May 31, 2012

Listen, do you want to know a secret?

Some of Maine's best summer spots aren't necessarily the best known. Luckily, we're willing to share the ones we know.

From staff reports

Chances are, you've heard about Old Orchard Beach, Fort Williams and Acadia National Park. All are top tourist draws, and for good reason.

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Birch Point State Park is a little harder to find – and therefore a lot less crowded than many beaches in Maine in the summer months.

Courtesy photo

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But there's more to Maine during the summer than the tourist draws. Much more. From experiencing fine cuisine on a picnic table and relaxing on a secluded beach to munching on blueberries while taking in a breathtaking mountain view, here are some of Maine's best-kept secrets for summer recreation:

BEACH

If Old Orchard is too commercial for you and Popham's parking lot seems too crowded, try this overlooked state park beach. The Rockland/Camden area has a ton of other summer attractions, which may be why Birch Point State Park doesn't get a lot of publicity. And it's relatively hard to find, as you need to take three meandering back roads off Route 73 to get there.

Once you do arrive, however, you'll enjoy spectacular ocean views looking out at the Mussel Ridge Islands. There's a small crescent-shaped sand beach, gentle surf, picnic tables, outhouses, tidal pools, spruce trees and lots of interesting rocks.

Birch Point State Park, off Ballyhac Road, Owls Head. Maine.gov/doc/parks/index.html. $2 for adults; $1 for ages 5 to 11; free for children under age 5.

ISLAND

Of the Casco Bay Islands, Cliff Island is probably the least known because of its geography. It's hidden from Portlanders' view by both Long and Chebeague islands, and it takes more than an hour to get there via Casco Bay Lines.

But it's worth the trip to experience an island that feels more remote than it really is. There are only about 60 year-round residents, no paved roads, and a lot more golf carts than cars. There's also a school, a market/cafe, quaint old houses, places to swim and collect shells, and beautiful scenery wherever you turn.

Cliffisland.com has a ton of history and basic information about the place, as well as a list of people who rent houses out there -- in case you want to take a vacation close to home that feels much farther away.

Cliff Island, Casco Bay. Cliffisland.com; cascobaylines.com. $11.55 round-trip on Casco Bay Lines; $5.75 for children and seniors.

WATERFALL

In the heart of whitewater rafting country north of Waterville, the stunning Moxie Falls plunges 90 feet over a rocky cliff into the lush forest below. It's easily reached by a short hike through the woods, from a trail head that starts in a small gravel lot.

Below the falls, deep pools of dark water swirl and eddy, making an ideal swimming spot. The truly adventurous can scramble to the top, but there's nothing more relaxing than enjoying a picnic on a hot summer day in the shade and misty dampness at the base of the falls.

Directions: Take Route 201 to The Forks. Once you pass by the fork in the river where the Kennebec and Dead rivers meet, take a right onto Lake Moxie Road. The parking lot and trail head will be on the left.

OUTDOOR DINING

Maine is almost as well known for its farm-to-table fare as it is for lobster, and The Well in Cape Elizabeth, which opens for the season Friday, is the ultimate farm-to-table experience. Chef Jason Williams, who has worked in some of Portland's finest restaurants, prepares gourmet meals in a small mobile kitchen parked in one of the fields at Jordan's Farm. Customers eat at picnic tables, and seating is first-come, first-served.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Chef Jason Williams' mobile kitchen, The Well in Cape Elizabeth, opens for the season on Friday.

Avery Yale Kamila/Staff Writer

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Rattlesnake Pool is on a trail spur off the Stone House Trail on Blueberry Mountain. The water is incredibly clear and deep.

Wendy Almeida/Staff Writer

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The Oak and The Ax in Biddeford is a great place to listen to live music.

Bryan Bruchman photo



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