Maine has a long and rich history, and its coastal towns are some of the most beautiful in the country. However, many of these towns are often overlooked in favor of more popular tourist destinations like Bar Harbor or Kennebunkport.
If you’re looking for a more off-the-beaten-path experience, you’ll avoid the growing tourist crowds and get a truly authentic experience at these lesser known coastal towns in Maine.
Maine’s Coastal Area Breakdown
It helps to know where the coastal boundaries are when planning a trip to the lesser-known towns of Maine.
- Southern Maine Coast: This region spans Kittery to Old Orchard Beach.
- Portland & Casco Bay: Sometimes combined with the SMC, this region stretches from Scarborough to Brunswick.
- Mid Coast Maine: As a general guideline, this area covers the coast from Bath to Stockton Springs and Prospect.
- Downeast Maine: Downeast Maine is actually up the coast and stretches from Bucksport and Castine to Lubec and Eastport at the Canadian border.
- Bold Coast: The name says it all. Within the Downeast region, this is the most dynamic, rocky, and rugged coastline, stretching from Millbridge to Lubec and Eastport.
Note: Here’s a map of the coastal boundaries to help you visualize it. There’s a 95% chance that some Mainers will argue with some of these boundaries because of the fluid nature of “borders.” We follow the Maine Office of Tourism’s lines and humbly apologize for any “Downeast debates” it spurs.
Now, let’s get to that list of lesser-known coastal towns in Maine.
You know how everyone who goes to the Florida Keys posts a gratuitous photo of the “Southernmost Point in the U.S.A.” buoy? There’s one in Eastport but as the “Easternmost City in the U.S.A.”
Eastport is on Moose Island, and there’s a roundabout way to get there from Route 1. You can see the famous whirlpool Old Sow from the Canadian-facing waterfront and then head west to explore Shackford Head State Park. In between, a fishing town brimming with fresh seafood awaits.
NOTE: If you’re looking at a map and thinking, “Hey, Lubec is more eastern than Eastport!!,” you’re right. Only, Lubec is a TOWN, so the “Easternmost City” moniker tracks in Eastport.
This town sits at the border with Canada’s Campobello Island, which includes a visit to the Roosevelt family’s former summer estate if you bring your passport. While downtown is filled with shops and restaurants, the larger footprint includes some amazing outdoor amenities:
- Quoddy Head State Park: The easternmost lighthouse (and gift shop) awaits on this peninsula. Trails take you to the edge of those famous Bold Coast cliffs.
- Huckins Beach & Trail: This land trust is surrounded by water on three sides, with expansive beaches where you’ll likely be the only person.
- Klondike Mountain: Not all mountains require exhaustive efforts. You can see two mountain summits in less than 1 mile of trails.
- Boot Head Trail: On the flip side, not all short trails are easy, as you’ll find facing the 2-mile Boot Head Trail with steep and challenging scrambles to visit beaches, bogs, and the best views from the Bold Coast.
Did you visit Maine to see the coast or shop at kitschy stores while wearing a lobster bib at lunch? If it’s the former, Cutler will carve its way into your heart.
Cutler Coast Public Land is one of Maine’s best-kept secrets, with more than 12,000 acres, 4.5 miles of headlands, and 10 miles of trails. Along the way, you can pick wild blueberries, a signature Maine food.
Get some culture with your fresh catch of the day as Brooklin is as deep in art as it is in shipbuilding. This town is known for its exquisite work on wooden ships, but a famous spider web might tug at your heartstrings (it can’t be just me). This is the town where E.B. White penned “Charlotte’s Web,” inspired by a view of his barn:
“I would rather feel bad in Maine than feel good anywhere else.”E.B. White, Author
Brooklin is also packed with peninsulas, offering more beaches than Kennebunkport could ever hope to. Blue Hill Peninsula is almost too beautiful to describe. If you can snag a boat, explore Tinker Island and Blue Hill Bay Lighthouse Island.
On the opposite end of Mount Desert Island from Bar Harbor sits the waterfront town of Tremont and a ferry that takes you to Swans Island. The Bass Harbor Head Light Station offers one of the most spectacular sunset views statewide.
And, the seawall doubles as an oceanfront viewing location and a campsite for the more-popular-than-ever Acadia National Park.
Does it sound too far away? Nope — it’s just 30 minutes from Bar Harbor. Bass Harbor Bay is lined with waterfront lobster pounds and outdoor patios, and you’ll rarely wait in line. One of the most unique overnight accommodations awaits in West Tremont at Acadia Wilderness Lodge.
If the name doesn’t grab your attention, maybe the fact that it’s known as the Prettiest Harbor in Maine will. Five Islands is down one of the many peninsulas that fill the Mid Coast, and you’ll go through Bath to get to this Georgetown village. The 1-hour drive from Portland is a tourist attraction itself.
Brace yourself for the approach to Five Island Lobster Company, the staple seafood restaurant in Five Islands. The view takes your breath away. Before or after that delightful lobster roll, boat on Sheepscot Bay and see the signature “five islands.” On a clear day (go in the afternoon), you’ll see the archipelago of Southport.
While technically a peninsula of Freeport, most tourists don’t make it past L.L. Bean to explore this coastline. Wolfe’s Neck State Park holds its own with forested trails, salt marsh walks, and rocky coastline adventures. This is a must-see location for fall foliage.
When you want to live like L.L. Bean instead of just wearing the brand, the L.L. Bean Flying Point Paddle Center awaits. Plus, ecotourists can’t miss the Wolfe’s Neck Center for Agriculture and The Environment. Campsites are available too.
When you “just feel like running,” Port Clyde awaits with the Marshall Point Lighthouse, where Forrest Gump took his u-turn. Port Clyde is a serene and picturesque coastal area near St. George.
It’s home to the Herring Gut Coastal Science Center where you can learn about Maine’s sea-dependent economy and Port Clyde Kayaks where you can explore the water solo or on a guided tour. Grab a meal at The Black Harpoon — open year-round with fresh seafood and chowders.
Monhegan Island might be the biggest tourist destination you’ve never heard of (if you aren’t familiar with Maine). You can take a ferry from Port Clyde — a great two-for-one trip — and arrive at an island designed for walking. Pets are welcome on the ferry and the island, which is only 2 miles long by 1 mile wide.
Explore the village shores and restaurants before hiking to the D.T. Sheridan shipwreck at Lobster Cove.
Some of the most treacherous waters of Maine line the east side of the island, but the trails offer views better than even the Marginal Way of Ogunquit. Don’t miss the Monhegan Lighthouse, located inland on this lovely island.
NOTE: There is a Christmas Cove on Monhegan, but it’s different from the one on the Daramiscotta River.
Wells is home to the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge and Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve, each offering marshes, beaches, and seemingly endless wildlife options. Among the collection of beaches is a dog beach at the harbor. At Drake’s Beach, you can even walk the seawall.
While you’re here, dine at Billy’s Chowder House — one of the oldest chowder houses in Maine. If you’re craving some of the arcade action of places like Old Orchard Beach, Wells has the Wonder Mountain Fun Park.
- Birch Harbor
- Prospect Harbor
- South Gouldsboro
- West Gouldsboro
This is a great place to visit for those who love meandering drives through the coastline. Even the seemingly “distant” fishing village of Corea is just 8 miles from Winter Harbor. Also, Gouldsboro had a place in African-American history when Thomas Frazer settled here to sell salt to ships.
A little further east, the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge unfolds before you with local vendors offering guided puffin tours to the islands. At Corea Heath, explore the connecting Grand Marsh to look for the beavers.
There Is More to the Overlooked, Lesser Known Coastal Towns in Maine
With a growing tourism base, it’s no wonder many people search for “beautiful places in Maine that aren’t crowded.”
In fact, even the long-stated statistic saying Maine has 228 miles of shoreline isn’t quite as accurate when looking at it from an adventure perspective. Maine has nearly 3,500 miles of tidal shoreline when you add inlets, bays, coves, islands, tidal rivers, and islands. Your coastal Maine escape is waiting on one of those miles!