What’s the latest with Maine travel? That’s a good question. If you’re from one of the exempted states, like Connecticut or New York, you can saunter into Maine without any further action. If you’re not, you really have to come from the land of positivity and determination to even think about it. That being said, you should be thinking about it (while constantly refreshing the “Keep Maine Healthy” rules and website, that is), since you know, without a morsel of a Whoopie Pie of doubt, that the vacation will be worth it, and that you have never needed it more.
After all, Maine was essentially built for the coronavirus pandemic: With endless cabins and cottages removed from towns and crowds — some so raw and rugged you can fulfill all your “Naked and Afraid” aspirations, others so glamorous and fabulous you’ll feel like you’re on the cover of Vogue Quarantine edition.
Just remember, wear your masks, and do as the electric road signs all over New England tell you to: STAY WICKED FAH APAHT.
33 Snapp’s Way, Castine; 207-326-8003
If you’re looking for a clean, sweet, and rustic property where you can enjoy the great outdoors, and have easy access to a gorgeous, “status” town (if you’re not quarantining), Castine Cottages is a terrific option. The friendly, family-owned property has six two-bedroom cottages overlooking Penobscot Bay, and with a private dock and beach. What’s nice about the bright and airy setup here is that the cottages are all side by side — far enough to socially distance, but close enough that you’re not isolated deep in the woods, if that’s not your thing. This makes it a great option for vacationing with multiple friends or families, without crossing any safety boundaries. Castine is a classically beautiful New England village, and a summertime utopia, even in these strange times. MarKel’s Bakehouse continues to serve the best sandwiches and baked goods in the area, with an “Evenings at the Watermark” pizza pop-up. Starting rate is $725 per week.
300 Goose Cove Road, Deer Isle; 207-348-6900
Speaking of the best food in Maine, Aragosta, in the strikingly beautiful Deer Isle, is a once-in-a-lifetime place for someone looking for a special restorative experience after all this anxiety and stress. Owned and run by Chef Devin Finigan — a culinary icon and James Beard award nominee — Aragosta, with its minimalist-chic waterfront cabins and delicious, whimsical and hyperlocal tasting menu, is the kind of place you will never forget, and likely dream about forevermore. The location has seven cottages and seven suites, breakfast and dinner available onsite, and beaching and hiking for days — which means, you truly do not have to leave, and why would you? While it’s kid-friendly, the location is also incredibly romantic. (Remember romance?) Starting rate is $280/night, including breakfast.
OCEANFRONT CAMPING AT REACH KNOLLS
670 Reach Road, Brooklin; 207-359-5555
Just down the street from Aragosta, in Brooklin, is a gem of a primitive camping site with an ultra-welcoming owner who will help you check your problems at the check-in desk. Set on the dramatic shores of Eggemoggin Reach, this is a quiet, unpretentious, and dirt cheap hideaway to unplug and recenter. You’ll need your own tent or RV (no bigger than 38 feet) , of course, and the simple, nostalgic vibe is the opposite of “glamping.” There’s a coffee pot in the main office, wild strawberries everywhere, and a dramatic, rocky beach with the most luminescent shells for kids to collect. Tent sites start at $29/RV $39.
365 Bremen Road, Waldoboro; 207-832-1602
Farther South, at the cozy and cool Tops’l Farm in Waldoboro, you’ll find 85 acres of camping, camping-light, A-frame cabins, cottages, and a loose, contact-free way of life complete with premade picnics and homemade marshmallows. Tops’l is a popular, increasingly hip, place to visit because of its enchanting coast, farm, and forest trifecta effect. Weekend stays, which are partially inclusive, with some meals and activities, start at around $490 for two nights.
40 Bowery Beach Road, Cape Elizabeth; 207-799-3134
As for staying at proper hotels, everyone has their own comfort level, and checking in to a “real” hotel with common areas and cardio gyms, might be outside of that comfort zone. That said, many hotels are taking their own precautions, on top of the state regulations, to make all guests feel as safe as possible. At the paradisal Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth, some of the Inn’s new protocols include touchless curbside check in, enhanced housekeeping services, and strict social distancing at the pool and restaurants. There is daily yoga on the big seaside lawn, so you can distance, breathe fresh air, and enjoy the ocean view. The spa is now open, and liquid relaxation at the bar is allowed and encouraged. We are living in a global pandemic, after all.
Alas, it’s not all doom and gloom. “Most people are trying really, really hard to keep each other safe,” said Commissioner Heather Johnson of the Maine Department of Economic & Community Development. “It’s certainly been difficult — trying to balance public health and economic well-being; but we hope that this shared sense of responsibility toward your neighbor, toward human beings in general, reminds us of the kind of caring and considerate people we are here in Maine.”
Alyssa Shelasky can be reached at Shelasky@gmail.com.