Tourists flooded out of the state Monday after the long Labor Day weekend, marking the unofficial end of Maine’s summer vacation season.

Low gasoline prices and good weather contributed to what tourism and business officials said was a strong summer.

For Mike Bouffard, owner of the Normandie Motor Inn in Old Orchard Beach, the busy weekend capped an extra busy season.

He just wishes it would last a little longer.

“We’ve had a banner weather summer,” Bouffard said Monday. “At the beginning it didn’t look like it was going to be because it was cold, then Mother Nature decided to knock it off and gave us unbelievably nice weather.”

Old Orchard Beach, with its 7-mile sand beach and other outdoor attractions, is a hot spot for summer visitors and this year’s stretch of warm, dry days helped boost business. This summer was the warmest in Portland since record-keeping began 75 years ago, with an average temperature of 68.9 degrees. Temperatures exceeded 90 degrees on seven days.


That was good news for Bouffard’s guests, who come from Canada and elsewhere to enjoy the beach. The weather may have helped temper a dip in business from Canadians, who faced an unfavorable exchange rate, he said.

“The Canadians took it on the chin with the exchange rate, which we thought was going to hurt us. We were full, but people weren’t staying as long,” Bouffard said. “The good weather kept motels in the area booked.”

The Hilton Garden Inn in Portland has been booked solid every night this summer, said Autumn Greenleaf, who works on the front desk of the waterfront hotel. Monday night was the only time the hotel wasn’t fully booked, she said.

“This is pretty standard for us during the summer,” Greenleaf said. “Every summer, we are just getting slammed all the time.”

She expected a brief lull after the weekend, but bookings will pick back up again in the fall when tourists come in for foliage season, Greenleaf said.

The lowest gas prices on Labor Day weekend since 2004 were expected to contribute to more vehicle traffic in the region, according to AAA Northern New England.


“We’ve seen all of our holiday travel periods up noticeably this year – Memorial Day, Fourth of July and others – and we’re expecting Labor Day to be in the same category,” said Pat Moody, manager of public affairs for AAA Northern New England.

By mid-morning Monday, heavy southbound traffic on the Maine Turnpike was moving slowly through the York toll booth, where Miles the Moose and Clawdette the Lobster were pressed into duty to hand out Farmers’ Almanacs to drivers.

The Maine Turnpike Authority began issuing traffic alerts for southbound lanes about 10 a.m. By 1:30 p.m. stop-and-go traffic was reported on the 20-mile stretch of highway between Wells and the New Hampshire border.

Congestion improved by early evening, and there were no serious accidents reported, said turnpike spokeswoman Kristen Kloth.

Traffic on the Maine Turnpike was up 6.3 percent over last summer as of Sept. 1, the turnpike authority said in a news release. Through the end of July, more than 2.78 million more vehicle transactions were recorded on the turnpike than during the same period in 2015. The turnpike has broken records every month in 2016 for revenue collected and the number of drivers using the highway.

More than 1.1 million vehicles were expected to travel the turnpike over Labor Day weekend. The turnpike authority predicted 339,000 vehicles would travel northbound between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Friday and more than 267,000 vehicles would be on the turnpike Saturday. On Monday between noon and 7 p.m., about 242,000 vehicles were forecast to be on the turnpike.


Turnpike officials said final totals from the holiday weekend will be released Tuesday.

Greg Dugal, president of the Maine Innkeepers Association, said it appears Labor Day weekend was a strong one for Maine.

“The weather held out and it looks like it is going to be a good fall season based on advanced bookings,” he said.

At Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth, the crowds Monday afternoon indicated the tourist season was still going strong.

Visitors packed the Cliff Walk trail, pausing occasionally to watch the heavy surf crash on the rocks below. Nearby, visitors lined up along the shore to snap photos of the iconic Portland Head Light.

As Samantha Spacone of New York waited for a spot to take photos, she said she wasn’t surprised such a beautiful spot would be packed with visitors. She said she is obsessed with lighthouses and wanted to make sure to get in a visit before her vacation ends later this week.


Phil Woodburn and Sonia Kuo of Boston, who spent the weekend visiting friends in Portland, made an impromptu visit to Fort Williams to extend their trip by a few hours.

“We saw the (southbound) traffic and decided to stay for brunch and come here,” Woodburn said. “It’s a beautiful day to be here.”

Marilyn and Kris Kristiansen watched the crowds as they sold his oil paintings featuring the lighthouse. They said August didn’t seem as busy as usual and wondered if there were fewer Canadians in town because of the exchange rate.

Still, they weren’t surprised to see so many visitors take advantage of a sunny day to visit the lighthouse.

“The weather has been great all summer,” Kris Kristiansen said.


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