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The Best Vacation Destinations in Maine

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If you’re looking for a vacation destination that actually looks like it belongs on a postcard, Maine is the place to go. You definitely won’t be able to resist visiting a lighthouse or two and feasting on lobster rolls every chance you get. Whatever you do, don’t forget to pack sturdy shoes because the state is full of outdoor adventures. Although there are plenty of unique shopping experiences (like checking out the LL Bean flagship store), you’ll want to spend your trip checking out the rocky coasts, sailing the Atlantic on a schooner, or hiking in the Appalachian Mountains. Maine ranked number 4 on the Lonely Planet list of “Best in Travel 2020: Top Regions,” which confirmed what we already knew: it’s time to start planning your Maine vacation!

1. Portland

The Greater Portland Area is known as one of the best places to vacation in Maine, with an average of 5.4 million visitors each year. With so much to do in Portland, there’s no question as to why it’s so popular.

Getting to the city is easy. The Amtrak Downeaster train service and Concord Coach Lines bus service both serve the area, which makes Portland one of the best day trips from Boston. Once you arrive, start your visit to Portland with a quintessential Maine activity: a lighthouse visit. First lit in 1791, Portland Head Light is the oldest lighthouse in Maine. Then take a stroll down the cobblestone streets of Old Port for some window shopping. When you get hungry, check out Palace Diner to try one of their infamous sandwiches or The Highroller Lobster Co. for a lobster roll that’s made with meticulously curated ingredients. Or, for a step off the beaten path, check out Portland’s Cryptology Museum, one of the weirdest museums in the US.

Casco Bay in Portland is the perfect place to join a sailing trip with stunning coastline views (and possible seal sightings!). Book a cruise on a schooner tall ship early, since spots normally sell out. Luckily, this one has free cancellation if you decide not to set sail.

Because of the many indoor and outdoor options, Portland is a perfect spot to visit any time of the year! Just remember to pack a windbreaker if you plan to spend time on the water.

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Bus & train prices are based on the average cost of a one-way ticket for the respective route available on Wanderu over a 30-day period. 

2. Moosehead Lake

Moosehead Lake is the largest lake in the state. Its sheer size and isolated location make it the perfect spot for a weekend getaway in Maine, whether you’re planning a romantic trip for two or a family holiday. As the name suggests, get ready for some moose sightings on your visit to Moosehead Lake, as the creatures outnumber people 3 to 1 in the area!

If you’re up for the challenge, you can complete the Moosehead Pinnacle Pursuit to peak six nearby mountains. As a reward, stop at the Spotted Cat Winery to indulge in one (or a few!) of their hand-crafted wines. Go between mid-September and mid-October to enjoy Moosehead Lake with peak foliage, and be sure to bring some travel toys for the kids while you’re enjoying the scenic drive.

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3. Freeport

Hop on the Amtrak Downeaster for an easy trip into Freeport. Of course, you can’t skip a visit to the LL Bean flagship store. If you’re visiting during the colder months, you might want to grab a pair of warm boots while you’re there! Also, plenty of additional shopping options are waiting for you at the nearby Freeport Village Station.

Kids and adults alike will enjoy checking out the Desert of Maine, a 40-acre area of glacial sand dunes. The ‘desert’ is open late spring through early fall, so plan accordingly if this is high on your list of must-dos during your vacation in Maine!

The state’s official treat is whoopie pies, so take the chance to sample a variety of flavors at Wicked Whoopies.

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Bus & train prices are based on the average cost of a one-way ticket for the respective route available on Wanderu over a 30-day period. 

4. Camden

Camden is one of the best vacation spots in Maine to enjoy views of the ocean and the mountains. You can take a Greyhound bus to the city. Then, take a hike up Mount Battie at Camden Hills State Park. On a clear day, you’ll even have a view of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park.

Camden’s Penobscot Bay hosts many quintessential wooden schooners, a.k.a. a sailboat with more than one mast. Climb aboard the Appledore II for an unforgettable sunset sailing cruise from Camden.

The city is a hotspot for festivals, including the 3-day music festival Jazz in June, the Camden Windjammer Festival every Labor Day weekend, and the Christmas by the Sea Festival in December. While the weather is definitely more enjoyable in the summer and early fall, there’s plenty to do in Camden no matter when you decide to visit.

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5. Augusta

As the state capital, this city is the best vacation destination in Maine for history lovers. It’s home to the Maine State Museum, which is permanently open after being closed SIX different times since 1836. You can also check out the Governor Hill Mansion, Fort Western, and Capitol Park.

We recommend visiting between late June to early September as an escape to idyllic weather. With an average high of 80℉ in July, you’ll want to spend as much time outdoors as possible when you visit. The Red Barn and Otto’s on the River are popular restaurants that both offer outdoor seating.

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Bus & train prices are based on the average cost of a one-way ticket for the respective route available on Wanderu over a 30-day period. 

6. Lewiston

Start your visit to Lewiston with a picnic at the Thorncrag Bird Sanctuary. Then, head inside the Basilica Saints Peter and Paul to marvel at the cathedral’s paintings and stained glass. There are also a few museums to visit, including Museum L-A and Bates College Museum of Art.

The Baxter Brewing Company is a popular spot in town to grab a drink and enjoy some of the games set up. Wrap up your visit to Lewiston with a walk down the Auburn Riverwalk. You’ll spot an urban waterfall – one of only fifteen in the U.S.!

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Bus & train prices are based on the average cost of a one-way ticket for the respective route available on Wanderu over a 30-day period. 

7. Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park should definitely earn a spot on your New England bucket list. Go between June and September to enjoy the most comfortable weather and avoid snow interrupting any of your plans. You might also consider braving cooler October temperatures for the opportunity to enjoy some gorgeous fall foliage.

Start your day at Arcadia with a hike up Cadillac Mountain to be among the first people to see the sun rise in the U.S. After you enjoy this moment, hop on the FREE Island Explorer bus and enjoy a ride through the park. Bring a camera or make sure your phone is charged since you’ll want to snap some photos at Jordan Pond, the Wild Gardens of Acadia, and Bass Harbor Head lighthouse.

When you’ve worked up an appetite, you’ll love tasting some of Maine’s best on this culinary walking tour of Bar Harbor outside Acadia.

Read more: Take a Virtual Tour of Every National Park in the Northeast & Southeast

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8. Baxter State Park

A visit to Baxter State Park isn’t for the faint of heart. However, if you’re looking for a truly unspoiled place to visit in Maine, put this park high on your list. Be ready for an awe-inspiring mix of nothing and everything. There are no flushing toilets, no trash cans, and no cell service. However, there is an ample supply of beautiful scenery and wildlife to marvel at.

To enjoy the park’s breathtaking views, consider canoeing on Kidney Pond or hiking Traveler’s Loop to Poggy Notch (we couldn’t make up these names if we tried!). If you’re looking for bragging rights, you can hike the northernmost 10 miles of the Appalachian Trail, located inside the park.

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9. Kennebunkport

Kennebunkport is part of what’s often referred to as the Kennebunks, a combination of three coastal Maine cities: Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, and Arundel.

The city is brimming with water activity options like fishing and boat tours. Taste the freshest seafood and learn local lore on this popular culinary walking tour of Kennebunkport – with samples and beer tastings! Or you might opt to spend the day just relaxing on Goose Rocks Beach, Kennebunk Beach, or Parsons Beach.

Keep an eye out for Secret Service, as George W. Bush and his family often spend summers at the Walker’s Point Estate in Kennebunkport.

Avoid any travel planning hassles with an all-inclusive day trip from Boston to Kennebunkport. This planned tour includes transportation from Boston, stops for scenic photo ops, time for shopping and exploring, and an option to add a lobster tour. Reserve your spot at the link below and you can either pay later or cancel with no fee.

If you prefer to set up your own travel, train and bus service to the area goes through Wells, a short 5 miles from Kennebunkport. Or, you can plan a pit stop in Kennebunkport on a Maine coast road trip.

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Bus & train prices are based on the average cost of a one-way ticket for the respective route available on Wanderu over a 30-day period. 

10. Boothbay Harbor

Boothbay Harbor is the perfect Maine getaway if you’re looking for a small-town feel and the chance to simply enjoy the area. Plan to set sail on a sunset cruise or lobster fishing excursion. This popular harbor cruise combines the best lighthouse views, lobster hauls, and seal sightings in one tour.

When you make it back to land, there’s no shortage of shopping options down the main streets bordering the waterfront. Spend a few hours at the small Maine State Aquarium or an entire day strolling through the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens.

Although you’ll find endless activities to fill your days, make sure you also plan time for a leisurely drive around town. Book your trip in July or August to enjoy the best weather that Maine has to offer.

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11. Rockland

A visit to Rockland offers the chance to enjoy the finer parts of the New England area. While you’re on your Maine vacation, you can’t miss the opportunity to visit the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse. Wear comfortable shoes because the only way to access the lighthouse is by walking 3/4 mile down a breakwater (remember that’s 1.5 miles round-trip!). Then, take another stroll downtown to do some window shopping at the art galleries, and snap a photo of the street art while you’re there.

If you’re ready to scope out the dining options, the Maine Foodie Tour is a chance to check out the best culinary creations in town. Another option is Archer’s On The Pier. It combines gorgeous waterfront views with sustainable seafood and local produce.

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Bus & train prices are based on the average cost of a one-way ticket for the respective route available on Wanderu over a 30-day period. 

12. Grafton Notch State Park

To experience the more rugged aspects of Maine, take a hike at Grafton Notch State Park. It contains 12 of the most challenging miles of the Appalachian Trail. If you’re looking for a less strenuous route, there are a dozen other trails to try. No two hikes are the same, but no matter which trail you choose, you’ll be rewarded with some breathtaking scenery. Make sure you check out Screw Augur Falls to see a 23-foot waterfall or climb Table Rock Trail to enjoy an awe-inspiring view at the top.

Visiting in the summer will provide the warmest weather, when highs peak around 78℉ in July. However, going in the fall offers the chance to enjoy the autumn foliage on your hikes. We advise skipping Grafton Notch State Park in the winter, when snow can close roads and make trails icy!

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Extend Your Maine Vacation

The travel possibilities in Maine are seemingly endless. Check out a few more that weren’t included in our top 12:

  • Bangor: For a spooky trip, head to Bangor to visit Stephen King’s house and take a walking tour down Central Street, where the Brady Gang shooting took place.
  • Pemaquid Point Light: This lighthouse is so iconic it’s featured on the Maine state quarter.
  • Ogunquit: The beach along the coast of Ogunquit features miles of white sand and Atlantic views.

Thanks to the picturesque views and irresistible culinary options, putting Maine at the top of your vacation list is a no-brainer. Planning that trip might take a little more brain power. Fret not, because Wanderu can help you book your next trip. Visit our website or download the Wanderu app to get started today!

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About the author
Katie Schuknecht

Katie Schuknecht

Katie resides in her hometown in Kentucky with her husband and daughter, but she loves visiting other corners of the world. Her top 3 favorite adventures include exploring the Great Barrier Reef in Cairns, Australia, the redwood trees in California, and Olympic National Park in Washington state.

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