Warm weather is finally here and I’m thinking about doing a few weekend trips to some of my favorite local destinations. There was a time when I simply was not interested in visiting any place within the U.S. With my focus on Caribbean islands, Europe and other exotic places, I now realize that I overlooked local gems right in my own backyard.
My mind shift started to occur several years ago when I took a photography workshop in Bar Harbor. I was inspired by the look of the wild, untouched coastline. The well used boats, buoys and lobster traps that dot the coastline reminded me that outside my comfy office job, there is a whole different way of life within 6 hours of where I live.
The beauty and culture of Maine ranks right up there with any exotic place outside the U.S.
Anyone who loves nature and culture will love Maine 24 hours. It really has something for everyone. If you can stand getting up before the crack of dawn, I can promise you that will images etched in your memory (or memory card) for a lifetime. During the day, there are plenty of things to do from walking to strenuous hiking to going out on the water. And the night sky in Maine is spectacular. I saw the Milky Way for the first time in my life in Maine and I realized how tiny and insignificant I was in the scheme of the whole universe. Breathtaking.
The Beautiful Coastline.
My first incredible coastline view comes from a small lighthouse not too far from Rockport, Maine. I will be the first to say that I am not a morning person. Don’t even speak to me until I have had my Dunkin Donuts coffee. This was one of these occasions where I rode in the car in silence, angry with the world that I was up so early. And then we arrive at this location and I see this. How can you not be inspired?
I’m kicking myself now that I never bothered to find out the name of this lighthouse. What I love about this image is the silhouette of the trees against the colorful sky. If you have ever photographed a sunrise, it happens a lot faster than you would ever expect. I am certainly not fast when it comes to setting up my tripod and determining the correct settings. We got lost on our way to this lighthouse so by the time we arrived, you could see hints of orange glow on the horizon. I had to run; find a composition and get set up within 5 minutes. The fact that I got this image – in focus – was a miracle.
The Portland Freedom Trail
I only spent a few hours in Portland. And instead of shopping or eating lunch, I got completely side tracked with the hidden history of Portland.
The Portland Freedom Trail (as opposed to the Boston Freedom Trail which focuses on the American Revolutionary War) was part of the Underground Railroad. This vast network of people helped fugitive slaves escape to the North, sometimes as far as Canada. Many individuals, black and white, helped a few hundred slaves escape each year from 1810-1850.
The markers throughout the city are the proof that the homes in and around downtown Portland helped hide these runaway slaves and find freedom. Unfortunately, I do not have any pictures of the Portland Freedom Trail. I will certainly rectify that on my next trip.
Food, Food, Food.
I am not a food photographer. But when you are having a lobster roll with blueberry soda, you have to photograph it.
Maine has zillions of lobster shacks/pounds that dot the coastline. Every single one of them will offer a lobster roll.
The general idea of a lobster roll is that you pile up as much lobster as you can on a grilled hot dog roll. The lobster will either be served cold, with a little bit of mayo or hot, with a little bit of butter. The key here is not too much mayo or butter. It will ruin your lobster roll.
Eating your lobster roll can be a bit challenging, so be prepared to get messy. If you have a good lobster roll, it will be stuffed to the brim with lobster. You can tackle your roll any way you see fit, but typically it’s eaten like you would eat a hot dog. If you are eating at a seafood shack, it’s acceptable to use your fingers to scoop up any bits of lobster that escaped your mouth the first time and shove it in. If you are at a restaurant, you might want to try using a fork for lobster overflow.
Lobster Roll Recommendations
Since seafood shacks can be found in abundance around the coastline and all of them are good, I will recommend 2 of my favorite restaurants for Lobster Rolls:
1) Alisson’s, which in addition to delicious lobster rolls, makes incredible lobster bisque, in Kennebunkport and
2) Jordan’s in Bar Harbor which has the best blueberry soda.
Acadia and Bar Harbor.
The first national park that I ever visited was Acadia National Park which is located near the city of Bar Harbor. All the beauty of Maine comes together in Acadia National Park. The park encompasses the coast, ponds and mountains. It has exceptional hiking trails. My favorite is Jordan Pond Shore Trail which skims the rocky shoreline. I’ve never completed the trail because it is so scenic, I stop every few feet or so to photograph a new angle.
The National Park system has a great road system. Loop Road allows you to drive around the park, stopping at some of the more popular locations such as Thunder Hole and Sand Beach. It’s a good way to get yourself oriented in the park.
The sun’s first rays of dawn to touch the United States in Maine. You can be the first to see the sun rise in the U.S. atop Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park (along with 1000 of your closest friends). If you are planning to go to Cadillac Mountain, get there an hour before sunrise. Even if you think you are going to be the first ones there, you won’t be.
Whale Watching in Bar Harbor
There really is something amazing about seeing a whale surface and exhale. I would highly recommend whale watching. My only tip here is that if you get seasick – even if you think you may get seasick – buy the bands you can put around your wrists. There were plenty of people on our boat who wished they had.
Whale Watching from Bar Harbor
One of my favorite lighthouses in Maine is Bass Harbor. It sits 56 feet above the water atop a very rocky cliff within Acadia National Park. The lighthouse was placed there to assist sailors pass through the treacherous Bass Harbor Bar, and into the safety of Blue Hill Bay.
The reason I love Bass Harbor so much is because of what it took to get this featured photograph. To get this image, I had to climb down the 56 feet of rocks to get to the water – with a camera, backpack and tripod. I made it down without slipping, sliding, tripping or breaking any bones. That is pretty impressive for me. Once I got to the bottom, I realized high tide was coming in. So I had a limited period of time to get the shot before a wave hit me. I don’t always work well under pressure, but I was able to get what I think is a really beautiful shot. The only thing left to do was get myself out of there without getting in anyone else’s shot or knocking over their tripod. It was not pretty.
Bottom line, I love Maine. As I go through my photos, I can’t wait to go back. Hopefully these photos will inspire you to visit Maine as well.