Yachts and boats move through the waters of Southwest Harbor while fog creeps along the coastline.

Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island. Photo © Natalia Bratslavsky/123rf.

From the glacier-scoured beaches of the Southern Coast to the craggy cliffs Down East, Maine’s coastline follows a zigzagging route that would measure about 5,500 miles if you stretched it taut. But taut it isn’t. Eons ago, glaciers came crushing down from the north, inch by massive inch, and squeezed Maine’s coastline into a wrinkled landscape with countless bony fingers reaching seaward.

Thanks to its geography, most Maine coast vistas are intimate, full of spruce-clad islands and gray granite and sometimes-forbidding headlands.Thanks to its geography, most Maine coast vistas are intimate, full of spruce-clad islands and gray granite and sometimes-forbidding headlands. Now add 64 lighthouses, 90 percent of the nation’s lobsters, and the eastern seaboard’s highest peak. Each peninsula has its own character, as does each island offshore and each harbor village.

When it comes to character, no individuals are more rugged than the umpteenth-generation fishermen who make their living from these bone-chilling waters. Even the summer folk tend to be different here—many return year after year, generation after generation, to the same place and the same neighbors and the same pursuits. Then there’s Maine’s coastal symphony: waves lapping and crashing, birds crying or singing, foghorns calling and bell buoys ringing, and in the quiet of a preserve, streams gurgling and leaves rustling.

Shore breezes mingle the aromas of pine, balsam, or rugosa rose with the briny scent of the sea. Sometimes you can almost taste the salt in the air.

Lobster, of course, is king, and Maine’s seafood is ultrafresh, but don’t overlook luscious wild blueberries, sweet Maine maple syrup, delicious farmstead cheeses, and homemade pies sold at roadside stands. Access to this bounty is one reason why talented chefs are drawn to the state.

Even if you don’t dine at one of the hot restaurants with nationally known chefs, you can visit cheesemakers, fish smokers, artisan bakers, microbrewers, and organic farmers. But balance that with classic Maine fare: a bean-hole or chowder suppah, where you can share a table with locals and, if you’re lucky, hear a genuine Maine accent (here’s a hint: “Ayuh” isn’t so much a word as a sharp two-part intake of breath).

Yes, there’s a reason why more than eight million people visit Maine every year, why longtime summer folk finally just pick up stakes and settle here. Maine boldly promotes itself as “The Way Life Should Be”—spend a little time in this extraordinarily special place and you’ll see why.

Excerpted from the Fifth Edition of Moon Coastal Maine.