Maine is the northernmost of the New England state; the glorious natural beauty of the place makes the length of the trip always worthwhile. Maine is loved for its lighthouses, jagged coast and fingers of rock embracing tiny coves, and many ocean beaches and inland freshwater beaches. Acadia National Park is a national treasure for hiking, wildlife watching, and glorious views. In the state’s northern and western inlands, majestic forests support an old logging industry, and adventurous people ski, hike, and paddle the whitewater rivers.
Maine’s major city is Portland, on the southern coast. It is a visually charming old city, offering plenty of diversions, from exploring the Portland Light to boat cruises off the coast, to great museums and parks. Portland also has earned a reputation as a place of excellent and daring chefs and restaurants. As in much of New England, craft beer makers serve their work proudly. This overview will proceed geographically, from south to north.
The south coast of Maine serves up sandy beaches, picturesque towns, outlet shopping, and fresh lobster just a short drive from Boston. Beloved vacation towns include the Yorks, Kittery, Wells, Ogunquit, the Kennebunks, and Old Orchard Beach. Ocean beaches line the coast, offering lots of old-fashioned, family-style beach fun. One favorite is York’s Short Sands and Long Sands beaches, overlooked by Nubble (Cape Neddick) Lighthouse, one of nearly 60 lighthouses of Maine. For shoppers, the Kittery Outlets and Kittery Trading Post (for outdoor gear) are great fun. Ogunquit is rich with art galleries and the Ogunquit Playhouse, a summer-stock theater.
Midcoast Maine, with the towns of Boothbay Harbor, Rockland, Camden, and Bath and the fog-bathed islands of Monhegan Island and Vinalhaven, with a bit more rocky drama along the shore and slightly fewer sandy beaches. As with all of the Maine coast, lighthouses and delicious seafood (with an emphasis on lobster) are abundant. Boothbay Harbor is a busy fishing village with a fabulous public garden, the Coastal Maine Botanical Garden, which is open year-round. The town is a departure point for ferries to travel to Monhegan Island. Midcoadt Maine is the epicenter of the windjammer sailing. The Maine Windjammer Association manages fleet of nine of these classic ships, whose spiky profiles have hugged Maine coasts for generations. They run public cruises out of Rockland and Camden. A must-see town is Rockport, which has a thriving arts community and a 19th-century opera house. Freeport, is course, is where you find the nationally respected outdoor outfitting retailer, L.L. Bean.
Acadia National Park in the Down East region of Maine (on the state map, Down East is at the heel of Maine’s sock shape) is a place of spectacular natural beauty, on par with the great national parks of the West. The park is on Mount Desert Island, which is also the location of the town of Bar Harbor. The park has a classic lighthouse, Bass Harbor Head Light, perched on the edge of a rocky cliff, along with beaches, walking trails, and campgrounds. Three historic sites worth a visit are Sieur de Monts Spring and Nature Center, Wild Gardens of Acadia, and the Abbe Museum, which preserves the culture of local Native American tribes. Several companies in Bar Harbor and Eastport operate cruises for whale watching, wildlife viewing, deep sea fishing, and windjammer cruises. Major towns of the region, which is infused with French-Canadian culture, include Blue Hill, Eastport, Machias, and Calais.
Maine’s western lakes and mountains region is a gift for people who love the outdoors. Major locations for outdoor sports and adventures in this region are at state parks like Rangeley Lake State Park, Grafton Notch State Park, and Sebago Lake State Park. Every form of water sports is done on the region’s lakes. The northern terminus of the 2,200-mile-long Appalachian Trail is on majestic Mount Katahdin. The town of Fryeburg is popular for its huge fall agricultural fair; it is the launch point for canoe or kayak trips on the slow-moving Saco River. The major ski areas of this region are Saddleback and Sunday River.
For families and kids there’s a multitude of fun in Maine, much of it in the outdoors. The South Coast beaches are sandy and welcoming. York’s Wild Kingdom in York brings out the fascinating for animals with every visit, Funtown Splashtown USA in Saco is a giant water park with all the usual features. Maine Windjammer Association offers sailing cruises from ports in Rockland and Camden. In the Western region Crab Apple Whitewater in The Forks hosts rafting trips that families will remember for a lifetime.