Maine is as inviting as it is rugged. The jagged, wooded coastline of New England’s largest and northernmost state is dotted with old lighthouses and picturesque fishing villages; its lobsters and autumn foliage are legendary. The state comprises 17 million acres of forestland and 6,000 lakes and is also one of the most sparsely populated in the Lower 48.
Maine divides itself into eight tourism regions. The Greater Portland area, on the southwest coast, is named after the largest city, where the Old Port district’s cobblestone streets wind among quaint shops, boutiques, restaurants and cafés. Farther south, the popular tourist town of Kennebunkport draws summer visitors (including the Bush family) to its charming beach colonies and Colonial villages. The western Lakes & Mountains region is home to Maine’s two largest ski mountains, and Aroostook County, in the north, is a heavily agricultural area that attracts more die-hard outdoorsmen than day-tripping tourists. The Downeast & Acadia region is home to the well-known vacation spot of Bar Harbor, sprinkled with inns and cottages.
Winters in Maine are for the hardy only.
Route 1 Artisanal Shops
Several notable artisanal enterprises are all located within half an hour of one another along U.S. Route 1 north of Camden. Swans Island Company (231 Atlantic Highway, Northport; Tel.  338-9691) is located in a sturdy 1780 house that serves as a workshop and showroom. In this handsome space, weavers sit at their looms crafting Shaker-elegant blankets from hand-dyed wool.
Inside the fascinating showroom of Duck Trap Decoys (9 Simmons Court, Lincolnville; Tel.  789-5363), you will find what is reputed to be Maine’s largest selection of decoys in all sizes and styles, from early hunting models to detailed artistic replicas. And Windsor Chairmakers (2596 Atlantic Highway, Lincolnville; Tel.  789-5188) makes a full range of custom furniture, including benches, dining tables in several configurations, beds, chests, sideboards and its namesake Windsor chairs.
Interesting Wines and Spirits
My recent trip to Maine certainly rewarded my search for interesting wines and spirits. An easy drive from Camden in Lincolnville, Cellardoor Winery (367 Youngtown Road, Tel.  763-4478) rivals some facilities I’ve seen in Napa. Farther inland in Union, Sweetgrass Farm Winery & Distillery (347 Carroll Road, Tel.  785-3024) makes fruit-based wines that I found interesting, if not compelling. But its Back River Gin won me over completely.
It is the rare traveler to Maine who does not, at some point, hanker for a great lobster roll. We found our grail at Pier 77 Restaurant (77 Pier Road, Kennebunkport; Tel  967-8500), on the water a short drive from Kennebunkport. In a picturesque building festooned with colorful lobster buoys, the restaurant overlooks the charming Cape Porpoise Harbor. While taking in the lunchtime view, we enjoyed plump Maine crabcakes and then indulged in the succulent lobster rolls, packed with sweet meat on a soft bun. The food is simple, straightforward and delicious.