Photo: A sea kayaker

A sea kayaker in Penobscot Bay, Maine, near Acadia National Park

Photograph by Abrahm Lustgarten, Aurora Photos

Pop. 2,216
GPS: 44º23’N 68º34’W

This spiffy coastal town’s new focus is on the outdoors: The Blue Hill Heritage Trust has conserved 4,750 acres (1,922 hectares) of wilderness, ensuring that kayakers spend more time on the placid bays, not stuck in tourist-trap traffic. Pack your easel, your garden hoe, or your 401(k); this is a haven for photogs and painters.

PLAY

Midcoast Maine's nooks and crannies offer endless places to play, but Acadia National Park is certainly a standout. Just an hour's drive from Blue Hill will land you in a classic picture postcard of the Maine wilderness (also soon to be depicted on the 2012 U.S. quarter). Camp overnight and get in an early hike up Cadillac Mountain for sunrise—at times the first point in the U.S. to catch rays (nps.gov/acad). In Blue Hill itself, the Maine Environmental Research Institute offers educational eco-cruises and island excursions, and the Island Heritage Trust Trails have preserved some fantastic hikes around neighboring Deer Isle. Castine kayaks run day and overnight trips along the coast (www.castinekayak.com).

EAT

One may not expect to find an organic, local menu at an Irish pub, but that's just what the Brooklin Inn delivers, including Maine-raised beef, lamb, and poultry, and the catch of the day (www.brooklininn.com)

SLEEP

The Blue Hill Inn's knowledgeable staff can point the way to just about anything you'd like to explore in the area (doubles from $155, www.bluehillinn.com).

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