We’re looking at a few days of scorching heat, at least by Maine standards. Keep that in mind: It IS worse elsewhere. And many of those those other places aren’t rich with nature’s natural coolers: mountains, lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, and miles upon miles of oceanfront.
1. Hit the beach
Hint: If you’re going to spend the day at one of Maine’s beaches, go early to stake your claim on a patch of sand. It’s easy to find the beaches along Maine’s Southern Coast: From York through Old Orchard, sand beaches line the shore. Beyond that, they’re a bit more elusive, but do exist. Try the Maine State Parks: Crescent Beach, in Cape Elizabeth, Scarborough Beach (a.k.a. Jordan’s), Popham Beach on the Phippsburg Peninsula, Reid on the Georgetown Peninsula, Birch Point in Camden (a.k.a. Lucia Beach), Lamoine, and Roque Bluffs, which also has a pond, near Machias. Town ocean beaches include Pemaquid Beach Park, Laite Beach in Camden, Lincolnville Beach, Sandy Point in Stockton Springs, Mowry Beach in Lubec. There’s Sand Beach (see image) in Acadia National Park. And then there are the local secrets, the little pocket beaches that niche the coastline, and the private ones that allow day trippers.
What better way to stay cool than to spend the day on one of Maine’s dam-controlled whitewater rivers yiii-hah! The Kennebec is the classic trip, the Penobscot flows through some of Maine’s most spectacular scenery near Baxter State Park and Mount Katahdin, and the Dead River is anything but Dead. Try Northern Outdoors for the Kennebec or Dead and New England Outdoor Center for the Penobscot. Another resource is Raft Maine.
There are so many possibilities, I can’t even begin to list them. Begin with the Maine State Parks listings if you want a park with services, if you simply want water, get out your DeLorme (You have one, right? If not, get one). The entire state is mapped in book format, and all waterways and access points are marked.)
4. Go boating
Almost every coastal Maine town with a harbor has at least one sail, fishing, whale/puffin-watching, lighthouse-viewing, lobster-catching excursion boat. And most of its larger lakes have excursion boats (Rangeley Lake, Moosehead Lake, Long Lake). And you can ride along on the Casco Bay Mail Boat out of Portland and the Great Pond Mail Boat in Belgrade Lakes. Trips can vary from one-hour to all day. Even easier, rent a canoe or kayak, motor or row boat and explore a pond or lake.
5. View cool art in an air-conditioned museum
Chill with the art at any of the museums along the Maine Art Museum Trail: Bates College Museum of Art (Lewiston), Bowdoin College Museum of Art (Brunswick), Colby College Museum of Art (Waterville), Farnsworth Art Museum (Rockland), Ogunquit Museum of American Art (Ogunquit), Portland Museum of Art (Portland), and University of Maine Museum of Art (Bangor).
6. Go island hopping
Hop a ferry and head to Peaks from Portland; to Eagle Island from either Portland or South Freeport, to Monhegan from Boothbay Harbor, New Harbor, or Port Clyde; to Vinalhaven or North Haven from Rockland.
7. Zip down a mountain
Swing through the trees Tarzan style (well, not quite, it’s more of a controlled zoom) at either Sunday River and Sugarloaf. Bothhave zipline parks, and the Rivah also has a lift-accessed mountain bike park, with 30 trail covering more than 20 miles of downhill terrain.
8. Explore a garden
Cool breezes, lovely plants, and for some, a seaside location. Top picks: Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, Boothbay; Thuya Garden, Northeast Harbor, and inland, the woodland garden at McLaughlin Garden.
9. Seek refuge by a waterfall
Nothing finer than soaking in a rock pool at the base of a waterfall, and Maine has plenty of them. Easily accessible ones include Small’s Falls, off Route 4 about 12 miles south of Rangeley, and Screw Auger Falls in Grafton Notch State Park. If you’re willing to hike in the heat, there are plenty more. A good bet is Poplar Falls, in Carrabassett Valley, which is off a side trail from the Maine Huts Trail and close to the Poplar Falls Hut (food and facilities).
10. Berries! Lobster! Ice cream!
My solution to the it’s-too-hot-to-cook dog days of summer: Lots of Maine food. Late July/early August means berry season, and depending upon where you are, possibilities include strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries. Farmstands and farmers markets can be found throughout Maine and there are also plentiful enterprising folks who set up roadside tables and honor bars. Find a coastal Maine lobster shack, not a fancy one, but a bare bones one where you can dress down in shorts and even go barefoot. Top it all off with a Maine-made ice cream. You’ll find stands statewide. Sure you can get outta-state products here, including those corporate Vermont flavors, but trust me, the locally made is far superior, creamier, tastier, and comes in even more creative flavors than national companies could even contemplate. Just ask locally where to find the best locally made ice cream. Every Mainah has a favorite. If you can’t find a small shop, look for one of the bigger Maine-made ice creams, such as Giffords and Round Top.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Please! If you’re traveling with your dog, DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES LEAVE HIM/HER IN YOUR VEHICLE ON A SUMMER DAY, and ESPECIALLY ON A HOT SUMMER DAY. Thank you. Consider this a PSA from my dogs, Bernie and Dooley.