Maine-based photographer and antique dealer, Ari Kellerman, shares insider’s tips for a memorable weekend in the New England haven, including house museums, antique hunting and a look around her 1740s Colonial home.
Built on the ice, granite, lumber, shipbuilding and fishing industries, Maine now thrives on tourism, being the “Vacationland” it set out to be as early as the 1830s. Summering boomed post civil war and the 20th-century saw many of the working waterfronts become supplanted by waterfront hotels. Maine culture cannot be separated from the industries that built it, given most continue to flourish today.
Maine is a retreat, a reprieve, a deep breath. It’s unfussy and casual. Visitors flock to beaches and the quiet fishing towns to take in the ocean air. Many towns here have placed an emphasis on preservation, leaving much of the early architecture remaining. Those with an interest in Americana will find antique shops dotted all along route 1.
Don’t be fooled into thinking you won’t find an early or global selection here; you’ll find seasonal antique shows and fleas markets if you time them right. House museums are a transportive way to immerse yourself in the history of an area, and a joy for any decorative arts lover. Those I've shared below are true time capsules.
When visiting New England, I cannot recommend enough that you start here. Portland is a not-to-miss dining hub, but the smaller villages are more charming: York, Ogunquit, Kennebunk, Wiscasset, Damariscotta, Belfast and Camden, to name a few. I was raised here and have lived many places since, but Maine is where I've chosen to live as an adult; I am excited to share its hidden corners with anyone who looks me up.
Ari Kellerman | Follow Ari on Instagram: @arikellerman
Where to Stay
The White Barn Inn, Kennebunk: A Maine landmark - luxurious, rustic charm and an excellent restaurant in the beautiful coastal town of Kennebunk.
The Captains Collection, Kennebunkport: Four beautifully restored historic homes, formerly owned by leading sea captains.
Blind Tiger, Portland: A one-of-a-kind guest house with a storied history, located in the heart of the buzzing city of Portland.
The Squire Tarbox Inn, Westport: A beautiful boutique inn, sitting among 12 acres of pastoral farmland, woods, and a tranquil salt marsh.
The Nourembega, Camden: An elaborate, elegant retreat with cosy touches -wooden trimmings and fireplaces throughout - overlooking Penobscot Bay.
The Clairmont Hotel, Southwest Harbor: A stylish spot with chic cabanas, a heated outdoor pool and views of Somes Sound and Cadillac Mountain.
Where to Eat
Fish & Whistle, Biddeford: A charming and traditional fish and chip restaurant.
Palace Diner, Biddeford: Maine's oldest diner, est. in 1927. A real institution.
The Well at Jordans Farm, Cape Elizabeth: Fine, locally-sourced food served on a working farm in the lovely seaside town of Cape Elizabeth.
Leeward, Portland: Excellent, award-winning Italian food in a stylish setting.
The Garrison, Yarmouth: Intimate fine dining on the Royal River in Yarmouth.
The Lost Kitchen, Freedom: Organic, seasonal food served in the atmospheric surroundings of an old mill. Open seasonally, all details on their website.
Wolfpeach, Camden: Sourdough pizza, natural wines and great cocktails.
What to See & Do
Downeast Art and Antique Show, Blue Hill, August 1-4th, 2023: The longest running antiques show of its kind, founded in 1948 now with 28 dealers from throughout the US. This year the event is chaired by Nina Campbell who has recently completed her book, A House in Maine, with Giles Kime.
Corey Daniels Gallery & Store, Wells: This gallery exhibits a synthesis of found art and objects with emerging and mid-career contemporary artists.
Ogunquit Museum of American Art: Ogunquit, a unique American art gallery celebrating its origins in Ogunquit’s art colony.
Day-trip or long stay on Monhegan Island and Vinalhaven: Inhabited since the 17th-century, Monhegan has long been an artists' destination. Major American painters were drawn from the cities to the rugged coast, unknowingly sparking a national interest in summering on the island. Today, the island remains without cars or paved roads. It has three or so Inns, a few restaurants, and a general store. Its beauty is in its simplicity; days spent on the water, hiking the trails, visiting local artists' studios, a walk up to the museum for an exhibit, panoramic sunset views, and embracing the quiet one can only find miles out to sea. Monhegan Boat Line or Hardy Boat Cruises can take visitors for the day, or a long stay. Vinalhaven, the largest of Maine’s offshore islands, is a relaxing destination with just enough amenities for tourists, and one of the best antique stores in New England: Marston House. Both locations are nothing short of magical.
For Historic House Museums and Antiques, see below.
Where to Buy Antiques
Withington Antiques, Cape Neddick: American and European Antiques.
The York Antiques Gallery, York: 18th, 19th, and early 20th-century multi-dealer showroom. The best for treasure hunting. You’ll find my own pieces here.
R. Jorgensen Fine Period Antiques, Wells: One of New England’s largest and finest showrooms Old House Parts: Kennebunk, Architectural Salvage.
Pillars Antiques, Freeport: Antiques and Decorative Arts.
Samuel Snider Antiques, Wiscasset: Early Americana.
Marston House, Vinalhaven: French, English, and Tuscan textiles and Antiques.
Thomaston Place Auction Galleries, Thomaston: Fine Art and Antiques.
Historic House Museums
Hamilton House, South Berwick: 1785 Riverside Georgian mansion shown as the summer retreat of the Tyson family in the early 20th-century.
Sayward Wheeler, York: 1718 York Harbor home of British loyalist, Jonathan Sayward. The property is believed to be one of the best-preserved colonial interiors in the nation. The site interprets the history of the enslaved household members and the Wabanaki.
Old York Historical Society, York: One of the earliest English settlements in the country and center of maritime commerce. Visit Elizabeth Perkins and Emerson-Wilcox houses, the Old Gaol, York Corner Schoolhouse, and Remick Gallery.
Tate House, Portland: 1755 Colonial home of mast agent, Captain George Tate.
Victoria Mansion, Portland: 1858 Italian villa designed by Henry Austin, decorated by Gustave Herter, with trompe l’oeil paintings by Giuseppe Guidicini.
Maine Historical Society, Portland: Poet Henry Wadsworth-Longfellow’s childhood home and the gallery of the official state historical society.
Nichols-Sortwell, Wiscasset: 1807 Federal Mansion built for shipping magnet William Nichols. The historic landmark is also available as a vacation rental.
Ari Kellerman is a Maine-based antique dealer and photographer. Contact Ari and follow her updates on Instagram: @arikellerman