Every week we'll be asking you to come with us to some of our favorite small towns and cities—and we'll show you the places, secret spots, and nooks we love.
Today: When it comes to coastal Maine, lobster rolls aren't even the half of it (but they're a lot of it).
After six hours of driving through Maine, I had consumed three donuts, my fair share of lobster rolls, a blur of requisite car snacks, uncountable ice cream cones, and a pint of deep-fried clams. It was not the time to be eating light—my boyfriend and I had strategized our weekend trip to Maine with a carefully mapped selection of local favorites, return-worthy lobster rolls, and breathtaking views from our road trip the year before. We snacked, shopped, and chatted our way up to our destination: a forest-covered Bed and Breakfast in Bucksport, a small town near Acadia National Park in northeast Maine. Here are the places that made us pull over on the way up—and detour on the road back down—coastal Maine:
Left: The pick-up window at The Clam Shack in Kennebunk; right: Their lobster roll
The food starts about thirty minutes north of the New Hampshire border (let's call this section "breakfast"):
- Congdon"s (1090 Post Road, Wells): This unassuming breakfast spot about thirty minutes into Maine is an apt introduction to the state's food. But don't be distracted by the menu—head straight to the donut counter at the back of the restaurant—it's what they've been known for since they opened in 1945.
- The Clam Shack (2 Western Avenue, Kennebunk): Also known as the Home of the First Lobster Roll of the Day, this shack is perched over a bridge and is said to be a favorite of the Bush family, who have a house (and museum) up the road. The lobster roll, which comes with fresh-picked lobster meat (sold by their adjoining shop) is served with a twist: cold on a toasted hamburger bun with a hearty schmear of butter and mayonnaise with a wedge of lemon—to lighten things up a bit.
A self service farm stand just outside of Kennebunkport
- Rococo Artisan Ice Cream (6 Spring Street, Kennebunkport): There are a lot of ice cream places in Maine, like more Starbucks-in-Manhattan a lot, so it takes something special for one to stand out. This spot, which caught our eye for its unique flavor combinations (roasted red pepper, sweet avocado with cayenne, and red wine to name a few), earned an additional stop on the drive back down.
- Five Acre Farm Stand (2 Bryant Lane, Kennebunkport): The best part of this farmstand isn't the fresh pies, the seasonal produce, or the array of canned goods for sale, it's the fact that it works on the honor system. No one actually mans the stand—there's just a box for money and a journal to write purchases in, which, by the way, should include one pie.
- Goose Rocks Beach (Kings Highway): Because eating is exhausting, take a break and hop out of the car for a few minutes to walk along the beach. This one is three miles wide and beautiful—and I've never seen more than three people on it.
The owner of Portland Trading Co. in Portland, Maine shows off his beautiful store.
Drive north for about 35 minutes, then check out Portland:
- Central Provisions (414 Fore Street, Portand): If you get there during the day, the restaurant upstairs might be closed, so head downstairs to the bar and order yourself some homemade corn nuts and an IPA to wash them down.
- The Holy Donut (194 Park Avenue, Portland): Home of the surprisingly delicious potato donut—just make sure you get there early, or they might be sold out.
- Portland Trading Co. (157 Middle Street, Portland): Kazeem Lawal is the unmissable, larger-than-life owner of this beautifully curated store. This past visit, I walked in intending to spend five minutes looking around but instead spent an hour speaking to Kazeem about his products (his passion for small makers is contagious), his love of Portland, and his favorite lobster roll in town (which, by the way is Hugo"s).
- Duckfat (43 Middle Street, Portland): If you're craving a sit-down lunch, head down the road to this small sandwich shop run by a James Beard Award-winning chef. Plan out the next leg of the trip over poutine, a duck confit panini, and a milkshake.
- Mt. Desert Island Ice Cream (51 Exchange St., Portland): Maine knows a thing or two about ice cream—and this one combines a creamy base with unique flavors. Grab a scoop of The Dude, a White Russian homage to the Coen brothers' film, on your way out of town.
- Big Sky Bread Company (536 Deering Avenue, Portland): Stop in and grab a cranberry English muffin bread at the main bakery or one of the several coffee shops in town that stock them—our Managing Editor Kenzi would consider it sacrilege not to.
Left: The pick-up window at Red's Eats in Wiscasset; right: The breakers at Acadia National Park
Pit stops for the final stretch:
- Red"s Eats (41 Water Street, Wiscasset): It's a good thing that the road from Portland to Red's Eats is an hour long—it's just enough time to digest your snacks then dive into my personal favorite lobster roll. Not only is the lobster overflowing from a buttered and toasted hot dog bun—and unbelievably delicious—but the crab roll and fried clams are not to be missed. Get all three—I call this the Holy Trinity of Maine. But be aware that I'm not the only one to think this—this is by far the most famous stand on Route 1 and the long lines can reflect that.
- Rock Paper Scissors (68 Main Street, Wiscasset): Before you waddle back into your car, cross the street from Red's and head into this small store with beautiful craft and paper goods.
- Long Grain Restaurant, Francine Bistro, and Chase"s Daily: These are a few of the many worthwhile dinner places to stop on your way to your final destination—that is, if you're still hungry (if not, there's always the trip back down!).
Left: A "light" breakfast at William"s Pond Lodge; right: A quiet place to read (or canoe) at the lodge.
Once you get to where you're going:
There are a ton of beautiful bed and breakfasts all along coastal Maine, but I stand by my favorite, a "Bed, Breakfast, and Dessert" called William"s Pond Lodge. The two-building lodge has three bedrooms and, though off the beaten path, is well worth the trip. Its proprietor, an unbelievably kind man named David, serves unforgettable breakfasts (garlic-seared scallops and eggs; German pancakes with local trout on the side) and desserts (this is where the fresh produce from the Five Acre Farm Stand comes in handy). And, if you ask nicely, he'll give you a tour of the most beautiful, often-missed parts of Acadia National Park—for the price of lobster roll, of course.
See all of our picks on the map below. Where do you love to go in Maine? Leave your suggestions for us in the comments!
Photos by Leslie Stephens