Today I am sharing an extensive list of things to do in Maine. As a Maine native, I have always been proud of my state’s unique culture and way of life. If you want to visit Maine, this is a complete guide to help you decide where to go and what to do in Maine.
What to Know Before You Go:
Rent a Car:
First, you will probably want to rent a car. Most towns in Maine don’t have any public transportation or taxis; if anything there might be a trolley. There are some ubers, but they are limited outside of Portland. The two main ways to get to Maine are to either fly into Portland, or to come up from Boston. If you are coming from Boston you can rent a car and drive up or take the Amtrak Downeaster to Maine.
The season is May-October:
The most important thing to know about Maine is that many businesses, including hotels, shops, museums, and restaurants are only open from Memorial Day to Columbus Day. The big exception is Portland where most businesses are open all year.
Maine’s pretty big:
Maine is bigger than you might think. A drive along Maine’s coast will take upwards of 5 hours, keeping that in mind will help you plan your trip, especially since some of the things to do in Maine listed below are spread out. Most of the things listed are along the coast. Spending a week driving up the Maine Coast is a great way to spend a vacation.
Things to do in Maine:
This comprehensive list covers what to do in Maine: which islands and small towns to visit, landmarks, lighthouses, museums, annual events, and other unique things to do in Maine.
Can’t-Miss Towns to Visit:
I have gathered up a list of the most beautiful places in Maine to visit. As you might expect, they are all along Maine’s coast. Some are quiet towns where you can enjoy nature, while others are busy vacation destinations.
Portland is Maine’s largest city and a hub for arts and dining. Compared to other cities, Portland is small with just 67,000 residents. If you fly into Maine, you will most likely be flying into Portland and it is worth spending a night or two. The Old Port has cobblestoned streets, wonderful restaurants, and independently owned boutiques.
My hometown is a charming fishing village turned summer retreat for the wealthy. Dock Square is the town square and it is filled with restaurants and shops, and there is a wide range of hotels in the town too. Make sure you make the drive to Cape Porpoise, a small village within Kennebunkport with a harbor filled with lobster boats and an island with a lighthouse. There are some great restaurants there too. Another section of town called Goose Rocks has one of Maine’s best beaches.
Often called the most scenic town in the state, Camden is just north of Rockport. Camden hosts movie nights in their outdoor amphitheater, a Shakespeare festival, and a Windjammer festival. The downtown is filled with brightly colored historic buildings.
Located between Bath and Damariscotta, Boothbay Harbor is a popular tourist destination with lots of shops, hotels, and restaurants. If you are in Boothbay Harbor, make a point to experience Cabbage Island Clambakes.
My brother lives in Bath and something about the town makes you feel like you have stepped back in time. Bath’s Main Street is one of the prettiest Main Streets I have seen. Bath Heritage Days take place over July 4th weekend and features a strawberry shortcake social, a parade, and a carnival.
Rockport is another beautiful coastal town, like all the towns on this list. What makes Rockport different is its strong connection to the arts and its art museums. Rockport neighbors Camden on the south so it is easy to visit both in one day.
This mid-coast town is the oyster capital of New England and is known for the oysters that come from the salty Damariscotta River. Downtown Damariscotta is one of Maine’s most beautiful downtowns. The town’s annual oyster festival takes place in late September.
Bar Harbor is a town on Mount Desert Island beside Acadia National Park. If you want to experience nature, you need to go to Bar Harbor. Drive the 27-mile Park Loop Road along oceanside cliffs, relax at Sands Beach, or take advantage of Acadia’s many hiking and biking trails. Bar Harbor is a year-round destination and visitors can snowshoe and cross country ski in the winter.
Just 20 minutes south of Kennebunkport, Ogunquit was an artist’s community and today it is a thriving town filled with vacationers. Visit the beaches, shop in Perkin’s Cove, see a show at the Ogunquit Playhouse, and walk Marginal Way. The town is known for being LGBTQ friendly.
Stonington is a very small town with just over 1,000 residents located on the southern part of Deer Isle. There isn’t too much to do there, but it’s very scenic.
Castine is a small town – just 1000 residents – in midcoast Maine and home of Maine Maritime Academy. It’s been called one of 10 prettiest towns in Maine, and the place to experience Maine away from the crowds.
Islands to Visit:
Maine has over 4,600 islands off the coast. Some are uninhabited, while others are summer communities. If you are seeking quiet and relaxation, you might want to add an island to your itinerary.
Peaks Island is one of the most visited islands in Maine. It’s in Casco Bay and just a 3-mile ferry ride from Portland. It’s great for a day trip and the island can be explored by foot or by kayak.
Also in Casco Bay, this island is 10 miles from Portland. There is one inn if you want to stay on the island, otherwise, it is an easy day trip. The island has a quaint, relaxing, and elegant vibe and is where you can find Indian Point Beach, one of the best beaches in New England.
You can get to Monhegan Island via ferries from either Boothby Harbor or Port Clyde. This island is known for its natural beauty, its artists’ colony, and its lighthouse that dates back to 1850. There are a few inns if you want to stay on the island. According to the 2017 census, the population of the island is 68.
Of all the islands off the coast of Maine, there are many, Vinalhaven has the largest year-round community. To get to Vinalhaven, take a ferry from Rockland. There are a few lodging options if you want to spend a night or two, and the island boasts one of the world’s largest fleets of lobster boats. The homes on the island are gorgeous.
To get to Squirrel Island, you need to take the Novelty, a mailboat, from Boothbay Harbor. There are no hotels on the island, and cars and bikes aren’t allowed either. Visitors can walk around the summer community and admire the summer cottages.
Mount Desert Island
Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park are on this island, and it has 108 miles of coastline.
Parks, Gardens, and Nature Preserves:
Mainers have great respect for nature and there are dozens of nature preserves in the state.
A national park beside Bar Harbor in Mid-Coast Maine, Acadia is filled with unspoiled nature, wildlife, and mountains for hiking. The largest mountain, Cadillac Mountain is famous for being a place to see the sunrise. Many visitors to Maine plan their trips around visiting Acadia. I would recommend spending two days there.
Located in central Maine, Baxter State Park isn’t as touristy, but it’s home to Maine’s tallest peak, Mount Katahdin. The park has 215 miles of trails, including a challenging trail to the top of Katahdin. There are campsites, and areas for hunting, biking, fishing, paddling, picnicking, and viewing wildlife.
Marginal Way in Ogunquit
My parents love this 1.25-mile cliffside walk in Ogunquit. The walk ends in Perkins Cove, which is a great place to grab a meal. The views are great and this is definitely worth adding to your to-do list if you will be in the area.
A wildlife refuge on the coast with walking trails. It can be seen in just about an hour, and I highly recommend it. If you are lucky you might spot some native birds.
Located on the northern part of Maine’s coast, not far from Canada, there are 4.5 miles of trails overlooking the Bay of Fundy.
Asticou Azalea Garden in Northeast Harbor
A beautifully manicured park with a pond and a large collection of azaleas. There are cherry trees that flower in mid-May, and different plants flowering each month until fall. It is open from May through October.
Thuya Garden in Northeast Harbor
Created by Charles K. Savage who also created the Asticou Azalea Garden, Thuya Garden looks more like someone’s garden, while Asticou Azalea Garden is more like a park. It was influenced by English garden landscaping and is open from May through October.
Quoddy Head State Park in Lubec
Not far from the Cutler Coast Public Reserved Land, Quoddy Head State Park is the easternmost point of land in the United States. It’s home to a historic lighthouse (one of Maine’s prettiest in my opinion), five miles of walking trails, and areas for picnicking.
Witherle Woods in Castine
A popular area with 6.5 miles of trails for walking and cross-country skiing on Maine’s coast. During winter the cross-country skiing trails are groomed.
Open to the public all year, this state park has a campground, sandy beaches, and vast woodlands. It’s one of the most popular lakes in Maine.
Bonyun Preserve on Westport Island in Wiscasset
A trail that takes visitors past an estuary, tidal inlets, woodland, and marshes.
Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay
Open seasonally from April 15 through October 31, and then open November and December for Gardens Aglow, this botanical garden is a perfect place to learn about nature and plants native to Maine.
Kisma Preserve in Trenton
A refuge for non-domesticated animals, that is home to animals including wolves and bears. This is not a zoo.
A family-friendly zoo and amusement park.
Fun fact: Maine has more coastline than California! That means lots of beaches. I am listing Maine’s prettiest beaches below. I should let you know that usually, Maine’s ocean water is between 55-62 degrees in the summer (aka cold).
Sand Beach on Mount Desert Island
Located in a cove between Gorham Mountain and Acadia National Park, this beach is a hidden gem.
Goose Rocks Beach in Kennebunkport
A three-mile stretch of beach with grassy dunes and lots of shoreline – especially at low tide. A permit is required to enter the beach, just get one at the general store.
Laudholm Beach in Wells
This beach is pretty isolated, so you need to walk there, but it’s worth it get to this uncrowded beach.
A 3.5-mile beach with sand dunes, seagrass, and tide pools to explore.
Popham Beach State Park, Phippsburg
Where the Kennebec River meets the ocean, there is limited space on the shoreline, so this beach is better for walking than for lounging.
Parson’s Beach in Kennebunk
My favorite beach in my hometown, and where Charles proposed! To get there you drive past a horse farm and down a narrow tree-lined street, park, walk over the dunes, and enjoy! Since parking is limited, the beach tends not to be too busy.
York has four beaches: Long Sands Beach, Short Sands Beach, York Harbor Beach, Cape Neddick Beach and all are beautiful. York Harbor Beach is more of a local’s hangout, Long Sands has volleyball, Short Sands is the best for sunbathing during high tide, and Cape Neddick is secluded and has tide pools.
Indian Point Beach
Located on Chebeague Island in Casco Bay this beach has a tidal sandbar that connects to Little Chebeague Island.
Crescent Beach State Park in Cape Elizabeth
This beach as it all – including restrooms which can be rare at Maine beaches. There are also lifeguards, a snack bar, and a picnic area. It’s just 20 minutes south of Portland, so it’s a great option if you are staying in the city.
Reid State Park in Georgetown
Just north of Bath, this beach is perfect for people who want to explore nature. There are tidal pools, salt marshes, a tidal river, and grassy dunes.
Mother’s Beach in Kennebunk
I spent the vast majority of my summer days here as a kid. This beach is perfect for families, there are tide pools for exploring and a playground.
Maine is the ideal place to spend time in nature. There are rivers, lakes, and a massive amount of coastline for watersports. Plus plenty of mountains for hiking, biking, and skiing. Here are some of the best things to do in Maine for outdoors lovers.
White Water Rafting
White water rafting is popular on Maine’s rivers. There are rapids ranging from Class II moderate to Class V extremely difficult in Maine. Rivers for white water rafting include the Kennebec River, Penobscot River, The Magalloway River, Rapid River, and the appropriately named most challenging river, the Dead River. Companies running white water rafting tours include North Country Rivers in Bingham, Three Rivers in West Forks, Northern Outdoors in The Forks, and Crab Apple.
Kayaking and Stand Up Paddle Boarding
Kayaking and stand up paddle boarding are very popular all over the state. You can find shops renting both kayaks and paddle boards all along the coast. Some tours are available too. I recommend searching online to find rental places in the towns you are visiting. Some hotels even have the equipment.
Surfing is popular at some Maine beaches. Usually, surfers get up early to surf since surfing isn’t permitted at some beaches during the day. Surf lessons and rentals are available from Aquaholics in Kennebunk, Wheels n Waves in Wells, and Surf Camp Maine in Scarborough.
You can fish on the pristine lakes or on the ocean in Maine. There are 56 species of freshwater fish found in Maine including rainbow trout, whitefish, arctic char, bass, perch, sunfish, and salmon. Saltwater fish native to Maine include flounder, striped bass, hake, haddock, bluefin tuna, Atlantic salmon, mackerel, and cod. You can learn more about fishing licenses here. Fishing tours are very popular and are available in most coastal towns.
Pick Blueberries, Strawberries, Apples, Pumpkins
There are lots of “U-Pick” farms in Maine, and my Mom and Dad pick blueberries and strawberries often. In the fall it’s fun to go to an apple orchard or a pumpkin patch. Here is a link to a directory of U-Pick farms in Maine.
The highest mountain in Maine is 5,267 feet and is in Baxter State Park in central Maine. If you are an adventurous hiker, you might want to climb the Knife Edge Trail.
This mountain in Acadia National Park is where “America’s Day Begins” – that’s the slogan that used to be on Maine State Driver’s Licenses. Cadillac Mountain is the first place in America to view the sunrise between October 7th and March 6th. The mountain is 1,530 feet tall, and you can reach the top by driving up summit road or you can hike the 2.2 mile North Ridge Trail which is known for this panromantic views.
A variety of ferries run from Portland to the islands in Casco Bay. Hop on the mailboat run, a sunset cruise, or a music cruise.
Maine has 12 campgrounds at state parks, in addition to dozens of additional campgrounds around the state. One of the most popular places for camping is Acadia National Park.
The glamorous camping trend has made its way to Maine and you can glamp at Sandy Pines Campground in Goose Rocks Beach Kennebunkport, Spencer Pond Camp in Greenville, Seguin in Georgetown (which has treehouses!), TimberStone Adventures in Stoneham, and the Woods of Eden in Bar Harbor.
Sightseeing Activities and Tours:
If you want to join a tour, here are some I recommend.
Go on a Whalewatch
Maine is an ideal place to see a humpback whale since the Gulf of Maine is one of the feeding grounds. Most coastal towns have whale watches.
Take a Lobster Boat Tours
You can get a behind the scenes look at the lobstering industry on tours in Portland, Bar Harbor, Kennebunk, Camden, Rockland, Boothbay Harbor, Milbridge, Ogunquit, Bass Harbor, and Southwest Harbor.
Visit the Penobscot Narrows Bridge & Observatory
The observatory atop the Penobscot Narrows Bridge is the tallest bridge observatory in the world – it’s taller than the Statue of Liberty. Take in views of Penobscot River and Bay and the mountains in the distance.
Go on a Puffin Cruise to Eastern Egg Rock
You need a boat to get to this puffin colony, and Capt’n Fish’s Puffin Cruises will take you there. Note: you can only see puffins on the northern Maine coast.
Maine Duck Tours in Portland
This 60-minute tour covers the history of Portland as you wind through the city on both land and sea.
This company offers food tours of Portland, Bar Harbor, Boothbay Harbor, and Kennebunkport.
Pick one of 16 cycling tours and get a workout in while you tour Maine’s scenic coastline. They offer a half-day five lighthouse tour in addition to weekend and weeklong tours.
Maine is home to 65 historical lighthouses spread along the state’s 5,000 miles of coastline, most of which are active today. I included the most scenic lighthouses in Maine on this list. If I had to pick the three most beautiful lighthouses, I would pick Marshall Point, West Quoddy, and Doubling Point Lighthouse.
Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth
Arguably Maine’s most famous lighthouse, this lighthouse is 80 feet tall, dates back to 1791, and is Maine’s oldest lighthouse. You can tour this lighthouse and see the original keeper’s quarters. A lobster roll truck is stationed outside during the summer and it gets great reviews.
This lighthouse on an island has been turned into an inn! It’s a gorgeous lighthouse on a private island and the accommodations are luxurious. Visiting is on my bucket list.
Goat Island Light in Cape Porpoise, Kennebunkport
You can view this lighthouse on an island from Cape Porpoise Pier. It isn’t open to the public, a local family lives on the island and runs the lighthouse.
Nubble Lighthouse (Cape Neddick Light) in York
Crazy fact, the spacecraft the Voyager had photos of the most important structures on earth, just in case aliens intercepted it, and this lighthouse made the list. The lighthouse is on a small island and isn’t open for visitors and can only be seen from a telescope.
Pemaquid Lighthouse in Bristol
This lighthouse was featured on the Maine State quarter. The original lighthouse keeper’s house is now a Fishermen’s Museum. The apartment upstairs is available for overnight stays.
Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse
A lighthouse at the end of a breakwater with an attached keeper’s house. It has been restored, and visitors can tour the dwelling and climb up to the top of the lighthouse. You might see seals in addition to views of the harbor.
Bass Harbor Head Light in Acadia National Park
Located on a cliff, this lighthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places.
West Quoddy Head Light in Quoddy Head State Park in Lubec
This lighthouse is distinctive for the horizontal red and white stripes painted on it.
Squirrel Point Light on Arrowsic Island
A lighthouse along the Kennebec River. Visitors can explore the grounds but no tours are offered since the Coast Guard still utilizes this lighthouse as a navigational aid.
Doubling Point Lighthouse in Arrowsic
Also located in Arrowsic, and a 20-minute drive from Squirrel Point Light (the two are separated by the Kennebec River so you have to go up and around and through Bath to get from one to the other unless you are on a boat). Doubling Point Lighthouse is an active lighthouse just 1.5km from Bath Iron Works. It has a wooden boardwalk and looks similar to Marshall Point Lighthouse
Bug Light (Portland Breakwater Light) in Portland
At just 30 feet tall, this is a shorter lighthouse. It’s located at the end of the breakwater in Portland Harbor and it was designed by the same architect who designed the US Capital east and west wings.
Marshall Point Lighthouse in Port Clyde
This lighthouse with its wooden boardwalk over the sea was featured in Forest Gump – the titular character ran there on his cross-country run. You can tour this lighthouse. If you go, take advantage of the opportunity to take the nearby ferry to see puffins.
Spring Point Ledge Light in South Portland
This lighthouse is open to visitors and is located on land (not an island) by Fort Preble.
Whaleback Lighthouse at the mouth of the Piscataqua River
During high tide, this lighthouse looks like it is sticking right out of the water. I don’t think you can even say it’s on an island, rather this stone lighthouse is on top of some rocks.
Owls Head Light
Touring this lighthouse gives visitors amazing views of the Penobscot Bay, nearby islands, and the windjammer fleet.
The beer business is booming in Maine. Over 50 craft breweries have opened in the past ten years.
Not a brewery, but one of the most convenient ways to visit some Maine breweries.
Not a brewery, but these brewery tours are one of the most convenient ways to visit some Maine breweries.
One of Maine’s most well known breweries, Allagash offers a variety of tours and a tasting room. The tasting roim has over a dozen beers on tap to taste. Allagash is located in Portland.
Bissell Brothers has a cult following and the beer is hard to get your hands on. They have a tasting room in Portland and it’s the best opportunity to taste their brews. You can also purchase cans of beer to take home, but the beer is released at very specific times and you should expect to wait in a line.
Also in Portland, this brewery’s tasting room is open 7 days a week and they often host events and have food trucks on premises. Public tours are offered daily.
Charles and I loved this brewery in Portland’s Old Port. It’s part brewery, part distillery, and part restaurant.
This brewery is deep in the woods of Lyman, and they are known for having live music on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Their website is light on the details, but according to my parents they also have pizza and games.
Located on the way to Sunday River, this brewery is also a pub with live music.
A farmhouse brewering with locations in Portland, Oxford, and Newcastle that produces ale. The Portland location hosts a wide range of events including dance parties, fly tying classes, and yoga classes. The space doubles as an art gallery.
Maine’s largest brewery, Shipyard is famous for their Export Ale and Pumpkinhead. The brewery has a tap room in Portland.
This brewery has a tasting room in Freeport that also serves pizza.
A brewery in Bar Harbor with a tasting room that is open from May until October. During those months, tours are offered at 2,3, and 4 on a first come first served basis.
This tap room and restaurant is open 7 days a week and hosts events like comedy nights.
Things to do in Maine in the Winter:
Maine’s snowy winters mean that there are lots of winter activities to enjoy.
Cross Country Skiing
If you have your own skis, there are trails all over the state. If you need to rent skis, Visit Maine has a list of top trails with rental available.
You can snowshoe anywhere that has snow, or you can check out these snowshoeing trails.
There are a few different companies that run dogsledding tours: Ultimate Dog Sledding Experience in Oxford, New England Dog Sledding in Bethel, Heywood Kennel Sled Dog Adventures in Augusta, Mornington Crescent Sled Dogs near South Oxford, and Mahoosuc Guide Services in Newry.
Ice fishing is popular on Maine’s many lakes. If you want to try ice fishing (warning, it isn’t exactly exciting) check out these tour companies.
Sledding and Snow Tubing
Every town has its own go-to hills, and some ski areas have designated areas for snow tubing. Check the Annual Events section of this post to read about the US National Toboggan Championships.
Most towns have a lake, a pond, or a rink. You might want to skate at Thompson’s Point in Portland and then grab a beer at Bissell Brothers.
Fat Tire Biking
Fat Tire Bikes make it possible to bike through the snow. Here is a list of places where rentals are available.
Where to Ski in Maine:
Maine has a handful of mountains for skiing in the winter.
This ski resort is made up of 8 separate peaks and has 138 trails. There is lodging on the resort including condos and hotels. Their après ski bar has a live music series.
Sugarloaf is a ski resort on a single 4,237-foot tall mountain with over 150 trails and on-site lodging. It’s a popular destination for spring skiing and prides itself on being open until May most years.
Shawnee Peak is only 45 minutes from Portland, making it perhaps the easiest mountain to get to. It is smaller, with a total of 43 trails.
A family ski area with 54 trails just outside Bethel.
Maine also had 14 smaller ski areas.
A collection of some of Maine’s most famous landmarks- from historic homes to statues, and military forts.
Walker’s Point in Kennebunkport
This peninsula in Kennebunkport was the home of President George Bush and Barbara Bush. You can’t go onto the peninsula but you can view it from afar on Ocean Avenue.
Paul Bunyan Statue in Bangor
This statue in Bangor marks the birthplace of the giant lumberjack from folktales.
Olson House in Cushing
This home that was included in Andrew Wyeth’s 1948 painting, Christina’s World, is located at 384 Hathorne Point in Cushing and is now owned by the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The house is only open for tours from Memorial Day through Columbus Day, hours are very limited.
This wooden tower constructed in 1807 is the oldest maritime signal tower in the country. Visitors who climb stairs to the top are rewarded with one of the best views of Portland Harbor. It is open daily from the end of May through the start of October.
Victoria Mansion in Portland
A National Historic Landmark with exceptional Villa Style architecture built in 1858. It is an early example of a home with hot and cold running water, flush toilets, central heating, and gas lights. Over 90% of the original interior is intact. Victoria Mansion is open for tours from May through the first week of January.
Hamilton House in South Berwick
A historic Georgian-style home located at 40 Vaughan’s Lane in South Berwick that was built between 1787 and 1788. It is open for tours in the summer.
Winslow Homer Studio
The remodeled carriage house that was the studio of one of Maine’s most famous artists is now owned by the Portland Museum of Art.
Yup, things with Canada were so tense in the 1830s that a munitions depot was built. And somehow it was never torn down!
Historic Military Forts
Maine has a few old military forts. Fort Halifax and Fort Western were built in the 1750s. Fort Kent is the only surviving fort from the Aroostook War. Fort Knox was built during the border tensions with Canada in 1830s. To be very honest, Fort Halifax, Fort Kent, and Fort Western all look very similar based on photos.
Originally home to Native Americans, and later a very early site for English settlers, today the area is a State Historic Site. Visitors can see the remains of Fort William Henry, and the village, plus a burial ground that dates back to the 1620s.
Stephen King’s House in Bangor
Stephen King really lives in this home located at 47 W Broadway in Bangor that has a black iron gate decorated with bats and a spiderweb. It is not open to the public; be respectful if you decide to sneak a peek.
This library is a National Historic Landmark and is has two gardens.
The Summer Street Mansions in Kennebunk
This street near downtown Kennebunk is lined with 17 mansions once owned by sea captains. The homes are a very popular destination on Halloween.
The Wedding Cake House in Kennebunk
A historic home built in 1825 by shipbuilder George W. Bourne, who used hand tools to create wooden decorations for the house, making it look similar to a wedding cake. The house is not open to the public, but it’s worth driving by. It’s also on Summer Street, and it isn’t far from the mansions.
Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Brunswick
The author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and her family resided in this home at 63 Federal Street for two years. Today it is a museum and part of the Bowdoin campus. The building is both a National Historic Landmark and a National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom site.
The Bowdoin at Maine Maritime Academy in Castine
This schooner was built for arctic exploration and captained by Donald B. MacMillian, who named his ship after Bowdoin College. Although the schooner is named for Bowdoin, it’s home is Maine Maritime Academy where it is used by students at the college.
Maine State Building in Portland
This building in Portland was built in Chicago as a World’s Fair showpiece and was then shipped to Maine in sixteen boxcars. It is one of few surviving structures from the World’s Fair.
Small Town X Fisherman Statue in Eastport
This statue of a fisherman in Eastport is one of Maine’s newer landmarks, it was built as a prop for a 2001 Fox reality competition show called Murder in Small Town X. The statue is a bit cartoony and the fisherman holds a regionally inaccurate Pacific Salmon. After the reality show wrapped, the statue was abandoned, but the townspeople voted to maintain the statue and to turn it into a memorial to Ángel Juarbe, Jr., the Bronx firefighter who won Murder in Small Town X, who was killed on September 11th, just a week after the finale of the show.
One of the best things about Maine is that there are few national retailers. Most shops are owned by locals. This list includes popular areas for shopping, plus specific shops to seek out.
Freeport is the best place for Outlet Shopping. While Maine doesn’t have many name brand shops, Freeport does has high-end outlet shopping. You will find shops like the J.Crew Factory Store, Dooney & Bourke, Fjallraven, Ralph Lauren, Sperry, and The North Face. The best part is that it isn’t in some sterile outlet mall, it’s in a charming downtown.
The Kittery Outlets are on the southern border of Maine. There is a wide variety of shops, but they are spread out in different strip malls, which means that you have to drive around a lot. The experience isn’t as nice as going to Freeport.
The Old Port in Portland
The Old Port is the best place for shopping in Portland. Be sure to walk down Exchange Street and Market Street. Stores like Anthropologie can be found but most of the shops are locally owned.
Dock Square Kennebunkport
Kennebunkport’s town square is filled with locally owned boutiques selling clothing, art, and other goods. There are also a couple of cute coffee shops. My favorite shops are Dock Square Clothiers, Minka, and Shoot the Moon.
Perkins Cove Ogunquit
Similar to Kennebunkport, Ogunquit’s downtown is filled with shops for exploring.
In addition to the outlets, Freeport is also home to LL Bean which has several separate shops in the downtown. The flagship is gigantic and has a pond with fish and taxidermy of local wildlife – even if you don’t want to shop it is fun to see. There are also separate stores for hunting and fishing, boating, and home.
Farm + Table
A shop in Cape Porpoise specialized in items for your kitchen and home. The fantastically curated shop has lots of locally produced items including cutting and serving boards from local wood.
This shop specializes in gourmet food products like jams, salad dressing, and pancake mix. The brand has shops in York, Camden, and Portland.
One of my brother’s favorite things to do in Maine, Kittery Trading Post sells everything for the outdoorsman.
Bell Farm Shops in York
This gift shop specializes in items for the home and garden, and is a great place to shop for local products.
This shop sells tote bags that are made from recycled sails.
Daytrip Society is a little boutique in Kennebunkport’s Dock Square is one of my favorite places to shop. They have a kids store, Daytrip Jr., right around the corner and they have a beautiful selection of clothing and toys.
There are lots of antique shops in Maine. A few of my sister’s favorites are Americana in Kennebunk, Antiques on 9 in Arundel, Antiques USA in Arundel, Old House Parts in Kennebunk, Hutchins in Ogunquit, and Queen Anne’s Lace in Wells.
This bookstore in Biddeford specializes in rare, vintage, and unusual cookbooks.
An independently owned bookshop that specialized in crime, mystery, and detective fiction.
A shop in Deer Isle that sells Maine-made jams, chutneys, pottery, and handicrafts.
This shop in Thomaston is where you can purchase wooden goods ranging from cutting boards to toys made by maximum security prisoners at the Maine State Prison.
A shop in Kennebunk with a well-curated selection of home goods, jewelry, and clothing.
Unique Things to do in Maine:
Charles has been to Maine dozens of times by now, and his favorite of all the things to do in Maine is visiting Cabbage Island. It isn’t just a visit to an island, it’s a ferry ride and a traditional Maine clambake. If you are unfamiliar with a clambake, it includes chowder, clams, potatoes, and lobsters. The lobsters, clams, and potatoes are steamed in seaweed over a fire. Super traditional, and not something you can try just anywhere.
The Bangor Police Department has a mascot. It’s a stuffed duck and it’s famous. With over 300,000 followers on Facebook, people from all over the world have made the trip to the Bangor Police Department to have their photo taken with the duck.
Go to a Drive-In Movie
There aren’t many drives-in theaters around anymore, but Maine has seven. Pride’s Corner is in Westbrook, Skowhegan Drive-In is in Skowhegan, the Saco Drive-In is in Saco, the Skylite Drive-In in Madawaska, the Bangor Drive-In in Hermon, the Bridgton Drive-In in Bridgton, and the Big Sky Drive-In in Farmington.
The popular food brand offers a wide variety of cooking classes that their York location.
Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village
Located in New Gloucester, Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village is the last active Shaker community. The village has a museum and a shop and gives visitors a glimpse at the Shaker way of life.
General Stores are part of life in Maine. Many of the small towns don’t have grocery stores or hardware stores, so General Stores offer a wide variety of things so that people don’t have to make the drive somewhere else. Some general stores are also gas stations and laundry mats. According to my brother, Berry’s is the gold standard of general stores, you can find anything from clothing to fishing gear to bullets. He says they even have wedding dresses. If you can’t make it to Berry’s most small towns have a general store.
Old Orchard Beach
Old Orchard Beach is a town with a 7-mile beach and a pier that extends 500 feet over the Atlantic Ocean. There are lots of affordable hotels, events, and carnival rides and a Ferris wheel beside the beach. It isn’t as upscale as some of the other towns in the area.
Go to a Lakehouse (or as they say in Maine a “camp”)
Maine has at least 6,000 lakes and ponds, and when Mainers want to take a break, they go “upta camp” which is Mainer for to their lake house. Sebago Lake is one of the most popular lakes for vacationers.
The Desert of Maine
Forty acres of glacial silt makes up the Desert of Maine which is in Freeport, Maine. It’s definitely one of the strangest things to do in Maine. I don’t think it is much of a destination, its more of a roadside attraction.
Theatre and Music:
Maine has several theatre venues, most of which are only open during the summer.
Darlings Waterfront Pavillion in Bangor
A summertime venue and probably the best place in Maine to see live music in Maine. Chris Stapleton, Phish, Sheryl Crow, and Ozzy Osbourne are playing there in 2019.
The Cross Arena (formerly the Civic Center) in Portland
This is the venue where you can see major acts, you know, like Josh Groban, Chicago, or a monster truck tour.
One of the most well-known theaters in Maine, The Ogunquit Playhouse has been producing plays in the summertime for 86 years, and it is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Merrill Auditorium in Portland
This venue is the place to see touring Broadway shows, musical performances, the Portland Symphony Orchestra, and more.
State Theater in Portland
This theater hosts touring bands and acts like Cat Power, Dropkick Murphys, and Maggie Rogers.
The restored 1894 theater hosts concerts, films, comedy shows, and more. It is open year-round.
This theatre company stages productions of shows like A Christmas Carol, The Importance of Being Earnest, and The Last Five Years.
Vinegar Hill Music Theatre in Arundel
A new venue in a restored barn, this venue is open in the summer and hosts musicians and comedians.
Hackmatack Playhouse in Berwick
A summertime playhouse that stages a handful of plays each season.
Lakewood Theater in Madison
The season at this playhouse runs from the end of May through the middle of September and the 2019 season includes Big Fish, Chicago, and Godspell.
The Grand in Ellsworth
An Art Deco theater that shows films, music, and entertainment acts. It’s open all year.
A community theater that is open year-round and hosts a variety of plays.
Mad Horse Theatre Company in South Portland
This theater specializes in contemporary plays.
A Shakespearean Theater housed in a stunning Victorian Opera House. The 2019 season features Shakespearean works like Hamlet and Merry Wives of Windsor plus The Jungle Book and Sense and Sensibility.
Penobscot Theatre in Bangor
You can see plays like The Graduate, Wait Until Dark, and Elf the Musical at this theater that is open all year.
Wildlife to Seek Out:
Maine has lots of wildlife and is home to a few creatures that are hard to find anywhere else.
Moose are big, not very smart, and slow moving. If you are up in Northern Maine it is much more likely that you will see one. Because of their height, it’s very dangerous to hit a moose with your car since the massive moose can crush drivers. If you want to see a moose up close, the LLBean flagship store has a pair of taxidermy moose that a woman found on her land, their antlers got tangled and they died.
These black and white birds look similar to a duck and are known for their distinctive call. Loons can be found in Maine’s lakes and can be heard calling to eachother at night.
In my opinion, puffins are one of the cutest animals in the world. It’s like someone took a penguin and made it even more adorable. Maine is the on the southern edge of where you can find puffins on the Atlantic Coast. Go at least as far north as Boothbay Harbor if you want to see them. You will probably need to go on a puffin cruise to see one.
Maine is a prime feeding ground for these massive creatures and they can be found all along the coast, just go on a whale watch.
Nothing demonstrates Mainers pride for their way of life quite like Maine’s unique museums. Maine has museums devoted to the history of everything from ice harvesting to cryptozoology.
Right in downtown Portland, this is one of the best museums in the state. The museum features traveling exhibitions in addition to a permanent collection. There is an emphasis on artists who spent time in Maine. The PMA also runs tours of the Winslow Homer Studio, which is offsite and tours must be booked in advance.
Farnsworth Art Museum and Wyeth Center in Rockland
This museum is dedicated to American and Maine-inspired art. The museum is also home to the Wyeth Center which displays works by Andrew, N.C., and Jamie Wyeth.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was the author of Paul Revere’s Ride and one of Maine’s most famous residents. He grew up in the Wadsworth-Longfellow House which is open for tours. The home is in remarkable shape and is filled with items owned by the Wadsworth and Longfellow families.
Children’s Museum & Theater of Maine in Portland
Located beside the Portland Museum of Art, this museum and theater offer a wide variety of events for families.
International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland
Portland has a museum dedicated to mysterious animals like Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, mermaids, yetis, and sea serpents. It’s the only museum of it’s kind (not sure if that is surprising or not). If you do visit, the museum is beside Bissell Brothers Brewing Company and Cellardoor Winery which are certainly worth visiting.
Ogunquit is a coastal town in southern Maine that was an art colony during the American modernist era. The museum is open from May to October each year.
Mount Desert Oceanarium in Bar Harbor
Located in Bar Harbor this is a hands-on aquarium where visitors can learn about sea life native to Maine. The oceanarium is open in from May through the summer months.
Maine Marine Museum in Castine
This museum in Bath, Maine lets visitors take ferry rides that give them a close look at nearby lighthouses and provides a close look at the Naval vessels being constructed at Bath Iron Works (where my brother works). You can also stroll through the country’s only surviving shipyard where large-scale wooden vessels are built. Inside, hands-on exhibitions let children play on a pirate ship and inside a human-sized lobster trap.
Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport
The largest and oldest museum of mass transit is in my hometown… which is somewhat ironic considering the fact that Kennebunkport has no mass transit. This museum is a big hit with kids and features over 250 vehicles from all over the U.S. and the world. Visitors can even ride some of the vehicles.
The museum displays over 150 different pre-1940 aircraft, vehicles, and related technologies. The museum is known for hosting outdoor events where visitors can see the historic vehicles and aircraft in motion.
Maine State Museum in Augusta
This is the Maine government’s museum and it is located in August besides the Maine State House. Exhibits tackle Maine’s history starting way back in 1500.
Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport
This Seaport museum shares the areas shipbuilding and maritime history. The museum campus also includes eight buildings on the National Historic Register dating from 1810 to 1845.
The museum is one of the oldest English settlements in America. The museum is comprised of nine buildings and 17 acres of woodland, and many of the buildings date back to the 1750s. The Museum is open from May through October.
Maine Mineral and Gem Museum in Bethel
Located in Bethel, this is the place to learn about Maine’s geological history.
Tate House Museum in Portland
The historic home of Captain Tate, Senior Mast Agent for the British Royal Navy, is now a museum in Portland. It is open from June through October.
Brick Store Museum in Kennebunk
A museum in downtown Kennebunk that focuses on sharing the history of the Kennebunks by exploring its art, history, and culture.
The McCurdy Smokehouse in Lubec
Mainers do have a museum for everything. This Lubec museum is dedicated to Maine’once-booming smoked herring trade.
Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum in Brunswick
This museum on the Bowdoin campus pays tribute to Bowdoin alums, Robert Peary and Donald MacMillan who were Arctic explorers. Peary claims to have been the first explorer to reach the North Pole, while MacMillan completed over 30 Arctic expeditions and completed a dictionary of the Inuktitut language.
Bowdoin College Museum of Art in Brunswick
One of the earliest collegiate collections in the country, the museum displays both a permanent collection and temporary exhibitions. Exhibitions span topics from Chinese art to the intersection of art and the environment.
Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockland
Experience art of this generation and the next at this museum in Rockland.
Eartha in Yarmouth
Visit the world’s largest revolving and rotating globe. It’s located within the old DeLorme mapping corporation in Yarmouth, Maine. It’s free to visit.
The Wilhelm Reich Museum in Rangeley
Dr. Wilhelm Reich was a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, and scientist, and this museum is located in what was his home and laboratory.
These days it is hard to imagine how ice was harvested in Maine and then sent to homes and restaurants around the country, but for a hundred years New England was the center of the Ice Trade. Even though modern refrigeration did away with the Ice Trade by the 1930s, the Thompson family kept hauling and selling ice until 1985. Each year on the Sunday of President’s Day weekend locals gather to harvest ice and then it is stored in sawdust and saved for summer when it is used to make ice cream. The town hosts an annual summertime ice cream social. Stories like this are why I love Maine so much. The museum is open in July and August on Friday and Saturday from 1-4.
Hudson Museum in Orono
Located at the University of Maine in Orono, this museum holds a collection of tomb figures from Western Mexico and over 8,000 archaeological objects. The museum also holds Maine Native American artifacts.
Telephone Museum in Ellsworth
This museum can be found in a warehouse in Ellsworth and it preserves telephone technology. The museum was established in 1984 as major shifts were happening in telephone technology, the museum features different types of phones that are in working order! Museum visitors are invited to make calls to each other from within the museum.
Dorr Museum of Natural History in Bar Harbor
A natural history museum featuring dioramas where visitors are encouraged to touch everything from animal pelts to bones. It is located on the campus of the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor.
Matthews Museum of Maine Heritage in Union
Sadly, the Moxie Museum closed, but this museum has a large collection of Moxie memorabilia in addition to over 10,000 artifacts documenting life in Maine including carriages, agricultural tools, musical instruments, and books. The Moxie shaped building is within this museum.
Covered Bridges and Unique Bridges:
Maine is home to several historic covered bridges and a few unique bridges worth mentioning.
Sunday River Covered Bridge
Located in Newry, this bridge is also called the Artist’s Bridge and spans Sunday River.
A 19th century covered bridge in Fryeburg.
A covered bridge in South Andover.
Originally built in 1857, this covered bridge in Guilford was rebuilt in 1990 after the original bridge was washed away in a flood.
The bridge runs over the Ossipee River between Porter and Parsonsfield. It is closed to traffic.
Watson’s Settlement Bridge
A narrow bridge that is closed to traffic and besides the main road between Woodstock and Littleton.
A covered bridge in Corinth that was built in 1876.
This covered bridge in Lincoln is closed to traffic.
Babb’s Covered Bridge
A covered bridge spanning the Presumpscot River between Gorham and Windham.
This bridge isn’t covered, but it is definitely unique. It’s a suspension walkway bridge, that tends to be a bit bouncy.
A wooden bridge for foot traffic in New Portland that is wire supported.
Androscoggin Swinging Bridge
A pedestrian suspension bridge over the Androscoggin River in Topsham.
Two Cent Bridge
A Ticonic footbridge that spans the Kennebec River between Waterville and Winslow. It is notable for being one of the oldest surviving wire cable steel suspension bridges. At one point there was a two cent toll to walk across the bridge, which is how the bridge got its name.
In early to mid-October Maine’s trees explode into a symphony of reds, oranges, and yellows. People come from all over the world to see it. My Mom’s birthday is October 13th, and usually, that is an ideal time to see the fall colors, but it does vary from year to year.
National American Wife Carrying Competition at Sunday River
This competition takes place at Sunday River in October and involves men carrying women as they make their way through an obstacle course. The winners of this competition win 5 times the wife’s weight in beer, and a spot in the World Championships. You can’t make this stuff up. Note: You do not have to be married to participate.
US National Toboggan Championships in Camden
This takes place in Camden during February vacation week (Maine schools get breaks in February and April, and not in March) and involves toboggan teams in costumes competing for the fastest time.
Valentine’s Day Bandit in Portland
This isn’t an event, it’s more of a happening, but I love the story so I had to include it. Each year since 1976, a mysterious person, or more likely a group of people, has been decorating Portland with hearts. It’s a charming tradition, and no one knows who is behind it! It’s also gotten slightly more complex over time with major landmarks being decorated with large banners.
This fair takes place in early fall and is an agricultural fair filled with events and rides. We loved going when we were kids. Events include a tractor pull, harness racing, sheepdog trials, and more.
Christmas Prelude in Kennebunkport
I am biased because Christmas Prelude takes place in my hometown, but I think this is one of the best things to do in Maine. This Christmas festival in Kennebunkport spans two weeks and is filled with activities like a tree lighting in the town square, caroling, Santa arriving on a lobster boat, and a hat parade. The festival takes place on the first two weekends in December.
Great Falls Balloon Festival in Lewiston
Over 40 hot-air balloons take flight over Lewiston as part of this summertime event.
This massive festival is attended by over 100,000 people and over 6,000 pounds of clams are consumed. Events in addition to consuming clams include live music, parades, fireworks, and a bike race. This festival takes place over one weekend in July.
Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland
A five day festival in Rockland Harbor in early August where over 20,000 pounds of freshly caught lobster are eaten. The Maine Sea Goddess is crowned on opening night.
Beach to Beacon in Cape Elizabeth
Maine’s most famous road race starts in Cape Elizabeth and ends next to Portland Head Light. The event was started by Joan Benoit Samuelson, a Cape Elizabeth native, and the winner of the first-ever women’s marathon at the 1984 Olympics. The Beach to Beacon is a 10k and it’s hard to get a spot.
Blueberries are one of Maine’s most famous foods and this festival in August celebrates them! Attendees can tour blueberry farms, go to blueberry pancake breakfasts, participate in a pie eating contest, listen to live music, run a road race, and more.
A four-day event on Mount Desert Island at the end of May that offers a variety of adventures for bird watchers. This is also an opportunity to see a puffin!
Old Port Festival in Portland
A four day festival in Portland to welcome summer in early June.
Maine Antiques Festival in Union
A three day festival in Union in August featuring over 100 antique dealers.
Windjammer Days Festival in Boothbay Harbor
A week-long festival in Boothbay Harbor in June celebrate maritime history with the gathering of the fleet, a cod fish relay (that’s a relay race where you have to hold cod, obviously), a lobster eating contest, a golf tournament, a parade, a lighted boat parade, live music, and fireworks.
Pemaquid Oyster Festival in Damariscotta
Attendees can take a cruise to see where oysters are raised, participate in an oyster shucking contest, listen to live music, and eat oysters. The event takes place in late September.
This festival takes place on the last Saturday in June and features a pancake breakfast, a road race, and over 100 booths of crafts.
Moxie Festival in Lisbon
A three day festival in Lisbon during the second weekend of July that celebrates Maine’s state drink. There is live music, a parade, a Moxie chugging contest, and a whoopie pie eating contest.
Reggae Fest at Sugarloaf
You might not think that reggae and skiing go together, but this annual festival at Sugarloaf brings the two together each April. The ski slopes are still open, and reggae bands play both inside and outside.
North Atlantic Blues Festival in Rockland
A two day festival in Rockland in July featuring a lineup of blues musicians playing outside.
A festival which takes place Columbus Day weekend, which is both the peak season for fall foliage and the unofficial end of tourist season. The festival includes a pumpkin weigh-off, a parade, a pumpkin derby, and a giant pumpkin drop. The main event is the pumpkin regatta in which people use hollowed-out pumpkins as vessels and race each other.
Peaks to Portland Swim
An annual open water swim across Casco Bay which takes place in July and raises money for the YMCA’s youth development programs.
Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race in Kenduskeag
A 16.5-mile canoe race that takes place on the third weekend of April. The race starts in Kenduskeag and ends in Bangor.
Read More About Maine:
Where to Eat in Maine
Things to Do in Portland
Kennebunkport Christmas Prelude
The Most Instagram Worth Places in Kennebunkport
Fall in Kennebunkport
The Clam Shack Lobster Roll
Portland Food and Beer Crawl
Tao Yuan in Brunswick
Cabbage Island Clambakes
24 Hours in Boothbay Harbor
Have you been to Maine? Did I include your favorite things to do in Maine in this list? Let me know in the comments! I am happy to update the list to include your suggestions.
Note: Originally published in March 2019. Since businesses open and close and hours change, I always recommend making sure a specific place is open before you go.