As Covid-19 continues to wreak havoc on all aspects of life from the littlest things like impromptu Target runs to study abroad programs… we all are longing for the days of relaxing, mask-free breathing somewhere with a change of scenery and in this case, maybe even a nice white sand beach. While the idea of travel is a foreign concept in the world of pandemic life (as it should be), we all can be optimistic about the return to “normal” life in the hopeful and near future. As Covid numbers begin to trend down with the assumption of increased vaccination rates, the longing Wisconsin winter continues to progress through its bipolar changes, the idea of summer vacations and trips in general becomes more and more desirable. So, when the time does come and the world gains back the sense of comfort to travelers, destination seekers and vacationers… Here is my list of must see, must do, and mostly must eat foods in the best beach towns of Maine!
Cue the salty air, lobster rolls, ice cream shacks, adirondack chairs, and sand castle competitions!
- York Beach (all the food love)
York Beach is unlike any other beach town, it has just a sprinkle of everything anyone from young and old can enjoy. From chartered boating excursions to the Wild Kingdom amusement park, there is something for everyone. One of the best parts of being right on the ocean is the fresh seafood and food in general… and it does not disappoint. Fox’s Lobster House will meet and exceed all your chowder cravings, boiled lobster love and steamed mussel needs! Fox’s has a long history as it initially opened in 1936 as a small lobster pound famous for their well lobster and fried clams. A must order is the Fox’s Famous Maine Shore Dinner. Oh, and the view off the coast overlooking the Cape Neddick Nubble Lighthouse is just a small added bonus of ambiance. Across the street you can get your sweet fix from Dunne’s Ice Cream, formerly known as Brown’s. Fun fact, Barack Obama and his family actually went to go see the magic of the coastal cream! Dunne’s is your classic ice cream shack with an endless list of unique flavors including: wild Maine blueberry, grapenut, bubblegum (with real gum!), planet earth, etc. If ice cream isn’t your calling, don’t worry. Goldenrod will fulfill any remaining sugar cravings. Goldenrod is an old fashioned candy shop established in 1896 and still stands in its initial location just blocks from the beach. Specializing in taffy and pulled sugar confections, their treats do not disappoint. A pound of assorted New England salt water taffy mixed with some old school penny candy is sure to keep the young and old happy in the most nostalgic ways. Moving away from the classics of York, some honorable mention “newbie” foodie stops include When Pigs Fly Bakery for the best and largest selection of decadent sourdough bread and Wild Willy’s Burgers for the biggest, juiciest, most flavorful burger combinations and housemade old fashioned draft root beer… and to see the magnificent painted murals encapsulating the entire dining room. After consuming all those yummy treats, don’t forget to take advantage of walking the beautiful shore of short sands and long sands beaches or hike Mount Agamenticus.
- Ogunquit (the tourist)
Located only a few miles up the shoreline from the York Harbor, Ogunquit is the perfect place to wind down and enjoy “the touristy attractions.” First stop, Footbridge Beach for a calming stroll on the sand to watch the sunset or sunrise and chase the seagulls. With rich “old world” history, there are endless antique shops, heritage museums, art galleries and studios suitable for an older vacationer. The Leavitt Theater is an old school independent theater that has been in operation every summer since 1924. One of its biggest showings was Star Wars in 1977. The Leavitt Theater not only shows films, but also hosts live concerts and acts as an event venue hall. If historical things… well, aren’t your thing, there are plenty of other activities Ogunquit has to offer, such as riding one of Maine’s many trollies down the shoreline or exploring Perkins Cove. Perkins Cove is located right on the inlet of water and is home to endless boutiques and restaurants all with the best waterfront views! If that sounds too quaint for you, hit up the Mainstreet. Mainstreet is one of New England’s largest gay nightclubs and is known for having the best dance parties and live drag shows in the area. Sounds a bit out of place in a usually multi-generational vacation destination, but people of all ages love the energy and music. Back to the real attractions of Maine… the food! Stop by Footbridge Lobster for yet again, another delectable lobster roll or lobster boil. While it is located in a teeny-tiny red shack, they have some of the best lobster in the inlet which is owned by Captain Chris who sails out everyday for his loot of catch. A must order is their 5oz lobster roll slathered with clarified butter on a potato roll and don’t forget the corn on the cob too! If you’re feeling a little more upscale go for the unique take on the scallop roll. If you’re really feeling more upscale than the traditional lobster and seafood picnic on the boardwalk head to Brix+Brine or their sister restaurant The Crooked Pine. Brix+Brine is home to a huge selection of small bites, raw bar items, and perfectly paired curated cocktails and beverages. The Crooked Pine is a high end restaurant plating up confit duck wings, lump crab cakes, short rib bourguignon and of course all the classic coastal seafood options too!
- Portland (for the more trendy vacationer)
If you’re “sick” of the stereotypical East Coast beach feel, but still want the salty ocean air breeze and experience, travel a bit north to Portland. Portland is a city of 60,000, so it has much more of an urban modern New England flair than some of the smaller classic beach spots. Located on the peninsula that extends into the Casco Bay, the views and history are still beamingly rich with coastal ties and Victorian heritage. Starting off with a plethora of tours for all ages and interests, including: The Old Port Culinary Walking Tour, Vintage Fire Truck Tour, Walk Through Time Tour, Portland Lighthouse Tour, or even the Pedal Peaks Bike Tour. The Lighthouse Tour is a must… after all, Maine is basically known for its iconic coastline of lighthouses. It actually is home to 65, ranging up and down the shoreline and Portland is home to the oldest one, the Portland Head Light at Fort Williams Park. Fun fact: this very lighthouse stored the beacon on light that was first constructed while George Washington was president.
After sightseeing, head up to Commercial Street, a cozy cobblestone-lined old-world New England row of cafe’s, restaurants, unique boutiques, art galleries and more. After all the walking and window shopping, it’s food time! The best part of any city, always! Stop by Gilbert’s Chowder House for an uber rich, creamy bread bowl of award-winning New England clam chowder. It will NOT disappoint. If clam chowder isn’t your calling, all their other seafood stews and sandwiches are divine too. Moving literally right next door on the waterfront is DiMillo’s on the Water. DiMillo’s was built out of an old dilapidated former ferry boat named the Long Wharf and was converted in 1972 into a marina dining room called DiMillo’s Marina. In 1982, the Marina became DiMillo’s Floating Restaurant and became the only floating restaurants in the upper East Coast. Serving up some of the best harbor views and of course seafood a must order is their classic lobster roll or Fisherman’s platter. Last but not least, the sweets! Portland is known for its iconic and unique potato donuts. Originated from the depression era, these donuts have become a sweet staple in Maine desserts ever since. The Holy Donut offers a variety of sweet and savory flavors including: pomegranate, fresh lemon, maple bacon, coffee brandy, toasted coconut, sweet potato ginger, bacon cheddar, as well as a few vegan options too. The store closes everyday when the last donut is sold, so it is always a rush to get your treats!
After all those recommendations, here’s to traveling, exploring the world and eating delicious food as we all begin to crave the desire for the “normal” world again.