For a sparsely-populated state that's still 90% forest, the Pine Tree State has an awful lot to offer its 36 million plus visitors every year looking for an escape hatch from the daily grind. World-famous for everything from moose to mountains, blueberries to bears, lighthouses to lobster rolls, island camping to endless coastlines, it's easy to see why Maine's slogan is the Way Life Should Be. Here are a few ways to kick off your own unforgettable adventure in Vacationland.
If you want the perfect introduction to Maine's famously adorable coastal towns, there's no better place to start than with Kennebunk and Kennebunkport. They're neighboring small communities collectively known as The Kennebunks. The Kennebunks have a well-earned reputation for being one of the top coastal vacation spots in the state. Located in southern Maine, it's an easy get with a high concentration of things to do and see. Stay in a charming B&B or one of the many inns, and enjoy boutique shopping on your doorstep. Luxuriate on the numerous soft-sand beaches; then dine on fresh-caught seafood in one of the many local restaurants. Be sure to check out the Wedding Cake House while you're in town. It looks good enough to eat and is the most photographed house in Maine.
Yes, it's touristy, but the L.L. Bean flagship store in Freeport, with its 16-foot-tall rubber-bottomed boot, size 410, at the entrance, is worth a visit. Even if you're not on the lookout for outdoor gear. The town of Freeport offers great outlet shopping too. And, while you're there, don't miss the Freeport McDonalds, located within a mansion built in the 1850s! You could literally call it a McMansion.
The first rays of sunlight visible to the entire United States can be seen from the top of Cadillac Mountain in Maine's glorious Acadia National Park. Join the hundreds of travelers also in quiet pursuit of the first dawn of the nation by driving to the summit in the wee hours of the morning. You don't have to stop there, though -- the 49,000-acre reserve is one of America's most beloved national parks, famous for its enduring beauty and miles upon miles of carriage roads to explore on bike or foot. Need a little sustenance on your Acadian adventure? Make sure you stop by the Jordan Pond House for popovers!
If you're feeling a little overheated after exploring Mount Katahdin, Maine's highest mountain, standing tall at a staggering 5,267 feet, be sure to swing by the Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness area, where you'll come across ice caves that stay frozen all year round. These caves are so reliably frosty, in fact, that the Native Americans once used them as giant fridges to preserve their meat and pelts.
Maine's biggest and most bustling city, Portland, was recently named the top Restaurant City of the year by Bon Appétit magazine, and with its huge variety of award-winning cuisine on offer, it has rightfully earned its place as an official hub for foodies. There are rumors that Portland has more restaurants per capita than San Francisco. For such a compact coastal city, that's quite an accolade.
Norway - 14 miles. Paris - 15 miles. Peru - 46 miles. Bet you didn't know that you can see the whole world without leaving the state of Maine, did you? But this iconic signpost just outside of Lynchfield isn't a prank -- Maine has many little hamlets with international-sounding names that have almost nothing in common with their namesakes. There are many more that didn't make the signpost -- Vienna, Moscow, Rome, Belfast, and Lisbon, just to name a few. When a Mainer tells you they're headed to China or Mexico, you have to first assume they're talking about a sleepy Maine town rather than the far-flung countries with the same names!
You can't visit Maine's coastlines without being inundated with all things lobster. If you don't understand all this lobster love, just wait until you've had the experience of eating a real Maine lobster roll on the docks. Delicious and succulent lobster rolls are available in pretty much any coastal town, but the most famous ones are at Young's Lobster Pound in Belfast. Bring your own bottle, and enjoy.
Maine is famous for having the largest wild blueberry crop of any state and boasts countless low-brush blueberry barrens scattered throughout its counties. Wild blueberries are ready for harvest in August but make for especially striking color landscapes in early Autumn. Forget fall foliage; blueberry barrens are where it's at! Although wild blueberries can be found statewide, you'll find the highest concentration of these crops, Downeast, which, despite its name, actually means the state's northern reaches. Bring a bucket!
For a quintessential Maine summer experience, nothing beats the simple pleasure of staying in a cabin by a tranquil lake. Skipping stones, squeaky screen doors, listening to loon calls echoing over the water in the moonlight -- this is the kind of summer experience true Mainers live for. Thankfully, with 6,000 lakes and ponds to choose from, you won't be hard-pressed to find a spot to experience it for yourself. Overwhelmed by all the options? Start with Sebago Lake, probably the most popular. And while you're at it, stop by Sebago Brewing Company for a beer.
One of the most popular horror authors of our times famously calls the small city of Bangor, Maine, his home. In fact, as you've probably noticed, pretty much all his stories are set in or are at least directly inspired by his home state. SK Tours of Maine offers fans a tour of filming locations and places that have inspired his stories, such as IT and Pet Sematary, and even a glimpse at the outside of his spooky mansion. While you're in town, be sure to stop by the 31-foot-tall Paul Bunyan statue, another Maine landmark that's pretty hard to miss.
A unique Maine voyage, setting sail on a Windjammer is both memorable and uplifting. Retrofitted to resemble nineteenth-century sailing vessels, the schooners used for sailing really are propelled by the wind. You can also, if you wish, take on some of the crew work, such as lowering, hoisting, or furling the sails. That is just part of the fun of sailing on a Maine windjammer. You do not have to follow a set schedule - your only obligation is to admire the views and greet the marine animals, such as seagulls and porpoises. However, you will also look up a lot, as ships raise as many as six sails, all of which can span a length as long as 3,000 feet.
When travel operators talk about Casco Bay, they normally are referring to visiting Casco Bay's islands. You can see the isles from Portland, the lights in the evening glistening off Portland's shore. Each island offers fun in the form of cycling, walking, shopping, or dining. You can reach a single island by ferry or take a mail boat and travel the bay. The largest island in the group is Peaks Island, an inviting off-shore neighborhood of Portland
You can reach Monhegan Island from one of 3 ports on Maine's mainland - Boothbay Harbor, New Harbor, and Port Clyde. No car ferries are available to the popular Maine isle. Charming cottages, inns, or efficiency apartments are featured vacation rentals. One of the major attractions on the island is the Monhegan Island lighthouse, whose current structure was constructed in 1850. The lighthouse is the second tallest lighthouse in the state, with the Seguin Light, near the mouth of the Kennebec River, ranking first.
A three-hour drive north of Boston, the coastal town of Boothbay Harbor should be included on everyone's bucket list. It is the idyllic representation of a Maine seaside town. You can visit the town year-round, as it hosts Windjammer Days in the summer and presents Harbor Lights in December. Whether you wish to whale watch, visit a nearby island, drop in at the Maine State Aquarium, or simply enjoy a lobster feast, Boothbay Harbor is the ideal place to land.
A dog-friendly path, the Gulf Hagas Rim Trail is part of the Appalachian Trail corridor. Some call the route and its terrain the "Grand Canyon of the East." You can see some great waterfalls when hiking the trail, including Screw Auger Falls, Stair Falls, The Jaws, Billings Falls, and Buttermilk Falls. The loop trail is almost 8 miles, but you can hike out and back without trekking the full loop. Dogs are always welcome, as long as they are leashed. Located close to Brownville Junction, Maine, the trail can be accessed year-round.
This historical lighthouse is one of the most notable attractions in the city. In fact, it's probably exactly what you're imagining when you think of a lighthouse — it's the most photographed in the country. Enjoy an afternoon at this quintessentially American attraction — although visitors aren't allowed to go up, it's still well worth a visit. If you've got some time to spare, make sure you explore some of the nearby trails.
One of the city's most popular attractions, the Portland Museum of Art, is a must for any art connoisseur. You can easily spend a whole day there, and if you have the time, by all means, enjoy getting lost among the beautiful works of art. However, if you're a bit short on time, make sure you at least cover the key pieces — Madonna and Child by Francesco Granacci, Waterlilies by Monet, and Number 12 by Jackson Pollock.
Duckfat serves Belgian-style frites so delicious that they've turned into a bit of a tourist attraction. Don't be put off by their popularity or assume they're overrated — they are as good as everyone says they are. Duckfat has two locations that are within a 15-minute walk of each other, and they both operate on a first-come-first-serve basis, so be prepared to queue for a bit.
Thunder Hole is a carved inlet and a super popular spot for a day out. It's particularly spectacular during a turning tide or a storm when its natural reverberations are especially loud. However, don't be put off if you're not able to time your visit perfectly, as this location is amazing at any time of day.
You'll find Camden Hills State Park just a few minutes outside Camden. A jaw-droppingly scenic spot, it's the city's signature location. Although it's beautiful all year-round and we encourage you to visit it whenever you can, the summer months are the best time to do so. If you have time, make sure you go camping and have a barbecue — we assure you that you'll remember the day for a long time.