From lobster to lighthouses, discover the best of Maine

Maine has always held a certain mystique with its glorious English coastal towns, lighthouses, lobster shacks and ritzy vacation homes.

From Stephen King to Jessica Fletcher (The fictional detective from Murder She Wrote) balanced the region’s coastal idyll with darker thematics. It’s a strange tension point that is so far from the truth it worked. In reality, expect to see charming chocolate box villages and shingle beaches that feel like England and not New England.

We took a Viator day trip from Boston through Massachusetts, New Hampshire and into Maine.

New Hampshire’s one of the forgotten states, wedged between Massachusetts, New York, Vermont and Maine. Unlike New York and Maine, it boasts beautiful white sand beaches and surf able waves.

Between sleepy coastal towns and fishing communities you may happen upon a…nuclear reactor.

Hampton Beach, New Hampshire

Our first stop on this coastal jaunt is Hampton Beach, a seaside community that mirrors its British counterparts. A grand weatherboard pavilion dating back to 1960s still stands and holds local concerts and pantomimes for vacationing families. It’s hard to reconcile how such a summery atmosphere can change to an Arctic scene within four months.

For now, it’s at close to full capacity and the little caravan parks and water slides are buzzing with kids and exhausted parents escaping the stresses of New York and Boston.

Scurvy dogs, watch out for pirates wandering the streets randomly.

Weaving along the narrow coastal roads, the white sand changes to dark, razor-like shingles and where wide beaches offered plenty of personal space for beach goers, as we cross into Maine, sun seekers are restricted to narrow strips of rock on which to recline.

Yes, those are rocks these freaks are sunning themselves on.

We don’t get it. It looks as comfy as a bed of nails. Beyond the absurdity of these flagellants, a small group of tourists are taking surfing lessons on waves that barely rate as ripples.

Surf’s up – and by surf, we mean icy ripples

As if to compensate for the pains of shingle beach life, the accommodations in Maine are first class. This is where the rich come to play (after stabbing themselves on the serrated shingles). Multi-million dollar mansions on impressive acreage lots showcase old money and new bungalows that cost similar amounts perch upon cliff tops. To add injury to the absurdity of it all, these summer homes are only used for less than half the year, completely boarded up after Memorial Day until the next summer season.

The Nubble Lighthouse

Between the cute bays and English-style villages we have a moment to see one of the East Coast’s iconic lighthouses, the Cape Neddick Lighthouse. Dodging hand painted signs warning of poison ivy, we get close to the little island that is constantly pounded by the forces of nature.

Kennebunkport

After hours of driving through these picture perfect towns, we are finally given a chance to stop and explore one of the region’s prettiest. Kennebunkport is a cute estuarine township that serves as a harbor for the region’s fishing fleet.

To one side, the river expands in a peaceful setting that could be anywhere America, with the glimpse of a Lutheran clock tower rising above trees and a trio of row boats bobbing in the breeze. To the other, is a perfect New England scene.

Weatherboard cottages and shacks housing fudge shops, boutiques and book shops welcome the day tripper. Built on stilts as part of the wharves, it’s like they haven’t changed in a hundred years. The tempo is lazy and Mercury is high – perfect conditions to try the area specialty – lobster.

The legendary lobster shack is a charming, yet ramshackle affair. Years of media attention and being featured on travel and food networks globally hasn’t changed the aesthetics or quality of this piece of culinary history. Famed for its crustaceans, mollusks and crab and lobster concoctions, we take a seat and wrap on a giant plastic bib – this could get messy.

Coming from the Southern Hemisphere, we’re used to lobster being served cold. In New England it comes straight from the hot pot with a hot tub of melted butter to dip in the fleshy meat. It’s a different experience and while we may sound like heathens, we still prefer the Aussie way. Regional differences aside, washed down with a local craft beer and shared with loved ones in such a classic location the combination is a winner. We also try the New England Clam Chowder, which differs slightly to the ones we’ve tried in Boston but that easily outshines them.

At George Bush’s home, every room is presidential.

After lunch, we drive a little further to view a village with a distinctive “wedding cake” house and on to within sight of the home of George Bush senior, which three presidents later is still secured by a military presence.

The weather had been perfect, the food delicious and despite the fictitious underbelly we’ve read about growing up, Maine has been nothing but endearing.

WHAT?

New England is a region rich in luxury summer houses, beaches and great seafood.

WHERE?

We traveled from Boston to Hampton Beach, Cape Neddick and Kennebunkport over the course of nine hours.

HOW?

The tour cost $72 plus tip, with pickup from most downtown Boston hotels.

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