Camp is here! And now that the kids are off to camp (or about to be) and the house is quiet (or will be soon!), it’s a good time to start planning your visiting day trip. Some popular places to stay are Portland, Freeport, and Kennebunkport. Many camp families stay in hotels and resorts in these cities, while others will stay in some of the smaller hotels located near their camps. Many popular hotels and restaurants book up well in advance of visiting day, so now’s the time to check around. But don’t forget, there are also cancellations! So be sure to leave your name on a wait list and call back.
This week, we are so thrilled to be joined by Jennifer Hazard, who writes about food, travel, and family for regional and national magazines. She’s the editor of the award-winning blog, Cute Potato: Your Guide to Kid-Friendly Maine and an insider for the Maine Office of Tourism. Take it away, Jennifer!
One of the many advantages to having your child at summer camp in Maine is your family also has the chance to enjoy some of the best places in the state. From Kennebunkport to Freeport, here are some family favorites in Southern Maine to discover:
The Nonantum Resort prides itself of being a great place to stay for families — the staff will find you and your kids all kinds of classic summer activities to enjoy, from paddle boarding to lawn games.
Try the area’s newest café, Boulangerie, for breakfast. Enjoy croissants straight out of the oven and more tempting treats. If it’s a nice day, eat outside on the patio or take your pastries with you to the beach.
A casual pub lunch is always fun at Federal Jacks, which is located right on the waterfront. Of course, if you like local beer, there is plenty of that on tap, too. The portions at Federal Jack’s are generous, but if everyone has room afterwards, go for artisanal ice cream at Rococo down the street.
Bandaloop is a favorite for family dinners. The cozy space and innovative menu are always a treat. Our kids especially enjoy the snack plate, which offers a sampling of fruit, veggies, cheese, and dipping sauce. We like the flavorful Maine crab cakes and skillet-steamed mussels.
For a simple and memorable family hike, check out the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in Wells. Or explore the beautiful East Point Sanctuary in Biddeford Pool. The sanctuary features a short, woodland trail that opens up to the ocean and offers views of Wood Island Lighthouse.
The Press Hotel is Portland’s newest and hottest place to stay. The building was once home to The Portland Press Herald and nods to the written word are all around — typewriters hang from the lobby walls and newspaper print adorns the hallways. This boutique hotel is also conveniently located downtown, making it easy to walk to the Old Port or many of the city’s restaurants and art venues.
There is no shortage of wonderful places to eat with kids while you’re in town. For a quick breakfast, take a drive to Scratch Bakery in South Portland, where you’ll find homemade bagels, tempting pastries, and locally roasted coffee. If it’s brunch you’re after, Silly’s is a fun place to visit. Where else can you enjoy card games while you wait for dinner-plate size chocolate chip pancakes?
For lunch or dinner, Flatbread Pizza Co. is a popular spot. The restaurant overlooks the harbor and the thin crust pizza is baked in a wood-fired, clay oven. Best of all, many of the ingredients used at Flatbread are locally sourced. And while there is never a shortage of options for lobster in Portland, my family likes the award-winning lobster rolls at the Bite into Maine food truck. Bite into Maine is conveniently located next to Portland Headlight — one of the most photographed lighthouses in the country. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a picnic by the water.
Our dessert go-to in Portland is Gelato Fiasco. The company prides itself on original flavors of creamy gelato and dairy free sorbetto. Taste as many flavors as you can before making a decision (not that you could ever go wrong).
No trip to Maine is complete without visiting at least one lighthouse. Portland Breakwater Light (“Bug Light”), which is located in Bug Light Park in South Portland, is a gorgeous spot to visit. Kids can fly kites, play soccer or simply watch the schooners and lobster boats pass by in Portland Harbor.
If you’re looking to get out on the water, take the ferry to Peaks Island, which is a short, 30 minute ride from the mainland. When you arrive, rent bikes from Brad’s and take time to explore the island. Or if you’re interested in learning what lobstering is like, take the family on Lucky Catch Cruise. You’ll see firsthand what it’s like to haul a trap from the water.
While you’re visiting the area, be sure to enjoy two nearby state parks. Crescent Beach State Park in Cape Elizabeth and Scarborough Beach State Park offer expansive beaches with plenty of space to play and swim.
The Harraseeket Inn is a classic, New England inn located in walking distance to Freeport’s restaurants and shops. The grounds are simply beautiful in the summer, and there is an indoor swimming pool for the kids to enjoy. The Harraseeket Tavern, which is located on site, offers delicious pizza, burgers and seafood plus fireside outdoor seating. Bonus: ask your server for s’mores fixings for dessert.
For breakfast, take a short drive down Route One into the town of Yarmouth. Clayton’s Café & Bakery is a popular local spot for award-winning pastries. My children are partial to the cinnamon rolls, and I like the egg and cheese sandwiches with lemon-dill mayo on a jumbo English muffin.
There are several good options for lunch throughout the town of Freeport, but our go-to spot is the Old World Deli. The Panini sandwiches, accompanied with a dill pickle, are always hearty and delicious. You’ll also want to grab a chocolate chip cookie at the register (they’re legendary). You can stay to eat or bring your sandwiches to Winslow Park — a stunning park overlooking the Casco Bay.
Eat harborside for dinner at the Harraseeket Lunch & Lobster Company in South Freeport. The casual, BYOB restaurant offers indoor and outdoor seating. This is a popular spot in the summer, so plan on spending some time taking in the views of the boats on the wharf. Either way, you can’t go wrong with a lobster roll or a classic dinner of potatoes, corn on the cob and lobster. Finish with a decadent slice of chocolate cream pie or drive back to Route One for freshly made frozen custard from Mainely Custard (check their site for new flavors each day).
Explore Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park for miles of walking trails under the shade of tall pines. Curious little ones might also enjoy Wolfe’s Neck Farm—an organic, working farm on the Casco Bay where children can meet the animals and enjoy a hayride throughout the property.
L.L.Bean hosts many national acts during their free Outdoor Summer Concert series. Set out your lawn chairs and blankets early, and then come back for a great show!
To get a real feel for Maine fare, take the family to the farmer’s market in nearby Brunswick. The market, which happens on Tuesdays and Fridays, features locally made bread, cheeses and more treats in the heart of downtown Brunswick. While you’re there, explore Bowdoin College campus and check out the beautiful shop at the college art museum for gifts.
No matter where you travel, remember that Maine is a place for discovery! You don’t have to look too far afield to find spectacular beaches, trails, restaurants, and events for your family to enjoy.
Maine Camp Experience Resources & Tools
Looking for the perfect Maine camp for your child? Try out our helpful tool where you can select a camp by choosing: type of camp (girls, boys or coed) and session length (1-8 weeks). It helps to narrow down a few camps to a manageable list that includes rates. Then you can research these camps in more depth.
Next, be sure to contact our Maine Campcierge™ to discuss these camps as well as for free, year-round advice and assistance on choosing a great Maine summer camp for your child.
Talk to Laurie, our Maine Campcierge™, about choosing the right camp for your child and what to do in Maine.