Come for the lobster and lighthouses, stay for the granite peaks and tranquil woodlands. With the slogan, “the way life should be,” Maine is a place that will capture your heart.
From its northern waterways and mountain peaks to its southern sandy beaches and lobster rolls, Maine should be on everyone’s bucket list. Here’s our guide to the 10 best places to visit in the Pine Tree State.
Get local insight on destinations all over the world with our weekly newsletter delivered to your inbox. Mt Katahdin is the northern end of the country-crossing Appalachian Trail © DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images
1. Baxter State Park
A highlight of Maine’s central highlands, Baxter State Park comprises 210,000 acres of wilderness. Most people visit the park to hike Mt Katahdin, Maine’s highest peak and the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.
A strenuous and day-long hike up the 5267ft granite peak yields incredible views of Maine’s vast wilderness and bragging rights. Baxter State Park is also home to miles of easier hiking trails, ponds perfect for canoeing and moose spotting, and several campgrounds with cabins, lean-tos, and tent spots.
2. Acadia National Park
The first national park east of the Mississippi River, Acadia National Park is one of the most popular national parks in New England thanks to its soaring granite peaks, dramatic rocky coastline and inner woodlands. Located on Mount Desert Island along Maine’s rocky coastline, Acadia National Park features 26 mountain peaks, including Cadillac Mountain, the tallest peak on the North Atlantic seaboard. Drive or hike Cadillac Mountain to watch the epic sunrise as it wakes the country up.
Visit Sand Beach or Echo Lake for swimming and choose from an abundance of hiking trails of various difficulties. Zip along the historic carriage trails by foot, bicycle or horseback.
Planning Tip: Once you’re done working up a sweat, enjoy delicious world-famous popovers at the Jordan Pond House. Of course, you’ll find lobster on every menu through the charming town of Bar Harbor and across the island.
Enjoy the lively waterfront in Portland, Maine’s biggest city © Cavan Images / Getty Images
Portland, Maine’s largest city, is home to award-winning restaurants and breweries and is known for its lobster and seafood. For a unique twist on lobster, stop by Highroller Lobster Co. and try their Lobster Cheese Crisp Taco or Lobby Pop.
Start your morning with a coffee and donuts from Hifi Donuts before walking and shopping your way through the historic cobblestone streets of the Old Port. Get active by hopping on one of Summer Feet Cycling’s bike tours out to the scenic Portland Head Light. Portland has more breweries per capita than any other city in the US. Enjoy a pint with the locals at Bissell Brothers, Allagash Brewing Company and Rising Tide Brewing Company.
Whatever you choose to do and eat in Portland, make sure you bring your stretchy pants!
4. Camden and Rockland
The small coastal towns of Camden and Rockland in midcoast Maine are quintessential seaside towns where the lobster is freshly caught that day, the old homes once belonged to old sea captains and everyone knows everyone’s name.
For the picture-perfect view of Camden Harbor, hike to the top of 780ft Mt Battie in Camden Hills State Park.
In Rockland, visit the Farnsworth Art Museum to discover the beautiful paintings of the American painter Andrew Wyeth. Grab your morning coffee and enjoy the ocean air while you walk the nearly 1-mile stone breakwater to the historic Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse that welcomes ships into Rockland Harbor.
Hike your way around Carrabassett Valley in Maine © Cavan Images / Getty Images
5. Carrabassett Valley
Maine’s northwestern mountains are a ski bum’s paradise. Sugarloaf Mountain is one of the largest ski areas east of the Rocky Mountains, offering 2820ft of vertical drop and more than 1240 skiable acres. It’s the East Coast winter playground of champions, including Olympic gold medalist Seth Wescott. During the warmer months, you’ll see tons of mountain bikes zipping around the miles of downhill and cross-country trails throughout the region.
Planning Tip: If you prefer a slightly slower pace, the 80-mile network of trails with Maine Huts and Trails is a great way to experience the natural beauty of Maine’s woodlands with the comforts of home.
Don your best polo shirt when you visit the preppy seaside town of Kennebunkport in southern Maine. The picturesque town nestled along the banks of the Kennebunk River and the rocky cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean offers a plethora of water-based activities from whale-watching to kayaking to lobster tours.
To catch a glimpse of yesteryear, visit the family-friendly Seashore Trolley Museum. Nearby Kennebunk and Ogunquit (named by the Abenaki and means “the beautiful place by the sea”) are home to miles of sandy beaches perfect for a hot summer day.
The LL Bean flagship store has great deals year-round © John Greim / Getty Images
No visit to Maine is complete without a selfie with the famous LL Bean Boot in Freeport. A 20-minute drive north of Portland, Freeport is home to some of Maine’s best outlet shopping and is the headquarters of LL Bean.
Once you’ve purchased your duck boots and flannel, it’s time to visit Freeport’s surrounding state parks. Spot nesting ospreys, smell the salty marsh and walk through the woodlands in the many different ecosystems in Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park.
Planning Tip: Freeport is also home to one of Maine’s most surprising attractions, the Desert of Maine. Because of poor agricultural practices, a hidden glacial desert was exposed in the 1800s.
8. Quoddy Head State Park
The United States’ easternmost lighthouse is one of Maine’s most iconic. Built in 1808, the red candy-striped West Quoddy Head Lighthouse overlooks the rocky coastline in Lubec. Quoddy Head State Park encompasses 532 acres on the easternmost point of land in the US and is popular with Mainers for its incredible oceanside hiking and whale watching.
Planning Tip: Bring your passport and hop over to Campobello Island, a short drive over the border in Canada, to learn more about Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and their historic summer home.
Get active or lay back and relax at Maine’s Moosehead Lake © Jonmikel & Kat Pardo / Getty Images
9. Moosehead Lake
While Maine’s coastline might be its main attraction, its highlands and wilderness really steal the show. Moosehead Lake is Maine’s largest lake, and it offers activities as well as rustic relaxation. Rent a cabin or pitch a tent and enjoy a quiet time by the water exploring the miles of hiking trails, streams for fly fishing and lots of watersports.
Planning Tip: Stop in Greenville to pick up ingredients for s’mores because you’ll want to build a campfire and stargaze in the dark sky. If you’re lucky, you may even spot the Milky Way.
10. Allagash Wilderness Waterway
For a true off-the-grid wilderness experience, set off in a canoe on the 92-mile Allagash Wilderness Waterway in northern Maine. In the heart of Aroostook County, or as native Mainers call it “The County,” the Allagash Wilderness Waterway starts in Telos and ends in the tiny town of Allagash. Unplug from your phone and society and take in the incredible beauty of northern Maine while you’re on one of the country’s premier canoe trips.
Planning Tip: The canoe trip takes a week to 10 days depending on the season and is best for experienced paddlers.