Take Route 302 west to Naples. Situated on the shore of beautiful, 45-square-mile Sebago Lake, Naples has long been a popular destination for summer visitors. After a canal was constructed between Portland and Naples in 1830, visitors could access Sebago Lake by boat all the way from Boston. Ease of transportation and the desirability of the lake -which features water so pure, Portland still uses the lake for its water supply -gave rise to numerous lakeside summer homes, camps and resorts in the early 1900s.

Although modes of transportation to the region have changed (the canal is now defunct), the popularity of the lake has not: Sebago Lake remains one of the State’s most visited destinations, especially for families with children. Visit Sebago Lake State Park and enjoy the white-sand beach, crystal-clear lake and picnic & camping area. Or, for a longer visit, stay at one of the grand old lakeside resorts or summer cottages. While in Naples, board the Songo River Queen, a 90-foot paddle boat offering scenic cruises on Long Lake and across Brandy Pond, through the surviving locks from the old canal, to the winding Songo River. Passengers are often rewarded with deer, moose and loon sightings.

From Naples, continue north on 302 to Bridgton, where you can ascend Pleasant Mountain via Shawnee Peak Ski Resort’s chairlifts to mountain bike, hike and enjoy magnificent views of the area’s fifty lakes. Head north on 302 from Bridgton to the intersection of Route 117.

Take 117 north to South Paris and take a side trip to West Paris, a charming little town that draws over 90,000 visitors per year. The attraction? Perham’s, a gemstone shop that has displayed locally mined amethyst (a large amethyst deposit was discovered in Maine in the 1970s), tourmaline and topaz since 1919. Visit this little wonder of a shop to admire its sparkling wares and get some tips on rock-hounding – you can even get a map to one of the local quarries, where you can do some treasure-seeking of your own.

From South Paris, head north on Route 26 to Bethel, a classic New England village, complete with a village green, stately clapboard homes and a community of friendly locals. Thanks to the induction of train service in 1851, this sleepy mountainside town gained almost instant notoriety as a haven for the city-weary. Grand resorts, hotels and spas offered fresh air, exercise and the promise of better mental health to urban dwellers from Montreal, New York and Boston.

Some of these elegant hotels remain, and offer wonderful respite for the visitors of today. Beautiful inns in Bethel proper as well as the Sunday River Ski Resort just outside of town provide wonderful hiking, biking and golf opportunities amidst some of the most breathtaking mountain views in the East.

While you’re in Bethel, make sure to explore nearby Grafton Notch State Park (take Route 2 east, then Route 26 north), where you can take short but worthwhile hikes to Screw Auger Falls, Mother Walker Falls and Moose Cave. In addition, the nearby White Mountain National Forest offers several spectacular hikes to scenic overlooks of the surrounding region. Also take note of nearby Newry’s covered bridge (which has been the subject of so many drawings and paintings, it is locally known as the Artist’s Bridge), which is a great spot to swim and picnic.

From Bethel, take a scenic drive through one of the most spectacular mountain passes in New England: take Route 2 west to Gilead, then head south on 113 through the White Mountain National Forest to Evans Notch, which offers magnificent panoramic views of the White Mountains.

– Courtesy of VisitMaine.com.

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