When Should I Come?

A typical phone reservation goes something like this: I answer, “Hello, Searsport Shores Ocean Camping.” The person on the other end of the phone line either says “Hi, how was your winter, how’s the family?” or “I’m thinking of coming to Maine this summer…when should I come?” There’s the 6 million dollar question.

If your vacation time is completely flexible then I suggest you think about the kind of atmosphere you’re hoping to find once you get here. Maybe it’s just my imagination, but there’s a subtle energy shift that happens every couple of weeks in the summer within the waves of guests…After greeting campers at the reservation desk for 15 years, here’s the image in my mind:

Memorial Day brings laughter and hotdogs to all of us…the weather is a crap shoot but the ambiance is always as playful as children in shiny rain boots. Three day weekends have become the norm for many family getaways. Adults make the most of their freedom by lingering over coffee and doughnuts, BBQ’ing for the neighbors and helping kids out with their dusty bicycles. Kids celebrate by daring each other to jump in the cold water and showing off their latest tricks. If you come this weekend, your camping neighbors are most apt to be folks from towns close by…perfect if you want to ask about little known scenic drives or tiny restaurants.
May and the first two weeks of June bring the hardy souls to the campground. Dress in layers because the weather will fluctuate between hot and cold, dry and wet. When you come, welcome whatever the weather may bring and enjoy the solitude of the beaches, the beauty of the Spring gardens and the evening campfires under a million stars. Come in June if you appreciate the “just washed, ready for company” atmosphere of towns where tourism is an eagerly awaited season…oh, and did I mention that we don’t have bugs here on the coast?

Who’s beautiful?July’s visitors are the eager type “A”‘s. They want quick answers for their most pressing questions: “…where should I go? what should I see? when can I start? and how long will it take?” July is when we take advertising videos to prove how beautiful life can be. Maine is the quintessential place to be for a July party. On the 4th, all of the towns have parades and Fireman’s musters, the flags are draped like banners from tiny white Capes and majestic Colonials and the red geraniums in the window boxes are postcard perky. Life feels more festive on the Maine coast during the first weeks of summer than any other time of the year…and you should experience it whenever the opportunity arises.

The first two weeks of August are more relaxed. Guests have had time to enjoy the warmth of the summer sun and are now headed to the coast for our cool breezes and picture perfect evenings. The pace slows down and there’s talk about how the gardens are blooming, which farmer’s market has the best corn and tomatoes, and who’s whale watch has had the most consistent success.

Here’s an insider tip: If you want all the atmosphere of lazy summer days but none of the waiting lines for restaurants and museums, come the week before Labor Day. Many people are busy getting the kids ready for school and some of our prime sites sit empty in the sunshine.

Personally, I would visit Maine from the last week of August until the end of October…and so few people listen to me! The sky is unspeakably blue in September, the ocean water is warm, and the beaches are often sparsely populated or empty. By September, waiters and waitresses have had time to catch their breath and all of us in the guest industry are looking forward to another wave of visitors. The Fall folks seldom have a tight agenda and appreciate the rarity of the warm, long afternoons. They want to really explore our tiny side streets looking at the sea captains homes. They tend to the linger around the cottage gardens and pass the afternoon sipping lemonade in an outdoor cafe.

Photo by Gary Krochmal, 2006Really, September and October are luxurious months. In the late summer and fall, you can count on warm days and cool nights. The best events happen then (I’m thinking Fiber College and the Common Ground Fair) and local vegetables are at their peak. But don’t come to the coast of Maine looking for vibrant foliage…we aren’t the Pine Tree State because the slogan sounds good! Here the atmosphere glows when the pine needles embroider the roads and paths with golden yellow stitches. In sharp contrast, the flowers are bursting in burgandy reds, deep oranges and exotic purples. Fall is such a generous time of year…come and see for yourself.

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