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Maine's Southernmost Coast

Or rent a bike: At Cape-Able Bike (83 Arundel Rd., Kennebunkport; 207/967-4382), owner Peter Sargent will suggest any number of routes. His favorite?"The ride to Cape Porpoise, off Route Nine in Kennebunkport. It has a preserved lighthouse, and on the pier you can get every kind of Maine food imaginable."

farm-fresh food

It's not always enough to eat at a place with a view: when the countryside is this beautiful, you want to be smack in the middle of it. So pick up something and go.

The freshest fruit and vegetables—and often, home-baked blueberry pies—can be found at Spiller Farms (1123 Branch Rd., Wells; 207/985-2575), Pine Tree Gardens (411 Post Rd., Wells; 207/646-7545), and Buffum's Hill Farm (Rte. 1, Wells; no phone). Buffum's farm stand, just south of the Dexter shoe outlet, has been around since 1931; a 10-year-old was tending the place when I stopped in for plums, grapes, and sweet corn. York Corner Gardens, on Route 1 in York, had some terrific ripe tomatoes.

For smoked-salmon pâté, imported cheeses, and Oregon and California wines, try Perkins & Perkins (246 Rte. 1, Ogunquit; 207/646-0288), a mile north of the village center. While you're there, grab some curried chutney and smoked tomato pesto. Also in Ogunquit, Bread & Roses (28A Main St.; 207/646-4227) bakes scones, pastries, fruit tarts, and luscious breads daily, and also sells fresh fruit and pasta salads.

In Kennebunk, check out the Chase Hill Bakery (9 Chase Hill Rd.; 207/967-2283), in a clapboard house. In business for 15 years, it's one of the few actual bakeries left in these parts, with delicious Danishes, croissants, soups, and chicken pot pies. "I bought the shop last June," says owner Pat Foley, "knowing nothing about baking. You should see me cooking now!"

where to park your picnic

In York Beach, wedged between Short Sands and Long Sands beaches, Cape Neddick juts into a swirling Atlantic. Its rocky headlands are a fine, sun-drenched place to sit back and relax. Find a bench, or scramble over stones to the edge of the surf, and gaze at Nubble Lighthouse, which rests on its own island 50 yards offshore. (Look for the pulley and cable stretching across the channel; they were used by the lighthouse keeper to collect supplies from shore. Like all Maine lighthouses, the Nubble is now automated.)

From York Beach, the best route to Ogunquit is a meandering drive along Shore Road, which winds past cliffs and woods and some of the area's most exclusive real estate. Though you're not officially permitted to stop along the road, there is a parking lot at Ogunquit Beach. Pull in and have a seaside lunch.

On the headlands of Gerrish Island in Kittery Point is a large, tranquil park, known as Fort Foster, that only locals seem to know about. Rocky beaches and a long, rickety pier look out on two lighthouses in Portsmouth Harbor; a nature trail and tide pools provide distractions for the kids. Near the remnants of the fort itself (built in the early 1900's) is a flowery hillock with a dozen picnic tables. Admission is $2 per person and $2.50 per vehicle.

A few miles inland, in the town of South Berwick, the pastoral grounds of Hamilton House (40 Vaughan's Lane; 207/384-5269) are perfect for a Déjeuner sur l'Herbe-style gathering. This stately 1785 mansion overlooks the Salmon Fall River and several serene acres of woods and gardens. You can't lie around naked, though.

best beaches

An ocean should be cold; it's the natural way of things. People who complain about the chilly Atlantic just don't understand: It's an ocean. It's cold. And it's good for you.

Kids will love the two halves of York Beach, Long Sands and Short Sands. The former is a broad, mile-long expanse of soft sand that's filled with families every sunny summer weekend. Decent waves swell on the northern end; rafts and mini-surfboards can be rented on the beach. Short Sands is more commercial, though its cove-sheltered beach is still pleasant. Here's where you'll find the town of York Beach proper, with its arcades and taffy shops and a few gleefully tacky nightclubs.

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