Maine on a budget
A real vacation providing varied experiences of the state fits the wallet of most travelers.
May 25, 2008
It's always easy to find ways to spend money in an area abounding in attractions. But whether you're a resident out for a day trip or a visitor seeing the sights, it can be more challenging to find low-cost options for excursions and lodging.
Fortunately, even in southern Maine where prices tend to be higher, a little creativity and research can result in a vacation the whole family will enjoy.
In the Portland area, Cape Elizabeth's Portland Head Light at Fort Williams Park (http://www.portlandheadlight.com/) has free admission. Besides the historic 1791 lighthouse ("the most photographed lighthouse in North America"), the park features a small beach and acres of grassy space for picnics and playing, plus a ruined fort and a mansion.
Crescent Beach State Park (tinyurl.com/5dg8xu), also in Cape Elizabeth, is one of the area's most accessible beaches, with a snack bar and bathrooms. Admission costs $4.50 for adults and $1 for children, with seniors and kids under age 5 admitted for free.
Perhaps the most affordable way to get onto the water is a ferry ride to Peaks Island, where beaches are within walking distance of the pier. Pack a picnic and save money on lunch, too. Round-trip tickets from Casco Bay Lines on Portland's Commercial Street (http://www.cascobaylines.com/) cost $7.75 for adults and $3.85 for children and seniors.
In Kennebunkport, the beautiful and serene grounds of the Franciscan Monastery are open to the public, with walking trails (paved and wheelchair-accessible) winding through the woods to a scenic vista on the Kennebunk River.
Probably the best deal for lodging is the Franciscan Guest House adjacent to the monastery (http://www.franciscanguesthouse.com/), with 65 rooms, a saltwater pool and handy access to Kennebunk Beach. Including breakfast, rates start at just $96 during peak season ($69 in June).
Just outside town, the Seashore Trolley (http://www.trolleymuseum.org/) offers frequent 25-minute railway rides on antique streetcars. Admission tickets ($8 adults, $5.50 children, under 6 free) include unlimited rides and exploration, rather than just a single ride.
A few other bargains can be found, especially on the outskirts of town. For example, the Cape Porpoise Motel (http://www.capeporpoisemotel.com/), in a working fishing village, starts at $125 peak ($85 in June) with continental breakfast.
It's even more difficult to find an affordable place to stay close to the beach, but just a mile from Goose Rocks Beach, campsites at Salty Acres Campground (http://www.saltyacrescampground.com/) range from $26 to $42. Guests walk or bicycle to the beach, or buy day-trip parking stickers for $5.
Northwest of Portland, Gray's Maine Wildlife Park (http://www.mainewildlifepark.com/) displays animals native to the state, including bears, mountain lions and birds of prey, and is a bargain at $6 for adults and $4 for children.
The Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village in New Gloucester (http://www.shaker.lib.me.us/) offers tours of the buildings and idyllic grounds at $6.50 for adults and $2 for children. Nearby, day passes to Outlet Beach are $4 for adults and $2.50 for children, and inexpensive boat rentals are also available.
Continuing up Route 26, Poland Spring's original springhouse and a water-oriented science museum are free and open Thursdays through Saturdays. The grounds have five miles of recreational trails, one leading to a pond where a glimpse of nesting eagles is possible. The Poland Spring Preservation Society (http://www.polandspringps.org/) offers guided tours of two historic buildings for $3 Tuesdays through Saturdays.
Drive a bit farther to McLaughlin Garden in South Paris (http://www.mclaughlingarden.org/) to explore three and a half acres of breathtaking gardens, including a massive lilac collection, and a caf and gift shop in a restored historic house. There's a suggested donation of $5 per person.
This area isn't packed with lodging options, but a good value is available at Mollyockett Motel & Swim Spa in West Paris (http://www.mollyockettmotel.com/), with an indoor pool and a restaurant opening in June. Rooms start at $70 in the summer.
Jennifer Brewer is a freelance writer who lives in Saco.
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