steal my vacation

20 Trips to Mid-Coast Maine Later, I’ve Perfected the Long Weekend

Lobster rolls, vintage home goods, and beach naps.

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist
Photo-Illustration: The Strategist

Everyone knows that person who spends weeks sniffing around travel blogs, going deep into Tripadvisor rabbit holes, collecting Google docs from friends of friends, and creating A Beautiful Mind–style spreadsheets to come up with the best vacations/itineraries possible. In this recurring series, we find those people who’ve done all the work for you and have them walk us through a particularly wonderful, especially well-thought-out vacation they took that you can actually steal.

Visual director Samantha Adler has been coming to the mid-coast of Maine since elementary school, when she attended summer camp on Megunticook Lake. She fell in love with it in high school, while attending the Maine Media Workshop, including a class taught by Rockport luminary Cig Harvey. Aside from the area’s famed beauty, it’s the community she glimpsed then that has lured her back more than 20 times. “There are so many artists and creatives,” says Adler, who also cites the Camden Film Festival as a creative magnet. Here, she shares the best post–road trip morning routine, her favorite vintage home-goods store, and the drive-in hacks for an unforgettable long weekend.

Day 1

8 a.m: Grab bagels for the drive

Maine is good year-round, but my favorite time is the summer. Early August is sleepy. It’s not too crowded. The lakes are warm and everything’s green. I rent a car from Hertz in the West Village, so I’m able to just go straight up the West Side Highway. The drive usually takes eight to nine hours with stops, so I recommend driving with another person because that’s a brutal drive to do by myself. It’s not worth it to fly. It ends up being the same amount of time and you definitely need a car there. If I can, I leave at 8 a.m. Then I can be in Maine by 3 or 4 p.m. and nap before dinner. That’s the dream. You don’t want to leave too late, because then you get there in the middle of the night. I bring bagels from Bagels on the Square (7 Carmine St.) and try to drive as far as I can without stopping.

12 p.m.: Stop for a great sandwich

Domenic’s (987 Main St.) in Waltham, Massachusetts, is sort of exactly halfway. It’s a bomb sandwich place that you’d never go to if you didn’t go to school in Boston. And it happens to be right off the I-95 highway. They make insane panini and they also have great salads. I get the eggplant parmesan panini ($12). It’s not the most beautiful drive; it’s basically an endless stretch of highway. So the way to motivate yourself is with a lot of junk food and carbs.

1 p.m. Pick up discounted Chianti

I always stop at the NH Liquor & Wine Outlet (605 US-1 BYP South) in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, which is literally on the highway. It’s a tax-free liquor haven with great prices. They don’t have natural wine, but you can find some Chianti, which is a joke I have with my friend. We get whatever else we’re feeling on the day, and bring a mix of things because I want to be a good guest.

4 p.m. Check into your hotel sauna

I love the Lincolnville Motel (4 Sea View Dr.; from $150). I would try to book before mid-June for a room in early August. This is owned by Alice [Amory], and she is the also my friend’s daughter’s godmother — that’s how I found out about it. It is so cute. The motel has one strip that’s a classic motel where you can walk right into your room, but they also have cabins you can rent with a small group (up to four people for $185/night). It has a really beautiful common area where, when I’m doing an extended visit to Maine, I love to sit and work in. And it also has the cutest swimming pool.

There’s a beautiful stand-alone glass-and-wood sauna. I like to book the sauna immediately upon arrival and fix my back after the crazy drive. I sauna for an hour in a bathing suit. If I’ve done everything right, I’m out of the sauna by 5 p.m., then I can shower and nap until 6.

6:30 p.m.: Grab cheese, condiments, and natural wine

I would take a drive over to Bleecker & Greer Main Street Meats (310 Commercial St.) in Rockport (12-minute drive). The last thing you’d ever want to do when you’re done driving is drive some more, but these two places are really worth it. They have the best cheeses, salads, breads, natural wines, and dried goods. I don’t eat meat, but they have insane charcuterie boards, honeys, mustards, butters, olives. It’s the best version of that type of store. They make a lot of the baked goods on the premises. I pick up that and then go to the Stop N Go gas station (60 Elm St.) in Camden. It’s called Village Variety, but the sign says Stop N Go. They have the sickest selection of craft beer and wine. So you can pick up all of those things and eat them back at the hotel. By then, it’s Maine midnight, so that’s it for the night. I read and pass out at 10 p.m.

Day 2

8 a.m.: Make an early run for coffee

I’m a freak in Maine and wake up with the sun. After sitting in the car for a million hours the day before, I like to start my morning with something active. At 8 a.m., I will run to Green Tree Coffee & Tea (2456 Atlantic Hwy. / Route 1). It’s a 15-minute run or two-minute drive from the Lincolnville Motel. They have amazing coffees and teas. They are fanatical about what and how they brew. I get a cold brew or a double espresso depending on the temperature that morning. I always stock up on loose-leaf tea while I’m there too. Right now I have some chamomile ($12 for four ounces) and Maine blueberry–flavored black tea ($12 for four ounces) from there.

8:30 a.m.: Get in an illicit swim

I drive ten minutes over to Megunticook Lake for a swim to shock my system. The ethos of Maine is to always have a bathing suit in the car because Maine has so many beautiful lakes and hikes and waterfalls. I bring a towel in the car too. The Lincolnville Motel is on Route 1. Head south on Route 1 and make a right on Route 52. That road goes along Megunticook Lake. Pull over anywhere on the side of the road, park illegally, step over the highway partition (I’m not even five-foot-three and I can easily hop it), and jump into the lake. The water is not cold, but it’s not warm. You should only swim for a few minutes because you’re parked illegally on the side of the highway.

9 a.m.: Pick up breakfast sandwiches and local secrets

I’m not a big breakfast person, but there’s a place with great breakfast sandwiches (starting at $6.50) called Dot’s Market (2457 Atlantic Hwy.) across from Green Tree. Get those after the swim so they’re fresh. They do a new selection of things every day, so I’ll text my friends the options and see what they want. And then eat the sandwiches at the hotel or at Dot’s at the tables near the parking lot. The vibe is super-chill, friendly neighborhood community.

While at Dot’s, ask about where to swim. There’s a new water hole or swimming spot every summer. Just ask any of the local spots like Dot’s or Green Tree. People will gladly give a tip because people in Maine are friendly. Or, if you can, find a friend with a house on the beach of Megunticook Lake. There are public-access beaches in Maine, but the best waterfront is really privately owned. I love Megunticook Lake, because it’s the one I’ve been going to since I was a kid. It’s beautiful: very green and mountainous. The water is fresh, and it feels very secluded. But there are no bad trails and or swimming holes in Maine. Buy a snack at Dot’s for the afternoon. My favorite Maine snack is Little Lad’s Popcorn original Herbal Corn ($1.99). It’s nutritional yeast, dill, and all the best things.

10 a.m.: Stock up on bug spray and Carhartt

Stop by any Renys on your way to swim. Renys is a Maine department store that also has really good workwear and outdoor gear, like good versions of Carhartt and Champion. The mosquitoes, ticks, and the brown-tail moths are really bad in Maine in the summer. I buy a combo of straight-up industrial-strength DEET and bug oil from Renys. I also load up on Comfort Colors T-shirts (three for $10), which are native to Maine. Their slogan is “your new old favorite tee,” and that’s exactly right. They’re on Amazon but they’re a third of the price at Renys. I finally acquired a Renys sweatshirt last summer, and I get stopped by someone every time I wear it out.

Then, at your swimming location of choice, alternate between napping, reading, and swimming. I just do those three things and chill.

3 p.m.: Order lobster rolls

When we get hungry in the afternoon, we drive over to Graffam Brothers Seafood Market (211 Union St.) in Rockport. The seafood market is open year-round, but the shack across the street is only open in the summer, and the lobster is so fresh. They have my favorite lobster rolls ever. They’re perfectly seasoned and on a good bun. I definitely get a salt-and-vinegar kettle chip.

4 p.m.: Get supplies for the drive-in 

We’d go a few minutes away to Rayr Wine Shop (67 Pascal Ave.). I’d pick up a bottle of wine for the drive-in that night. At this point, we go back to the hotel to shower and get changed and prep the car for the drive-in.

7:30 p.m: See a documentary at the drive-in

The Shotwell Drive-In (40 West St.) is part of the Camden International Film Festival, which my friend Ben Fowley started and runs. They started the drive-in during COVID, and it’s become the best part of the summer in Maine. They play a full mix of films. They played The Truffle Hunters last year for my 30th birthday. They do kids’ nights; they play a lot of documentaries. I have planned weekends around what’s showing at the drive-in. They usually put out programming for the summer in June. If you ever get a chance to visit Maine in September, I recommend going to the film festival. I saw five of the seven Oscar-nominated documentaries at the film festival last year.

First, get the car ready. My friends have a pickup truck, which is the best way to go. But with any car, get a lot of pillows and blankets and put them in the trunk. We’ve gone all out and put a mattress in the back of the car before. In terms of what you’re wearing, you need to fully cover your body. You’ll want long sleeves, pants, and socks so your skin isn’t exposed to bugs. It’s pretty cool at night there, so you will be fine. Once at the drive-in, you can order a pizza to have with your wine and watch the movie.

Day 3

9:30 a.m.: Hot yoga for people who don’t like yoga

I like to start my day with a hot yoga or Pilates class at Earth Flow + Fire (385 Main St.; $15 a class). It’s about 25 minutes from the hotel. It’s a beautiful studio with a marble floor. I don’t even like yoga, but I really look forward to coming here, especially their Yin classes. All of the instructors are amazing. You can rent mats and towels there ($2 each) and get a green juice on your way out if that’s your persuasion.

11 a.m.: Shop for ’90s Armani and linen bedsheets

Down the street is Daughters (442 Main St.), which is the highlight of any trip to Maine for me. It is owned by my friend Ariel Birke. She has an amazing eye for curation. Daughters stocks a mix of home goods, fragrances, beauty products, and some vintage. All of my most favorite pieces in my wardrobe are from Ariel, from a ’90s Armani evening gown to black vintage Levi’s 505s and 550s, and sweaters of varying weights, including a cardigan that’s perfect post-swim and for the drive-in. She has the best stuff. Going is like Cheers; I always run into someone I know. She has also curated a real community around her store. And she keeps special pieces aside for regulars she knows will appreciate them. I have my eye on a new Stan Ray jacket from her. Maybe this summer I will finally buy it …

12:30 p.m.: Get a chopped salad on Main Street

My friends and I usually shop until we literally drop, so next we go across the street to Main Street Markets (not to be confused with Main Street Meets!). It’s an elevated market and prepared-food takeout spot. I like getting an immunity salad ($13), or if we want something heartier, we’ll go to Rockland Café (441 Main St.). It’s an old-school seaside-diner vibe. I like to get scrambled eggs ($4) and sit at the tables outside and people-watch. I was there last November when it was announced that Biden won the election. The mood was electric.

2 p.m. Take a foggy road to vintage home-goods heaven

During lunch, I usually start my campaign to get everyone to make the 35-minute drive west to Elmer’s Barn (107 Rockland Rd.) in Cooper Mills. You drive east on Route 17 to get there, which is my favorite road in the world. It’s foggy and green and peaceful and nostalgic. I’ve been going to Elmer’s since I was 15. So much of my life has come from there — my dining-room table, a vintage camera, vintage glassware — more than I’m comfortable admitting on the internet. It’s a three-floor maze of treasures. I’d set aside an hour or two to explore. I always need to be literally dragged out of there.

4:30 p.m.: Get takeout barbecue and homemade pickles

I like taking the long way back and stopping at Beth’s Farm Market (1986 Western Rd.) in Warren. They do a barbecue takeout window (opens end of June) on Sundays and they have the best pickles in the world. They’re sweet bread-and-butter pickles and usually sliced. I take back as many jars as I can. We usually stop for an early dinner. I don’t eat BBQ (half a chicken, beans and rice, fried cornbread, and water for $14.69), but I get the sides.

6 p.m.: Sneak in one last swim

On the way back, we stop for a swim at Hosmer Pond in Camden. There’s an easy parking lot. The vibe is very local, and as a warning, the bottom of the lake is definitely squishy. I’ve been swimming there since I was a kid, so it’s very nostalgic. The water is pretty cold, even in August, but I think it is refreshing.

Day 4

8 a.m: Grab blueberries for back home

Stop at Fresh Off the Farm (495 Commercial St.), which is a little market in Rockport, to pick up strawberries, blueberries, Rainier cherries, a case of Maine Root root beer ($37.95 for a 12-pack), and four giant bags of Little Lad’s popcorn to take on the road. I also buy Rock City Coffee’s Blueberry Coffee by the pound ($17.20/lb). You can grind it fresh there. We usually need to gun it back to the city to get to Hertz before it closes at 3 p.m.

Samantha’s Maine packing list

This is my first and most effective line of defense against Maine mosquito and brown-tail moth bites.

It’s the cutest, most comfortable swimsuit, and it is either on my body or in my car.

I bought a pair of these during the pandemic because I saw a photo of Mary-Kate Olsen wearing them. My friends all bought them too (team-uniform style). This will be my third summer with them and they’re still in perfect condition. They’re waterproof and comfortable enough to hike in, and they’re great in the city too.

From $60

I have a pair of men’s Champion track pants that I got at Renys three or four summers ago that I am slowly wearing to death. They’re blank nylon and unlined (unlike these), which makes them ideal to put on after a lake swim. They have an elastic bottom that zips open, which is ideal for mosquito protection. This is my desert-island pant and the only thing I really need with me in Maine. It’s a very low-maintenance clothing situation up there!!

Players by Don Delilo

I love reading books about Maine while I’m in Maine (lol). This summer I want to read Players, by Don Delillo.

More Maine things Samantha loves

Suzuki Sushi in Rockland (419 Main St.)
• Camden Cone Ice Cream in Camden (31 Bay View St.)
• Antiques at 10 Mechanic in Camden (10 Mechanic St.)
• Long Grain Thai in Camden (20 Washington St.)
• Lincolnville General Store in Lincolnville (269 Main St.)

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20 Trips to Maine Later, I’ve Perfected the Long Weekend