If you asked one of my friends my favorite vacation destination they would say Cape Cod… and they wouldn’t be wrong. But in the past 4 or so years I’ve warmed up to the idea of heading north to Maine in the Summer and Fall to get my fill of coastal New England life. Along with beautiful beaches, incredible views, and fantastic food, the beach towns of Maine are far less crowded than those of Cape Cod which in turn means less traffic. In the past year, I’ve visited Camden, Portland, and Kennebunkport Maine all of which have their own feel and vibe. While Kennebunkport is by far my favorite on this list, Camden provided a much needed break from busy city life. The bars and restaurants all close between 9 and 10pm in Camden which allowed us to slow it down a little and enjoy stargazing and conversation nightly. Portland its known for is food and craft beer scene and is quickly becoming the gastronomic center of New England… and rightfully so.
Maine is also easily accessible by the incredibly affordable Amtrak Downeaster Train which we took during our trip to Portland. If you’re a city dweller without a car, Maine is far more accessible than Cape Cod. With so many great options, it was tough to whittle down my choices for this piece.
Located between the two main attractions in Camden Maine (downtown and Mount Battie) Whitehall reopened last year with a reinvigorated mission to be THE lodging choice in Camden. The lobby off the front porch is massive (and gorgeous) complete with sitting areas, fireplace, grand piano, and Pig + Poet restaurant. Rooms are decorated in Lark Hotel’s signature understated New England style with fabric choices that incorporate pops of bold color. As with all Lark Hotels, a blend of sweet and savory small plates are served to guests for breakfast.
#PROTIP: Evenings should be spent on the White Hall patio around the firepit, cocktail in hand. Stargazing is incredible in Camden and the rolling front lawn provides a perfect spot to wish upon a star.
Who doesn’t love pizza? Stumbled on by accident just one week after opening, Fireside turned out to be the best meal during our Camden trip. Occupying a very cool subterranean space on the Public Landing, Fireside serves up wood fire pizza from its centerpiece oven which can be seen from every angle of the dining room. The menu is simple and delicious. While choices are limited with food this good, who needed choices? Service is FANTASTIC with several seating areas throughout the restaurant.
#PROTIP: Opt for a seat at the bar around the wood-fire pizza oven where the pizza chef is on display for all to see. Plus get a first hand look are your order being prepared, cooked, and served.
Downtown Camden is typical standard New England faire. Gift shops, boutiques, and ice cream shops line the streets. For a spectacular view, head 2 miles north of downtown up to Mount Battie (we drove but you can hike too) where sites include sweeping views of Penobscot Bay and Mount Megunticook, one of the highest points on the Atlantic seaboard. The drive to the top is short, around 5 minutes, but a hike lasts about 2 hours depending on the trai.
“The Pom”, as locals call it, is a funky little B&B located in the western promenade historic district of Portland just a 15 minute walk from Old Port, the main attraction area in Portland. With painted floors, stained glass windows, and unexpected seating areas, The Pom is a place for the traveler who likes to explore. Make sure to check out the lounge/game room on the top floor complete with reading nook and game table. After descending the grand staircase in the morning, guests can enjoy breakfast in the main breakfast room or carry their small plates just across the foyer to the sitting area. Both are excellent choices. The rooms are quite large all with handpainted “wallpaper” and eclectic furnishings. Also, The Pom has some of the best pillows I’ve ever slept on.
#PROTIP: For late night eats (until 2am), try Kushiya Benkay which caters to an ‘after bar’ crowd. Loud music, lights, and fast service are just want you need at the end of the night. Plus it’s less than a 10 minutes stumble back to The Pom.
Located in Old Port around the back of a parking lot, down an alley, Novare Res became our local hangout for the weekend we were in town. With over 500 bottles beer, 25 rotating taps, and delicious food options, it’s a fantastic place to post up for an afternoon of beer sampling and eating. I’m a huge fan of out-of-the-way, hard to find places, that sort of feel like a little secret that only you know about. The space itself is huge with long bier hall style tables, 2 bars, several rooms with chairs and couches, and an outdoor patio when in-season. For food, try the incredibly addictive chips and french onion dip to start, with the drunken french dip sandwich (complete with beer au jus) as your main. Daily food specials are available so plan to spend a couple hours at this unique spot.
#PROTIP: Ask the bartender for recommendations of beer selections. They’re incredibly knowledgeable and are more than happy to let you try several different varieties before you place an order.
The neighborhood where The Pom is located is filled with historic homes ripe for picture taking. Check out this self-guided walking tour to ensure you see all the neighborhood as to offer. Visiting in the Fall is the perfect time to see the foliage in this area at its peak. If you’re an Instagram addict (like I am) get ready for an endless bounty of content.
#PROTIP: The neighborhood is a bit outside the main area of town. Uber’s are plentiful in Portland and only cost about $8 from the Old Port area.
Directly in the middle of Kennebunkport is The Boathouse located above David’s KPT, a local restaurant and bar hotspot in Kennebunkport. The property is split into two sections, The Hotel and the Wharfside Building. Both have polished guest rooms with the Hotel boasting soaring ceilings and stunning views. I had coffee on my balcony each morning even in the January cold. In-season, Boathouse offers a rooftop sundeck for guests that offers sweeping view of both Kennebunk and Kennebunkport. To top it off, hotel staff (hi Casey!) is sensational catering to your every need.
#PROTIP: The Boathouse is part of the Kennebunkport Resort Collection with several properties throughout town. Many amenities of their other properties are available to all KRC guests. Check with the staff for more information.
Okay. I can’t believe I’m divulging my KPT secret, but located under Pier 77 restaurant is perhaps my most favorite place to eat in the entire world. The Ramp speaks to me on a higher level from the location, to the decor, to the food and drinks. I instantly walked in this place 4 years ago and thought “Yes. This is what the inside of my brain looks like and everything I love in life is here.” Laidback, rustic, and New England through and through, The Ramp serves up amazing food and some of the best nachos you’ve ever had. Views of Cape Porpoise Harbor are perfection from the restaurant and from their outdoor waiting area which is adorned with buoys, lobster traps, and adirondack chairs. Every single meal at The Ramp has been delicious. It’s a place I constantly dream about and look forward to visiting again.
#PROTIP: The location is a little tricky, but walk around back of Pier 77, down a ramp (see what they did there) to find the entrance. The place is tight, loud, and colorful, but plenty worth it. Also, try a couple appetizers to share rather than an entree.
Want to see an incredible sunset? Head to Goose Rocks Beach where you can walk for miles out on the sandbars at low tide. Parking can be a little tricky in-season, so opt to bike the 5 or so miles from town. A stunning beach with plenty of room for chairs, umbrellas, and blankets, Goose Rocks never gets crowded like some other New England beaches. The Tides Beach Club (another KRC property) is just across the street from the beach and is a great place to post up after the beach for happy hour food and drink specials.
#PROTIP: For front row access to Goose Rocks Beach, stay at Tides beach Club where their suites are designed by Jonathan Adler himself.
Lark hotels provided lodging in Camden & Portland while KRC provided lodging & meals in Kennebunkport. All thoughts and opinions are my own.