With a dramatic rocky coastline broken by scenic beaches, a rich seafood tradition and ski resorts and state parks rising into the hills, Maine is known as Vacationland for good reason. Summer and early fall are great times of year to enjoy the state’s natural beauty, but if you can handle the cold, winter offers a whole different view and set of activities.
Whether you come for the summer sun, the fall colors or year-round history, this month-by-month guide, covering the weather conditions and key events, will help you choose the best time for your visit to Maine.
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For fresh seafood and outdoor adventures, come from June to September
Maine’s Vacationland comes alive in the summer months, as holidaymakers gather across the state. From the sandy beaches of southern Maine to the forested hiking trails in the north and the seafood shacks all along the coast, there’s plenty to enjoy, and plenty of people will be enjoying the experience alongside you.
The crowds bring high prices, so you’ll need to book well in advance at hotels and campgrounds. The summer is fairly short and sweet in Maine – the weather is generally hot and humid from late June through August. Bring an appetite as the summertime seafood bonanza makes for delicious mealtimes.
October and May are the best months for seasonal color and avoiding crowds
Maine’s shoulder season is one of the best times to Maine if you prefer a quieter experience and lower prices. Early October brings rainbow-colored foliage, apple picking and cooler weather, while May is a great time to enjoy Maine without the summer crowds, with many seasonal businesses opening their doors for the season around Memorial Day. Bring a warm coat as some parts of the state can still see snow in spring or fall, especially in the north and at higher elevations.
Ski resorts generally open in Maine in November © Justin Cash / Getty Images
November to April is chilly in Maine, but great forsnow sports
Winter is the low season for coastal and southern Maine, but the high season in western and northern areas, where outdoor recreation in the snow is the main draw. Maine is home to some of the best ski resorts on the East Coast, and northern Maine is popular for snowmobiling. Many hiking trails are groomed for the snow season, and can be traversed using snowshoes or cross-country skis.
January is snowy and busy in the ski resorts
By January, winter sports are in full swing across the state of Maine. All of the ski mountains are open and, depending on the snow quality, many cross-country skiing trails are open as well. In the cities, it’s time to get cozy by the fireplace at happy hour and admire the snow from inside.
Key events: New Years’ Day Lobster Dip in Old Orchard, Snodeo in Rangeley
February sits under dark, cold skies
The days are dark and the weather is cold in February, but there are lots of winter festivals and fun outdoor activities to enjoy. Kennebunkport comes alive for the Paint the Town Red celebrations and many hotels throughout the state host ice bars.
Key events:US National Toboggan Championship at the Camden Snowbowl, Paint the Town Red in Kennebunkport, Acadia Winter Festival in Acadia National Park
As the warmer weather arrives in Maine, so does the seafood © Daniel Grill / Getty Images
March is Restaurant Week in and around Portland
March in Maine still feels very much like winter across most of the state. You’ll start to see a peek of spring in the south, but skiing and snowmobiling are still popular activities in northern parts of Maine. Portland and surrounding towns celebrate Maine Restaurant Week in early March, and many of the state’s best restaurants have special menus and deals. The third weekend of the month is reserved for another Maine tradition – Maine Maple Sunday, where maple sugar shacks open across the state selling sweet treats.
Key events: Maine Restaurant Week in Portland, Maine Maple Sunday across the state
The mud doesn’t dampen the party mood in April
April is Maine’s unofficial fifth season – mud season. The snow is melting in the mountains and ski resorts throw massive parties to celebrate the end of the season. The weather is unpredictable – one day it might snow, and the next it’ll be 70°F (21°C). Whatever the weather is doing, April is when Mainers come out of hibernation and enjoy the early signs of spring, putting on their shorts as soon as the mercury hits 50°F (10°C).
Key events: Reggae Festival at Sugarloaf Mountain, Parrothead Fest at Sunday River
May brings the first hint of the pending summer crowds
The days are warmer, and the flowers begin to bloom in Maine after the long winter. May is when many of Maine’s seasonal businesses open early before the summer crowds arrive. Reservations are easy to arrange at the best restaurants, and Acadia National Park is quiet.
Memorial Day is the unofficial kick-off to the summer, but tourists don’t typically arrive until the Fourth of July, making May one of the best months to visit if you don’t want to wait hours for a table or compete with crowds on the hiking trails.
Key events: Bug Light Kite Festival in South Portland, Taste of Bar Harbor Food Festival in Bar Harbor, Memorial Day parades and events throughout the state
Pride brings vibrant color to Portland in June © 3Violetsphotography / Shutterstock
June sees the weather warm as people hit the beaches
June brings summer weather without the crowds. Temperatures vary but are typically in the mid-70s, and the schools let out for the summer. Restaurants, hiking trails and beaches are becoming a bit more crowded but visiting is still a relaxing experience.
June is also the start of black fly season, so if you’re hitting the woods for some outdoor adventures be prepared with insect repellent and stay covered up. Events and festivals take place throughout the state, and June is strawberry picking season.
Key events:Pride Portland, Windjammer Days in Boothbay Harbor, Portland Wine Week in Portland, Kennebunkport Festival in Kennebunkport
July sees plenty of Independence Day spirit
The Fourth of July holiday marks the start of the high tourist season in Maine. The weather becomes hot and humid, and crowds gather at Maine’s beaches and country campgrounds. You’ll need to book accommodations and restaurant reservations in advance. On the plus side, the seafood is fresh off the boat, and many towns across the state celebrate America’s Independence Day with parades and fireworks.
Key events: 4th of July events throughout the state, Yarmouth Clam Festival in Yarmouth, Maine Potato Blossom Festival in Fort Fairfield, North Atlantic Blues Festival in Rockland
August is peak summer with peak crowds
The dog days of summer are here in Maine. Tourist season is at its peak, and the southern beaches are crowded. Traffic can be heavy on the weekends, especially when heading to Acadia National Park. Summer in Maine only lasts a short time, so ignore the crowds and enjoy the hot weather while it lasts because more snow will be here before you know it.
Key events:Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland, Machias Wild Blueberry Festival in Machias, Great Falls Balloon Festival in Lewiston, Belfast Harbor Fest in Belfast.
The crowds die down in Acadia National Park as the summer weather gives way to fall © Jerry Monkman / Getty Images
September brings late summer warmth and quieter resorts
September is probably the best month to visit Maine. After Labor Day, the crowds get smaller, but the weather is still balmy. The ocean is usually warm enough for swimming and water sports, and the fair season kicks off, with lots of craft and agricultural fairs. Farmers’ markets are overrun with delicious summer produce and apple picking season starts.
Key events:Common Ground Fair in Unity, Camden Windjammer Festival in Camden, Maine Open Lighthouse Day throughout the state, Cumberland County Fair in Cumberland
October brings a blast of fall color
The leaves in Maine explode in a kaleidoscope of colors in October. Tourists come from near and far to see the fall foliage that typically peaks in early October, but it’s still quieter than the summer peak. Fair season ends with Maine’s oldest and largest fair, the Fryeburg Fair. October is the perfect time to visit Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor before everything closes for the season. Temperatures are mild, but snow isn’t uncommon in northern part of the state.
Key events:Fryeburg Fair in Fryeburg, Freeport Fall Festival in Freeport, North American Wife Carrying Championship at Sunday River
The lights go on at Nubble Lighthouse in York after Thanksgiving © Cheri Alguire / Getty Images
November sees the first signs of winter
November is one of those in-between months in Maine. It’s not entirely fall and not quite winter, though the days are much cooler and it gets dark early. It’s a great time to enjoy local restaurants and breweries though. If Mother Nature cooperates, ski resorts may open for early-season skiing.
Key events: Harvest on the Harbor in Portland, Lighting of Nubble Lighthouse in York, opening day at the Sunday River and Sugarloaf ski areas
December is holiday time in Maine
The holiday season kicks off strong in early December. The small coastal town of Kennebunkport turns into a scene from a Hallmark movie and Portland celebrates the Christmas Boat Parade of Lights. Mainers cross their fingers for a white Christmas, and the temperatures drop below freezing, so wrap up warm.
Key events: Christmas Prelude in Kennebunkport, Gardens Aglow at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, Sparkle Celebration in Freeport