Maine is one of the remotest states in the Union, besides perhaps Wyoming and Alaska. The woods in Maine are so thick, people have been known to get lost and not be able to find their way back to a campground or home, even when they are only 100 yards away. Maine, while having its southernmost border only an hour or so from the cosmopolitan atmosphere of Boston, is a world away. It is quite, pristine, and untamed. In Maine, visitors will still see moose, bald eagles, bears, and a plethora of other wildlife. When seeking to take a trip into Maine, visitors ought to consider avoiding the touristy places, which Maine has aplenty, and instead take the backroads, visit the county fairs, and avoid the beaches. Portland is a wonderful city, but it is still a city, much like a miniature Boston. To really get a sense of the real Maine, its people, its culture, and its rhythm, take a drive on the meandering, tree and cow lined roads and meet the Maine that the locals know and love.
When first driving into Maine, consider getting off the highway; not on Route One, the coastal route. While Route One is charming and has much to offer the tourist, it is not quite different from the coast of New Hampshire, Massachusetts or Rhode Island, until one is well past the Brunswick and Bath area. Instead, take a northern route toward Sebago Lake and travel northeast from there. Drive to the Rangeley area and go for a hike. Have lunch at one of the small diners or convenience stores along the way. While all modern fast food establishments can be found in most Maine towns, some of the smaller villages are still unblemished by modern chains. And in Maine, when one sees a local, Mom & Pop convenience store, he can just about bet that there will be a tiny eating establishment inside. Most of these types of stores will cook made-to-order pizza and hot dogs, or they will serve you up a sandwich or bowl of soup. These places are where the locals hang out. Spend an afternoon in a convenience store and you will get to know the real Maine.
Of course, once you leave the coziness of the mountains, you may want to keep heading north and go all the way up to the Presque Isle and Caribou area to see the miles and miles of potato fields. A trip to a local summer fair may give visitors a glimpse of the potato queen or princess. The small towns are incredibly close knit communities where everyone knows everyone else, and many of them are related.
When you head back down toward the downeast area of the state (which simply means, the coast along the eastern side of the state) be sure to visit Baxter State Park and consider taking a hike up Mount Katahdin. While campsites must be reserved months in advance, day hikers will enjoy the mile or so walk up the highest and most rugged mountain in Maine. The summit of Mount Katahdin is also the northern most end of the famous Appalachian Trail. The town of Millinocket, nearby, will supply hikers and visitors with picnic supplies and hiking or camping gear, if necessary.
Continuing to head down east, visitors will ultimately come to the coast. One of the most famous coastal Maine towns is Bar Harbor, on Mount Desert Island. Not only is the town charming, it is still small and relatively unscathed by commercialism, because of its limitations being on the island. Mount Desert Island is home to Cadillac Mountain, the largest mountain right on the coast of the eastern seaboard. Visitors will enjoy the carriage roads and beautiful, rocky coastline that gives breathtaking views again and again, around each turn. Seals can often be found on the rocks and the sunsets are magnificent.
The next time you head to Maine, consider these suggestions and find that the state is more than you originally imagined. Go along the backroads and get to know the locals, not just the summer folks. Eat where they eat and see what they see. Then you will have a sense of what really makes Maine tick.