“What do you do all winter?” visitors often ask Mainers, conjuring up images of a desolate landscape and cultural wasteland.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. When the leaves have fallen and the tourists have gone, locals reclaim this popular destination as their own. They embrace the changing scenery taking pictures outdoors, watching birds’ comings and goings, raising vegetables and tending perennial gardens.

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For those year-round residents, whose must-haves include a fresh baguette or custom-roasted coffee beans, Hancock County boasts coffee roasters, wine merchants, microbreweries and European-style bakeries. Most towns have their own farmers markets where folks peruse fresh produce and home-cooked dishes to go — from Thai to Indian — and catch up with neighbors.

For foodies, the region’s dining establishments cater to all tastes — casual and elegant — through the year from friendly lunch counters where the coffee, homemade doughnuts and banter flow to elegant, award-winning restaurants that celebrate the local fishing fleet’s catch and fine, locally raised food.

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Entertainment abounds year-round too. The region boasts one of the nation’s oldest, continuous community orchestras, hosts multiple music festivals and draws world-renowned chamber groups and musicians to perform.

Coastal Maine’s vibrant jazz scene is another magnet. Jazz musicians perform and jam evenings at pubs and restaurants. Folk, blues and bluegrass music thrive here too.

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For theater fans, musicals — complete with live orchestras — and other quality theater productions are staged during the year. You also can’t beat rural ticket prices and the lack of lines.

So, when asked what they do all winter, newly retired residents often chuckle and sheepishly say that they’re busier than ever.

In addition to editing the Arts & Leisure section, Letitia edits special sections including Out & About, Overview, Health Quarterly, Your Maine Home, House & Garden and Get Ready for Winter. She comes from Chicago, Ill, but has deep family ties to the Cranberry Isles. [email protected]