Bug Light Park in South Portland would be a nice place for an after-dinner stroll or to watch a sunset. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

When we switch to daylight savings time in the spring, it always feels like a bonus. We get a whole extra hour of sunlight to play with each day, after a long dark winter.

But during a pandemic, when going outside is one of the few pleasures many of us have, the extra hour of sunlight this week will feel downright extravagant. We were all supposed to set our clocks an hour ahead starting Sunday, if you didn’t get the memo.

After being cooped up by winter weather for six months, and by the pandemic for months before that, it might not be easy to remember what one can do with extra daylight. Here are some suggestions for places to get a treat, a drink or some sustenance, take an evening stroll and watch the sunset.

Take advantage of extra daylight to walk the breakwater at Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse in South Portland. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

DAIRY DELIGHTS BY THE SEASIDE

Taking an after-dinner stroll to the neighborhood ice cream stand is a pretty sweet way to take advantage of some extra daylight. South Portland is home to one of the area’s most iconic and best-loved ice cream stands, Red’s Dairy Freeze, on Cottage Road. It’s been serving up soft-serve, sundaes and other treats since 1952. People around here consider Red’s opening, which happened last week, the official start of spring, and the place is such a cornerstone of the community that the South Portland Historical Society issued a Christmas ornament a few years ago honoring it. If you want to feel like a regular, ask for the Boston shake, not usually on the menu, which is basically a sundae floating on top of a shake, or request your ice cream “with eyes,” and see what happens.

From Red’s, it’s a short walk with cone in hand to South Portland’s Greenbelt Walkway, which follows the harbor for about 2 miles from Mill Creek Park to Bug Light Park, home to the Portland Breakwater Light, aka Bug Light. There are stunning views of downtown Portland along the way. You could stop to watch the sunset at Bug Light Park, which has a clear westward view past Portland’s Eastern Promenade, or you could continue on to the Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse, accessed by a 900-foot breakwater. From there you can watch the sunset basically surrounded by water.

East End Beach in Portland is a scenic spot when the sun is going down. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

BITE AROUND THE BAY

One of Portland’s hot foodie districts, on Washington Avenue in the East End, is smack in the middle of two great walking paths. So it’s easy to grab a bite or a drink – maybe the hand cut fries at Duckfat Frites Shack or some barbecue from Terlingua – before or after a scenic stroll. The Frites Shack is located at Oxbow Blending & Bottling, so you can get a beer, too.

From Washington Avenue you can walk, or take a short drive, to the Back Cove Trail, a 3.6-mile loop with great views of the Portland skyline, and stop on the lawn at Payson Park to watch the sunset. Connected to the Back Cove Trail and just a few blocks from Washington Avenue is the Eastern Promenade Trail, which runs for 2 miles along the city’s eastern shore and past East End Beach and Fort Allen Park, either of which would make great places to watch the sun go down.

A couple enjoys a walking trail at the Mount Agamenticus park area near a lookout facility, in pre-pandemic days. Photo by Gordon Chibroski/Portland Press Herald

SUNSET ON THE SUMMIT

Mount A, as it is known, is more hill than mountain. But at 692 feet, Mount Agamenticus in York offers appealing 360-degree views from the coast of Maine to the White Mountains of New Hampshire. An important word of caution: The gates to the popular York County conservation area close at sunset. Whether you hike or drive to the summit, be mindful of the witching hour and don’t linger into dark.

There are at least three ways up the mountain: By foot, by bike and by car. The Ring Trail, which can be accessed by a parking area at Mountain and Mount Agamenticus roads, takes you about halfway up the mountain and leads to other trails that ascend the summit. It’s a moderate-to-difficult, 1.5-mile hike through dense forests. Some folks bike the mountain, either on its paved roads or bike trails.

But most people drive the half-mile road to the top – and if you do drive, do not feel guilty about being lazy because there are several trails at the top, including the easy 1-mile, universal-access Big A trail that circles the summit, and the more challenging Vulture’s View, a difficult half-mile trail that heads northwest from the summit and offers views of Mount Washington when conditions are favorable.

At the top, you can pick your spot for a view of the setting sun. There are picnics tables, where one could enjoy dinner or snack, as well as a lookout tower, bathroom and other facilities. And while the appeal of bringing one’s own nourishment is genuine, we recommended stopping in for dinner or a drink at Odd Fellows Tavern in beautiful downtown South Berwick after your outing. It’s about 10 miles from the summit, and they have a patio and beer.

Sunset as seen from the Eastern Trail in Scarborough. Photo by Aimsel Ponti

SCARBOROUGH FARE

You can pack a whole lot into a few hours spent in Scarborough, beginning with a trek on the Eastern Trail, a 65-mile section of the East Coast Greenway that runs from Kittery to South Portland.

Find the parking area for part of the Scarborough stretch of the trail on Pine Point Road by the Nonesuch River. If you walk all the way to Black Point Road and back, that’s 5 miles, and you’ll see gorgeous marsh views while making your way through the forest. If it’s below freezing, parts of the trail can be a bit slick with ice and snow, so choose your footwear wisely. The trail is also bicycle-friendly, if you’ve got a mountain or hybrid type of bike.

Time it right and the view of the sunset on the way back will take your breath away, or you can zip over to nearby Ferry Beach (the one in Scarborough), which also affords spectacular views of the sun’s nightly descent.

The Clambake Seafood Restaurant at 354 Pine Point Road and The Garage BBQ at 3 East Grand Ave. are great spots to grab takeout for mid- or post-adventure grub.

The sun sets on Mackworth Island. Michele McDonald/Staff Photographer

HOLY MACKWORTH

Mackworth Island in Falmouth is about 100 acres of outdoor perfection with idyllic views of Casco Bay along with, at times, a deep-woods feeling. You’ll also come upon the wonderland of fairy houses and may find yourself suddenly gathering twigs, pine cones and assorted other offerings on the ground to construct one yourself.

Parking spots can be hard to come by depending on when you go, but it’s worth the wait. Plus, this is an ideal hike to bring your kids on, as it’s only a mile and a quarter around. However, you might find yourself taking another lap and stopping along the way several times to take in the views and fashion a fairy house. It’s also a lovely spot to catch the sunset.

Mackworth Island is an official state bird sanctuary and is connected to Falmouth by a causeway (Andrews Avenue) at the Presumpscot River’s mouth. The island became the property of the state in 1943 and was the longtime home of James Phinney Baxter and Governor Percival Baxter. Along with the nature trail, the island is also home to the Baxter School for the Deaf.

Visitors are welcome between dawn and dusk.

For something to eat on your walk, you can order a burrito to go from Bueno Loco, a Mexican Restaurant on Route 1, and bring it along. If you’re looking for a post-hike sit-down meal in the dwindling daylight, head a little farther up Route 1 to Foreside Tavern, where patio seating is still going strong.

Staff Writers Ray Routhier, Aimsel Ponti and Bob Keyes contributed to this story.

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