Welcome to camp central. Thanks to the endless water-related activities that Sebago Lake offers, its shores are home to seemingly countless family cabins, camping grounds, and children’s summer camps. In summer and even into late winter, everyone and their uncle (literally) are here for the kayaking, canoeing, fishing, waterskiing, ice skating, and skiing (on nearby Shawnee Peak).
Of course, it wasn’t always this crowded. Native Americans first settled around Sebago (which means “open water”) and used it as a central trading area. Later, that business turned to pleasure; about a century after the area was settled by colonists in the mid-18th century, it transformed into a resort area. Today the small towns surrounding the lake (and the minor lakes surrounding it, known as the Long Lakes) are Naples, East Sebago, Windham, Harrison, Bridgton, Raymond, and Casco.
The nineteenth century mountain-man Rufus Porter was a man of many talents—in addition to founding Scientific American magazine, he was an icon of American landscape art, shaking it free of its European roots with murals painted on a grand scale, often right on the walls of private homes throughout New England.
The Rufus Porter Museum and Cultural Center (67 North High St./Rte. 302 & 260 Main St., Bridgton, 207/647-2828, noon–4 p.m. Wed.–Sat., $5 adults, $4 seniors and students, free children 12 and under) pays homage to Porter’s legacy, with several galleries dedicated to his evocations of the New England countryside, as well as a separate exhibit of 15 impressive murals salvaged from a home outside of Boston. (Admission is charged separately for the two museums; there is a $1 discount to visit both.)
One of the area’s most crafty happenings—worth braving the summertime crowds for—is the annual Chickadee Quilters Show (Town Hall, Bridgton, 800/533-9595, second week of July), a showcase for spectacularly intricate handmade quilts. It’s pure rural New England!
In July and August, catch weekly classical concerts at the Sebago–Long Lake Chamber Music Festival (Deertrees Theatre, Harrison, 207/583-6747, www.sebagomusicfestival.org ).
A local institution for its tasty and homey dishes (if lobster casserole is on the menu, order it), Olde Mill Tavern (56 Main St., Harrison, 207/583-9077, www.oldemilltavern.com , 4 p.m.–8 p.m. Sun.–Thu.; 4 p.m.–9 p.m. Fri.–Sat., $12–24) is a cozy place to eat hefty plates of local fare in a historic renovated grist mill.
If you’re even hungry the next morning (and you may not be), head to Ricky’s Diner (109 Main St., Bridgton, 207/647-2499, 5:30 a.m.–8 p.m. Sun.–Thu.; 5:30 a.m.–9 p.m. Fri.–Sat., $2–9) for simple and inexpensive omelets and a double helping of local gossip.