Veteran locals will happily tell you about Maine's days as a place with a rough-and-ready reputation, with Portland's Old Port waterfront somewhere you ventured only if you were a fisherman or in search of an alcoholfuelled fight. Potentially both. A transformation over the past few years has seen it voted one of America's states "getting it right", reinventing itself via lively creative and foodie scenes, while maintaining its old-fashioned character. With its indented coastline and forested interior, the northeastern-most state has incorporated its natural assets into an enviable menu of activities to replenish the soul.
Its coast, camps and outdoor activities mean you'll bump into people from all over the US, often on their way to eat, with buzzing Portland now offering more restaurants per capita than any other US city after San Francisco. Watch fishermen at work while enjoying a Dirty Dirty Martini and a satisfying Brown Butter Lobster Roll at Eventide Oyster Co (eventideoysterco.com).
Maine is so relaxed that 'The Pine Tree State" can feel more like Canada, with which it shares a border. Its stunning 3,500-mile seaboard stretches from New Brunswick to the Pisccataqua River on its border with New Hampshire. With over 3,000 islands, it is best explored via US Route 1.
Lighthouse fanatics will find more than 50 to visit, with Portland Head Light (portlandheadlight.com) being the oldest, commissioned by George Washington in 1791. While the contemporary arts scene offers another reason to visit, the 20-lane bowling alley (baysidebowl.com), food trucks, bike shops and coffee shops like Peaks Cafe and Arabica Coffee House (arabicacoffee.me), Munjoy Hill, the place to sample craft beer and authentic farmhouse ales, Maine Mead Works (mainemeadworks.com), the creators of Honey Maker mead, and gin-maker Hardshore Distilling Company (hardshoredistilling.com) is just as good a reason, too. Stay at the Regency Hotel & Spa (theregency.com), in a red-brick armoury in the heart of the trendy Old Port shopping district, whose rooms are traditional dark wood and brocade, updated with flat screen TVS. Or check into the Harraseeket Inn (harraseeketinn.com), a 20-minute drive from downtown Portland, with 93 elegant rooms, the best being The Thos Moser Suite, full of the Maine-designer's handmade Shaker-influenced furniture. An extensive network of lakes and streams including the 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail (northernforestcanoetrail.org) which links Maine with the waterways of Quebec, New Hampshire and New York means getting out of town is easy.