Spring retreats. Summer getaways. Off-the-grid cabins and lakeside camps where we can fall asleep to the spectral calls of local loons and wake up to sherbet-colored sunlight streaming in through the windows.
These vacation rental daydreams brighten our spirits on days when the season has advanced from fresh snowfalls to leftover crust. We’re still living in March, but our brains have leaped ahead to the hammock naps and sunset paddles of a warm-weather getaway.
Now is the time to start solidifying plans to make that daydream a real-life thing.
There are countless Maine cottages and camps built for welcome respites and relaxation, oftentimes generations ago. Maybe your family has such a place. Lucky you.
If not, don’t worry. You can still partake in long summer days paddling the shoreline or catching fish from the dock. You can watch cedar waxwings flit among the branches and spot eagles soaring high above the trees on the other side of the lake. You can toast marshmallows over a popping campfire and doze off to the delicate splash of pond water on rocks.
You’ll just do it at someone else’s place.
Websites like airbnb.com and vrbo.com have a host of getaways to choose from, ranging from high-end homes to no-frills A-frames. Some local land trusts and preserves manage cozy cabins on their properties, too. Here are a few of my favorites:
Rustic perfection in Franklin
At the end of a dirt road, crouched among the maples and pines, this cabin in Franklin looks like it’s playing hide-and-seek with Great Pond. It sits on 125 acres that have been in the owner’s family for more than 100 years. There are other homes nearby, but this cabin’s position on a small swath of land that juts into the pond makes it feel like a solitary place.
Out front is a fire pit. Steps away is the private dock, and there are canoes and kayaks to borrow during your stay. Inside is cozy and efficient. There’s a big bed for two and a small loft with two cots that’d be great for kids. There’s also a futon on the main floor.
The kitchen area has a sink with a hand pump that draws pond water for washing, a gas stove, and a small battery-powered fridge. Paddle Great Pond and spy the wildlife. Or hike Schoodic Mountain (which you can see from the dock), about a half-hour drive away.
Accommodates four guests, $80 a night. Book via Airbnb (search “Rustic Cabin on the Pond with Beautiful Views” in Franklin).
Byron camp on Little Ellis Pond
Take the canoe out for a spin on Little Ellis Pond, where mountains rise up from every direction. This cool camp is perched right at the water’s edge and has all the buffalo plaid charm you could ask for.
Off-the-grid comforts include gas lamps, a propane fridge, a hand pump that draws water from the pond, a wood stove, and an outhouse across the road. And then there’s the retro dining table, funky-colored chairs, and a stack of board games just in case it rains.
Outside there’s a deck and a private dock, and you can recline in your camp chair in front of a fire and watch the sun go down behind the mountains. Coos Canyon is just up the road, and Angel Falls and Tumbledown Mountain are each about a 25-minute drive.
Accommodates six guests, $155 a night. Book via Airbnb (search “Off the Grid Garland Get Away” in Byron).
Oceanfront A-frame in Robbinston
At low tide, you can wander the expansive beach scouting for sand dollars and marvel at the talls cliffs carved out by the tide and the strength of the waves, including the striking Pulpit Rock.
This cliffside A-frame is in Robbinston, about 12 miles south of Calais. It’s a short, winding dirt road away from Route 1, but it feels gloriously remote. The owners call it Camelot, and it boasts all the necessities: a roof and sleeping accommodations for four people, an outhouse, a deck and grill, a bonfire pit, and unbelievable views. Both Cutler Coast Public Reserved Land and Campobello Island are about an hour’s drive.
The cabin comes with plenty of other essentials, too, like cooking utensils and a ginormous cooler. What you won’t find: electricity, flush toilets, Internet. It’s amazing.
Accommodates four guests, $89 a night. Book via Airbnb (search “Oceanfront Cliff Cabin Camelot” in Robbinston).
Eco-cabins in West Gardiner
This get-out-of-Dodge retreat includes quiet time in a waterfront cabin, morning coffee on a small dock, and leisurely paddles on calm stream waters. The Kennebec Land Trust has two eco-cabins on Cobbossee Stream in West Gardiner, both of which were beautifully renovated a couple of years ago.
The cabins offer an in-the-woods escape, but civilization is just down the road (or stream). Both cabins are down a private lane off the Litchfield-Hallowell Road in West Gardiner and require a quarter-mile walk-in on an old road (wheelbarrow provided to bring in your stuff). They are also both cozied right up to the water’s edge on a quiet part of the stream.
The cabins employ a host of eco-friendly elements like solar energy, composting toilets, and even a bat house. They’ve got gas for cooking and heat when it’s cool out, and enough electricity to run some lights (and recharge a cellphone). There’s no potable water, but there is a hand pump in the kitchen that pumps in stream water for dishes.
Accommodates six guests, $88 a night. Book via hipcamp.com or the Kennebec Land Trust website.
Freelance writer Shannon Bryan lives in South Portland and is the founder of fitmaine.com, where she writes about the coolest ways to be active and get outdoors in Maine.