If you're wondering where to travel in Maine and what the best places to visit are or whether Maine is van-life friendly, then this blog post is for you! Maine is often underrated and overlooked, but with its charming towns, scenic beauty, and rich culture, there's something for everyone here. From Portland's nautical lifestyle to Acadia's natural beauty, Maine has something special for those looking for an adventure.
What Is Maine Known for
Maine is a state known for its quintessential American charm, rugged coastline, lighthouses, and delicious lobster and blueberries - what a perfect combination of things, don't you think? It's no wonder that it has become one of the top tourism destinations in the world. For us, arriving in Maine marked the 16th state on our journey along US Route 1, a road trip that had taken us all the way from West Palm Beach, Florida. We documented our experiences of traveling by van in previous blog posts, capturing the beauty and unique character of each state we passed through. Now, we're excited to share our adventures in this area that has captured our hearts while leaving us with unforgettable memories.
What Are Some Attractions in Maine
We will take you along the ultimate Maine road trip with our exact route as your guide. Whether your final destination is Acadia National Park or Nova Scotia, Canada, we think the places below are worth your time to experience what Maine has in store. We'll reveal the best places to visit, things to do, and places to eat, including must-see fun attractions and vacation hotspots. Let’s begin!
1. Portland, ME
Our journey started in Portland, a city with a unique nautical lifestyle. We think Portland is one of the best places to visit in Maine, with its charming Old Port district, waterfront restaurants, cobblestone streets, brick buildings, as well as art galleries. As full-time travelers, we were particularly amazed by the many parks and walking trails of Portland. When is the best time to travel to Portland Maine? It’s definitely summer!
Check out our top interesting places to visit in Portland Maine:
- The Eastern Promenade Trail is a paved path that runs along the waterfront and is perfect for a leisurely stroll or bike ride.
- Deering Oaks Park, a 55-acre park located in the heart of the city. The park also hosts events throughout the year, such as outdoor concerts and festivals.
- Fore River Sanctuary is an 85-acre nature preserve that features walking trails that wind through forests, wetlands, fields, etc. It's a great place for those who like birdwatching and other wildlife.
Portland, Maine is famous for its lobster, and you can find it on almost every menu in town. Some of the best places to enjoy a lobster roll or a steamed lobster dinner are places like Eventide Oyster Co., Street and Co., and Fore Street. These 3 restaurants are highly rated and exhibit this rustic quintessential American charm that this state is known for. Have you tried any of those places? Let us know in the comments!
For those looking for a cultural experience, the Portland Museum of Art is a must-visit. This world-class museum features a collection of over 22,000 works of art, ranging from contemporary pieces to historical masterpieces. On top of the Portland Museum of Art, there are several other smaller art galleries and studios throughout the city.
2. Brunswick, ME
Tired of the bustle of city life? Located about 30 minutes north of Portland, Acadia (Brunswick) will help you unwind! The town is known for its historic downtown area, which features quaint shops, cafes, as well as restaurants. One of the must-visit cafes in Brunswick is Wild Oats Bakery & Cafe. If you wonder what the best things to do in Maine when it rains are, try that place! This cozy bakery offers a wide selection of bread, pastries, and coffee, perfect for a quick bite or a leisurely breakfast. The menu features many vegetarian or gluten-free options, making it a great choice for all dietary preferences. For lunch or dinner, visit Tao Yuan Restaurant, which offers contemporary Asian cuisine focusing on local and seasonal ingredients. The restaurant has an inviting atmosphere, and the food is simply delicious. Try the lobster dumplings, which are a local favorite.
3. Boothbay, ME
One of the main fun attractions in Boothbay is the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. The garden roofs the Giant Trolls, which are 15-foot-tall sculptures made of reclaimed wood. Personally having traveled to many parks, these Giant Trolls were unlike anything we have ever seen before, bringing us into a different type of world!! Looking for the best places to visit in Maine for lobster? Boothbay is well-known for its shacks as well as seafood restaurants. If you're looking for a classic roll, try it at Lobster Dock. For a more upscale dining experience, try the Boat House Bistro, which offers stunning waterfront views.
4. Rockland, ME
Rockland, located about an hour north of Boothbay, is considered the heart of the state's lobster fishing industry. Rockland’s rich history, deeply intertwined with fishing, has been a vital part of Maine's economy and culture for generations.
McLoons Lobster Shack is a popular seafood restaurant located in South Thomaston, which is about a 20-minute drive south of Rockland. The restaurant is situated on a wharf overlooking the scenic harbor and features both indoor and outdoor seating options. Some say this one is overrated, but we personally thought McLoons was worth the hype! The lobster is caught daily by local fishermen. It is served in a variety of ways.
If you are looking for a more upscale option, an award-winning Italian seafood restaurant in Rockland called Primo Restaurant is a must. It offers a farm-to-table dining experience with an emphasis on local ingredients. The restaurant has won numerous awards and is highly popular. A popular attraction in Rockland that is worth a visit is the Maine Lighthouse Museum, which showcases the rich history of lighthouses along the picturesque coastlines. Dive into the history of lighthouses! You’ll learn more about their role in maritime navigation together with all techs behind them.
5. Camden, ME
We were told this town was one of the most instagrammable Maine vacation spots. There are in fact plenty of opportunities for Instagram-worthy photos here, but we are not convinced it tops all of the other places in Maine. The best activities in Camden include hiking at the Camden Hills State Park, sailing on Penobscot Bay, or kayaking along the rugged coast. The town also offers an array of shops, galleries, as well as restaurants, including the famous Camden Deli and the award-winning Francine Bistro. Don't miss a visit to the Camden Public Library, which boasts stunning views of the harbor and a collection of over 150,000 books.
6. Belfast, ME
Belfast is a small coastal town located about 30 minutes north of Rockland, but the reason we stopped here was simply to eat delicious seafood recommended to us by some locals. Young's Lobster Pound is one of the best places to eat in Maine and has been serving up fresh, delicious marine habitants for over 50 years. Visitors can choose those straight from the pound! The restaurant's outdoor seating area offers stunning views of Penobscot Bay, making it a perfect spot to enjoy a leisurely lunch or dinner while taking in the scenery. For an interesting attraction and a taste of local history, head to the Belfast Historical Society and Museum. The museum features exhibits on the town's history, including its role in the shipbuilding industry and its connection to the Underground Railroad.
7. Bangor, ME
Bangor is a bustling city located about an hour north of Belfast. One of the must-visit attractions in Bangor is the Bangor City Forest, which is home to the Orono Bog Boardwalk, a 4,200-foot-long boardwalk that allows visitors to explore the unique ecosystem of the bog.
8. Ellsworth, ME
Ellsworth is a small town that sits about 30 minutes from Bar Harbor. Ellsworth is known for its delicious blueberries, offering a number of places to pick yourself.
See some of our recommendations below:
- The Blueberry Patch: is a popular destination for blueberry picking. The farm has a variety of highbush blueberries available for picking and also sells pre-picked berries, homemade blueberry jam, and other treats.
- Berry Best Farm: another great place for blueberry picking, Berry Best Farm offers several varieties of blueberries, as well as pre-picked berries for purchase. They also sell blueberry-themed items like syrup and jam.
- Jordan's Blueberries: a family-owned farm that has been operating for over 30 years. They offer highbush blueberries for picking, as well as pre-picked berries, blueberry products, and other produce.
- C.F. Hathaway & Sons: this farm stand on Route 1 in Ellsworth sells fresh blueberries, as well as other fruits and vegetables are grown on their farm.
- Morton's Moo: if you're in the mood for something sweet, stop by Morton's Moo for their famous blueberry ice cream. They also offer other flavors and ice cream treats.
One of the best places to stop by to grab some food in Ellsworth is Flexit Cafe & Bakery. This local cafe is known for its fresh, homemade bread and delicious pastries. They offer breakfast and lunch options, including vegetarian and gluten-free options. Another great option is the Union River Lobster Pot. If you haven't had it yet, this is the place to go. The prices are reasonable, and the portions are generous.
9. Bar Harbor, ME
Acadia National Park is a precious stone of the area. This national park encompasses over 49,000 acres of natural beauty and is home to a diverse range of wildlife. From mountains to beaches, Acadia has something for everyone.
Cadillac Mountain is the highest peak on the US Atlantic Coast. Vehicle reservations are required, and it is a $6 fee per vehicle. Tickets are available 2 days in advance, so make sure to buy them as soon as you can!
Also, make sure to take a scenic drive along Park Loop Road. This 27-mile road takes you through the heart of the park, with stops at all of the major landmarks and scenic viewpoints. Some of the highlights include Thunder Hole and Sand Beach. If you're up for a hike, Acadia has over 120 miles of hiking trails, many of them being dog-friendly.
Here is our recommendation for 3 dog-friendly hikes you can do with your furry friends in Acadia National Park:
- Jordan Pond Path: This 3.4-mile loop trail around Jordan Pond is a great option if you are traveling with dogs, as it's relatively flat and offers scenic views of the pond and surrounding mountains.
- Acadia Mountain Trail: This moderate 2.6-mile out-and-back trail offers beautiful views of Somes Sound and the surrounding islands.
- Bar Island Trail: This unique trail is only accessible during low tide, as it leads to Bar Island, an uninhabited island off the coast of Bar Harbor. The 1.5-mile round-trip trail starts at the end of Bridge Street in Bar Harbor and is dog-friendly. Just be sure to check the tide schedule before heading out!
Here are our top 2 trails to hike in Acadia National Park:
- Precipice Trail: This is a challenging and thrilling trail that rewards hikers with stunning views of the park. The trail climbs over 1,000 feet in elevation and includes iron rungs and ladders for steep sections.
- Beehive Trail: Another popular trail for thrill-seekers, the Beehive Trail is a shorter but still challenging hike with amazing views. It includes steep sections with iron rungs and offers stunning views of Sand Beach and the ocean.
10. Bernard, ME
Worth mentioning is Bernard, Maine, a small town nearby located on the western side of Mount Desert Island. If you're looking for a quiet escape from the crowds, one of the best things to do in Bernard is to visit the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse. This historic lighthouse sits on a rocky cliff overlooking the ocean and is one of the most photographed lighthouses in Maine. If you want an Instagram-worthy picture, here is your chance. You can also take a kayak tour of the surrounding waters.
What Are Some Fun Things to Do in Maine
- If you're looking for outdoor activities or just a fun thing to do in Bango, head to the Bangor City Forest, which offers miles of hiking and mountain biking trails.
- If you happen to be in Portland on the first Friday of the month, then be sure to check out Portland Art Walk. This event features over 50 galleries and studios throughout the city. Visitors can enjoy free wine and snacks while viewing the latest art exhibits and meeting local artists.
- A little North of Boothbay and on your way to Rockland, make sure to check out Split Rock Distillery, a local place with organic spirits. Tell them that Z and Lilu sent you and enjoy a tour with free samples of their popular drinks.
- One of the unique features of At McLoons Lobster Shack (Rockland) restaurant is that visitors can actually watch the boats come in and unload their catch right at the wharf. This added to the overall experience and gave us a deeper appreciation for the local fishing industry.
- Have a truly unique experience in Camden! Catch a show at the Camden Opera House, which hosts a variety of concerts, films, and theatrical performances throughout the year.
Visit the Penobscot Theatre Company (Bango), which offers a wide range of theatrical productions throughout the year.
What Are the Travel Restrictions for Maine
As of the publication of this article, all the restrictions related to COVID were removed. Touring this area no longer required proof of a negative test or quarantine for travelers to the state (however, be sure to check recent COVID restrictions here: https://www.maine.gov/covid19/).
When Is the Best Time to Travel to Maine
When it comes to the best time to travel to Maine, summer is the most popular season, as it offers the warmest weather and the longest days. Just make sure to protect yourself from mosquitoes by using insect repellent, wearing long sleeves and pants, and avoiding being outdoors during peak mosquito hours (during dawn and dusk). To experience the best of Maine's famous lobster, plan your visit during lobster season, which typically runs from late June through December. July and August are considered the peak months when fresh, locally caught lobster is widely available at restaurants and seafood shacks throughout the state. For an especially memorable lobster feast, head to Rockland during the Maine Lobster Festival in August (more on this later in the article). If you are wondering when is the best time to travel to see whales in Maine, plan your visit between mid-April to mid-October when the whales are most active. However, keep in mind that Maine has a temperate climate, and it can rain at any time of the year. So, make sure to pack for all kinds of weather, and remember, don't let the rain stop you.
Maine in Spring
Spring is the best time to enjoy the coastal towns and outdoor activities, such as hiking, kayaking, and whale watching. While mosquitos can be a nuisance during the summer months, they won’t deter you from enjoying all that Maine has to offer in spring!
Maine in Summer
Every year, around August timeframe, Rockland hosts the Maine Lobster Festival, a celebration that attracts thousands of visitors from around the world. Be sure not to miss this one! The festival features live music, carnival rides, cooking contests, and of course, plenty of delicious food served in a variety of delicious ways. At the same time, if you're visiting Bar Harbor during the summer months, be sure to take a whale-watching tour. The best time to see whales in Maine is from mid-April to mid-October. Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co. offers daily whale-watching tours from Bar Harbor.
Maine in Autumn
One of the best things to do in Acadia and perhaps the best thing to do in Maine is to view the sunrise in Cadillac Mountain, as it's the first place to see the sunrise in the United States from October through early March. Visitors often gather at the summit early in the morning to catch the sunrise and enjoy the stunning views.
Maine in Winter
When planning your trip, keep in mind the best time to visit, whether you want to see whales, eat lobster, enjoy the summer weather, or all of the above. And even if it rains, there are still plenty of fun things to do in Maine, such as visiting museums and breweries or checking out local shops and restaurants.
So if you haven’t noticed yet, we LOVE spending time in nature, eating delicious food, and appreciating the local culture. From the vibrant city of Portland to the quaint town of Bernard, Maine offers an abundance of amazing experiences for visitors. For those seeking a truly one-of-a-kind and unforgettable vacation, why not embark on a journey of vanlife exploration in Maine? "Ayuh!” as the locals like to say. In Maine, you'll discover a world of wonder through its stunning vistas, amazing food, and welcoming community. Unleash your adventurous spirit as you explore all that this breathtaking state has to offer, and create some long-lasting memories, will ya?
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