Maine is one of the most iconic states. Maine is a northern New England state. When you think of it, images that spring to mind immediately are full-rigged Windjammers and waves breaking against the coast, fishing harbours filled with colorful boats and lighthouses, tall pine trees, and fishing harbors full of colourful boats. There are miles upon miles of backwoods that are home to moose. They evoke images of a single canoe barely riffling a mirror-like lake or rainbow trout leaping from the crystal clear waters.
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Maine’s beauty is its ability to delight tourists who come with romantic ideas in mind. From York to Quoddy head, lighthouses are the crown points. Between them lie dozens upon dozens of fishing harbours and miles of rocky shoreline. Windjammers weave among the fir-clad offshore islands, while brightly-painted lobster buoys bob on the water. Lobster boats are scuttling in between them to haul traps.
Maine’s attractions don’t just look great in pictures. There are many things to do in Maine, including museums, stunning gardens, art heritage and historic attractions. Use our guide to find the best places in Maine.
Table of Contents
Acadia National Park and Mount Desert Island
Acadia National Park is a rugged, beautiful stretch of coastline. It also includes a large area of inland lakes, streams, forests. It is a paradise for both locals and tourists who love the outdoors. It is the best way for visitors to the park to see it by car.
There are also handy Island Explorer buses that connect to the attractions. Cyclists and walkers can use the network of unpaved carriage roads as part of more than 100 miles worth of hiking trails. These include the trails that lead to the top of 1.530-foot Cadillac Mountain. From there, you can see the coast and islands.
Other highlights include Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, and the breathtaking chasm of Thunder Hole. The Schoodic Peninsula is a second, less-visited part of Acadia National Park. This area offers more hiking trails, scenic views, and kayaking opportunities. Two large campgrounds are located in the park, as well as several picnic areas.
There are many waterside villages that overlook small harbours throughout Mount Desert Island. Garden lovers will be particularly interested in Asticou Azalea Garden as well as neighboring Thuya Garden both located in Northeast Harbor. Asticou, a Japanese-inspired garden, is at its best in spring when the azaleas bloom around the pond. Thuya is at its best in June and July when the perennial gardens are at their most spectacular.
The Old Port and Portland Head Lighthouse
Portland is the largest city in Maine. Tourists arrive at Portland and head straight to its Old Port district. Tourists arriving in Portland will find fishing boats, bustling docks and seafood restaurants. They may also see a cruise ship or the tall masts on a sailing vessel. Portland is still an active port. From the dockside Commercial Street, the narrow streets are lined with brick and stone buildings which have supported one of the East Coast’s busiest ports during colonial times to the 19 th centuries.
You can shop for maritime souvenirs at a ships’chandlery or eat seafood on the wharf. If you arrive early enough, you can watch the fishing boats unload, as well as the local chefs choosing the menus at the city’s many restaurants. These souvenirs can be found on Fore Street which runs parallel to Commercial. You can either board a cruise in Casco bay, or a ferry that takes you to its islands.
Portland Head Lighthouse is a landmark in Casco Bay, as well as the Portsmouth harbor. It marks the entrance of the harbor. It is one the most stunning along the coast. From its promontory you can see Old Port and the passing boats and ships.
The former Keeper’s Quarters museum displays the history of lighthouses and the people who keep them. It also shows how technology has changed the way these beacons of maritime safety function. Fresnel lenses, as well as exhibits about their operation, are some of the artifacts that will be on display.
Address: 1000 Shore Road Cape Elizabeth, Maine
Marginal Way and Ogunquit Beaches
Perkins Cove, which runs along Ogunquit’s sandy shoreline to Perkins Cove, is a lovely way to view the coast and its crashing waves. There are several small coves among the rocky cliffs that offer a more intimate experience than Ogunquit Beach which is the most visited beach in Maine . From April to October, the path is only for walkers (no dogs or bikes) and it runs approximately a mile and half from the village’s end to the picturesque wharfs at Perkins Cove.
A small, narrow peninsula forms a protected bay that provides a safe harbor for small boats. Although the harbor was originally a fishing port, it is now dominated by small shops and restaurants. However, you will still see many fishing boats.
There are benches all along the path, on both the path and at the overlooks above sea level. You can walk along the Marginal Way back to the town, or you can take the trolley.
Ogunquit Beach is popular for its gentle slope to the ocean and relatively warm water. In summer, the town’s shops are bustling with tourists. The Ogunquit Playhouse is a nationally recognized landmark. Ogunquit Museum of American Art is another popular attraction.
Pemaquid Point Light
The iconic Maine lighthouse, Pemaquid Point, is located at the Mid-Coast Maine end. It is so well-known that the Maine quarter coin features it. It was constructed in 1835. The light tower, keeper’s cottage, and brick sound signal house were all preserved. The unusual metamorphic rock formations on the ledges below make the setting even more dramatic.
The Fisherman’s Museum is located in the keeper’s Cottage. It preserves the strong fishing heritage of the region, with logs from captains, models, dioramas and photos. Also, there are details about the shipwrecks at this point. Picnics are a popular activity at this scenic spot.
To the north, New Harbor’s Colonial Pemaquid State Historic Site contains the foundations for a colonial settlement as well as the rebuilt Fort William Henry. This museum, along with excellent signs boards, explains the significance of the fort in the conflicts between English and French settlers as well as the Native Americans. The site is a National Historic Landmark.
Old Orchard Beach
Old Orchard Beach is an unabashedly old-fashioned beach resort. It revels in the slightly tacky, honky-tonk vibe of its pier and thrill rides on New England’s last remaining full-scale amusement parks on a beach. You can kick off your shoes and enjoy some nostalgia as you step back in mid-century summer fun.
Palace Playland offers all the usual rides, including a Ferris wheel that goes over the waves, a rollercoaster, bumper cars and an old-fashioned carousel. There are also a few other kid-friendly attractions. Street-side windows and pier stands sell soft ice cream, fries, saltwater taffy and fried dough.
Seven miles of golden sand beaches are the highlight of this whole experience. Volunteers scrub the sands each night, so there is no better beach. A barrier of grassy dunes separates most of the seven-miles of beach from the low hotels and shops.
Old Orchard is the only Maine beach that you can reach directly by train. The Amtrak station lies opposite the pier.
Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens
It’s hard to believe that this garden opened in 2007 when you walk the paths. It’s easy to believe that the gardens have been lovingly cared for by generations of dedicated horticulturalists, given the abundance of flowers and their size.
You will find a variety of exotic and native plants in the gardens. The paths lead you through them. A kitchen garden is available, as well as a garden that focuses on the five senses. This garden features plants that are known for their scents, flavors and textures. The woodland village of fairy homes and the large children’s gardens will appeal to all ages.
The grounds slope down to the beach and offer walking trails that traverse them. Each day, there are highlights to be seen and themes like rare and native plants. The gardens are home to a large collection of original sculptures by regional artists. Art exhibitions are held in this center during the spring, summer and fall.
Address: 132 Botanical Gardens Drive Boothbay, Maine
Farnsworth Art Museum
It is the only museum in the United States that has such a comprehensive collection of Maine-related works. The Wyeth Center, which was established in 1995, is the only one dedicated to the work and legacy of the three Wyeth generations — N.C. Andrew, James, and Andrew.
Some of America’s most famous late 19th-century and early 20th century landscape painters are represented in the museum’s collection. You can also see Thomas Cole’s earliest work, along with paintings by George Bellows and Rockwell Kent, John La Farge. George Inness, Childe Hassam, George Inness and John La Farge. Fitz Henry Lane is a maritime artist.
An adjacent building houses works by James Wyeth, N.C. Wyeth, and a former Union Street church. The Farnsworth arranges tours to the Olson House. Andrew Wyeth’s 1948 painting Christina’s World is the most well-known.
Address: 6 Museum Street, Rockland, Maine
Boothbay Harbor used to be a shipping port. However, it is now a popular summer resort with the largest boating harbour north of Boston. Schooner cruises and lighthouse viewing trip, as well as island sailings start here. This harbor is so large that many vessels could anchor here in the event of a storm. Linekin Bay in East Boothbay is a popular spot for kayaking.
Downtown is dotted with antique shops, waterfront seafood restaurants, and art galleries. This is a reflection of the over 200 local artists and craftspeople who reside and work in the area.
Since the 1800’s, it has been a place of refuge for artists. The little town also has a Studio House and Carousel Music Theater. There is also a community band. The Maine State Aquarium, Boothbay Railway Village are also found here.
Rockland’s historic downtown is surrounded by beautifully maintained brick mercantile buildings from the 19th century. It lies in a protected harbor with Owl’s Head and long stone breakwater.
The limestone quarried from the hills surrounding this port was a major export market. The harbor was lined by kilns which processed the stone to be shipped to eastern cities as mortar or plaster.
The old seaport town of Rockland is worth a visit for its many attractions such as Owl’s Head Light or the Owl’s Head Transport Museum. Rockland is also home port for the Maine Windjammer fleet, whose historic sailing vessels you can often find moored there.
Artists have drawn to Penobscot Bay and its surrounding islands for centuries. You can view their works in Rockland’s many galleries and museums.
Bar Harbor is more than a place to base yourself for Acadia National Park explorations. It’s also a vibrant town that has a long history of being an oceanside resort. The streets of Bar Harbor are lined with impressive “summer houses”, which were built in the Gilded Age when wealthy families moved to this area to escape the heat. Many of these elegant inns are now B&Bs.
For stunning views of Frenchman Bay and the islands, stroll along Frenchman Bay like they did. Follow the Shore Path starting at Agrimont Park. You can also walk to Bar Island at low tide. But be sure to return to the station before the water covers it.
You can shop in the elegant boutiques and galleries of artisans; enjoy ocean-fresh seafood; go on a whale-watching cruise; or just relax to the tunes of The Green’s band.
The Abbe Museum is a wonderful collection of Native American art. St. Savior Episcopal Church is right across the street, and has stunning Tiffany stained glass windows.
Camden, Maine’s second harbor for Windjammers is located just north of Rockland. You can often spot these tall, graceful ships in the large harbor. From here, you can take a 2-hour schooner tour.
Camden’s Main Street (Route 1) is just below the harbor. Here you will find galleries and shops selling everything from trendy resort wear and fine arts to dreamy knitting yarns, and vintage garden ornaments.
You can enjoy a stunning harbor view and island view from the top of Mount Battie in Acadia National Park. There are more than 30 miles worth of trails for hikers. Stop by Merryspring Nature Center for more trails and beautiful flowers.
Camden’s charms do not end with winter. Camden Snow Bowl boasts two distinct distinctions. It is the only East-facing ski mountain with ocean views from its trails and the home to a 400 foot toboggan chute. The track is ice-covered and offers a chance to take a turn.
Nubble Lighthouse (Cape Neddick Light).
Nubble Light is New England’s most photographed lighthouse and one of the easiest to reach. It can be found just off Cape Neddick’s rocky point. The surf often obliges photographers with waves breaking against rocks, especially on a rising tide.
The lighthouse and keeper cottage get lit up in November for the holiday season. Santa visits the lighthouse to visit the celebration with hot chocolate and music. To see the lighthouse, you can take a cruise out of Ogunquit.
This point is the boundary of Long Sands, one of the most popular beaches in York. The Old York Historical Society museum complex, which includes Jefferds Tavern, and the 1745 York Corner Schoolhouse is located in another of the four villages making up the town. It is one of the oldest New England surviving schools.
Maine Maritime Museum
The Maine Maritime Museum is located on the site of a 19th century shipyard. It preserves and interprets Maine’s maritime, shipbuilding and lobstering heritage. The 20-acre campus houses an extensive collection of artifacts, materials, and displays on everything, from clipper ships and lighthouses, to maritime art. There is also a blacksmith shop, a lobster exhibit, and more that 140 Maine-made or Maine-related boats. An antique birchbark kayak is one of these.
The floating collections include the Mary E, Maine’s oldest fishing schooner.
Address: 243 Washington Street in Bath, Maine
West Quoddy Head & Lighthouse
West Quoddy Head is one of the most visited places on the northeast coast Maine. Its dramatic red-and white stripes and the thrill of standing at America’s easternmost point make it a popular place to visit. Although the brick lighthouse was first opened in 1858 it has been there since 1808 when President Thomas Jefferson had it constructed to help ships navigate through the Quoddy Narrows. The lantern rises to 83 feet above sea level. It is currently 49 feet high.
The Quoddy State Park Visitor Center is located in the former Keeper’s Cottage. You can also learn more about the lighthouse’s history and take a tour inside the tower on Saturday afternoons during July and August. The National Register of Historic Places includes the lighthouse.
The point is accessible via five miles of hiking trails. It’s a great spot to view seabirds, especially during spring and autumn migrations. In the narrows you might spot minke, and finback whaling. The narrows are bordered on the opposite side with the red cliffs at Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick. A one-mile walk in the park will take you to a coastal plateaubog where you’ll find rare subarctic and Arctic plants.
Address: South Lubec Road, Lubec, Maine
Portland Museum of Art & Winslow Homer Studio
The Portland Museum of Art’s extraordinary collections go beyond what you might expect from artists like Winslow Homer and Rockwell Kent. Monet, Degas and Picasso are just a few of the 18,000 pieces that make up the fine and decorative art. They date back to the 1700s and include works by Sargent, Whistler and Mary Cassatt.
There are also temporary and traveling exhibits that the museum has throughout the year. The museum also includes a historic house that was once home to a prominent Portland family. It contains exceptional examples of period furniture, art and decorative details.
The studio of Winslow Homer is located separately from the Portland facility. It overlooks the sea at Prouts Neck, which is a point on land in Scarborough, Maine.
Address: 7 Congress Square in Portland, Maine
Explore the Maine Coast
You won’t want to miss this chance to view the Maine coast and its rock-bound island from the water. You’ll not only get a different perspective on the lighthouses or granite cliffs but also have the chance to experience the bustling harbor life in Maine’s ports.
There are many options. There are many options. You can join a whale-watching tour out of Bar Harbor, or go deep-sea fishing out of Eastport.
Boothbay Harbor is a great place to go deep-sea fish, sail along the coast, whale watch, and even join a local lobsterman who hauls traps. You can also take a breakfast tour from Ogunquit or take a cruise to the Nubble Lighthouse in York.
You can choose to have a short boat experience, such as the 15-mile ferry ride between Rockland and Vinalhaven, or go on a week-long sailboat cruise on a Maine Windjammer from Rockland or Camden. Windjammer cruises can be informal. The itinerary is determined by wind and tides. Passengers are welcome to help with lines and sails. You may find lighthouses, music and stargazing on special theme cruises.
Kennebunkport is a small coastal town located 12.5 miles south from Portland. It’s very popular in the summer. Some of the stately homes of former captains and owners have been restored to their original glory as bed-and breakfasts. You can also learn more about them on a self-guided walk or at the Historical Society’s First Families Kennebunkport museum in an 1853 Greek Revival house.
In the dockside area, you can shop and browse in galleries and shops. Parsons Way is a scenic route that runs along the shoreline to Walker’s Point. A series of sandy beaches are located on the other side the Kennebunk River.
Two miles east from Dock Square lies Cape Porpoise. This fishing village still exists with shops, galleries and working lobster boats. The Seashore Trolley Museum is also worth your attention. Nearby Kennebunk is the remarkable Brick Store Museum. You can also drive past the whimsical Wedding Cake House along Summer Street.
Monhegan, a small island 10 miles off Maine’s coast, is an iconic landmark. Its long history as an artist’s colony and the many stories of its resilient population, along with their lives on this storm-prone outpost are a large reason for its iconic status.
The island is completely unpaved and there are no cars. Its 75 residents live in the fishing and lobstering industry. Visitors can make day trips to the island in the summer from Boothbay Harbor or New Harbor. However, they will only be able to spend three to four hours on the shore.
Monhegan is known for its unique combination of granite cliffs, crashing waves and light. It has been a popular destination for artists since around the 1800s. You’ll find many studios and galleries due to this long-term colony of artists and the dozen or so currently working there.
Monhegan is a favorite spot for birders, with its 12 miles of trails leading to remote corners or high headlands. Rogue waves and strong undertow can be constant hazards along the shoreline rocks on the island’s southern or back sides.
Victoria Mansion, Portland
Victoria Mansion, an exceptional villa in Italian style built in the middle of the 19th century, is a remarkable example. It is a stunning example of mid-Victorian architecture with exquisite interior details. Many of the original furnishings can be found in the house. They also offer a glimpse into the lives of Portland’s wealthy during the pre-civil War era.
There are many Maine historic homes that you can visit. They represent all eras, lifestyles, and eras. Victoria Mansion is a rare example of Victorian art, culture, and architecture.
Official site: http://victoriamansion.org/
Bowdoin College Museum of Art
On the Brunswick college campus, the Bowdoin College Museum of Art houses a permanent collection of over 20,000 pieces. These range from ancient Greek ceramics to a 15th century painting by Florentine artist Fra Angelico, 17th-century New England furniture, and mid-century modern furniture made by Charles Eames.
The collections include numerous works by Winslow homer, Rockwell Kent and Gilbert Stuart. This center is active in culture thanks to its rotating temporary exhibits, gallery talks and tours throughout the year.
Address: 245 Maine Street, Brunswick, Maine
You will pass through Wiscasset if you’re driving along the northern Maine Coast. This is the famous bottleneck on Route 1 and it’s not possible to get around if you are heading towards Boothbay Harbor or other coastal areas north. Wiscasset is worth the stop to see its historical houses, browse through art galleries, and visit antique shops.
The Nickels–Sortwell House is a magnificent Federal home located over looking Route 1. It has been beautifully restored and its rooms are furnished with antiques, art, period decorative features, and other historical items. The gardens are being restored to the original design and plantings.
Castle Tucker was constructed nearly 100 years later as the home for a sea captain. You can find many more historic homes and churches along the streets.
The long bridge over the Sheepscot River estuary connects the town wharf to the long waterfront. You can enjoy a full shore meal or a seafood lunch at Sprague’s, and then sit at one of the picnic tables by the water.