From the rocky coastline to the numerous beautiful lighthouses, Maine has certainly earned its Vacationland nickname. It’s a beautiful state with lots of different places to visit on vacation – including several gorgeous coastal towns.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. A purchase/click through one of these links may result in a commission paid to us. I’ve received complimentary/discounted admission, hotels, and transportation (on the Amtrak Downeaster) to some of these locations (and have paid for others), but all opinions are my own.
I generally recommend visiting Maine in the summer months of July and August for the warmest weather – it’s the best time if you want to experience outdoor activities. We have also enjoyed trips to Kittery, Portland, and Freeport in the winter when they were less crowded. If you do that, however, you won’t be able to do any water activities.
For most places to visit in Maine, you’ll need to drive. There is the Amtrak Downeaster train as well. It travels from Boston, MA’s North Station to the following station stops:
- Brunswick, ME
- Freeport, ME
- Portland, ME
- Old Orchard, ME
- Saco, ME
- Wells, ME
- Dover, NH
- Durham, NH
- Exeter, NH
- Haverhill, MA
- Woburn, MA
This is a traditional train, not an auto train, so you won’t have access to your vehicle when you are on vacation. Some places in Maine are very walkable, however, so depending on where you go, you may not need it.
These places can also be great road trips from Boston if you are visiting Massachusetts for summer vacation. While we’d recommend staying overnight, you could always visit some of the more southern locations for just a day trip. You could also visit multiple locations on a road trip.
The Best Places to Visit in Maine
Portland Maine is one of my favorite road trips from our home in Massachusetts. This waterfront city (the largest city in Maine) is a big foodie destination, with many delicious restaurants, great breweries, and unique cafes. Go hungry, because there are so many things you’ll want to eat.
The city offers several popular districts, including Old Port along Casco Bay. This picturesque area of the city is where you’ll find many restaurants, as well as where you can take a boat tour in season. Looking to try some of that famous Maine lobster? We recommend the Highroller Lobster Co, a fun, casual restaurant in the center of the city where you can get lobster rolls and other lobster dishes.
There are also several wonderful museums in the city, including the Portland Museum of Art, the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine (which recently moved from the Arts District to Thompson’s Point), and the Tate House Museum.
Like shopping? There are many small gift, book, food clothing and souvenir shops around town. Portland is a great place to shop for gifts. Visiting in the summer? Don’t miss seeing a Portland Sea Dogs game at Hadlock Field.
If you choose a downtown hotel, you can park at your hotel and just leave your car there most of the time. Portland is very walkable, and also has an airport and an Amtrak train station if you’d prefer to travel that way. It’s a little less than a 2-hour drive from downtown Boston.
Driving to Portland? Don’t miss a stop at the beautiful Portland Head Lighthouse, which is a great photo opportunity. It’s a popular place, and you’ll often see photos of the lighthouse on guidebooks and postcards.
Located right over the New Hampshire border is Kittery Maine, a coastal town that is most known for its great outlet malls. They are spaced out across several different outlet complexes along Route 1. Outlets include New Balance, Lululemon, Crate and Barrel, and Adidas.
In addition to the outlets, there are some fun shops like Yummies (a store filled with all sorts of candy) and the Kittery Trading Post.
Kittery also offers several restaurants, as well as Fort McClary State Park, Take Flight Adventures, Badger’s Island, and the Isles of Shoals.
Old Orchard Beach, Maine
Love the beach? Travel to Old Orchard Beach, located on the Maine coastline. It is a traditional beach town, offering activities like mini-golf, paddleboarding, boat tours, and more.
It’s also home to Palace Playland, New England’s only amusement park located on the beachfront. It offers an arcade, kiddie rides, and traditional midway rides and is a popular tourist attraction.
The area features several motels, family hotels, and inns, as well as nearby campgrounds. These are mostly independent motels, rather than chain hotels.
Freeport Maine is most popular as the hotel of L.L.Bean. In addition to the flagship store, there is also the L.L. Bean Outlet, the L.L. Bean Home Store, L.L. Bean Bike, Boat, and Ski Store, and the L.L. Bean Hunting and Fishing Store.
But, there are also lots of other outlets beyond L.L. Bean in Freeport. These include Sperry, Vineyard Vines, and Coach. You’ll also find independent shops and small chains, offering toys, bath and body products, art, and gifts. Don’t miss a stop at Wicked Whoppies, where you can purchase Maine’s signature Whoppie Pies.
Other activities in the area include boat cruises along Casco Bay, as well as Wolfe’s Neck Center. This farm offers animals, workshops, bike and kayak rentals, and much more.
Free parking is available through Freeport. There’s also an Amtrak train station.
Boothbay Harbor, Maine
Boothbay Harbor is a popular summer Maine vacation destination. This small town offers small shops with art, pottery, clothing, and more. There are also waterfront local restaurants where you can get Maine lobster and other seafood.
One of the most popular attractions in Boothbay Harbor is the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. It’s open seasonally, and kids will love seeing the huge troll statues located throughout the gardens.
These five trolls, called the Guardians of the Seeds, are made of recycled materials. They are scattered throughout the gardens, and some require a bit of walking to see. You can use the maps provided by the gardens to find them – they are marked on the map with large footprints.
You may also want to take a boat trip in the area. Cap’N’Fish’s Cruises works with the National Audubon to showcase the Audubon’s Puffin Project. During the cruise, you’ll see wildlife, lighthouses, and more – it’s a great excursion for nature lovers.
The Maine State Aquarium is another popular attraction. It’s run by the state, but was closed for renovations this past year.
Kennebunk and Kennebunkport Maine have long been popular summer vacation destinations. Here, you can visit beaches and take a boat tour of the area. There’s also Dock Square, offering shops and restaurants, and the Seashore Trolley Museum.
If you are visiting without kids, we definitely recommend staying at the White Barn Inn. This beautiful inn is quaint and cozy, but the real draw here is the amazing restaurant.
Ogunquit Maine, a trendy and artsy beach town, is one of my favorite places in Maine to visit. I’d recommend visiting in July and August, when the weather is perfect for a day at the sandy beach.
Ogunquit is very walkable, with limited parking. So I’m recommend staying at a hotel/resort in the downtown area so that you can just leave your car and walk. There’s also a trolley that visits the popular attractions during the summer months.
In addition to visiting Ogunquit Beach, you’ll want to walk along Marginal Way to Perkins Cove, a small waterfront area with gift shops, ice cream shops, and restaurants. Don’t forget to stop and view the beautiful scenes as you walk. I really love taking photos as I walk on Marginal Way.
If you enjoy theater, the nonprofit Ogunquit Playhouse offers shows throughout the season. You can see their upcoming schedule on their website.
During our visit to Ogunquit, we enjoyed staying at the Meadowmere Resort. It’s located in a great spot, and you can walk to Ogunquit Beach, Perkins Cove, and Marginal Way.
Bar Harbor, Maine
Bar Harbor Maine on Mount Desert Island is one of the most popular summer vacation destinations in New England, due to its proximity to Acadia National Park (the main attraction in the area). Like other places to visit in Maine, we recommend visiting in the warmer summer months so that you can take advantage of all of the activities.
There are a variety of different ways to explore the area. Oli’s Trolley offers tours of Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park, and downtown Bar Harbor. This guided tour is extremely popular, and we recommend booking your tickets in advance.
There’s also Acadian Boat Tours, offering fishing excursions, guided tours, sunset cruises, and more. You can also see nearby lighthouses and puffins, depending on the excursion booked.
Sebago Lake, Maine
We loved our visit to Migis Lodge located right on Sebago Lake. This family wilderness resort offers traditional lake activities, a kids’ club, delicious food, and beautiful accommodations.
Migis is open in the summer, and it’s very popular. Often guests book for the same week and cabin year after year, so you’ll want to make a reservation as soon as possible if you are interested in attending. It’s an all-inclusive resort (except for alcohol), and once you are there you won’t have to leave.
Other Places to Visit in Maine
In addition to the places we’ve highlighted here, there are other points of interest in visit in Maine. These include:
- Camden Hills State Park (Camden Maine)
- Moosehead Lake and the Kennebec River
- Cape Neddick Lighthouse in York
- Mount Katahdin and Baxter State Park