Tourists enjoy the views at Thunder Hole in Acadia National Park in July 2015. Mount Desert Island is among the Maine locations that become more congested during the summer months. Credit: Ashley L. Conti / BDN

If you are one of the hundreds of people who moved to the state this past year, congratulations on making it through your first winter. It’s time to put away the heavy jackets, boots and snow shovels and get ready to enjoy the long days of a Maine summer.

Whether Maine is your new home or you are just visiting, there are a few things you should keep in mind heading into your first summer here. Experienced residents know Maine is a great place to explore and play in warmer weather, but it’s not something that should be taken for granted.

Here are a few things you should know to make your first summer here fun, relaxing and, most of all, safe.

Insects

There’s a reason that Mainers use summer and “bug season” interchangeably. The state is home to a host of flying insects that bite, sting or simply buzz around your head in clouds. The most notorious are the blackflies, mosquitos, deer flies and moose flies. They all bite and those bites create itchy bumps that range from a minor annoyance to serious allergic reactions.

The bad news is there is no escaping these insects if you spend any time outdoors. The good news is, there are insect repellents that do a good job of protecting you. Look for ones that contain DEET for the best protection.

Speaking of annoying insects, Maine is experiencing infestations of browntail moth caterpillars. These larvae are covered in tiny hairs that can cause skin rashes and respiratory distress if you come into contact with them. Avoiding them is key, and the state is maintaining a map showing areas of predicted infestation.

browntail moth primer

Ticks

Thanks largely to climate change that has resulted in warmer than normal winters, ticks are on the rise in the state. Last year there were reports of tick activity every month, meaning they are now a year-round concern to people, pets, wildlife and livestock. Particularly serious is the increase in  Lyme disease-carrying deer ticks. 

There are a variety of strategies you can take to keep ticks off you while outdoors, from duct taping the bottom of your pants to using DEET-containing repellent. Regardless of what you do outside, it is crucial you conduct regular full-body tick checks on yourself and pets after coming indoors.

The weather

Yes, it’s a cliche, but it’s true: If you don’t like the weather in Maine, wait 10 minutes.

Summer conditions can go from pleasant to dangerously stormy in a very short time. Depending on where your travels take you, temperatures can fluctuate from shorts and T-shirt weather to needing a jacket and gloves. Similarly, a calm lake can quickly become a wind-whipped body of water capable of capsizing canoes or small boats.

It’s also important to understand that, just because the air temperature is warm or even hot, water temperatures in Maine can remain dangerously cold. Cold enough to render you hypothermic in a matter of minutes. Never go out on a pond, lake, river or stream without wearing a proper personal flotation device. Always check the forecast before heading out, and make sure you have the gear and clothing to match.

It’s also a good idea to have a backup plan if the weather washes out your plans for the day.

the latest weather

The great outdoors

There are few better ways to spend a day in Maine than hiking. From easy paths to technical trails, there is a route for every level and hiking experience. Along the way you are likely to see a variety of wildlife, birds, flowers and plants that make the state an outdoor lover’s paradise.

Before heading out, make sure that your itinerary matches your skill and fitness level. Tell someone where you are going and approximately when you plan to be back. Take enough snacks and water to keep you energized and hydrated. Don’t forget a  first-aid kit, your sunscreen and a hat to protect you from the sun. Pay attention to the time — you don’t want to be caught miles from the trailhead after sunset in the dark.

If for some reason you find yourself still on the trail at night — or worse, lost or injured — don’t panic. Stay where you are and wait to be found.

Traffic

Summer is high traffic season in Maine. Things tend to be more congested along the coast, particularly in southern Maine and near Mount Desert Island.

That often means accounting for extra driving time to navigate locations such as coastal Route 1, Route 1A from Bangor to Ellsworth and Route 3 from Ellsworth to Bar Harbor. The best way to deal with it is to plan for extra time to get to your destination.

It’s also worth noting Maine is a popular destination for bicyclists, and you will often find yourself sharing the road with people exploring the state by bike. It’s the law in Maine that drivers must be at least 3 feet from a cyclist when passing one.

Gas prices

Listen to the locals

When in doubt, ask a local. People who have lived here for a time are the experts on how to truly enjoy a Maine summer. They know the best spots to grab the perfect lobster roll, to take in the most scenic views, catch the trophy fish, have a picnic, see a moose or simply wander and get lost in your thoughts on a summer day in Maine.

Julia Bayly

Julia Bayly is a reporter at the Bangor Daily News with a regular bi-weekly column. Julia has been a freelance travel writer/photographer since 2000.