Visit the “The Gems of 26”

Leaders from some of Western Maine’s most significant tourism destinations have joined together to attract visitors to their part of the world. The group, known as “The Gems of 26” include (from south to north) the Maine Wildlife Park, Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, Poland Spring Resort, Poland Spring Preservation Park, and McLaughlin Gardens.
Route 26 connects Western Maine to the rest of the state via Maine Turnpike’s exit 63 in Gray. Though a state highway, the road meanders through gorgeous countryside and boasts culturally, historically, and ecologically significant attractions. Just 30 minutes north of Portland, a family can spend a day or several days visiting these five important and interesting destinations for very little money – a true value.
Your first stop should be the Maine Wildlife Park, just 3.5 miles off I-95 Exit 63, which features more than 25 unique species of native Maine wildlife, including black bear, moose, bald eagle, and lynx. Families can visit the Dry Mills Fish Hatchery, or meander along one of the many nature trails. The park is open daily and has a variety of wildlife and flower gardens, a nature store, and snack shack.
The next stop is Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, the only surviving community of Shakers anywhere in the world. Tour the village, learning the Shaker way of life represented in period rooms from the 1700s to the present. Experience the Shaker Store, workshops, demonstrations, special events, research library, and the 1794 Shaker Meetinghouse where Shaker Sunday meeting is still held and is open to the public.
Just further down the road, Poland Spring Resort features a room and two meals for very reasonable rates. A country inn since 1794, this resort boasts 800 acres, three inns and eleven private cottages, delicious food, great entertainment. Activities include grass tennis courts, a huge swimming pool and their famous Donald Ross-designed masterpiece golf course, recognized in national publications for its great maintenance and magnificent views.
Adjacent to the resort is Poland Spring Preservation Park, where you will find the magnificent All Souls Chapel, view the architectural beauty of Society’s Maine State Building (which was featured at Chicago’s World Fair in 1893), visit the former bottling facility of Poland Spring Water, or hike along the five miles of nature and recreational trails in Preservation Park.
Further north on 26, you’ll find McLaughlin Garden. Dating back to 1936 when Bernard McLaughlin began planting, this century old farmstead has become one of Maine’s most beloved gardens. Come learn about the extensive and sophisticated collection of trees, woody shrubs, and perennials. McLaughlin Garden features a historic home, barn, Garden Gift Shop, and Garden Café, where a gourmet lunch is served daily. Admission to the grounds are free.
Maine Wildlife Park, Shaker Village, the attractions of Poland Spring, and the grounds of McLaughlin Garden truly are the “Gems of 26.” For more information about this Route 26 tour from Gray to South Paris, visit

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