MAINE AT­TRAC­TIONS

Esquire (Malaysia) - - CULTURE -

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.

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