This is Kelly’s Landing, a lobster ‘pound’ (or shack) on a wooden deck jutting into Maine’s Moosehead Lake. The woman next to me starts chatting.
She’s a resident of Greenville, and delights in telling me that Moosehead Lake is the holiday destination New Yorkers prefer to keep to themselves.
‘This is a quiet, rustic, relaxed kinda place, and we don’t encourage tourists,’ she says, in a friendly sort of way.
Vibrant: The old wooden store buildings on the waterfront of Bar Harbour in Maine near Acadia National Park
Only as you fly in and see Maine from above do you grasp how smothered in dense green forest the state is. People traditionally flock here in autumn to ‘leaf peep’ at the spectacular colours, but, in summer, the air is fragrant with lilac, wild lupins, dog roses and luscious azaleas.
Lobster season has just begun — even McDonald’s is advertising its eagerly anticipated seasonal lobster rolls for just £7.40.
It’s like arriving in the land of plenty, but with the volume low, and neither the brusque brashness of New York nor the wacky flamboyance of California.
Actress Liv Tyler, pictured, grew up in Maine, while John Travolta and Susan Sarandon have holiday homes here
Actress Liv Tyler grew up in Maine, while John Travolta and Susan Sarandon have holiday homes here.
The people are courteous and take their time, wifi can be intermittent and traffic moves at a sedate pace.
Base yourself in Bangor — Maine’s third-largest city and home to the nearest American airport from Britain.
Strangely, there are no direct flights (I flew in via Philadelphia), but this may largely explain why northern Maine remains relatively undiscovered.
Though a small, quiet place of only around 35,000 residents, Bangor is the gateway to northern Maine’s treasures. It flourished in the 19th-century lumber boom and its wealth remains conspicuous in the grand old lumber barons’ wooden houses on West Broadway. This is where America’s master of horror, Stephen King, lives and it’s hard not to covet a tranquil life spent contemplating lush lawns from a shaded porch.
At the Historical Society — housed in a 19th-century mansion — I am shown a panelled room full of weapons from the American Civil War, such as the sword used by Joshua Chamberlain, the Union general decorated for his gallantry at the Battle of Gettysburg.
Museums here proudly display their state’s history, rooted in war and forestry, from the tiny, unique Troop Greeters at the airport, to the Cole Land Transportation Museum — a vast Aladdin’s cave warehouse crammed with vintage vehicles of every kind.
From Bangor, it’s a fairly easy drive north to Moosehead Lake, bordered by towns including Greenville. At 38 miles long, the lake is the largest in the state and home to the annual International Seaplane Fly-In, now in its 46th year.
Bangor, pictured, is Maine’s third-largest city. Though a small, quiet place of only around 35,000 residents, Bangor is the gateway to northern Maine’s treasures
‘People fly, drive, walk or canoe to this beautiful little town in droves to sit on the docks, or in lawn chairs or on the tops of their RVs to watch the airplanes. This is my kind of town,’ wrote Mark Schoening and Doug DeVries on their Great Arctic Air Adventure blog.
You can spot eagles, moose and the occasional Canada lynx. People stay at campsites or inns and amble around Greenville’s tranquil centre. It also has the best bed-and-breakfast in Maine — though not the best prices, with rooms starting from £247.
Blair Hill Inn is a magnificent white clapboard mansion atop a hill. It has a brand-new spa in a restored barn and ten elegantly furnished spacious rooms with generous, pristine bathrooms. There are so many windows that the rooms are full of light and a wide shaded veranda runs around the house.
I want to head south to Mount Desert Island, pronounced ‘Dessert’ by locals, because, over the years, I have heard Britons talk of it as a destination worthy of The Great Gatsby.
Arriving at touristy Bar Harbor is disconcerting, but, once I get to Northeast Harbor, home to generations of Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, Forbes and Martha Stewart, it lives up to its reputation, with its multi-million-dollar waterside homes along Sargeant Drive.
Moosehead Lake, pictured, which is the holiday destination New Yorkers prefer to keep to themselves
Here, the village High Street has pricey shops selling rare books, jewellery, designer beachwear and artefacts for the home. Northeast Harbor’s proximity to Acadia National Park is one reason why generations of canny Americans have sought to escape the city to this cool, green wilderness.
Vehicles are banned from park carriageways, so it’s ideal for hikers and cyclists. Wander in the exquisite Asticou Azalea Garden or navigate the stone bridges and ‘glacial erratics’, mammoth rocks left behind by shifting glaciers.
At 1,532ft, the park’s Cadillac Mountain is the highest point on North America’s eastern seaboard north of Rio de Janeiro. Standing at its crest, I look out over the Porcupine Islands, like prehistoric beasts rising from the wild sea.
Later, I feast on clam chowder, lobster and blueberry pie.
It may be called New England, but I feel like I am in an older, gentler, pre-digital world of simple pleasures and natural beauty.