Houlton Maine is known as “the end of the road” because it’s the northernmost point of I-95 that runs all the way to downtown Miami Florida. In this case, the end is just the beginning of outdoor adventures in Maine’s Aroostook County.
Also, you can make the trip to Houlton an international one because it’s just 4 miles from the Canadian border crossing into New Brunswick. Even without a passport, you’ll still find plenty to do in the “Shiretown” of Aroostook County, otherwise known as “The County.”
The Meduxnekeag River runs right through the heart of town, where you’ll also find Market Square and festivals throughout the year.
In this part of Maine, there is no off-season. Each seasonal shift peels back a new layer of Maine adventures.
Outdoor Things to Do in Houlton Maine
Houlton’s outdoor options range from fiddleheads on the river bank in spring to summer days on the river to fall foliage scenic drives to winter ATV trails that span the state.
Meduxnekeag River Trail
The 3-mile Meduxnekeag River Trail is the closest point of contact to nature in Houlton Maine. The trail runs along the river and into the forest before looping back to Riverfront Park. You can walk over the river on the Gateway Crossing pedestrian bridge to downtown too.
One of Houlton’s big events is the Meduxnekeag River Canoe Kayak Race, which is held every May. But, you can ride this watery trail any time of year using the same 9-mile route.
Spring brings a more robust waterway as the snow melts from the mountains, with summer and fall rides offering a more leisurely pace.
Southern Bangor & Aroostook Trail
The popular four-season Southern Bangor & Aroostook Trail stretches for almost 40 miles from Houlton to Presque Isle. Team up with the Aroostook Riders ATV Club for the best ways to enjoy the trail — from snowmobiling through winter wonderlands to ATV riding in fall foliage.
NOTE: The trail system of Aroostook County covers hundreds more miles.
Maine Solar System
Houlton Maine is the perfect place to visit the planet Pluto. That’s because the Maine Solar System, which spans 100 miles of Aroostook County, ends in Houlton. It’s the largest 3D solar system model on this side of the planet and is made to scale — with the other end being Presque Isle.
Crescent Park at Nickerson Lake
The closest lake to Houlton is Nickerson Lake, which has a public boat ramp and is a popular ice-fishing destination in winter. Several trails through the forest are accessible by boat.
This is a place where generations of Mainers have owned homes, and it’s a blessing that there is public access to this remote and preserved treasure.
Sunnyside Family Farm
What kind of Maine publication would we be if we didn’t guide you to some of the best agricultural lands in the nation? Places like Sunnyside Family Farm — just 10 miles from Houlton — offer U-pick seasonal options.
You’ll redefine blueberry flavor when you taste the Maine wild blueberry. And, choose from six apple varieties or wait for the perfect moment for a raspberry to ripen.
“Two Great Roads, One Great Town”
It’s fair to say that all roads lead to Houlton… eventually. Houlton Maine is the only American city where you can be on U.S. Route 1 (Fort Kent Maine to Key West Florida) and U.S. Route 2 (Houlton Maine to Everett Washington).
While U.S. Route 2 is split into two sections, the junction of these two major cross-country highways built before the interstate system is a novelty in Houlton.
The Boy With the Leaking Boot
Pierce Park in Houlton is more of a pocket park, but it’s worth a quick stop to see the limited-edition Boy with the Leaking Boot statue. It is one of only about two dozen replicas in the world. Since the mold has been broken, no more will be created.
Nobody is quite sure who the boy is, but some legends say he filled his boot with water during a war and tried to hydrate a dying soldier. We do know, however, that this statue was endowed to Houlton in 1916. Today it stands as a sign of philanthropy in the town.
The True Grit of Maine’s Outdoors
The County and North Maine Woods can be intimidating, especially when designated wilderness brings so many more risks than you’ll find on a riverside trail. You can use a company like Maine High Adventure to plan your perfect trip.
Indoor Things to Do in Houlton Maine
Houlton offers many interesting indoor activities — from historic sites to unique treats.
Aroostook County Historic & Art Museum
Quite frankly, we’re lucky that Houlton is still around considering that it burned down five times from 1879 to 1902. That’s the kind of great information you can learn at the Aroostook County Historic & Art Museum.
You might be amazed at the military history of this small town, including the fact that the current airport was a prisoner-of-war camp during World War II.
Visit Market Square
The downtown area of Houlton Maine — known as Market Square — is more than just one street with a few shops. It’s an idyllic downtown that shows no sign that it burned down once (or twice, or five times). The Houlton Community Market is a great place to meet locals and shop for locally grown or made items.
This is more than a movie theater. The Temple Theater is a Houlton icon, showing films for more than a century since opening in 1919 (it never burned down). The movie house has kept up with film-making technological advancements and still shows the latest blockbuster movies.
Additional Attractions Near Houlton Maine
Some of the most amazing things to see in The County are less than 90 minutes from Houtlon.
Baxter State Park
The pride of Northern Maine is Mt. Katahdin (“kuh-TAH-din”), the tallest peak in the state at nearly 5,300 feet above sea level in Baxter State Park.
With more than 209,000 acres to explore, you can hike, cross-country ski, go fishing, or summit the mountain. Don’t miss the amazing waterfalls in spring or a chance to walk the final leg of the Appalachian Trail.
“Man is born to die, his works are short-lived. Buildings crumble, monuments decay, wealth vanishes. But Katahdin, in all its glory, forever shall remain the mountain of the people of Maine.”Percival Proctor Baxter
Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument
Baxter is not to be confused with neighboring Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument. The landscape contains a mix of mountains, woodlands, watersheds, and rivers across 87,000 acres and 175 miles of hiking trails, including the Appalachian Trail.
As an International Dark Sky Park, this is one of the best places in Maine to see the night sky and even the northern lights.
A series of waterfalls tumble through the wilderness of the North Maine Woods in a place known as Gulf Hagas. The remote location and challenging trail reward you with swimming holes and stunning drops from sheer cliff gorges.
Woodstock New Brunswick
Just 12 miles from Houlton Maine and across the Canadian border sits Woodstock, the oldest town in New Brunswick.
From historic walking tours to adventures between the Saint John and Meduxnekeag Rivers, you’ll find that the international trip isn’t too unfamiliar because many people in this part of Maine hold dual citizenship. Crossing the border is just part of daily life.
Restaurants in Houlton Maine
For a town of 6,000 people, Houlton has quite a robust food scene.
The Vault Restaurant
You can nosh on an elegant and excellent dinner at The Vault Restaurant in Market Square — housed in what was once a bank. Enjoy the Vault Burger, or go for the Maine classic lobster roll. Just make sure that you save room for dessert like the Strawberry Bomb.
Houlton Maine is nothing if not nostalgic about the “good ole days,” and the childhood memories of pizza inspired the crew at a local radio station to open a pizza joint.
Market Pizza offers full pies or by-the-slice with traditional options or deluxe versions — like a barbecue chicken nacho pizza or a Reuben pizza. Be sure to add a whoopie pie for dessert because it’s a Maine tradition.
ShireWood Smokehouse Southern BBQ
You’ll smell it before you see it! ShireWood SmokeHouse Southern BBQ starts cooking before the sun comes up so that you can have a delicious lunch or dinner. From burnt ends to boiled peanuts, you’ll forget you’re just a stone’s throw from the Canadian border and swear you’re down South.
Big Stop Restaurant
It’s not every day that we’d tell you to grab breakfast at a gas station, but the Big Stop Restaurant chain based in Canada has a great location in Houlton Maine.
In fact, the restaurant makes you forget that you’re at a truck stop. A full menu is available all day, and the breakfast specials — like the bacon lover’s poutine — will fill up your energy tank for a day of adventure.
Houlton Dairy Bar
When it comes to ice cream in The County, you can’t get any better than the Houlton Dairy Bar. With sundaes, shakes, and specialty drinks, there’s a sweet treat waiting for everyone.
Shakes are made according to your thickness preference, and hard ice cream is available in dozens of flavors — like maple walnut. When in Houlton, the Shiretown Cooler is one of the most popular specialties of the house.
Houlton Maine Hotels & Other Lodging
The simple fact is that Houlton doesn’t have a lot of overnight accommodations at first glance. We’ve sorted through all the newest options to find some recommendations for you, no matter when you plan to visit.
You only have a handful of options for the standard hotels in Houlton Maine. Ivey’s Motor Lodge offers free breakfast and has a restaurant on-site for other meals.
Nearby, Shiretown Inn & Suites has 56 rooms of various sizes with pet-friendly options, a new fitness center, and the Down Under Pub for dinner.
You can stay at the closest campground to the Canadian border just a few miles north of Houlton. The Houlton/Canadian Border KOA fits the largest RVs or the smallest tents across 105 acres with walking trails and several ponds. Plus, ATV trails connect to the campgrounds.
Wilderness Pines Campground has nine cabins, 26 RV sites, and a section just for tents. There’s a pool on-site, and pets are allowed. Kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards are available for rent too.
Most rental homes will be outside the city limits, but you might find a location like this apartment in Historic Downtown Houlton.
Places like Nickerson Lake offer rental options as well, like this two-bedroom cottage just a short row from Blueberry Island. Search around Conroy Lake — north of Houlton — for a cabin in a more remote area with direct access to a great fishing lake.
More About Houlton Maine
The area that became Houlton Maine was populated by Maliseet Native Americans before the early 1800s when settlers arrived and began clearing land for farming. Joseph Houlton arrived in 1807, farming the land and building the community that would be incorporated in 1831.
Once the boundary between Maine and Canada was established (not an easy feat), Houlton became a key border town and trading post. When the railroad was connected in the 1880s, it enabled the growth of lumber mills on the Meduxnekeag River.
With its proximity to New Brunswick, Houlton hosted an Air Force base and POW camp during World War II. Today, commerce and agriculture continue to sustain this small community near the Canadian border.
Houlton Maine Weather
Maine has seasons that don’t always align with other parts of the country. Winter starts in November and runs through March, which is when Mud Season begins (March to mid-April).
Spring is generally considered late April through June. Summer is from July through August, while autumn begins in September.
FAQs About Houlton Maine
Can you help me with Houlton Maine’s pronunciation?
Here are a few words that you should know how to pronounce in Houlton to “speak like a Mainer:”
— Houlton: “HOLE-ton”
— Muduxnekaeag: “Muh-DUCKS-nuh-keg”
— Aroostook: “Uh-ROOSt-tuk”
— Katahdin: “Kuh-TAH-din”
— Bangor: “Bang-GORE”
— Poutine: “POO-teen,” a popular food dish in this part of Maine made with French fries and cheese curds topped with gravy
RELATED: Learn more about how to not stand out as a tourist in Maine.
Are there moose in Houlton?
Yes. Sometimes, it’s as easy to see moose in Houlton Maine while simply driving down the street. Even the winter carnival in Houlton is called Moosestompers Weekend.
While locals will always know the best place to see a moose in Houlton, you get the best chance by looking near dawn and dusk from May through July. Try to find open spaces, like bogs or marshes.
It’s important to look out for moose on the roadways. They are very tall and won’t have reflective eyes in your headlights like deer. Follow this great advice from Maine DOT to avoid moose collisions.
What documents do I need to visit Canada?
The port of entry in Houlton is open 24/7 year-round. For visits of less than 180 days, a visa is not required, but a passport is.
Even though Canada is our friendly northern neighbor, some people get caught off guard by the stringent crossing requirements for those with criminal records. Even a DUI charge from a few years ago can result in denied entry into Canada.
Plus, you should check the list of things you can/can’t bring back from Canada after your visit.
Explore the Wilderness & Quaint Atmosphere of Houlton Maine
With easy access to Baxter State Park and Mt. Katahdin, Houlton makes a great day trip or weekend getaway for couples, families, and groups of friends.
Houlton Maine is the Gateway to Aroostook County, which means that there’s a lot more to explore in the “Crown of Maine.” You can take Route 1 north through Mars Hill and Presque Isle and even all the way to Fort Kent at another Canadian border crossing if you’d like!
There’s so much history in this part of the state that’s interesting to all ages, particularly history buffs. Thank goodness Houlton continues to be a resilient town.