Being frugal Yankees who live by the adage “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without,” Mainers are often reluctant to throw things away. That’s good news if you are visiting the state in search of antiques. According to the Maine Office of Tourism, there are no fewer than 400 antique shops across the state, full of these cherished possessions.
Whether you are a serious antiquer or a casual collector, you will want to take note of Maine’s three antique “trails.” These are clusters of shops, loosely organized into loops.
The South Coast Trail takes the antique-seeker along Route 1 from York, through Ogunquit, Wells, Kennebunkport and Arundel. This short stretch (approximately 30 miles long) is reported to feature more antique shops per mile than anywhere in Maine.
The Big Dipper Trail begins in Bethel, follows Route 2 to Mexico, progresses along Route 17 up the western side of the mountains to Oquossoc, switches to Route 16 eastward toward Rangeley, and then finishes along Route 4 into Farmington. The trail takes its name from the constellation this route mimics when sketched out on a road map.
The Downeast Trail offers as much opportunity for site seeing along scenic roadways as it does for scoring collectibles. The trail winds through the “fingers” of land created by coves, inlets, beaches and coastline. The loop begins in Ellsworth, heads south on Routes 172 through Surry, 176 to Blue Hill and 172 to Sedgewick. The trail then moves west on Route 175 to Sargentville, and south again on Route 15 to Little Deer Isle, Deer Isle and Stonington. A side trip and mini-trail, also beginning in Ellsworth, offers even more breathtaking views and priceless antiques. This excursion follows Route 3 to Mt. Desert Island and Bar Harbor.
Of course, there are “off trail” antique shops galore in other areas of Maine so we recommend that you not overlook locations such as Freeport, Belfast, Hallowell, Jonesport, Sabattus, Bangor, and Oxford. For a comprehensive listing of shops, consult the directory published by the Maine Antiques Dealers Association.