by Beth Witten
Lighthouses and lobster shacks dot the idyllic coast of Maine. Known for its abundant outdoor activities and 3,478 miles of coastline, Maine is the northernmost state in the continental United States.
It is dubbed “Vacationland” and a perfect destination for families with varying hobbies.
My first visit to Maine was just this past summer. Naturally, I wanted to go for the lobster. Lobster fresh off the boat may be one of the most succulent culinary experi- ences I have had in my life. The sweet, ten- der taste of steamed lobster with melted butter is how I prefer to enjoy it.
According to recently updated data from the Maine Department of Marine Resources, 2021 was the most valuable year in Maine’s lobster fishery history. At $724,949,426, the landed value for the iconic fishery jumped by 75 percent over 2020, by far the single most significant increase in value, year over year.
The Maine lobster yield is 40 million pounds annually, nearly 90 percent of the nation’s lobster supply. With about 4,500 active lobstermen, lobster fishing is an essential part of the economy of the state of Maine. Hardly a restaurant in Maine doesn’t offer the tasty crustacean on its menu. Think lazy man’s lobster, lobster mac and cheese, and lobster rolls, to name a few.
Our visit to York, Maine, America’s first chartered city in 1641 and located on the southern tip of the state, is where we discovered Off the Boat Lobsters, a family-owned business that offers live and cooked lobsters directly from the fishermen who catch them. OTBL opened in 2009 on their family-owned fishing pier, Sewall’s Brick dock, located on the York River.
What sets this lobster shack apart from its neighboring cohorts is that they steam the lobsters in seawater directly from their location. So my husband, Steve, and I grabbed a couple of cooked, soft-shelled hens (female lobster) and enjoyed a picnic on the balcony of our hotel room at historic Union Bluff overlooking Short Sands beach. A meal that indeed won’t be replicated.
When visiting Maine, you will find lobster shacks on every corner along the coastline. Yet, lobster isn’t the only reason to explore Maine. Maine’s maritime history may be reason alone. Maine’s coastline has many deep harbors that could provide anchorage for all the naval fleets in the world.
Maine’s Atlantic coastline is rocky, and coupled with naval fleets traversing the coast, a lighthouse is necessary, 65 to be exact.
We visited the Cape Neddick Light, aka the Nubble Lighthouse, perched on a rocky little “nub” of an island about 100 yards off the coast of York Beach. The lighthouse was home to more than 30 keepers from 1879 to 1987, when it became the last lighthouse in America to be automated.
West Quoddy Head Light is the eastern-most point in the U.S. It has a beautiful candy cane red and white striped tower. Tours are offered during the summer.
Maine may seem a distant land from Alabama. However, it is easily accessible by plane, or you may choose to enjoy a cruise with stops in port. We opted to fly into Boston, Mass., and rent a car. We enjoyed the scenic route along historic U.S. Route 1.
Auburn residents Paul and Tracie West recently sailed from Cape Elizabeth, Portland, to Bar Harbor and ports in between. Tracie states, “Our favorite stop was Rockland and Camden. The art galleries were fantastic. The works of James and Andrew Wyeth are located there.
“It was an incredible experience to visit this beautiful part of our country, not to mention we ate lobster every day!”
Additionally, Steve Fleming of Auburn took his family up the coast this past October.
On day six of their trip, they stopped in Portland, Maine. Steve writes, “The foliage is in peak season here. We saw beautiful oceanfront houses, lighthouses, and rocky beaches.”
Popular coastal destinations include Portland, Maine’s biggest city, and considered the #1 destination as it is a central hub of art, history, and food. Bar Harbor, small-town Maine at its finest, ranks second, with access to Acadia National Park (hiking trails that take you to the highest point on the North Atlantic Seaboard), a village-like atmosphere, and picturesque New England homes. Beachgoers will want to explore Kennebunkport, known for its long, flat shorelines and chic boutiques. Finally, for a more relaxed family centric scene, visit Ogunquit and York. A trip to York is not complete without a Goldenrod Kiss, saltwater taffy made as it was in 1896.
The best time for a trip to Maine is likely summer to late fall. If you travel in August, you can catch the Maine Lobster Festival in Rockport or Wild Blueberry Weekend hosted in multiple Maine towns. September, after Labor Day, is a great time to consider going as the crowds are smaller, yet the weather is still balmy. It is also when the fair season kicks off, and you can enjoy the agriculture scene.
Whether you prefer a sunset tour of the islands, hikes along the craggy shore, history tours, art galleries, farmers markets, or are just a lobster enthusiast like me, Maine is a state worth visiting. To help ensure you enjoy all Maine offers, check out visitmaine.net.
(You don’t have to wait until 2023 to enjoy lobster. Area restaurants host holiday specials featuring the cold water crustacean with a glass of bubbly.)