta, the A1 Diner in Gardiner is a hidden gem — classic comfort food, alongside contemporary dishes including mushroom crepes, lamb kebabs and soba noodle bowls. Back in Augusta, opinions are divided on what’s better at Cushnoc Brewing, located on the banks of the Kennebec River: the beer or the wood-fired pizza. Better be safe and have both.
Liberty & Searsmont
Do/See: As far as lake swimming goes, one of the cleanest, clearest, most family-friendly places to do it in Maine has to be Lake St. George State Park in Liberty. If you have kids that you can’t keep out of the water, not only is the swimming good, but from June to August the park is also staffed with lifeguards. There’s also a hilly, 1.5-mile hiking trail in the park.
Eat/Drink: The western corner of Waldo County is positively packed with breweries. In fact, you could do a little tasting tour of three breweries that are all within 20 minutes of one another: Thresher’s Brewing in Searsmont, Lake St. George Brewing in Liberty and Liberty Craft Brewing, also in Liberty. Thresher’s and Lake St. George have a rotating array of food trucks on the weekends, and Liberty Craft makes some killer barbecue, burgers and pizza.
Do/See: One may wonder what Margaret Chase Smith would think of today’s political world, and while we’ll never know, the Margaret Chase Smith Library in Skowhegan can offer as clear a picture of Maine’s iconoclastic, brave senator as we can get, with a museum and Smith’s incredible, historical archives on site. Just one town over in Madison, Lakewood Theater is one of the oldest continually operated summer theaters in the country. It was formerly a stop for many famous performers on their way to the top, from Vincent Price and Ethel Barrymore to John Travolta and Mama Cass Elliott. Today, the theater offers shows all summer and fall.
Eat/Drink: The Bankery in Skowhegan offers a mouthwatering array of sweet and savory baked treats, including scones, croissants, pies and hard-to-find French pastries such as real eclairs and brioche buns. There’s daily specials on soups, sandwiches and flatbreads as well. For something a bit more sit-down, the Miller’s Table at Maine Grains showcases Maine ingredients, with a special focus on Maine Grains’ amazing house-made flours, oats and other grains.