Maine isn’t known as “Vacationland” for nothing. With endless miles of rugged coastlines and protected bays begging to be explored, the state has long been the destination of choice for former presidents, gilded age tycoons, and artists alike. The Midcoast region, which spans from Brunswick to Winterport, has been my own family’s summer retreat for generations. The severity of the rocky island landscape and cold, snowy winters have inspired writers to create some of the most quintessential American literature—including Maine locals Stephen King, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, just to mention a few. In the summer, the oceans get warmer, the wind smoother, and the towns burst to life with blueberry festivals, historic Schooner regattas, and arguably the best lobster in the world. While only a short distance from Boston, it feels worlds away.
Longing to experience the rustic charms of Midcoast Maine for yourself? I’ve compiled a few of my own favorite places—from galleries and shops to the ultimate lobster shack—to get you started on your very own adventure.
Splitting their time between France and Maine, Sharon and Paul Mrozinski bring the best of the Provençal brocante to the island of Vinalhaven each year to stock their store, Marston House, with a selection of French antiques, textiles, and clothing. Getting to Vinalhaven by ferry is easy; plan to spend an afternoon exploring the island’s untouched walking paths and a small main street with shops and markets.
Open daily 1 – 5 p.m. or by appointment, (207) 504-4990, marstonhouse.com
JESSIE TOBIAS DESIGNS
This delightful design shop carries table and homewares by Maine artists and craftspeople as well as a great selection of coast-appropriate clothing and skincare. And if you happen to become so infatuated with the area that you’re compelled to buy a little Maine cottage of your own, Tobias also offers interior design services. (It wouldn’t be the first time a visitor can’t bear to leave!)
Open Wednesday – Monday and by chance on Tuesday, jessietobiasdesign.com
DOWNEAST ART & ANTIQUE FAIR
Benefiting the George Stevens Academy, this antiques and art fair is not strictly Midcoast, but the short drive downeast and is more than worth it. This year’s star-studded guest lineup isn’t to be missed, with names including Nina Campbell, Gil Schafer, and FREDERIC’s own contributing editor Michael Diaz-Griffith, who will be hosting a lecture on collecting and signing copies of his brand-new book, The New Antiquarians. Pro tip: Don’t miss Withington & Company Antiques—a favorite of Bunny Williams and Martha Stewart.
August 1 – 4, tickets available at georgestevensacademy.org
CENTER FOR MAINE CONTEMPORARY ART
Founded in 1952 in Rockport, CMCA serves as an essential refuge and support network for local and visiting artists, including the likes of Alex Katz, Louise Bourgeois, Fairfield Porter, Alan McGee, and Lois Dodd. In its most recent incarnation, in a building designed by award-winning New York–based architect Toshiko Mori, CMCA has become a gathering place for emerging talent and contemporary giants to join forces in bringing Maine artists to the forefront of the market.
Open daily until 5 p.m., cmcanow.com
FARNSWORTH ART MUSEUM
Maine has long captivated artists, drawing them in from across the country to be inspired by its rugged coastline and clear winter skies. The Farnsworth has been the archivist of that rich artistic history since its inception. Notably, the museum is dedicated to showing the work of the Wyeth family, who vacationed in the state for generations, with Andrew Wyeth and his wife Betsy establishing their own compound on Allen Island in the 1980s. The museum is also the protector of the Olsen House, famously depicted in Andrew Wyeth’s 1948 painting Christina’s World, now hanging in the MoMA in New York. Currently on view is a not-to-be-missed show of Andrew Wyeth and Edward Hopper’s depictions of Rockland. Don’t miss the Robert Indiana LOVE (1996) sculpture sitting in the courtyard.
Open daily 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., farnsworthmuseum.org
PETER RALSTON GALLERY
Since I was a child, this image of sheep being transported to Allen island for the Betsy Wyeth has loomed large; my grandmother, a devout lover of Maine (and an owner of sheep), had the photograph hanging in her home. Now, knowing its photographer, Peter Ralston—the unofficial documenter of Maine’s enduring capacity to delight and amaze—the power is tenfold. Don’t miss his gallery for a chance to find the ultimate vacation souvenir you’ll cherish for decades to come.
Open Tuesday to Sunday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. or by appointment, ralstongallery.com
This little jewel tucked into the Rockport bay is helmed by accomplished chef and food writer Sara Jenkins. Offering a diverse Mediterranean menu made with local ingredients in an open-plan kitchen as well as a selection of wines, treats and cookbooks, Jenkins’s spot is the perfect location to enjoy a meal overlooking the harbor. Nina June also hosts a plethora of guest chefs all summer who bring different cuisines to the small seaside town.
Open daily for dinner 5:30 – 9:30 p.m., ninajunerestaurant.com
MCLOON’S LOBSTER SHACK
Spruce Head Island
The requisite Maine lobster roll tastes that much better when you’re sitting outside with a view of the bay and a pleasant sea breeze. Not just a destination for crustaceans, McLoon’s also serves top-notch clam chowder, crab, and even has its own ice cream stand scooping Maine-made Gifford’s ice cream. My go-to order: fried clams as an appetizer and Maine Deer Tracks for dessert.
Open daily 11:30 a.m. – 7 p.m., mcloonslobster.com
A short ferry ride from Rockland on the island of North Haven, Nebo Lodge has one of the best restaurants in Maine and is the perfect retreat to recharge and nourish your mind and body. Swimming, boating, and long ramblings around the island are the best antidote to the stresses of modern life. Enjoy your morning coffee in a comfy wicker chair on their porch or take it down to the water for a morning dip. This is the ultimate romantic Maine getaway.
For rates and availability, visit nebolodge.com
Opened in 1901 by a young widower, Whitehall has a storied past as host to a U.S. president, numerous dignitaries, and was the location at which the enigmatic poet, Edna St. Vincent Millay, was discovered after reciting her poem Renascence. The poem, which begins “All I could see from where I stood / Was three long mountains and a wood; / I turned and looked another way, / And saw three islands in a bay” has been the unofficial slogan since its first utterance. The inn, just a short walk from the center of town, has since been painstakingly renovated for the modern traveler. Don’t miss summer game nights on the patio.
For rates and availability, visit larkhotels.com