The web is such a wonderful place to meet like-minded people. One search leading to another, I discovered the travel & design blog designtripper one day and immediately felt a connection with Meghan. It’s so inspirational, whether you plan on leaving your desk for a trip or not. A must Bookmark! Every summer, Meghan, her husband and 2 sons leave their hometown of Detroit for the great outdoors of Maine. The quintessential American vacation to me: lobster rolls, immense beaches and sky as big as the eternity. I discovered Maine in my early 20’s when I was studying in Boston and promised I’d be back one day with my (future) family. With all these wonderful tips from Meghan, it is time to pack and play in Maine. Thank you very much Meghan.
Meet the designtripper family:
I’m the only girl in a family of three boys—my husband, Ryan, and our two sons, Cass (5) and Ollie (2). We live in Detroit, one of the most inspiring and creative cities I know. My husband owns a small real estate development business, and when I’m not running around with my kids, I keep a blog, designtripper.com, and do a bit of freelance design and travel magazine writing on the side. We love to travel, and especially love road trips and any place that has skee ball.
LOVE in MAINE
The smell of the salt air. The rocky coast. The lack of chains and fierce independent spirit. Rustic, simple living and local everything, but it’s not a trend—Mainers have been living like this for ages and they’re gloriously set in their ways. Plus, the minute you’re outside one of the populated coastal towns, it’s all about nature.
At the place we stay in Popham Beach, the natural coast—without so much as a single lobster shack along the coastline for miles—the evergreen trees come right up to the long, sandy stretch of beach. The tidal pools are filled with all kinds of ocean life that my kids like to chase and collect in buckets, and the craggy rocks make for such great search-and-explore discovery missions. We’re also attracted to Maine because it’s not too hot, the local food is healthy and so fresh in the summer, and if we’re being honest, I don’t feel as nervous about sharks when I’m swimming in the cold ocean (whether that’s rational or not).
DO in MAINE
We definitely make a few choice excursions, but this trip is fundamentally about slowing down and enjoying our immediate and immensely beautiful surroundings. We go to the beach every morning to build sandcastles, jump in the waves, look for shells and explore the tidal pools.
Every afternoon, we take a long family nap. Early evenings, we’re either hanging out on a blanket while Ryan grills, taking a hike or exploring a nearby small town.
Because I cover travel so often for my job, this is one trip that we purposefully turn inward on. No internet connection, no guidebooks, no neurotic researching. We don’t even have cell phone reception from our house. That said, we have discovered at least a few compelling reasons to leave our peaceful little nature compound…
Whale Watching. My five-year-old is obsessed with whales and sharks (all animals really—land and sea), so the obligatory whale-watching tour is a must. You cannot imagine how excited he gets. We go to Boothbay Harbor to catch a boat – there are tons of different companies.
Fort Popham. One night after dinner, we head over to Fort Popham around dusk—an incomplete, crumbling fort with an absolutely perfect perch at the Kennebec River. With luck, we still have time to tour the fort before climbing the rocks and sitting on the pier to watch the lobster boats come in. It’s such a quiet, pretty place, and it strikes me as only slightly ridiculous that this is one of our big outings. Yes, that’s how exciting our Maine vacation is! And we like it that way.
Wiscasset. This is such a cute little town to walk around with a baby strapped to your back. I love wandering off the main commercial streets and fantasizing about living in one of the beautiful old homes.
Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor. We love to hike, and Acadia National Park is magic. It’s worth every minute of the three-hour drive from our farmhouse. The misty views of the ocean from the mountains, blueberry picking… it just doesn’t get any better. Even the simple, family-friendly trails are stunning.
EAT in MAINE
On the way to our house, we stop at a market in Portland, which is about an hour and 15 minutes south of our destination, and load up on some groceries to get us through the first few days. We use the grill in our house obsessively, grilling almost everything we eat: fish, shrimp, vegetables. We supplement with excursions into Bath to collect organic, locally grown fruit and vegetables from roadside stands, and make several obligatory restaurant visits every year:
Pizza at Cabin. It’s not that the pizza is out of this world (it’s slightly above average), it’s that this old-timer’s port-side pizza joint pulls off its nautical theme without a bit of irony or cliché. It’s exactly what you’d expect from a place that still reels in all the local sailors and shipbuilders. Our kids love it here.
Lobster at The Lobster House in Small Point. This is the place Cass cracked his first lobster tail. It will always be our family lobster joint of choice. The food is perfect—a small menu of all the Maine basics, and they don’t disappoint. And for toddlers who can’t sit still long enough for adults to get through a frosty mug of Allegash beer, there’s plenty of beautiful space outside to roam around and watch the small wooden fishing boats come in.
Lobster roll at Reds. We’re more of a lobster family than a lobster roll one. But if you can beat the line that queues up by 11:30 every single day, do not miss trying a stuffed roll at the legendary Reds in Wiscassat.
Brown’s Ice Cream, York. I spent every summer of my childhood vacationing in Maine, and the one place that’s just as amazing as I remember it: Brown’s Ice Cream, in the shadow of Nubble Light House. Grab cones and head over to the giant rocks to admire the great beauty.
Street & Company, Portland. A few years ago, Ryan and I had one of the best meals of our lives at Street & Co. We keep threatening to go back, but with two kiddos, it hasn’t happened yet.
SLEEP in MAINE
There are tons of old seaside hotels and quaint b&bs in Maine, but our preference is to rent a house for a week. That way, we can make our own food (and the food in Maine is so fresh and delicious!) and have plenty of room to spread out with kids. On The Water In Maine and Rentals Maine both offer lots of beautiful options along the coast and nearby islands. Or, if you prefer an in-town option, they don’t get much cuter than Wiscasset. Stay at the Marston House, which is situated in a carriage house just behind a fantastic antique shop of the same name.
SHOP in MAINE
We don’t do much shopping outside food markets, which admittedly, we get pretty excited about, and some antique shop trolling along Highway One between the Yorks and Kennebunk. This year, I’m hoping to make an afternoon trip to Portland to visit the Angela Adams store and studio, and I always hit the LL Bean outlet in Freeport. It’s a matter of principle, really.