Looking for unique Maine destinations this fall? There is an abundance of choices throughout the Pine Tree State to explore. ‘Hidden gems’ along the coastline, up in the mountains or through vast forestlands await the most intrepid travelers. Discover nature, breathtaking panoramic vistas, and find small-town comfort where you can unwind and rest, wine and dine. Here are 5 such places ‘off the beaten path’ in Maine to discover this fall or anytime:
Borestone Mountain Audubon Sanctuary
Located near the southern end of the Appalachian Trail’s “100-Mile Wilderness,” Borestone Mountain Audubon Sanctuary in Elliotsville, just northeast of Monson, is truly a ‘hidden gem.’ The Sanctuary features a network of trails that wind through old growth forests, uncut for more than a century, and rise up to nearly 2,000 feet. The hike is moderate to strenuous but well worth it. Borestone has two peaks that offer spectacular 360-degree views of the mountains and lakes of central Maine. An access road leads from the parking lot to the base trail and visitor’s center at the edge of the first pond, one of three at the base of the mountain. There’s an abundance of wildlife throughout the are, but keep an eye out for a glimpse of the silver-streaked ‘Borestone Fox.’
STAY: The Inn, a small boutique hotel located within The Mill, a newly renovated historic mill in downtown Dover-Foxcroft, overlooking the Piscataquis River, 18 miles south of Monson.
EAT: While in Monson, the Monson General Store, restaurant and deli, features locally sourced foods and local artisan products. Enjoy craft beer at Bissell Brothers Three Rivers taproom in Milo, east of Dover-Foxcroft. Check their website for hours.
Fernald’s Neck Preserve
Fernald’s Neck Preserve in Lincolnville spreads over most of a large peninsula that juts out from the north end of Megunticook Lake. Hike through 4 miles of easy-to-moderate trails dominated by thick stands of mature pine and hardwoods. The Preserve’s trail network has nearly 3 miles of shoreline, swimming access, and rocky and hilly terrain. Wildlife watching is very good along the edge of the Great Bog. Along the lakeshore, watch for bald eagles and other animals that frequent the 1,300-acre lake. Be sure to check out Balance Rock, a large boulder that seems to be balanced precariously on the bedrock.
STAY: For a memorable experience, indulge yourself at the historic Camden Harbour Inn, one of New England’s most exclusive boutique hotels, and duly recognized as one of the World’s Best by Travel and Leisure Magazine.
BOOK A ROOM THIS FALL!
EAT: If you stay at the Camden Harbour Inn, you don’t even need to leave the property to get an outstanding dining experience. Natalie’s offers the best of New England’s seasonal bounty with the innovation and creativity of award-winning chefs.
FIND A TABLE!
Carter Nature Preserve
The Carter Nature Preserve in Blue Hill offers 3 unique sections of trails to wander through and explore. From the small parking area at the bridge on Morgan Bay, access trails that loop through fields, forests, and along shorelines. Dogs are welcome along the shoreline part of the trail, where it eventually reconnects with the rest of the trail, at a cove, but not in the forested part of the Preserve. This is an easy hike and ideal for birders. A larger parking area is further down Cross Road, across from the Furth/Talalay trailhead.
STAY: Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, you’ll find comfort at the sprawling, yet intimate Barncastle Inn and Restaurant on South Street (and exceptional wood-fired pizza).
EAT: With intimate tables and cozy fireplaces, find very good, locally sourced American cuisine at Arborvine in Blue Hill.
Pleasant Mountain off of US 302 in Bridgton, is southern Maine’s tallest mountain at 2,006 feet. It offers an extensive trail network of over 10 miles with a variety of moderate-to-strenuous day hikes. The summit overlooks Moose Pond and has commanding views of the White Mountains to the west and spectacular views of the lakes and mountains to the east and north. There are 6 well-marked trails to chose from, abundant wildlife to view, and beautiful forest land to hike through. If you find your way to Pleasant Mountain from October through December, wear blaze orange for hunting in the area is allowed in season.
STAY: Noble House Inn, on Highland Road in Bridgton, voted Top Maine Inn of the Year is located in downtown Bridgton and offers luxury and family suites, and gorgeous guest rooms with Jacuzzi tubs to soak your long hike away.
EAT: Visit Standard GastroPub on Main St in Bridgton, serving lunch and dinner with a healthy selection of craft beers.
Swan Island is a 1,775-acre wildlife management area that sits at the head of Merrymeeting Bay on the Kennebec River. Situated between Richmond and Dresden, the area is managed by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife. Swan Island is one of the crown jewels of the Kennebec River Valley and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There are no motorized vehicles allowed, with the exception of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife vehicles. The Department offers guided tours, but visitors are encouraged to bike or hike along the gravel road and hike the side trails. Abundant wildlife and picturesque views greet hikers at every turn. Day users may use the fire pits and grills in the campground.
STAY: The historic Daniel Hotel, just off of Main Street in Brunswick, on the doorstep of Bowdoin College, offers luxurious guest rooms and comfort for the weary traveler.
EAT: Load up at Annabella’s Bakery & Café at the corner of River Rd and on Main St in Richmond offers a mouthwatering assortment of quiches, sandwiches, burgers, scones, muffins, and cookies for you to indulge in. Conveniently located right by the access ferry to Swan Island.