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Great Escapes Maine

April 2017 | view this story as a .pdf

Take the time to unwind on one of these five fantastic getaways. Vacationland is calling.

From Staff & Wire Reports

Into the Wild

APR17-Vacation-StoryTrade in your cell phone for a paddle this summer, and let yourself go with the flow on a trip with Canoe the Wild. “Everyone is so busy, so plugged in. The Allagash River is a great place to get away from it all,” says owner and guide Dave Conley. If seclusion is what you seek, “It’s one of the few eastern rivers that can be paddled for a week or longer without coming into contact with modern civilization.”

Canoe the Wild offers 4-8 day trips (costing between $795 and $1195 per person) on the river famously traveled by Henry David Thoreau in 1857. Conley provides all the necessary equipment, including river bags, sleeping pads, tents, canoes, paddles, and food. “A guided experience takes all the question marks out of [the trip]. People show up, and we take care of the rest.”

Each morning, after sunrise on the river and a breakfast of organic coffee, buttermilk pancakes, and Maine blueberries, the paddling begins. Guests paddle in pairs from the late morning to the early afternoon (4-6 hours), so before you set out on this adventure, make sure you’re prepared for the all-day endurance. A lunch stop breaks up the day, allowing guests time to swim, take pictures, explore nearby scenery, and, if they bring their own tackle, fish the river for brook trout. If you’re lucky, you may even catch sight of the Allagash’s largest inhabitants. “I’ve awakened to moose running through the campsite.” His trick to spotting one? “You can smell them before you see them.”

If Maine’s rugged industrial history piques your interest, certain campsites provide a unique glimpse into the Allagash’s logging past. “At the Cunliffe Depot campsite, we’ll see two relics out in the woods: gas- and steam-powered logging machines.”

Depending on the duration of the trip, guests will paddle between 34 and 83 miles of the river. Immersion like this makes you hungry. “We provide locally-raised rib eye steaks from Hodgdon and red deer filets raised in Linneus,” says Conley. If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll enjoy the biscuits and desserts baked in Dutch cookware. “All the cooking is done over an open fire.” By nightfall, sit back and “enjoy the stars, the moon sitting on the lake, and the crackling fire.”

Island Dreaming

Hop onto your private chartered helicopter at Bangor Airport and take a quick swoop across the Acadian coastline until you reach Penobscot Bay. There, just a stone’s throw from Castine yet somehow in a world of its own, lies the emerald-green splash that is Nautilus Island. Welcome to paradise.

The 38-acre island balances old-world charm with modern luxury. On one hand is the century-old guest cottage, the authentic working sugar shack, and the tiny pergola overlooking a lily pond. On the other, it’s pure James Bond: a sleek infinity pool, a luxury spa, and a buttercream-yellow villa.

A team of live-in staff ensures you won’t have to lift a finger during your stay. Wake to a gourmet al fresco breakfast on the wraparound stone terrace atop a bluff overlooking the ocean. Get your blood pumping with a short game of tennis, a stroll along the many miles of island trails, or a simple spell in the spa. And there’s no risk of cabin fever–the island’s boat captain will take you aboard the 60-foot classic sailing yacht Guildive for a whip around the bay or a day trip to Castine.

Arriving back at the island, you’ll want to stroll along the mussel-scattered shoreline until you reach the ancient boathouse-cum-bar for a cold drink from its fully-stocked cellar. As dusk settles, make your way to the fully-equipped outdoor kitchen as the light from the house and the old-fashioned lampposts spills across the tiered gardens. The staff will prepare a feast of seafood harvested off the shores of the Nautilus while you relax with a cocktail beside the infinity pool.

If you can bear to share your Shangri-la, there’s room for up to 18 guests. And with weekly rates starting at $25,000, a few other wallets may be welcome.

Vacationland On A Dime

You don’t need to splash the cash to enjoy your dream vacation. After all, few luxury resorts can compare to the natural beauty of Maine’s wilderness.

The Maine Huts & Trails Association owns a hut with a personality all its own in a far-flung corner of the state. If you’re looking for wilderness, Grand Falls Hut at the northernmost point of the organization’s trail system is way out there, Bub.

It’s certainly our most remote hut,” says marketing director Kate Boehner. Situated on the banks of the Dead River, Grand Falls Hut is a haven for fishing, kayaking, and canoeing. “You can paddle right up to the hut,” says Boehner. “And we provide a number of boats for guests to hire during the summer, so you don’t need to bring your own.” Don’t let the river’s name put you off. “It’s not as creepy as it sounds! The ‘Dead’ part refers to its incredibly slow current.”

If a ‘hut’ conjures images of intimate cabins, think again. Grand Falls sleeps 32 guests, 28 in shared accommodation and 4 in private double rooms. The interior is modern yet simple. What you may lack in seclusion in the bunk rooms you can find in the sprawling trail system, expansive woodlands, and winding waterways. A short day hike leads you to the hut’s namesake, the Grand Falls waterfall, to watch the water surge and tumble over the drop. Trout and salmon are abundant in the Dead River, so pack your rod and lures.

Between late June and early September, you’ll be joined by live-in staff who prepare three meals daily and lead paddling groups. In the off-season you can rent out the entire hut for half the normal price–only $300 per night.

“It’s not your typical vacation. It’s not for everybody,” says Boehner. “But Grand Falls is one of those places that you’ll never forget.”

The Maine Classic

If there’s anything more ‘Maine’ than a vacation in a lighthouse, we’ll eat our Bean boots. The Keepers House in Pemaquid Point, perched beside the light tower atop the granite shores of Pemaquid State Park, is a getaway for two with a twist.

Commissioned by John Quincy Adams in 1827, Pemaquid Light was the first lighthouse to be featured on a piece of U.S. currency, appearing on the Maine State Quarter in 2003. The views from the inside are just as picture-perfect. “You have breathtaking wide open vistas of the ocean from the bedroom, kitchen, and the deep front porch,” says Tanya Blodgett of Newcastle Vacation Rentals. “The kitchen looks out over the lighthouse tower, and there’s constant activity on the water–lobster boats, day cruises, and sailing vessels–to watch.”

Guests have free access to The Light Tower during open hours and the Fisherman’s Museum on the first floor. And if all that oceanfront gazing has you itching to get out on the water, Blodgett recommends “taking the Hardy Boat from New Harbor to our nearby islands to watch the Atlantic puffins feed and raise their young.” 

Finding Zen

Peace and quiet is a practiced art at Rolling Meadows Yoga and Meditation Retreat in Brooks, Maine, where guests enter a “social silence” for the entirety of the retreat–no talking, reading, or using cell phones. “As they let go of distraction and turn inward, we notice people becoming more quiet, still, and at peace,” says Surya-Chandra Das, who runs the retreat with his wife Patricia Sunyana Brown.

The “light-filled, south-facing 1840 farmhouse” accommodates 11 guests of all skill and ability in pastoral single, double, and triple bedrooms. Rates go from $650 to $1,250 per person.

Beyond Rolling Meadows, the couple leads retreats in India, Costa Rica, Italy, Guatemala, and Mexico, but Maine is the only U.S. outpost. “There’s spirituality here,” they say.