Take off from Kennebunk for a whale watch with New England Eco Adventures. Photo courtesy of Granite State Whale Watch

Some might argue that Maine’s best side is the coast. Salty or fresh, its waterways offer up-close views of the state’s raw beauty and marine life. We’ve rounded up ways to get on the water for adventurers to foodies, from oyster farm cruises to island hopping by kayak.

WHALE WATCHING

New England Eco Adventures’ Ultimate Whale Watch travels to the summer feeding grounds of finbacks, humpbacks, minkes and the occasional blue whale. Boon Island, the tallest lighthouse in New England, and the hundreds of seals that call it home, are an added highlight. Their custom boat for a maximum of 21 people offers an intimate excursion helmed by an entertaining and seasoned captain. $119 for a 4-hour tour; 8 Western Ave., Kennebunk; 207-502-8040, newenglandecoadventures.com

Catch a cruise from the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath. Photo courtesy of Maine Maritime Museum

BOAT CRUISES

Maine Maritime Museum runs daily cruises with themes aimed at everyone from lighthouse lovers to shipbuilding aficionados, including half-hour mini-cruises for mini mariners. Museum highlights include interactive lessons on the industrial, environmental and underrepresented history of the Kennebec River and Merrymeeting Bay. Adult tickets start at $38; 243 Washington St., Bath; 207-443-1316, mainemaritimemuseum.org

The Songo River Queen II at dock on Long Lake in Naples. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

In the Lakes Region town of Naples, guests absorb the wildlife, scenery and history of Long Lake (including its 1830s lock system) aboard a 100-ton Mississippi River Paddleboat replica, the Songo River Queen II. The 11-mile-long body of water is the setting for stunning homes (including one that belonged to Stephen King) with the backdrop of majestic Mount Washington. Complete with food court and cocktail bar, cruises leave twice a day, at 1 p.m. (for a two-hour ride) and at 4 p.m. (for one hour), daily starting June 30 and on weekends beforehand. Additional special themed cruises are scheduled throughout the summer. Adult tickets start at $25; 841 Roosevelt Trail, Naples, 207-693-6861; songoriverqueen.net

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Take a tour of Casco Bay on a stand-up paddleboard. Photo by Michael Wilson

PADDLING

Portland Paddle offers rentals, instruction and guided kayak or stand-up paddling (SUP) tours of the Casco Bay Islands and beyond – including sunset and yoga tours – for novices to experts. Historic forts, marine birds, lighthouses and seal sightings are highlights. Multi-day island adventures include camping beneath a star canopy and s’mores. 1.5-hour tours start at $40; East End beach, Portland (check website for specifics about building at the end of Cutter Street); 207-370-9730, portlandpaddle.net

If you’re used to ordering everything during the pandemic, Sebago Trails Paddling Company provides local delivery to your cottage or rentals from its private launch, where paddlers can access meandering streams and Sebago Lake. They also offer kayak and paddleboard lessons as well as immersive sunset and covered bridge tours. Rentals and tours start at $39; 1311 Roosevelt Trail, Raymond; 207-894-4696, sebagotrails.com

Sebago Trails Paddling Co. offers kayak rentals, deliveries, tours and lessons. Photo courtesy of Sebago Trails Paddling Company

SAILING

Sail Portland cruises Casco Bay islands aboard a Friendship sloop on an intimate tour capped at six guests or on its newest vessel that can carry up to a dozen people, and is also planning wine cruises and beach picnics. If you’re lucky, the owner might bring his adorable co-captain Huck, a cattle-breed rescue (and cover model). Two-hour tours start at $75; Fore Points Marina, 1 Marina Way, Portland; 207-200-6650, sailportlandmaine.com

Learn all about oysters, and eat them too, through Seacoast Tours of Freeport. Photo courtesy of Seacoast Tours of Freeport

FOR FOODIES

Seacoast Tours of Freeport guests visit Brunswick’s award-winning Mere Point Oyster Company to harvest and taste-test fresh oysters paired with a glass of wine or local microbrew. Learn how oysters help to mitigate climate change and the art of shucking (wiggle, wiggle, pop). Hungry for more? Saturday cruises feature lobster rolls from Maine’s iconic lobster joints. $100 tour (includes a swag bag); 207-798-2001; check website for shuttle details to Freeport Town Wharf departure, seacoasttoursme.com

Denise Dowling is a magazine editor who lives in South Portland.


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