Places I Remember with Lea Lane

Maine: Lighthouses, Lobsters -- And Down East Pleasures

August 03, 2021 Hilary Nangle, lives, works and writes about Maine. She tells all! Season 1 Episode 27
Places I Remember with Lea Lane
Maine: Lighthouses, Lobsters -- And Down East Pleasures
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Hilary Nangle is a Maine maven --  born there, lives there and writes guidebooks about her beloved most-eastern New England state. She takes us on a trip up the coast, from the sandy south beaches to the rocky Down East peninsulas, and inland, to oudoor pleasures, sharing stories and fun facts along the way.

---  What makes Maine so special? Hilary suggests the best times to visit, and the best places to experience-- from the casual beachy towns of the southern Maine coast, to the artsy, foody city of Portland, to pretty mid-coast places and peninsulas like Camden and Blue Hill,  Bar Harbor, and Mt. Desert island.

-- She adds the northern, Down East towns near the Canadian border, and also takes us inland for outdoor pleasures,  lakes and springs. And along the way she mentions history and favorite lobster shacks.

-- Hilary ends with a special memory of a Maine trip with her dad.
Maine-based travel writer Hilary Nangle shares her love for her home state in three, regularly updated, guidebooks — Moon Maine, Moon Coastal Maine, and Moon Acadia National Park; in articles for regional, national, and international print and online publications; on her Maine Travel Maven Facebook and Instagram pages; and on
Podcast host Lea Lane blogs at, has traveled to over 100 countries, written nine books, including Places I Remember, and contributed to guidebooks. She's @lealane on Twitter; Travelea on Insta; on  Facebook, it's Places I Remember by Lea Lane. Website: placesirememberlealane.comPlease follow, rate and review this weekly travel podcast!

Lea Lane  00:04

Hi, I'm Lea Lane, an award-winning travel writer and author of Places I Remember: Tales, Truths, Delights from 100 Countries. On this podcast we share conversations with travelers about fascinating destinations and memorable experiences around the world. When I was writing the unofficial guide to bed and breakfasts in New England for several years, I traveled throughout Maine, checking out lodgings and sites. My husband Bill spent childhood summers in coastal Maine up in Deer Isle, not far from the Canadian border. And we've often traveled back in early fall and crowds have gone and warmth still lingers, and delighted that our guest on this episode is Hilary Nangle, a Maine resident and author of many guidebooks, including Moon,, Maine Moon, Coastal Maine, and Moon Acadia National Park. Welcome, Hilary. Thank you. Thank you. I'm so delighted you're here. What do you think makes Maine so special?


Hilary Nangle  01:06

Well, I think you start with a geography it's tucked up in the northeastern corner of the United States. And unlike most states, it's bordered by two provinces and only one state. That's New Hampshire, and comprises over 33,000 miles with 3500 miles of coastline and 6000 lakes and ponds, 32,000 miles of rivers and 17 million acres of timber lands. So you've got all that land, and you've only got 1.3 million people here. So we got elbow room. And it's that range of geography not only offers a range of spectacular scenery, but also something for everyone. You want mountains got them lakes, whitewater rivers, streams, oceans, sand beaches, yep, rocky coast, lots of that. dense woodlands rolling farmlands islands. And you add to that something else and that is food. Food in Maine is special. It was a state was farm to table before farm to table was a thing.


Lea Lane  02:09

Yes. I know. And, and having been to Portland many times. I know that's one of the great foodie towns in America. For such a small town, it has a fantastic number of top chefs.


Hilary Nangle  02:20

It sure does. It sure does. And it's not just Portland, it's throughout the state. I rarely go into supermarket, especially in the summertime, I buy my fish from the local fishmonger that breads from the local baker, and fruits and vegetables and everything else. From oysters and clams to just about anything you can name at various farm stands and farmers markets and something that is very prevalent in Maine. And those are the little otter bars at the end of people's driveways. If you got too many zucchini, you put them on a table at the end of the driveway with a little sign and a little money box. But you'll find those for jams and jellies, breads, of course fruits and vegetables, but just just about everything shows how about Lobster. Lobster generally doesn't show up in an honest. No, I mean, I know people I can call when I went to lobster or when I want oysters. 


Lea Lane  03:17

So it works. Now let me ask you, what would you say is the best time of year to visit.


Hilary Nangle  03:23

Generally, I'd say September and early October are just golden. It's warmer, it's still warm, you know, but you're getting a little bit of Christmas at night. The sun isn't as hot, the light is golden Bugs Are Gone. And it tends to be less crowded because there are fewer families of course visiting at that time. However, if you're a skier or snowboarder or a snowmobile, you're going to want to visit in winter. If you're a fisherman, you're probably going to want to be coming in in the spring. So there's a little reason for everything. But overall, if you're just coming to see the state, September's a gorgeous month.


Lea Lane  04:00

Yeah, shoulder seasons are great, most of the world but in Maine especially. Let's go up to Maine coast a bit and you can talk about some of the cities and towns not to miss let's let's start with the Southern Maine coast. What do you find there in general?


Hilary Nangle  04:14

Okay, so the area, as soon as you've crossed from Portsmouth over the bridge into Southern Maine, you're in this area that's known as the Maine beaches. And it's a number of towns strewn along Route one coastal route one that are, you know, grew out of a fishing heritage but have also grown into very popular summer destinations. They tend to be more crowded than other areas, but they're also really special. You start for example, York was one of the original towns founded in Maine. It's got a beautiful historical society and heritage museums, you go up to a gun quit, which was the site of one of the original art camp colonies, Robert Henry and his cronies, a concrete Museum of Art, beautiful beaches, you can walk this path called the Marginal Way. It's about miles of paved along the waterfront cliffs, because it's paved, it's open to strollers and wheelchairs, so it's really accessible. And Perkins Cove really quaint little place with restaurants including MC, which is Mark and Clark, who have both who have won a James Beard Award for one of their other restaurants which is no longer that concentrated everything here is fabulous place with gorgeous ocean views and move up here in the Kennebunk George Bush's state. Of course, it's well known for there's a Trolley Museum dock square where all the fishing shacks turned boutiques and stuff, again, beautiful beaches. But there's also a monastery there. That's amazing. A lot of surrounds. Yeah, it's a Franciscan monastery. There Lithuanians who came here after the war, World War and settled in kind of bunk side of the river Kennebunk and they built this monastery but the grounds are open to the public. And you can walk trails and there's shrines there's the a shrine from the New York World's Fair they're kind of a beautiful place to escape. If you feeling you're getting a little too many people great place to escape. Of course, you go up a little more and you're in the Greater Portland area. All right, so you've got Portland Of course, which is the anchor their largest city in Maine, but really not that big. There's buildings tend to be smaller a skyscraper in Portland the 16 stories to give you an idea, islands, there are quite a few museums in that Portland you can take in Greater Portland, and you can take ferries across to the islands you've got beautiful beaches and state parks in some of the suburbs and a lot of lighthouses in especially in Cape Elizabeth in Southport. Yeah, those are famous the two lights right, right to lights but also especially Portland headlight, which was commissioned by George Washington, and I grew up just in that area. So I know that really well. 


Lea Lane  06:57

It's beautiful, there's nothing like sitting out there and eating at the lobster shack having nice lobster roll.


Hilary Nangle  07:03

Exactly. That's exactly what I means treasures lobster shacks got a little more and you're in Brunswick, which is home to Bowdoin College. So there are some nice museums on the college campus, as well as main state music theater is there and the Bowdoin summer music festival is in that base there, but you go down the peninsula. And when you start getting north of Portland, you get to the peninsulas, and these are the rocky fingers of land that extends southward into the ocean and those are where you find a lot of the little towns and fun villages, some small beaches, things to do. I crazily skipped right over Freeport between Portland. Well, you can't skip LL Bean. Exactly. It's that's the mothership for all the other ones is there it's an LL Bean and Freeport has a campus with various different shoe stores and a huge outlet store. But Freeport has a lot of other things. It's got a great lobster shack down on the water. And it also has a lot of other independently own stores that are surviving in amidst the outlets and some nice parks. Of course, if you go up to back as the main Maritime Museum, I encourage anybody to go there. It's a fabulous museum that tracks the history of Maine's maritime shipbuilders and sea captains from there. Another one of those peninsulas, Popham, which is the Phippsburg Peninsula, Popham Beach and Fort Popham and Port Baldwin, go over the bridge and you're in going down the Georgetown Peninsula. Another one of my favorite lobster shacks, Five Islands, it's at the end of that one beautiful view overlooking islands just a great spot.


Lea Lane  08:40

A part of the fun of eating lobster rolls in Maine is eating them with a view. You can have them other places but you don't have those rocky peninsulas in the water.


Hilary Nangle  08:49

Exactly, exactly. There are some really great lobster shacks and go up to the booth base, which are down a peninsula but the coastal Maine botanical gardens are just spectacular. And this year, they've got these displays of huge wooden trolls that are just fun. It makes it really fun for everybody. And from the booth phase is one of the boats there are three that go out to Monhegan Island. Now Monhegan was one of the original art colonies, it's about nine to 30 depending on which port you're coming from nine to 13 miles out to sea. It's only about a mile what you call road it's dirt on the island and young people have vehicles are actual Islanders who live there year round. Some summer people have golf carts, but there are a few ends. It's renowned for birding renowned for hiking, and it's especially known for its art heritage. The museum is located in the lighthouse complex at the top of the hill of the island. And there are so many artists out there. This is where Robert Henry came with his school, Robert Kent Fitzgerald out Stoddard, others lots of names you really know from American History of Art came there and painted and the rule on the museum is you can't be featured In the actual art half of the museum, which is in the assistant keepers house until you're dead, because there are just too many good artists. So for example, the Y 's were all very well associated with Monhegan. Just Ambridge just got in there. Well, when he died, really? Yeah, Jamie has not yet.


Lea Lane  10:16

Yet any hopes not to be for a while I can, right.


Hilary Nangle  10:19

And you can also the lot, the power is often open in the lighthouse and Keeper's house has fabulous museums interspersed with art, which is wonderful.


Lea Lane  10:28

That's like the perfect day trip, yeah,


Hilary Nangle  10:31

You can go out on a day trip. I'll tell you it's magical. If you spend overnight when the last day trip, boat leaves, it gets very quiet, and sunsets are spectacular. It's lovely.


Lea Lane  10:40

Yeah, that's a good tip. Because anywhere you go, the day trippers will be crowded crowding in, but if you can stay overnight, you get the quiet mornings and the late evenings it's perfect.


Hilary Nangle  10:50

It is, it really is. And then we're kind of in Rockland area, which is where the fairies go out to vinyl haven in North Haven islands, both fun day trips, or staying over on vinyl Heaven has more to do than North Haven really does. Rock and also has the Farnsworth Museum of American Art. Again, more of the art of the coast of Maine is beyond a great transportation Museum and I simply go down to St. George Peninsula again, you've got those lobster shacks, including one that is absolutely one of my favorite color. But Clunes the views are spectacular. I mean, you're watching as you are at five islands, lobster boats come in, unload their catches. And when they run out of lobster in nice shacks they run out and pull up a creative lobsters from the ocean and I mean it's fresh.


Lea Lane  11:36

Fresh as fresh as lobster plentiful right now.


Hilary Nangle  11:39

It's getting more so it was there was a shortage this spring for a number of reasons. But now that the lobster men and that term includes women as well are out fishing again. The price has come down. 


Lea Lane  11:50

So are your people lobster people.


Hilary Nangle  11:52

No, not at all themselves lobster men. And there, there are a lot of them now, including one who's I think about 100 years old and still goes out. Wow. Yeah, she's amazing rock and also has a lot of galleries and Fun Shops. Next town up, of course is Camden. Camden is pretty well known. It's a calendar cover for often many.


Lea Lane  12:15

Yeah, it's beautiful is one of those beauty spots.


Hilary Nangle  12:18

Right? It's got that beautiful little harbor and the mountains over it. And it's state park, you can drive up to the summit, or you can hike. And from both Camden and Rockland a lot of Excursion boats go out, and most of the Windjammers that are members of the Maine Windjammer fleet. 


Lea Lane  12:34

So that was a beautiful place to leave from and to come back to.


Hilary Nangle  12:37

Exactly because they're both on Penobscot Bay, which was considered some of the best sailing waters in the world. So that's fabulous. You're wrapped around the top of the harbor and you're going over the way the Penobscot River comes out, you will come to the Blue Hill Peninsula. And that's a special Peninsula. I like the Blue Hill Peninsula, it's very artsy. It includes Blue Hill and dira, which is connected by a bridge. And then another little spur of it is casting which is so rich in history, and architects are just absolutely beautiful town to go through.


Lea Lane  13:11

And they're more quiet. I think even in the summer season. It's it's a little bit north, there's fewer people. So it's a special, it's a special place.


Hilary Nangle  13:20

It is and again, there's a food culture there. There's some great restaurants and chefs some really fun fishing villages. And if you go all the way down to the tip of the peninsula, you're in Stonington. And that's where the ferry or the mailboat is what it's called, goes out to Idaho, which is where there's a rare, not rare, a remote backcountry section of Acadia National Park, and you can go out on a day boat and do some hiking the Ranger meets you and make sure you get to the right place you're going to hike for your abilities. Or if you're one of the fortunate few who has managed to secure one of the five Lean tools in the park. You can camp. Wow. Yeah. It's beautiful. Yeah, go up from there. Obviously mount desert island with Bar Harbor southwest harbor northeast harbor Acadia National Park. The biggest share of it is there. The Abbey Museum in Bar Harbor tells the story of the Native Americans main from their point of view, it's fabulous. But they're also Excursion boats, whale watching boats, you can go out on trips for lots and see how lobsters are caught. Generally Bar Harbor tends to have the biggest concentration of people right if you can't find crowds, you're going to find them in Bar Harbor. But they kind of concentrate in about a two block section of the town wildly. Yeah, yeah. It's they're coming off a tour bow of a cruise ship. They're either getting on a bus or not really venturing too far. You can venture into a church there's a sense of yours that has Tiffany windows in it. Oh really? 


Lea Lane  14:52

Yeah. I wouldn't expect to have that in Maine for some reason.


Hilary Nangle  14:56

Well, when you think back to the glory days of yore at the turn of the century of the early 1900s, there were so many wealthy families there, and the great fire when that came through, it took me down most of those houses. But I really encourage people to go to the Bar Harbor Historical Society Museum last year, they moved into one of the mansions that survived. And they're doing beautiful displays, you can get a sense of it. And also staying the solitaire in for example, is is in one of these old cottages that survived. So there are some places you can really get.


Lea Lane  15:29

I remember the Asticou Inn, is that is that still open?


Hilary Nangle  15:33

Yes, the the two what I call the grand dames of the island are the Asticou which is in northeast harbor near the Asticou Gardens which are spectacular in especially in late May, early June because it's predominantly azaleas and rhododendron, but it's pretty any time, it's very Japanese influence kind of Zen feel. And then just up the road, Cecilia Garden, which is more of an English border style. And then in southwest harbor is the Claremont which is just come under new ownership and is having a was has been totally renovated and updated with contemporary conveniences, like air conditioning, which is kind of nice.


Lea Lane  16:08

I know that isn't typical.


Hilary Nangle  16:11

Yeah, it's the views from the Claremont. Are you looking right over the mouth of some sound? Which is a fjard, not a fjard. It's not quite as deep, but it's a fjard.


Lea Lane  16:24

Fjard, just because it's pronounced that way or because it's different?


Hilary Nangle  16:27

Fjard as opposed to fjord.


Lea Lane  16:30

Oh, oh, that's interesting.


Hilary Nangle  16:32

Yeah. Yeah. They're two different things, you know,


Lea Lane  16:34

Oh, really? I never heard of that. I want to ask you about down east. I know that area is called Down East. What's the story? I know it's up north and it's called Down East. So explain what that is.


Hilary Nangle  16:43

It has to do with the prevailing winds. And back in the great age of sail when schooners were sailing northeast toward along the coast, the winds, the prevailing winds pushed them along so they're heading up what we would call up the coast. And so you would think that it would be up east but because we're sending eastward along the coast, right, but the nautical terms downwind, so when you'll have downwind and East, it got combined to Downeast into while there are a lot of people think Maine is down east and there's a magazine and everything called that technically when you're in Maine, you're talking pretty much from north of the Acadia region along the coast and that's special to I mean you get you come off mount desert island, there's another section of the park on scooted Peninsula, the only mainland section and that's a lovely connected with another great lobster shack in Korea. Quiet end of the road, little fishing village, in in that whole area. A lot of artists studios continue up, you get to the back. Now look back in esport face each other kind of across Cobscook Bay, which is part of Passamaquoddy Bay, which is the Gulf of Maine, the backdrop and for both our Canadian islands in New Brunswick. From the back you can go out to the back is probably most famous for its candy stripe like Lighthouse Quoddy head from there. When the border opens, you can go over the international bridge onto camp Othello and visit Roosevelt Campobello international Park and there are lots of puffins. Yeah, you've got to get off to the islands really to see if you can go out from there's a couple actually there's only I think one boat that really takes you on to Machias Bay Island, but you can go out on Excursion boats, and then Eastport is the easternmost city in the US whereas Lubeck is the easternmost town in the US. City is a bit confusing, since I don't think the population hovers much more than 1000 people. But in both towns are just you get a real sense of a low key low pressure down nice vacation. It's just beautiful. Alright, if you're not looking for a lot of high end entertainment, there's entertainment but it's quieter.


Lea Lane  18:58

So a lot of people are looking for that. That sounds like a very good thing. Let me just ask you about inland. What are some of the main pleasures When you go inland just just generally,


Hilary Nangle  19:07

oh, lakes and mountains, lakes and mountains. The bigger areas are what they call the main Highlands which includes Baxter State Park Katahdin the tallest peak in Maine, the Todd woods and waters National Monument which was is up there now that was it's still not that well known, but it's just a beautiful area that's really changing. It used to be a paper mill area. Greenville, which is on Moosehead Lake, the longest biggest lake in the state, whitewater rivers for rafting Of course. So you've got hiking, mountain biking, all kinds of paddling, camping, sporting camps, Wildlife Safari,


Lea Lane  19:44

I would think a lot of snowmobiling in the winter as well.


Hilary Nangle  19:47

Exactly that up into Aroostook County as well which is the kind of the crown of Maine and then if you go further west, you come to the range the lakes area, and Rangely started attracting what they called Summer The caters back in the 1800s it's got a great outdoor sporting heritage history. And it's a wonderful town again just to visit and relax on a lake in name beautiful with the mountains.


Lea Lane  20:13

Yeah, I remember going to Sebago, Lake Sebago. Sebago Lake. Yes. Yeah. Not far from the coast. 


Hilary Nangle  20:21

Pico Lake is probably one of the busiest lakes in Maine. It's almost a lot of people have some in the Greater Portland have summer camps. Their camps is a main term referring to kind of a summer cottage on a lake or in the mountains or something like that. So yeah, and pull in spring of course, which is another area and source of the water. Once had a 500 room hotel there. It's pretty fun to go up there. There's a nice little museum about the water as well as the history of Maine. The Hiram Ricker Gu owned the hotel, just it's so much I mean, airplanes landed on the street on the lawn. Just a fabulous, wonderful history inland. There's still a going resort there. It's very low key, it's more budget friendly, and there's still a golf course there. So a nice place to visit everything you can save a little money on. 


Lea Lane  21:11

Have we left anything out? Is there any favorite thing just to name one or two that maybe we haven't covered?


Hilary Nangle  21:16

Oh, my goodness,


Lea Lane  21:17

I think you've covered it. I have one. I have one. I love Prats. Nick is that is Am I saying that right in Portland is it in your Scarborough and that's where Winslow Winslow Homer the artist, lived in his museum in his house, and you can walk along the path that he painted, you could walk along this beautiful little path, Rocky, little slippery path, and then go in and look at the same paintings of that path. It was very charming and wonderful. That's one of my favorites. What what one of yours


Hilary Nangle  21:49

I think, you know, cool things about Maine is the history and if anybody's at all a history buff, I mean, when he was still a hero and not a traitor Benedict Arnold marched through Maine and wrote to attack. Quebec. The first naval battle of the American Revolution took place in China is the worst naval disaster before Pearl Harbor occurred and Castine and Paul Revere faced court martial for it. forts and blockhouses pepper the coastline and the waterways during the great age of sail by 1885. I love this statistic. 10% of all full rig American flag ships on the high seas, were under the command of Sears port and Stockton springs captains, you can really get that sense at the Marine Museum, Penobscot marine Museum in Sears port, and you'll read stories of kids, some of these captains were 12 years old. What? Yeah, they went out very young.


Lea Lane  22:41

Well. I'll tell you, I've learned more about Maine from listening to you than I've ever known before. I just think lobsters and sailing and all that kind of thing, but there's so much to me, and it's wonderful. I thank you so much for that. The name of the podcast is places I remember. So Hillary please share with us a special story or memory about me. 


Hilary Nangle  23:04

When my dad was still alive, we rented a cottage waterfront cottage in Korea, and I mentioned it earlier. It's a lobster fishing village on the school Peninsula. And it's well off the beaten path. It's got a wonderful little lobster shack, but it's the kind of village people I think who aren't from Maine from away think of when they are picturing a main coastal village. It's a small protected harbor just filled with lobster boats, no no pleasure boats. It's the harbor is wrapped with wharves that are lined with buoys and traps and various gear from lobster fishing. We used to sit on the ledges out front and watch the lobster boats go in and out of the harbor. And one afternoon we went down to there's a lovely gallery in town and one afternoon we went to the lobster shack and I got talking to the owner Joe Young, and he's a born storyteller. He's a descendant of the original settlers, a sixth generation lobstermen. And his aunt Bernice Abbott was a friend or friend of Painter at Marsden Hartley. And Joe's parents rented a kind of a chicken coop shack to Hartley when he came to Maine, and he painted there. And Joe keeps a gallery in the shack and one of the shacks on the wars with a lot of her paint her photographs. And you just really get the sense of me when you're there. You're like, wow, this is what it's all about. And it's the simple pleasures of spending time with my dad. I just loved it, and enjoying life.


Lea Lane  24:34

Yeah. Well, that's the best if you can do that and be with someone you love. Perfect. Yeah. Well, Hillary Nangal thank you so much for sharing the wonders of your state. And we can find out more on your website, main travel Thank you. Thank you. And I'm still a travel writer. So I just want to With every episode of places I remember, I write a description of the episode called show notes. It includes a summary of what we talked about. It includes bios and links not mentioned in the episode. I also write a list of timestamps or markers or chapter markers, which breaks the episode down by time so that you can find the parts you're most interested in. Show Notes and timestamps accompany each episode, wherever you get your podcasts, and also on my website places I remember Leo I hope you take advantage of them. And on today's episode, I know you can go back and look at some of these facts and go deeper into them and it's just perfect.


Lea Lane  25:43

Thanks for sharing travel memories with us. My book, Places I Remember, is available on Amazon and in bookstores, in print, on Kindle, and I read the audio version. Please subscribe to this podcast and consider giving us a review. Until next time, join us wherever in the world we're going.

What makes Maine so special?
Best time to travel there
Southern Maine Coast, Portland to Booth Bay Harbor --islands,art, great food
Monhegan art colony
Rockland and The Farnsworth Museum
Peninsulas and lobster boats
Pretty Camden
Blue Hill
Stonington to Acadia
Bar Harbor
Claremont in SW Harbor
Downeast-- what it means, what it is
Lubec, Eastport, Islands, puffins
Inland, outdoors, springs, lakes
Prout's Neck- artist Winslow Homer's house/museum houseLea's favorite
Hilary's special memory of Maine