Maine really is quintessential New England. Wedged into the uppermost corner of the northeastern United States, it ranges from the Canadian border to the forests and hills of New Hampshire. Within its whopping 35,000 square miles of territory, you’ll encounter softly sculpted Maine’s mountains dashed with pine forests, valleys sprinkled with quaint farming hamlets.
One thing for sure, green fields speckled with cobalt lakes, and national parks blessed with colour-changing woods that glow ochre don’t seem to be a strange sight in Maine. And that’s not even mentioning the coast – the true jewel in the crown. There, waves bash into rock-ribbed cliffs and the scents of Maine lobster twist and turn in the salty air.
So, what’s more? You can even spot whales splashing in the ocean as you whizz on a Windjammer cruise under the granite peaks of the stunning Acadia National Park. Yep, there are oodles and oodles of bucket list-busting things to do in Maine…
Explore the Acadia National Park
Straddling Mount Desert Island as it fragments-off the Down East coastline, the Acadia National Park is up there with the most iconic natural reserves in the United States. It’s actually the only national park in the whole of New England, which might be why it’s one of the first things intrepid types add to their list of places to visit in Maine. The reserve has everything from soaring granite mountains to salt-sprayed shoreline up its sleeve. Hence, there are opportunities for explorations both on land and at sea.
Eager to pull on the hiking boots? Here at Maine, you could plot a course for the challenging Beehive Loop, or set the compass for the summit of Cadillac Mountain. While the highlight includes the carved grykes that give way to 360-degree panoramas of Somes Sound and bustling Bar Harbor below. Apart from the hiking, Maine’s Echo Lake beach is a great escape to freshen up. In addition, there are multiple kayaking routes to take through the narrow inlets along the coast.
Photograph the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse
No list of the top things to do in Maine could is complete without at least mentioning the state’s lighthouse. Popping up on craggy clifftops and in wave-sloshing coves from the south-west to the north-east, these structures are now a symbol of the rugged coast of New England.
While there are lots to visit at Maine, the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse surely stands out from the crowd. It was commissioned by the sixth US president John Quincy Adams way back in 1827 and has kept vigil over the entrance to Muscongus Bay ever since the early 19th century. These days, a $3 admission grants you access to the whitewashed building and its grounds. Apart from that, it includes an immersive exhibit on the history of fishing and seafaring, a local art gallery, and high-perched picnic spots with sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean.
Get to grips with Portland, Maine
Life pulses through the historic lanes and cobbled sidewalks of Portland like nowhere else in Maine. This is the artistic and creative hub of the whole state. By all means, there’s a gallery, a craft brewery, a cutting-edge seafood kitchen, or a sleek boutique hotel everywhere you look in the aged Old Port area.
Culture vultures will want to have the likes of the Portland Museum of Art. With its 17,000-strong collection and the Morse-Libby House, the museum is complete with opulent Victorian interiors. However, it’s not all urban enjoyments, either, because Maine’s largest city also spills into Casco Bay and spreads along the shoreline in grand fashion. Offering plenty of remote islands with pebble beaches, and the stunning Portland Head Light on a plinth of sheer rock-carved cliffs.
Strut the boardwalk in Old Orchard Beach
Set to the sound of twirling carousels and creaking pier planks, Old Orchard Beach is Maine’s answer to Coney Island. Especially during the summer months, families and sunbirds flock to the classic boardwalk town to enjoy the wholesome vibes of the New England coast.
In the centre, you’ll discover more clam sellers, bagel cafes, and ocean-view tearooms than you can shake a taffy apple at. While many of them are right in front of Maine’s iconic Old Orchard Beach Pier. Besides, you can hop between souvenir stalls or bumps on nightclubs for a drink or two. Right next door is the lively Palace Playland, which comes awash with vintage rides, slides and even modern Ferriss wheel attractions. Meanwhile, the main stretch of sand runs southwards along beautiful Saco Bay, where it’s possible to rent beautiful condos and charming coast cottages just meters from the Atlantic.
Devour Maine lobster
Ask anyone in the United States for tips on their nation’s finest lobster and Maine is sure to be mention. Yep, the red-tinted crustaceans are nothing short of legendary in this corner of the country. They are cooked up in surf-side shacks and gourmet eateries alike, all the way from Saco Bay to Cutler.
If you’re any sort of seafood aficionado, you simply can’t leave the Pine Tree State without having your fill. And what a fill it promises to be! Here in Maine, diners are usually armed with big bibs and claw crackers. So, don’t be surprised that these meals often being served aside with steamed smorgasbord of brightly coloured lobster on a platter with melted butter and herbs. Other renditions include oven bakes and lobster stews and seaweed-topped lobster fries with clams aplenty. Believe us, you’ll never leave Maine without a round tummy.
Ski the pistes of Sugarloaf
Move over the Rockies, because the Sugarloaf clocks up a whopping 2,800 feet in vertical drop over 54 marked ski runs, all backed up by a 14-lift system and a trio of snow parks. The result? This one is easily among the largest connected ski areas east of the Mississippi River, and a veritable mecca for donning the salopettes under three hours’ drive out of Portland, Maine.
The resort town of Sugarloaf itself sits on the north side of the mountain (which is the second highest in the state), spreading out in a series of wide streets lined with alpine-style spa hotels and cosy lodges warmed by real-wood fires. Besides, there are a number of ski schools and flatter run for those finding their snow feet in the Birches area. While expert riders can make for the gnarly King Pine Quad runs that regularly feature as training bowls for the national ski team. The best part, beginner day passes for the mountain just starts at $25.
Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens
There’s arguably no better way to experience the unique biodiversity and array of flora that blooms in New England. Thus, taking a trip to the region’s largest botanical gardens – the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens is certainly a great escape from the city’s bustle.
Since opening its gates in 2007, the institution has been showcasing all manner of mind-boggling plants, trees, shrubs, and climbers across 295 acres of land in pretty little Boothbay on the side of the Back River. While the exhibits include a hillside rock garden, a central lawn, a children’s garden, and a wilder forest trail that wiggles through pine groves to picnic gazebos. The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens is open from April to October, from 9 am to 6 pm daily. However, the admission is a little steep at $19 for adults and $9 for children. Despite all, it’s definitely a nice relaxing spot for both families and friends.
Go whale watching in Bar Harbor
Don’t pass up the chance to see the largest living creatures on the planet. While Maine is no shortage of these unique sights, however, Bar Harbor is arguably the best to spot them. Visit Maine between April and early October as that’s the height of the whale-watching season.
Besides, you’ll know the time is right when thousands of camera-touting wildlife enthusiasts flock to the icy Atlantic waters around the town. While there are loads of tour providers offering all sorts of cruises out to see these amazing mammals. The shortest tend to last just three hours, whizzing across the Gulf of Maine to spot pods of whales breaching in the water. Make a longer trip via fast catamaran boats to catch up with larger groups of whales. It’s even better to have dinner and drinks on the boat out of the sea.
However, if you don’t like the idea of getting wet, it’s also possible to stay on Maine’s dry land. As there are plenty of famous lookout points around Mount Desert Island and Maine’s Acadia National Park. Spotting these aquatic giants from the shore is the least to worry.
Take a Windjammer cruise in Maine
Believe or not, Maine is an American sailing paradise for a reason. For centuries, the Atlantic waters that lap against the beaches and crash into the cliffs-off the Pine Tree State have helped to define and shape Maine’s history. That’s evident the moment you step foot in the historic dockland areas of Portland or the salty lobster wharves of Belfast. Besides, the heritage of raising the sail and lifting the anchor has been kept alive and kicking by the countless Windjammer cruise companies.
Trust us, that’ll have you gliding through sounds and fjords bays on your New England adventure. Combining luxury and relaxation with a hit of adrenaline and exploration, trips on these vintage high-sail boats are a great way to take in the jaw-dropping Maine scenery that abounds Down East and around the Atlantic islands.
By day, you’ll have a chance to command the ship at the wheel or hoist the mainsail. If you’re lucky, many floundering seals and rare puffins can be spotted with your keen pair of eyes. By night, it’s all hearty seafood dinners in quaint Maine taverns by the oceanside.
See the fall colours in Fort Kent
Maine’s scenery has won the heart of many. However, if you don’t mind heading off-the-beaten-path, Pine Tree State can work wonders during the fall. Here, there are booming crowds of walkers and photographers who come to see the trees turn shades of magenta-red and golden-yellow. Being said, the best spot is at the remote hills that straddle the border of Maine with Canada.
There, the lonely town of Fort Kent sits deep in the region known as the North Maine Woods. As for thrill seekers, there are plenty of secluded hiking trails and driving routes that reveal the sweeping vistas of woodland. In addition, there are little cabins peppering the sides of the babbling St John River. So, take a break here to unwind and channel your inner pioneer into the wilderness. We can assure you won’t regret it.
Scale Mount Katahdin
Rising like a blade of rock from the forests of central Maine is Mount Katahdin – the highest summit in the whole state. These majestic massif pinnacles suffice to give it mythic status with the Native Americans residing in the plains below. These days, Mount Katahdin is perhaps better known as the northernmost end of the Appalachian Trail. Above all, this is one of America’s most iconic long-distance hiking routes that weave all the way through New England. And eventually heading down to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia.
Of all the things to do in Maine, this one’s a must for any lovers of the great outdoors. The route to the summit traverses the famous Knife Edge section and crosses the boulder-speckled Hunt Spur. Both of which offer scenic panoramas of Baxter State Park and its bear-stalked pine forests. At the top, there are lookouts that cast their gaze to the horizon, taking in the Debsconeag Lakes and the so-called Hundred-Mile Wilderness around the Appalachian walking path itself.
Of course, this list of things to do in Maine is just a taster of what’s on offer. From Portland’s boho coffee shops to creative East Coast breweries, you need to visit Maine to see-it-to-believe-it. Plus, there are loads to wow in this corner of New England. If you’ve got anything to add, we’d love to hear about it in the comments below…