I’ve always felt like there are two types of travelers in the world. There are those who are perfectly fine with being tourists, and then there are those who prefer to travel like locals, keeping a low profile and seeing the soul of a place. Admittedly, vacationing like a local is a bit of a contradiction, and it can be tough to pull off. After seven straight summers living and traveling in Maine, these are our best tips on how to vacation in Maine like you live there! Disclaimer: it appears that we spend a lot of time doing things that involve food.
Buy Fresh Food at Farmstands
People who live in Maine are serious about fresh, local food. Patronizing roadside stands is a matter of course and a matter of honor. More than that, though, it’s just fun! We are fortunate to have the divine Beth’s Farm Market near us. It’s a destination all its own. We end up leaving with everything from lobsters to produce to fresh doughnuts. Pro Tip: Beth’s sells lobsters on Sunday.
But there’s no need to make a huge excursion out of buying from hardworking farmstands in Maine. Just pull over and shop at one! You’ll be amazed at how great they are.
Find the Less Famous Lobster Shack
Getting lobster in Maine is a no-brainer, and all the famous lobster shacks are well-known for great reasons. Here’s the thing, though: I have yet to get a mediocre lobster roll in midcoast Maine, regardless of venue. The truth is that the best thing about Maine lobster rolls is how simple they are, and the star of that roll is the fresh lobster that just came hoppin’ mad out of the water nearby.
Locals don’t spend a lot of time standing in line at the lobster shack lauded in the latest travel magazine. Instead, they go to their local lobster pound and enjoy a tranquil meal served by cheerful local staff. One of our favorite jaunts is Miller’s Lobster Co. in Spruce Head. We never have had to wait for a table there and our kids can walk around the dock freely while we’re waiting for our lobsters. Pro tip: the mussels there are crazy good. I gather they make them in the big pot of salty water there and I just can’t replicate it at home! Get them.
If you’re not sure where to find the hidden local lobster shacks, ask around! People who live nearby will be devoted to their favorites and full of great advice for a memorable (and genuine) experience. For a list of all the outdoor food shacks and trucks we could find in the midcoast, check out our article Midcoast Food Trucks and Shacks.
Hit up the General Store or Coffee Shop Bulletin Board
I’m always amazed by the wealth of cool local events going on in the midcoast, whether it be history talks, art walks, or music. One event that was popular with our guests in August for years was the outdoor Internet Cat Festival, but you wouldn’t be able to find out about these hyper-local delights while planning your vacation on Pinterest. This tip compliments of our friends at Doubling Point Cottage is a winner: be sure to stop in your local General Store or the town coffee shop and find the flyers! Local museum websites may also be helpful in discovering cool one-time opportunities to enjoy Maine on a local level.
Most years, we are lucky enough to arrive for a visit in Rockland on the week of the Summer Solstice Festival, which involves a street fair, food, and even free vintage cartoons at The Strand Theater. It’s one of our favorite summer traditions!
If the town you’re visiting has a website, you can also seek out their calendar of events for great ideas.
Uncover the Secret Ice Cream Stand
No vacation in Maine is complete without lots of ice cream, and locals would agree! We have many favorite ice cream stands around our house in Rockland, but one of the coolest is Harjula’s, which is a short drive to South Thomaston. Harjula’s is a favorite destination for those in-the-know because of its stunning view. We can’t believe it took us so many years to get out there, because now it’s a favorite stop!
Your ice cream stand doesn’t have to have a view, though. Unassuming little places in every corner of each small town offer the most incredible flavors and quality. Another favorite haunt of ours is Jefferson Scoop, which is a family-run place tucked right next to Lake Damariscotta State Park. We can’t go to the lake without stopping there afterwards. Check out our article The Best Midcoast Maine Beaches to read about visiting Lake Damariscotta.
Whatever the view or the seating, make sure you get your ice cream!
Stay in a Vacation Home
This is not a surprising piece of advice coming from us, but we really believe it. Hotels and inns are superb at giving tourists star treatment, and that’s wonderful! However, your vacation in Maine means to sit in your Adirondack chair with a Maine beer, make your own lobster, and get advice from a neighbor who has lived there for thirty years, however, you can’t beat staying in a vacation rental home.
If you can, try to book directly with owners. You can save yourselves unnecessary booking fees and, if you love the house, it’s a quick way to book a return visit with old friends the next year! We love repeat guests and lavish all our best, most individualized advice on them.
But this advice, we give to all of you.
What are your favorite insider tricks and places in Maine? Share in the comments!