Summer vacation may feel like it’s eons away, but now is the perfect time to start thinking about where you’d like to go. If you’re someone who enjoys pristine scenery, outdoor adventures and cozy small towns, the Sebago Lake region in southern Maine is an excellent choice, and some of the following recommendations are even open during the cooler months.
About the Region
Located about an hour northwest of Portland in Maine’s lake region, Sebago Lake is one of the area’s most popular attractions. Outdoor enthusiasts flock to the region during the warmer months to take advantage of the myriad recreational offerings, but there are ample places to kick back and relax, too.
Although there are dining experiences and museums to explore, the real draw of the area has to do with its distinct lack of hustle and bustle. The appeal instead exists in the air that somehow feels fresher and is always just a tad pine-scented; the clear, glacier-fed water; and the friendly people who rarely pass by without a neighborly nod.
Places to Stay
Situated in the middle of Sebago Lake’s crystal-clear water, Frye Island is the perfect destination for when you want to get away from everything. Because it’s only accessible by ferry and personal watercraft, the island isn’t inhabited year-round. (Good luck trying to get your boat across when the lake freezes over!) Its seasonal nature has inhibited any major development, so the island has been able to maintain a level of quaintness that is both endearing and refreshing. Most of the island’s properties are waterfront, and many are kept as vacation homes available for renting on a nightly or weekly basis.
The island certainly moves at a slower pace; the speed limit for the unpaved roads is 20 mph, and most people opt to get around using a golf cart rather than a car (although you see them occasionally, when kayaks and other watercraft need to be transported). The single-deck ferry, which runs every 30 minutes, drops passengers off near the island’s hub: Frye’s Leap General Store and Cafe. For about two decades, the general store has been the only retail option for the island, so it has an eclectic assortment of necessary items and souvenirs. The cafe is a full-scale casual restaurant that serves both islanders and day-boaters alike. While the food is simple and hearty, the real attraction is the outdoor dining, offering gorgeous evening views of the lake. A visit to the general store isn’t complete without stopping for a few scoops from the ice cream stand.
If you’re looking to stay somewhere more upscale while maintaining rustic vibes, the Migis Lodge hits just the right notes between a spa resort and family campground. There is a main lodge along with 35 private cottages nestled amid 125 acres of pine forest and Sebago Lake shoreline. It also offers all kinds of recreational rentals, sports equipment and yes, luxurious spa treatments at the wellness center. Whether you’re traveling solo or bringing the whole family, it’s a wonderful way to gain full access to the joys of Sebago Lake.
Sebago Lake State Park
If you enjoy camping — as in, real camping with tents — then you can’t beat Sebago Lake State Park. Its 250-site campground offers full access to the park’s 1,400 acres of woodlands, sandy lakeside beaches, ponds, bogs and rivers. The hiking options are top-notch, but people often swim, fish, bike and boat there as well. Winter camping is also available, so if you’re really outdoorsy you can stay and take advantage of the pristine, groomed trails for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.
Things to Do
Maine Wildlife Park
A local favorite, the Maine Wildlife Park is the best place to get a glimpse of all the amazing animals that are native to the Pine Tree State. Home to over 30 species — including moose, big cats and bears — it’s a great way to spend a morning or afternoon admiring the adorable animals, their lovely gardens and the small-but-mighty Warden Museum. The park is especially remarkable because all of the wildlife are rescues that are unable to be released into the wild because of injury or domestication.
Seacoast Adventure is a year-round attraction in nearby Windham that almost defies description. In the warmer months you can enjoy (if you can call it that) the 100-foot-high Sky Swing, or goof around on go-karts, mini-golf courses and a great splash park for the kiddos. In the winter, Seacoast offers snow-tubing with a carpet lift up the hill. Once you’ve worked up an appetite — which is easy to do here — be sure to enjoy the food and craft cocktails at Deck House Tavern.
There are trails everywhere — this is Maine, after all — but two of the favorite places to hike in the area are Rattlesnake Mountain and Douglas Mountain. Pets aren’t permitted on the trails, which is kind of a bummer, but they offer fantastic views and just the right amount of physical exertion.
Top image: © Phil Sunkel from Getty Images, via Canva.com. Logos for the locations above are shown for illustrative purposes; no association or sponsorship is implied.