Want to plan a getaway in the Pine Tree State? Find out the best time to visit Maine along with suggested activities for each season!
Maine’s moniker as Vacationland doesn’t just apply to idyllic summer days on a rocky coastline with a lighthouse in view while lobster boats pull into port. Each region boasts four seasons of endless opportunities to prove that nickname is well-earned.
In fact, tourism is a several billion dollar industry in the Pine Tree State — and that goes beyond those warm summer nights with lobster bakes and sunset boat cruises. At some point, Maine might have to get rid of terms like “shoulder season” or “offseason” because more people are choosing Maine as a year-round destination.
The real question here is, “What is the best time to visit Maine for you?” There’s no easy answer with so many creative and exclusive options. That’s probably why more than 90% of Maine’s 2022 visitors said they will return to the state again.
Understanding Maine’s Seasons & Schedules
While there are astronomical seasons and meteorological seasons, there are also seasons defined by Maine’s unique climate and busiest tourism months. Snow can still fall in late May across Maine.
Also, seasonal activities are at the mercy of the weather. While ATV riding is popular, the wheels can’t hit the trail until the mud from the snowmelt dries up. The famed end of the Appalachian Trail up Mount Katahdin closes down from the first snowfall through late May or early June, depending on the weather.
Even the National Weather Service in Portland had to create a graphic helping explain when Spring starts!
Painting with a broad brush, here are Maine’s seasons.
When is it? Late June through August, as defined by the number of tourists. The high season kicks off on the 4th of July.
Across Maine, temperatures peak in July, August, and June (in that order). Then there’s a sub-season to know about in Maine — bug season. That peaks in Northern Maine in May and June, with biting black flies and horseflies pairing up with mosquitoes. (Have no fear, there’s a festival for that in June!)
The beaches see a surge of greenhead flies in late July and early August. July is the muggiest month in Maine.
When is it? Labor Day is a good benchmark for the start. While astronomically, winter doesn’t start until December, many Mainers consider “when it gets cold” as the start of winter. That could be late September through November.
Fall is wonderful in Maine, as is evident by the 7% increase in tourism for 2022. However, if you want to visit during peak fall foliage, you’ll need to plan a trip at the end of September or early October.
When is it? You’re likely guaranteed cold weather and snow in November, especially in Northern Maine.
When it comes to winter, December is the snowiest month. Just about every Maine town has some kind of winter festival or big attraction, including dogsled and toboggan racing. And, ice fishing kicks off on January 1 of each year.
Mud Season in Maine
When is it? Most of March through mid-April brings snowmelt and mud.
Planning a trip during Mud Season is challenging since it depends on the winter snowfall and “spring temperatures” to determine when trails can re-open.
Maine visitors heading to the mountains, North Maine Woods, or Aroostook County (aka “The County”) should know about the vast expanse of logging roads that should be avoided during this season.
When is it? Sometime between the end of Mud Season and mid to late June is when the short-lived spring arrives.
Even Portland Maine doesn’t hold Springfest until late May. At the same time, some consider Maple Syrup Sunday — one of the biggest Maine traditions — to be the kickoff to spring, and that’s the last weekend in March. Meanwhile, June is the rainiest month in Maine.
Other Maine Seasons
You know those scenes you dream of with epic waves crashing against the craggy coastline? Those generally come with two other seasons.
- Hurricane Season: This runs from the eastern seaboard down to Florida. Hurricanes and tropical storms are fueled by the warm ocean waters near the equator. The season starts in June and runs through November.
- Nor’easter Season: Nor’easters typically occur between September and April. These large cyclonic storms typically form over the Atlantic Ocean off the East Coast. They get their name from the strong northeast winds that blow in ahead of them.
Why Every Season Is the Best Time to Visit Maine
I feel like a spoiled kid the day after Christmas, and someone has just asked me, “What did Santa bring you?” To me, the best time to visit Maine is the day you move here. Let’s go through each season’s spectacular offerings.
Best Time to Visit Maine: Summer
Number of Visitors (2022): 9.1 million
Everything is open, and the weather is beautiful. Tours are operating full steam ahead to distant reaches like Matinicus, and Kennebunkport’s long lines at Dock Square aren’t even that bothersome with the stunning scenery and waterfront activity.
Hiking and visiting state or national parks rank among the top things to do, while going to the beach is a close second. July and August are the most popular times to visit Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island.
Maine’s town beaches are usually staffed with lifeguards during the day from Memorial Day through Labor Day only.
Best Time to Visit Maine: Fall
Number of Visitors (2022): 2.8 million
Most Popular Regions to Visit: Mid Coast, Beaches, Portland/Casco Bay, Downeast/Acadia
The best time to visit Maine if you want to avoid the crowds but still get great weather is in the fall.
Lighthouse lovers, listen up! Early September brings Maine Open Lighthouse Day. Select lighthouses that are usually not open to the public are open for tours. The Maine Lighthouse Museum in Rockland and Maine Maritime Museum in Bath are also free on this day.
Can I tour Portland Head Lighthouse?
Just 300 tickets are available to tour this immensely popular lighthouse. Tickets are handed out in order of arrival, so get there early.
Acadia National Park is becoming a showstopper in the fall, with more people visiting in September and October than in May and June. Additionally, the park has a scenic drive on Mount Desert Island and the Schoodic Peninsula.
TIP: Maine state park campgrounds that don’t offer year-round camping will close about mid-October.
In addition to the many farms open for apple picking and pumpkin selections, Maine Maple Fall Fest includes some locations you could otherwise only see in spring. Other fantastic fall choices include:
- Farmington Fright Fest: “Maine’s Largest Professional Haunted Attraction”
- Haunted Grandview Manor: The haunting heads to the woods.
- Kennebunk Trick or Treating: Summer Street — the one lined with historical sea captains’ houses — is known for going all out on Halloween and closing down the street for safety.
Stephen King’s former hometown of Bangor Maine is another “It” place to be in the fall — or “Derry” as he called it in many of his writings. Take a photo at the gates of what is now HQ for the Stephen & Tabitha King Foundation. Fall is also the best time to see a Maine moose with full antlers.
Best Time to Visit Maine: Winter
Number of Visitors (2022): Almost 3.5 million
Winter tourism in Maine saw 650,000 more people than in the fall of 2022. It seems that the secret of endless snowmobile routes, epic skiing, and cross-country trails is out.
It’s not just the wide variety of ski slopes that make winter the best time to visit Maine. The Camden Snow Bowl hosts the U.S. National Toboggan Championships each February. Heading to The County, the Can-Am Crown International Sled Dog Races are a 250-mile jaunt of excitement, no matter how cold it gets.
You don’t need to worry about roads being closed because of snow because more than 14,000 miles of snowmobile trails cover the state. Restaurants even have snowmobile parking and a place to store your gear while you chow down.
“United We Trail”: No worries if you aren’t familiar with snowmobiling. Most communities have snowmobile clubs that maintain the trails and help you along the way.
The largest ice fishing derby in the state takes you up north to Long Lake in St. Agatha.
Winter festivals reign, and Kennebunkport is (literally) lit for the Fire & Ice Festival and Christmas Prelude. That’s just a sample of the best Christmas towns in Maine. Ogunquit was recently ranked as one of the Top 5 Christmas Towns in the nation by the NECN television network.
Stopping in Bangor for winter? You can wish the Paul Bunyan statue turned Stephen King icon a happy birthday on February 12.
Portland truly shines in March when the Carnaval ME Winter Festival is held with the goal of showing that Maine is a “State for All Seasons.”
Acadia National Park’s carriage roads turn into cross-country ski lanes, offering a chance to ski through this winter wonderland. You can still drive the scenic routes too.
Best Time to Visit Maine: Spring
Number of Visitors (2022): Unknown; spring tourism stats are usually lumped in with winter numbers.
Most Popular Regions to Visit: Any place that isn’t inaccessible by a muddy road!
Mud Season and the subsequent Maine version of spring can get a lot of flack, but there’s so much to explore during this low-tourism period.
There could’ve been a blizzard outside, and my grandfather would still have insisted that Maine’s famed Maple Syrup Sunday was the first day of spring. The maple makers give you a rare treat to help tap the trees for syrup.
On the other hand, my brother insists that the “Ice Out” date means that spring is here. That’s the phrase used when a body of water is cleared of ice enough that you can boat from one end to the other.
Speaking of thaws, spring is waterfall season. From gold panning at Coos Canyon to the dreamy emerald green swimming hole at Rattlesnake Flume to the tallest waterfall in Baxter State Park at Katahdin Falls, hundreds of waterfalls in the state are at their peak in spring.
Late spring is the best time to visit Maine for lobster lovers, especially in May when lobsters are about to come into season but the tourist crowds and high season prices haven’t kicked in.
I can’t tell you how many people I’ve told about this next spring activity that has made them want to book a flight to Maine immediately. Spring is the best time to find moose antlers that were shed in the late fall or early winter.
“Shed Hunting” is a popular activity once the snow has (mostly) melted and a great reason to go into the Maine wilderness. Why do moose shed antlers?
- They only need them for breeding since female moose are drawn to large antlers. Once fall breeding season is over, the antlers can go.
- Antlers can weigh up to 60 pounds, so shedding them helps a moose be more mobile in the winter, thus leading to more food.
- The shedding of antlers doesn’t hurt, and the next set will start to grow after a few months, at times up to 1 pound of growth a day.
Maine Tourism Is Growing
You now have a better look at how Maine’s best season is every season. The average length of stay in Maine is four to five nights — with 33% of all visitors in 2022 staying for longer. You truly cannot run out of things to do no matter when you think it’s the best time to visit Maine.