What’s up with the Vacationland idiom that you see on Maine license plates? Maine is a place to stay and play, “the way life should be.”
There’s a reason why Maine has received so much acclaim from the West Coast and internationally. Here are several Maine towns to visit in this lifetime, or before you die… your choice!
Towns in Aroostook County
Madawaska is one of the northernmost towns in Maine and the focal point of Acadian culture while still being a Canadian border town. It was here that French Acadians crossed over the river after being expelled from the original Acadia, bringing their traditions, culture, and community spirit that still live today.
Several historic sites of Acadian culture are preserved here, with unique dishes at local restaurants that define the resilient French-Canadian community.
Expanded trail systems greet adventures in each season, and the St. John’s River and nearby Long Lake offer water activities from boating to ice fishing. Bring your passport because Edmundston is just across the New Brunswick border.
Houlton Maine is a lesser-known small town that is about to make big headlines since it’s in the path of totality for the 2024 total solar eclipse. It will be the last city in the United States to see the eclipse, and the town has been planning this event for years.
It’s just a coincidence that Houlton is also part of the mock Milky Way display that stretches to Presque Isle. This is also an outdoor destination in “The County” (aka Aroostook County), with Nickerson Lake State Park nearby.
Houlton is right on the New Brunswick Canada border too, with the tourist town of Woodstock just 21 miles away.
Millinocket touts itself as “Maine’s Biggest Small Town,” but there is so much more to this outdoor paradise. It’s immersed in the North Maine Woods, with epic adventures in all directions. Also, it’s the “Gateway to Mount Katahdin,” the highest point in Maine.
Snowmobile trails can take you to Canada if you’d like, and the Allagash Wilderness Waterway beckons white water rafters in the summer. Any activity you do is likely to have a moose within a few hundred yards.
You don’t even have to do much planning for a trip here. Some of the best outdoor experts can custom-tailor a trip to your desires while still pushing you out of your comfort zone.
RELATED: Find places to stay in Millinocket
If you’ve ever wanted to get into the mind of Stephen King, Bangor is a perfect place to start. King has lived all over Maine but made Bangor his home in 1980.
You can see his famous house (soon to be a museum) on the Stephen King walking tour, as well as the Paul Bunyan statue that terrifyingly came to life and the “It” storm drain.
Bangor also has plenty to do on the banks of the Penobscot River — a downtown lined with charming shops and boutiques — and the Bangor City Forest for those who need to get more outdoor time.
Towns in Downeast & Acadia
A trip to Calais (“Cal-ISS”) is an international adventure along the tide-influenced St. Croix River. Visitors can see the water rise and fall nearly 25 feet every 12 hours while soaking in views from the 340-foot-tall Devil’s Head granite bluff of the St. Croix International Historic Site island.
Additionally, Calais is a stop on the Bold Coast Scenic Byway, highlighting the most dramatic and rugged edges of the Pine Tree State. It’s yet another “Two Nation Vacation” with scenic St. Stephen New Brunswick across the river via one of three crossings.
The expansive Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge will be your backyard to explore through four seasons of outdoor fun.
When you’re looking to get away from the Maine coastal crowds but don’t want to give up the coastal vibe, head north to Lubec near the Canadian border. Lubec brings that authentic weathered coastal village experience that tourists crave.
On shore, you can visit the West Quoddy Lighthouse and Quoddy Head State Park, the easternmost point in the continental United States. Cobscook Shores Land Trust has more trails that you can easily trek, weaving through the land, marshes, and coastline.
You can take a whale-watching tour or get safely close enough to see the famed Old Sow whirlpool in the waters off Eastport Maine. You get the rare treat of crossing the Canadian bridge to Campobello Island as well.
The Downeast delight of Jonesport is surrounded by water on three sides, with a nearby Roque Island still part of the town. A bridge takes you over to Beals Island and then to Great Wass Island, home of an entire preserved island.
In the town of Jonesport, you’ll get an authentic fishing village and the only tour company that takes you to Moose Peak Lighthouse on Mistake Island.
Anyone can see the Portland Head Lighthouse — If we’re talking bucket list criteria, Moose Peak Lighthouse is famous for being one of the foggiest places in the United States.
In addition, Jonesport has sandy beaches, rocky beaches, stunning coastlines, and scenic vistas.
Making its home on Mount Desert Island, Bar Harbor is one of Maine’s most highly visited towns in the state. The Downeast Acadia region, which is arguably the most stunning visual feature on the entire Eastern Seaboard, offers outstanding scenic boat tours and kayaking excursions.
Hotels in Bar Harbor are world-class, ranging from harbor-side resorts, oceanfront cottages, and elegant inns, bringing luxury lodging to your vacation while highlighting the beauty of the natural landscape.
Docking in Rockwood opens the door to all the amenities of Moosehead Lake, including Mount Kineo State Park. If it’s not enough that the lake is shaped like a full-antlered moose, it’s also the largest lake in Maine.
As this is the gateway to the North Woods, you’ll find grand hotels and rustic cabins to stay in while you enjoy four seasons of fun — from boating on the lake to cross-country skiing on miles of trails.
The ferry to Mount Kineo leaves from Rockwood, where you’ll climb a mountain on one of four trails. The sheer face of the mountain was shaved by a glacier nearly 20,000 years ago.
Towns in Mid Coast Maine
Camden, Rockport, & Rockland
Within 8 miles of Maine’s coastline, you can see three of the most stunning communities, each with its own place in history.
Camden’s scenic downtown — where the Megunticook River and ocean meet, is overwhelmingly charming — with the Camden Hills offering views to die for over the ocean landscape.
Rockport Maine is home to the famous Andre the Seal — rescued by a local man as a seal pup and never returned to live in the wild waters. His story was turned into a book and then a movie loosely based on the story that captured the hearts of American moviegoers.
Rockland Maine has a breakwater that you can walk, leading to a lighthouse that is open to tours. This trio of cities is truly a three-for-one deal that you shouldn’t miss.
In the blur of islands that dot the Maine coastline is the most remote island of Matinicus. What limited boat service is available will be at the mercy of rough seas, but once you’re there, it’s like having your own personal island.
Wooden Ball Island and Seal Island offer even more distance, whether you want to chill on the rocky beach or see the puffins in season. Also, you can be one of just a few Maine visitors who get to see the Matinicus Rock Lighthouse.
Matinicus has several sandy beaches, plenty of pathways to walk among the lush landscape, and a quiet slice of Maine’s remote paradise.
Boothbay Harbor is such a splendid seaside village that Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring has chosen the region as her home. It is a very non-commercial village rich with history, fantastic boat excursions, charming local shops, and delicious dining — very much classic Maine.
Its quiet coves, scenic lighthouses, lovely oceanfront resorts, and warm local hospitality will make a seasonal vacationer out of you.
Alongside coastal boat explorations, Boothbay Harbor offers attractions like the beautiful Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, nature walks at the nearby Boothbay Region Land Trust and Barrett Park, and Maine State Aquarium.
Maine Lakes & Mountains Towns
The lake life of Rangeley Maine is hard to beat. Rangeley Lake and Mooselookmeguntic Lake provide water activities throughout the year with a culture designed to offer lakefront rentals that generations of local families have owned.
Saddleback Mountain takes you to stunning vistas, while the Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway offers incredible sites like Height of Land. Hikers can step onto the famous Appalachian Trail that weaves around the region too.
If you think the daytime views are amazing, just wait until you see the night skies.
Newry easily receives the attention of vacationers year-round with its ski mountain, premier resorts and luxurious vacation rentals, seasonal events, and beautiful mountainous landscapes.
Winter activists seek Newry for fantastic skiing and snowboarding at Sunday River or ice climbing at Grafton Notch State Park. In the warmer months, Newry is a favorite area for hiking, especially during the fall when the foliage reveals all the shades of amber.
RELATED: Find places to stay in Newry
It’s hard to pick the best season to visit Bethel Maine because this four-season community really brings its “A” game any time of year. The town is more than just the anchor town for the Sunday River Ski Resort, which is among the largest in the eastern country, but that’s a definite draw.
Bethel is steeped in history, which still emanates through dozens of historical buildings. Fall foliage along the Androscoggin River provides stunning landscapes. Spring brings the best skiing of the year, and summers are filled with float trips and festivals.
The Maine Gem & Mineral Museum here showcases the elements of the earth that make this mountain all that much more special.
RELATED: Find places to stay in Bethel
Towns in Greater Portland & Casco Bay
Portland Maine is a unique and vibrant city with modern influences, yet very much a classic coastal Maine community. Situated on the mouth of Casco Bay, Portland concerts coastal boat tours of the gorgeous rugged shoreline, ferries to local islands, and recently, cruises to Nova Scotia.
The diversions of the city, however, are enough to remain engaged with the variant and reputed dining scene, a motley of quaint boutiques, the always-happening concert halls, prestigious hotels on the harbor, and fantastic seasonal events.
Despite its city appearance, there are plenty of areas for biking, walking, and picnicking along the Eastern Promenade and the Back Bay Park as well.
RELATED: Find places to stay in Portland
Southern Maine Coast Towns
Old Orchard Beach
Every Maine visitor should see Old Orchard Beach (OOB) at least once in a lifetime. It’s not just the Palace Playground amusement park that has been welcoming guests since 1902 or the famed pier that’s lively day or night.
It’s the closest thing to a time machine that we can find in a beach community. You’re immersed in nostalgia, natural beauty, and vibrant seaside culture. This famed summer hotspot draws an international crowd to its 7 miles of sandy shores and is a generational tradition for many families.
Don’t miss the famous Pier (French) Fries and the quintessential lobster roll while enjoying one of the best sunrises in Maine.
Kennebunkport Maine owes much of its notoriety to the former President’s summer dwelling on Walker’s Point. However, it has always been renowned as a high-end vacation destination with stays in waterfront resorts and elegant inns.
Reputed for its wide array of boutique shopping and distinguished dining in Dock Square, Kennebunkport creates a very social atmosphere, especially during the summer season.
Its harbors along the Kennebunk River offer both recreational reprieve and excitement on scenic sailing cruises, kayak outings, and whale watching and lobster boat tours.
Also, visitors have multiple Maine beaches in The Kennebunks to choose from — Mother’s, Gooch’s, and Goose Rocks beaches are well suited for young children.
Kennebunkport has created prominent events as well, including the Christmas Prelude and the Kennebunkport Festival, drawing visitors from all over.
York Maine is an attractive vacation destination for young and old. Its wealth of recreational opportunities — including beautiful sandy beaches, a seaside zoo and amusement park, historic enlightenment at the Museums of Old York, an assortment of boutique shops, and water-view restaurants — certainly makes York a lovely vacation affair.
Those who enjoy a good view ought to drive or hike to the summit of Mount Agamenticus for beautiful coastal panoramas or visit Sohier Park — home of one of the most photographed lighthouses, the Nubble Light.
RELATED: Find places to stay in York
The “Gateway to Maine” is hard to miss and easy to enjoy. Kittery offers history, beaches, and some of the best outlet shopping on this side of Freeport Maine. The Piscataqua River meets the ocean here in a haphazard display of rugged coastline — home to Portsmouth Naval Yard and Fort Foster.
Boat masts fill the harbor, while seagulls dive for dinner. You have three beaches and two lighthouses in addition to the Kittery Outlet Mall, with the best brands at discount prices.
Also, visitors get the bonus city of Portsmouth New Hampshire to explore. Kittery is the oldest town in Maine and flawlessly holds onto history and gets you in the Maine mood.
Discover More Maine Towns to Visit Before You Die
Maine welcomes you to experience the way life should be. See our Maine Lodging Guide to add more Maine towns to your bucket list of places to visit before you die.