When I heard about Elite Airways launching direct flights twice a week in June from Halifax (the only Canadian city they service) to Portland, Maine, I was looking forward to giving them a try – especially since I love Maine! A quick check-in, a short security line and before I knew it I was on the plane greeted by friendly smiles, lot’s of leg room and a jovial pilot who even gave us a quick geographical lay out of the land as we made our way towards Portland, Maine.
The Elite Experience
Let’s be honest flying is not the way it used to be. Delays are all too common, even a short flight can become an eight-hour day just to get there. Elite Airways is a refreshing change from all of that.
Don’t miss staring out at the beauty of the Casco Islands spread out along Maine’s coast just before you land. It was probably the shortest under an hour flight I had ever been on, and by far one of the best. I even overheard a lady in front of me say, “ Love this new flight – wish it was longer!”
I also learned that I could have brought my canine buddy along for the ride easily, even though he exceeds standard airline weight requirements to fly under the seat with you. No problem! With Elite, you can buy a seat for your dog up to 90 lbs! That fabulous fact applies to the Halifax to Sarasota/Bradenton flight too.
Shopping & Adventure Weekend
I decided to stay in Freeport, Maine, which is about 20 minutes away from downtown Portland. Often thought of as the outlet-shopping town, Freeport is also the perfect town to explore all that nature has to offer. It really caters to the outdoor enthusiast, boasting the L.L. Bean flagship store that (no joke) is open 24/7, and never closes 365 days a year.
That means if you feel like heading out on a camping trip at 2 a.m. you can grab your gear in the huge store. Perhaps a chill is in the air and you need a cozy L.L. Bean jacket at the last minute? It’s all there with an aquarium of fish included.
During the week L.L. Bean offers Discovery School Adventures with their expert guides. Sign up for stand-up paddle boarding, birding, biking, snowshoeing and more! There is something for all ages. My daughter canoed while I paddle boarded past large osprey hiding in the treetops. L.L. Bean started with a now famous hunting boot in 1912 and has evolved into everything synonymous with the great outdoors ever since.
Just a short saunter down the road is the historic family owned Harraseeket Inn, which continually garners the title of one of America’s Best Hotels for good reason. Its white-pillared entrance, lovely Victorian inspired reception and friendly staff greet you upon arrival.
You can choose to stay at the Inn, in one of the townhouses on the property, or for those needing a lot of room, the L.L. Bean house is the way to go if you can snag it. That was my home for the week with my ten-year-old daughter in tow. We hunkered down in this beautifully restored home adjacent to the inn.
The house is completely furnished top to bottom in all things L.L. Bean. There are cotton throws strewn across the beds in all three bedrooms, lovely wooden furniture throughout, a wood burning fireplace and a sun room that I fell in love with, savouring the morning rays. The spacious yet cozy home sleeps nine making it perfect for a girl’s weekend or another family to join you. I am already planning to get back with some friends in the fall.
Every evening the Inn lights up a bonfire to curl up by, surrounded by fire lit torches, creating such a wonderful outdoor ambiance. The Inn has everything one needs including two stellar restaurants to dine at. Keep in mind an outstanding buffet breakfast is included in your stay. For more casual fare for lunch or dinner try the Broad Arrow Tavern, a favorite of the locals.
The Harraseeket Inn introduced the “Farm to Table” sustainable concept long before it was popular. I could not get enough of the fish tacos, with fresh blackened or baked haddock. I also suggest trying the Maine lobster roll served warm or cold, I mean it is Maine after all! For a fancier, yet unpretentious feast, the Maine Dining Room is the place to be. I have never had a lobster crepe in a sherry sauce before. Let’s just say that it is by far one of the best things I have ever indulged in.
If you are looking to sample some local brew, head up the road a bit to the Maine Beer Company. Over 600 cans of beer on the wall welcome you into the tasting room. For $10 you can sample four flights on tap. Try a Tiny Beautiful Something Pale Ale or Mean Old Tom, an American stout named after the owner’s uncle. Maine Beer Company has one clear motto in mind – “Do What’s Right”. 100% of the tips are donated to an environmental related cause.
Maine Sweet Tooth
Have you ever had a Whoopie Pie? How about a Wicked Whoopie Pie? Two round moist pieces of chocolate cake with a velvety frosting in the middle are what the rage is all about at Wicked Whoopies, which is located right on Freeport’s Maine Street. The Whoopies are made fresh everyday with a bunch of flavours to choose from like banana cream pie, mint and of course “the classic”. My daughter and I could never have just one during our stay.
Leave the car behind and hop on Portland Maine’s newest form of transport – The BREEZ Bus – which connects you from Freeport into Portland. For $3 it’s a great scenic way to travel back and forth. It runs Mon to Sat but not on Sundays.
I opted to get off by the salty smelling waterfront in Portland on Commercial Street, so I could do what I love to do with my daughter – cycle! It is truly one of the best ways to explore a new place. Look for the Summer Feet Cycling sign and take off on a cruiser along the fantastic bike routes. They have kids bikes and trailers too. Or join one of the tours like Bike and Brews or The Lobster Roll, which stops by five lighthouses and allows you to happily indulge in three lobster rolls along the way. Can it get much better then that?