9 Places to Experience the Essence of Maine
Abundant with parks and reserves, historical landmarks, some of the best lobster in the world, whale and bird watching, rocky coastline viewpoints and an important maritime past, the Pine Tree State provides student group travelers an unforgettable East Coast experience.
Be One with Mother Nature
Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park near Bar Harbor is the oldest American national park east of the Mississippi River and home to the tallest mountain on the U.S. Atlantic Coast, Cadillac Mountain. This National Natural Landmark provides students a chance to explore and indulge in the vast wildlife Maine has to offer. The park contains over 40 wildlife species, including white-tailed deer, porcupines, minks, moose, beavers, coyotes, foxes, bobcats and black bears. The park also provides teachers with lesson plans in various subjects such as social studies, science, math, and literacy and language arts.
Baxter State Park
Leave your iPhones, MP3 players and radios at home when visiting Baxter State Park in Millinocket. The park is dedicated to preserving its wildlife by eliminating any sort of man-made distraction to its inhabitants and visitors. Within its boundaries, there is no running water, electricity or paved roads; there are no stores or gas stations. The use of audio or visual devices is prohibited in order to decrease disturbances to wildlife. This is due to Governor Percival P. Baxter’s goal to keep the park “forever wild.” Baxter State Park is also home to the tallest mountain in Maine, Mount Katahdin, at 5,267 feet. Throughout the park, students can enjoy hiking, fishing, hunting, picnicking, swimming, boating and snowmobiling.
Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge
Known as one of the northernmost National Wildlife Refuges in the Atlantic Flyway bird migration route, Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge in Baring is a must-see destination for nature-loving student groups. The refuge’s landscape contains large ledge outcrops, rolling hills, lakes, bogs, streams and marshes. Wildlife comprises bald eagles, woodcock, moose, deer, ruffed grouse and a variety of songbirds. The refuge holds a variety of activities including hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing, environmental education and interpretation, where staff and volunteers conduct programs to educate and inform students about bird migration, seasonal habitat changes and invasive species.
A Few Good Men
Portland Head Light
First operated in 1791 under the approval of President George Washington, Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth was the first lighthouse constructed after the founding of the United States and remains one of the oldest lighthouses in the country. The lighthouse is located in Fort Williams Park, which contains a historical museum, walking paths, an arboretum and stunning views of Casco Bay. Students can also explore Battery Keyes, a small battery built in 1906 designed to defend against small, fast attack boats, or Goddard Mansion, constructed by New York architect Charles A. Alexander.
History buffs will be blown away by Pownalborough Courthouse in Dresden, the very location where Founding Father John Quincy Adams once tried a case before he became president. The courthouse turned museum was the first county courthouse of Lincoln County and is the only surviving courthouse in Maine that was built during the colonial period. Students can tour the museum and learn about its history, picnic on the grounds, hike the newly developed trail system or visit the cemetery with the graves of Revolutionary War, War of 1812 and Civil War veterans.
Roosevelt Campobello Park
As a child, Franklin D. Roosevelt spent much of his time at Campobello Island. After becoming president, the island became an annual summer retreat for Roosevelt and his family. Student groups can now visit the cottage where Teddy and his family vacationed at Roosevelt Campobello Park in Lubec. While touring the home, stationed guides answer questions and provide interpretation of the home and artifacts. Students can explore President Roosevelt’s office and bedroom, Eleanor Roosevelt’s writing room, the living, dining, laundry and nursery rooms, kitchen and family bedrooms.
Only in Maine
Cap’n Fish’s Whale Watch
For a one-of-a-kind experience, catch a tour with Cap’n Fish’s Whale Watch in Boothbay. Owner Bob Fish became the youngest licensed captain on the East Coast at the age of 18, and has ever since been devoted to the promotion and education of whale species such as the humpback, finback, minke, pilot and sei whales. The company’s vessels offer 360-degree decks for supreme viewing of Maine’s wildlife. Student groups can take the scenic cruise, puffin cruise or whale watch tour.
Rugosa Lobster Tours
The Rugosa Lobster Tours in Kennebunkport are a great opportunity for students to learn about Maine’s distinctive lobster history. Students will hop aboard a classic New England wooden lobster boat touring the Kennebunk River, while the crew demonstrates the complexities behind a lobster haul. Volunteers can watch and participate in pulling lobster traps out of the water, removing the catch and resetting the traps.
Ski Museum of Maine
Dedicated to the history and heritage of skiing, the Ski Museum of Maine in Kingfield provides student group travelers a unique educational experience. The museum was founded in 1995 after members of the Sugarloaf Mountain Ski Club were cleaning out their files and, due to lack of space, decided to create a museum with the remaining material to form a permanent collection. The museum includes the Maine Ski Hall of Fame, where 39 Mainers are recognized for their contribution and dedication to the sport.
By Ally Mahoney