Planning a Cape Elizabeth getaway? Check out these things to do in Cape Elizabeth Maine!
When you imagine a day spent in coastal Maine, you likely conjure up images of crashing waves on large stone boulders and stately lighthouses keeping watch over the seas below.
This is the rugged and alluring beauty that people have come to expect when they visit the Pine Tree State, and one of the best places to enjoy that quintessential Maine experience is Cape Elizabeth.
Despite being a small town just outside of Portland, there are so many things to do in Cape Elizabeth Maine. Resting on the shores of Casco Bay, it is known for its rich history, genteel atmosphere, and spectacular views.
For an adventure that includes educational excursions, outdoor explorations, and delicious food, look no further than this New England destination.
About Cape Elizabeth Maine
Just 5 miles south of Portland Maine, Cape Elizabeth is the kind of place that offers the appeal of an intimate, small town and the convenience of being near the big-city amenities.
Residents appreciate that they can enjoy a quieter life than they would in the bustling town of Portland, yet they can easily access the best that the city has to offer. Visitors enjoy the experience of living the coastal Maine lifestyle, yet they can still experience the cosmopolitan nature of the nearby city.
Unique Facts About Cape Elizabeth
Cape Elizabeth may not be the largest or most well-known city in Maine, but it certainly has made its mark. Some interesting facts to know about it include:
- Cape Elizabeth is home to Portland Head Light, which may be the most iconic lighthouse in the world — largely because it is photographed the most often.
- Cape Elizabeth is known for having the longest growing season in the state, giving it an edge when it comes to local agriculture.
- The infamous movie director John Ford was born in Cape Elizabeth.
- You will never get stuck sitting on the road while waiting for a train — there are no railroads in Cape Elizabeth.
History of Cape Elizabeth
Given its premier location on the coast and its excellent growing season, it’s no surprise that people have long found this region the ideal place to live. For thousands of years, native tribes and indigenous peoples called this stretch of coastal Maine home.
The town itself was settled in the early days of Colonial America, with the first European settlers arriving in the 17th century, as they did along much of the New England coast. By 1765, Cape Elizabeth was established as a town, and today, many of the buildings and sites constructed during that period still remain intact.
For much of the 18th and 19th centuries, Cape Elizabeth was considered an agricultural community, and farming was at the center of most residents’ lifestyles. It wasn’t until the 20th century that the economy began to shift and grow, with more people living here while commuting to nearby Portland for work.
Today, Cape Elizabeth is a bedroom community. Most of its residents are employed in the Greater Portland area, but they appreciate being able to live and play in this charming town. Tourism plays a major role in the local economy, and the town encourages new visitors to see what this community is all about.
Cape Elizabeth Climate & Weather
Cape Elizabeth enjoys the unexpected whirlwinds of the New England climate throughout the year. Its position near the coast means that it is subject to cool ocean breezes and heavenly storms.
During the spring, you can expect chilly conditions to linger, and you may even find that it snows throughout the month of April. But by summer, everything is in bloom, and you will enjoy more sunshine than rain in this coastal town.
Temperatures begin to dip again during the fall months when you will enjoy the fall colors along the ocean coast. Winters can be long and snowy, but that can lead to some epic outdoor adventures in Cape Elizabeth.
Outdoor Things to Do in Cape Elizabeth Maine
No matter the time of year, you are always going to find locals and visitors spending time outdoors in Cape Elizabeth. Many consider this to be a recreational destination — it’s the kind of place people visit to spend as much time outside in the elements as possible.
Go Biking Along the Coast or Through the Heart of Town
Biking is a treasured pastime in Cape Elizabeth, with nearly every resident preferring to spend their free time on the local trails. Visitors who want to see the best that Cape Elizabeth has to offer should certainly make time for a bike ride through town.
Some of the most popular types of biking excursions in Cape Elizabeth include:
- Riding along a coastal trail to soak up breathtaking views of the bay and ocean beyond it
- Riding over the Casco Bay Bridge to catch a panoramic glimpse of this charming town
- Traversing the heart of Cape Elizabeth and into downtown Portland where you will find additional things to see and do in Maine
Embark on a Lighthouse Tour
Lighthouses are one of the biggest attractions in Cape Elizabeth, and this town has no shortage of options. While Portland Head Light is the most famous lighthouse in the town, there are plenty of other majestic lights to visit, learn more about, and see for yourself.
You can create your own self-guided lighthouse tour, which allows you to see the places that interest you the most. Here are some of the best Cape Elizabeth lighthouses to visit:
- Portland Head Light was built in 1791, making it the state’s oldest lighthouse.
- Ram Island Ledge Lighthouse is an offshore light that can be viewed from the base of Portland Head Light.
- Two Lights is a set of twin lights that were designed to serve as guides for mariners on the water. Today, only one of the two lights is still in operation.
Relax on the Beach at Crescent Beach State Park
In the summer, one of the best ways to spend a day in Cape Elizabeth is on the beach. Crescent Beach State Park is known for having the best beach not only in Cape Elizabeth but also in the Greater Portland area.
It has a long stretch of soft sand, making it the ideal place for families to let their children play in the surf. It is a relatively quiet park, but it does have a snack bar, a bathhouse, and a picnic area, so you can easily spend the entire day on the seashore.
Related: 10 Best Maine State Parks
Pack a Picnic & Head to Fort Williams Park
At one time, Fort Williams Park was an Army base. Today, it’s one of the most popular places to relax and unwind in the Greater Portland area.
The park is perhaps most famous for being the home of Portland Head Light, and that is why many people visit here each year. However, it’s also one of the most popular places in the town to have a picnic, walk along the trails, and simply spend time outside.
If you are planning a trip to Cape Elizabeth and planning to include Portland Head Light on your itinerary, add some extra time to enjoy everything that this picturesque park has to offer.
Go Ice Skating at an Open-Air Arena
Winter provides additional reasons to get outside and get some fresh air in Cape Elizabeth. In addition to enjoying snowshoeing and cross-country skiing on the local trails, you can spend time ice skating at one of the largest open-air arenas in the region.
Gull Crest Field is a large outdoor ice arena that recently opened in the community, and it has quickly become a favorite spot for open skating, ice hockey, and more.
Cape Elizabeth Maine Indoor Things to Do
While Cape Elizabeth is more of an outdoor town, there are a few things that you can do to pass the time on a rainy day. Visitors of all ages are intrigued by the history of the town, and they want to learn more about the people who made Cape Elizabeth what it is today.
Take a Step Back in Time at Spurwink Church
Spurwink Church is one of the oldest existing structures in Cape Elizabeth. Dating back to 1802, this building once served as a meeting house and church, and it played an integral role in community life for decades.
Visitors can go to the site of the church and learn more about what life was like in Cape Elizabeth. Residents today continue to use the building as a meeting place, often hosting gatherings, celebrations, and meetings within this historic building.
Attractions to Check Out Near Cape Elizabeth
Cape Elizabeth is known for its quaint appeal and charming atmosphere, which can make it feel worlds away from the big city. In reality, though, this little coastal Maine town is just 5 miles south of Portland — situating you just 20 minutes away from some of the best attractions in the state.
If you are looking to add an extra touch of fun and excitement to your itinerary, you may consider adding some of these Portland things to do to your itinerary.
Let the Kids Play at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine
The Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine is one of the most kid-friendly places in the state. Located in the center of Portland, this family-friendly attraction is full of hands-on exhibits for all ages to explore.
With pretend towns, maker space areas, science and STEM exhibits, and more, there is no way that any child could be bored when they spend a day here.
In addition, the museum hosts a variety of productions and shows designed for the youngest guests, giving them an introduction to the performing arts in a way that is engaging and relatable.
Witness Pristine Beauty at the Portland Museum of Art
As the oldest art institution in Maine, the Portland Museum of Art has long been considered one of the best places to visit in the city. This museum is known for its welcoming and inclusive atmosphere.
It is not one of those art museums where you feel intimidated to walk through the door unless you are an art history expert. Quite the opposite!
This museum is designed to introduce people of all ages and backgrounds to the beauty and intrigue of art. It boasts not only an extensive collection of art but also rotating gallery exhibitions to increase the exposure of up-and-coming artists.
Related: Exploring The Maine Art Museum Trail
Explore the Victoria Mansion
Known locally as the Morse-Libby House, the Victoria Mansion is considered one of the best examples of Victorian residential architecture in the country.
Today, the breathtaking mansion is a living museum for those who want to learn more about the home and who once resided there. It is open seasonally, typically welcoming guests for tours from the late spring until after the holiday season.
Learn About Maritime History at the Portland Observatory
Built in 1807, the Portland Observatory was a vital communication point for those sailing in the surrounding area. Today, this tower is more than 200 years old and considered one of the earliest historic maritime signals in the country that is still standing.
The observatory is open seasonally, allowing visitors to tour the building and get one of the best views of Portland during the spring, summer, and early fall. Whether you are spending a day or a week in Portland Maine, your experience won’t be complete until you have made the trip to the top of this historic landmark.
Cape Elizabeth Maine Restaurants
Dining in Cape Elizabeth is one of the best ways to experience the culture and flavor of the town. Locally owned restaurants are scattered throughout the community, allowing you to mix and mingle with those who live here while also savoring the delicious meals that reflect the heart and soul of New England.
Casual & Family-Friendly Eateries
Cape Elizabeth is not an ostentatious place, and its residents are always happy to serve the guests who have come to experience this slice of heaven by the sea. As a result, most of the restaurants in this community are casual places to gather and are considered to be family-friendly locales.
The Good Table
For nearly 40 years, the local family that owns The Good Table has been serving fresh, honest meals to the people of Cape Elizabeth.
Located inside a beautiful farmhouse, eating here often feels like coming home. This restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but it is perhaps most well-known for its Sunday brunch.
Tacos Y Tequila
Tacos Y Tequila is the best place to go in Cape Elizabeth if you are in the mood for authentic, flavorful Mexican cuisine. This restaurant is open for both lunch and dinner, and on Sundays, you can head in for its delicious brunch experience.
The Lobster Shack at Two Lights
During the summer, there is no better place to grab fresh Maine lobster than at The Lobster Shack at Two Lights.
This incredibly casual restaurant can be found near the Two Lights towers, making it a favorite among locals and tourists alike. It’s fresh, fast, and easy — but you are sure to enjoy a memorable meal here.
Upscale Restaurants in Cape Elizabeth
While Cape Elizabeth may be known as a relaxed place to spend a day on the coast of Maine, there are still fine dining experiences to enjoy. If you are in search of a romantic spot with oceanfront views, the best restaurant to go to is Sea Glass.
This restaurant is located inside the exclusive Inn by the Sea, and it is known for its panoramic ocean views. With a menu rooted in local ingredients, you are sure to find surprising entrees that tempt the palate.
At Sea Glass, the beauty and flavor of Maine mix and mingle interchangeably, offering you an experience you are sure to cherish.
Cape Elizabeth Coffee & Ice Cream Shops
When you are in the mood for something special, you will find coffee shops and ice cream spots that are perfect for an afternoon pick-me-up in Cape Elizabeth.
C Salt Gourmet Market
The hottest coffee shop in town is easily C Salt Gourmet Market, which is a cafe and bakery serving up freshly brewed coffee and soft, fluffy pastries. Established in 2014, it has quickly become a much-loved spot in town.
Kettle Cove Ice Cream
During the summer season, the Kettle Cove Ice Cream shack is always packed with people who want a cold scoop of ice cream on a cone. It is known for its homemade ice cream and interesting flavors, making it a fun place for people of all ages to visit.
Wineries & Breweries in Cape Elizabeth
If you are in the mood to sip rather than savor, you are in luck. There are a few wineries and breweries in Cape Elizabeth to check out.
Maxwell Point Vineyard
For wine aficionados, the best place to go is Maxwell Point Vineyard. It’s the only vineyard in Cape Elizabeth and is known for its excellent growing conditions. With about half a dozen wine varieties to choose from, there is a style for every preference at this winery.
Nonesuch River Brewing
For those who prefer a frothy brew near the oceanside, Nonesuch River Brewing is the spot to be. In addition to having a dozen types of beers on tap (which are brewed on site), this brewery serves meals, making it a one-stop shop for many visitors in the area.
Hotels in Cape Elizabeth Maine & Other Lodging
With a selection of boutique hotels, bed and breakfasts, and quaint inns, as well as plenty of vacation rentals, most of the places to stay in Cape Elizabeth feel like a personal escape along the sea.
Inn by the Sea
The most well-known hotel in Cape Elizabeth is the Inn by the Sea, which is a luxury resort known for its spectacular coastal views of Maine. Many consider this to be the best hotel in all of Maine, which means that the rooms almost always sell out, so interested guests should book in advance.
The Inn by the Sea offers an elegant atmosphere and a nourishing spa, making it the kind of place that guests go to relax and refresh themselves. Plus, it is home to the best oceanfront restaurant in Cape Elizabeth — Sea Glass.
Cape Elizabeth Vacation Rentals
As there are limited hotel and motel accommodations in Cape Elizabeth proper, vacation rentals are becoming one of the most coveted places to stay in the town.
In addition to being conveniently located, these vacation rentals offer guests the ability to immerse themselves in the oceanside lifestyle that full-time residents enjoy.
This Maine cottage, for example, offers 2,500 square feet of space and has room for up to six guests. With sweeping oceanfront views from the balcony, you may never want to leave.
Experience More Things to Do in Cape Elizabeth Maine & Beyond
Cape Elizabeth is the kind of place where you can escape for a quick weekend getaway or immerse yourself in the local lifestyle for a week or more. No matter the experience that you are looking for, the town is sure to captivate your mind and fill your soul with wonder.
With so many things to do in Cape Elizabeth Maine, now is the best time to begin planning your next Maine getaway. And if you want to explore beyond the town and Portland, there are even more things to do in nearby Old Orchard Beach.