Maine is known as the Vacationland State; that’s the state motto and moniker on Maine license plates. Truly Maine is a vacationland throughout the year, with every season providing things to do and the unique splendor of nature’s constant climate change.
The way life shoud be, every day, every season. Read on to learn more about vacationing in Maine and click through our Maine Vacation Guide or Regional Campground Directory to discover popular vacation towns and activities that most appeal to you.
Coastal Maine Vacations
The Maine Coast is often a popular destination during the summer where many take a vacation along the seaside towns and villages, enjoying Maine’s best beaches, and touring the Maine coastline. Others choose to take a weeklong vacation in one resort town to soak in everything to do in the area. Exploring the coast visiting several towns is a wonderful way to taste the diversity of Maine towns while crossing popular tourist attractions off your bucket list. Many of Maine’s best vacation towns rest along the coast where you can boat charters, kayaks and tours offer a variety of coastal recreation.
Coastal towns in Maine are often quite unique from inland towns. Most towns on the coast of Maine are rather small with a friendly, slow-paced atmosphere, yet despite this fact, there are an astonishing amount of quiant boutique shops, bars and restaurants.
When you’re not taken by the outdoor recreation, you’re likely spending your Maine vacation in the variety of dining options, browsing antique shops, chic boutique stores, chillin’ at beachside bars, or enjoying fried clams and lobster rolls at food shacks. Don’t think you’ll be leaving your Maine vacation without a few funny Maine shirts, crafts or sea shell souvenirs.
When vacationing on the Maine coast, of course, the first thing that comes to mind is visiting the beach. Who wouldn’t want to feel the sand in their toes, the sun, play some leisurely games like bocce ball or Frisbee, take a walk to visit beachside shops and restaurants, and take a dip in the refreshing Atlantic waters? You can’t go wrong at the beach for a family vacation.
Of course, the beach especially draws in summer tourism, but throughout the year, you will find locals and vacationers walking the beach. Some even claim the wintertime is the best time to explore the beach when the ocean helps temper the cold and the summer vacation crowds are gone.
When vacationing in Maine, we recommend taking a boating excursion along the coast. If you do not often get a chance to get out on the ocean, then boating is surely an activity to entertain. Taking a boat tour of the Maine coast is not only a great way to relax and find pause, but you also to see the boundless beauty of the ocean greeting the land.
Depending on where you spend your time on vacation in Maine, your coastal exploration can vary as the coastline hosts long stretches of sandy beaches often interrupted by rivers emptying fresh water into the ocean, lighthouses atop granite cliffs, islands outlying the coast, and bustling harbors.
Take a kayak tour for a more intimate view of the coast paddling through hidden coves and inlets. Enjoy canoeing through beautiful salt marshes while the ocean tide is high. Take a weeklong trip on a windjammer vacation where you can awake every morning to the sun peeking over the sparkling Atlantic Ocean. A Maine vacation won’t do without also taking a scenic tour like whale watching or fishing off the coast. The kids will also love to watch lobstermen haul in their catch on a lobster boat tour. There are plenty of marinas along the coast, where transients are also welcome for those spending vacation aboard their own boat.
Many prefer to venture inland, away from the coast, into Maine’s numerous fresh water lakes and mountains regions. Maine’s Western Lakes and Mountains region hosts vacationers year-round. In the winter, this region is well known as skiing and snowboarding destinations.
Stretching north from Portland to Canada, the Kennebec and Moose River Valley offers much for a Maine vacation. Regions like Kennebec Moose River Valley, Maine’s Highlands and The County are perfect for those seeking more simple pleasures for their Maine vacation. Within the vast forests, shimmering lakes and ponds, these regions offer much for a Maine vacation including camping and outdoor activities.
During the summertime, families and groups with young children seek lakefront campgrounds for a fun family vacation. Lake vacations offer much to do between swimming in the fresh waters, canoeing or kayaking to exploring the waters, waterskiing/wakeboarding or fishing.
Both spring and fall draw vacationers to find peace and solitude, plus beautiful foliage, at lakeside vistas perfect for nature walks and hikes. The Belgrade Lakes, Sebago Lake Region and Moosehead Lake are among the many popular choices for a lakeside vacation destinations.
Western Maine is the place to be for a snowboard and ski vacation. New England is a well-known destination for skiers and snowboarders – many think of Vermont’s Green Mountains and and NH”s White mountains for skiing, but Maine hosts the two of the biggest ski areas in the region: Sugarloaf and Sunday River.
With the Appalachian Mountains passing through the entire length of the state, ending the AT Trail, Maine offers quite the diversity for skiing with big mountains challenging professionals as well as accommodating families with children. Smaller ski hills in Maine offer affordable ski days for young families just learning to ski, places like Camden Snow Bowl and Shawnee Peak for example. For avid skiers and snowboarders, an annual Maine vacation is a great choice with so many mountains to experience – you could do a ski week visiting Sunday River and Sugarloaf.
White Water Rafting Vacation
The Kennebec Moose River Valley region is THE place for white water rafting vacations. This region hosts a few of the best rivers for rafting including the Dead River and Kennebec River. There’s also the Penobscot River in the Maine Highlands Region where you can gaze over at Mt Katahdin in the distance while floating along smooth waters of the river.
In Maine, vacationers can find rivers with classes I-V rapids. Maine is ideal for a rafting vacation due to the fact that it is the only place in the Northeast capable of controlling the intensity of the rapids with dam releases, assuring rafters of a great rafting experience all season long. Rafting vacations can include lodging in riverside cabins and camping right by the water.
Thanks to snowmobile clubs efforts developing thousands of interconnected trail systems throughout Maine, this is the perfect place for an ATV or snowmobile vacation. Winter sledding can start as early as November in northern Maine and continue as late as April in a big snow year, so there’s little excuse to miss out on snowmobiling for your Maine vacation.
Once the snow melts, these same trails are open for ATVs. Both snowmobiling and ATVing are great ways to explore Maine’s wilderness, and even those without their own vehicles can rent four wheelers or snowmobiles at their place of lodging. Snowmobile and ATV trails are most prevalent in the Maine’s Highlands – Moosehead, Western Lakes and Mountains, Kennebec and Moose River Valley and Aroostook County that tend to draw more vacationers for their extensive trail networks.
Maine has among the highest populations of big game including black bear, whitetail deer and moose, which is why many will travel great distances for a Maine hunting vacation. While there are restrictions on certain game during particular months, required hunting licenses and a Maine moose lottery, hunting is open throughout the year, making hunting a good excuse to vacation in Maine any time.
We invite you to a true Maine vacation and to learn first hand why we say… Maine, the way life should be.
Common Maine Vacation Questions
People planning to visit Maine have questions. We at Visit Maine Lodging Guide want to provide the best answers to help you plan your Maine vacation. Here are the Top Maine visitor questions:
How many days should I plan to visit Maine?
Maine is a big state, geographically larger than all the other New England states combined, so it is nearly impossible to see it all in a month, never mind a week’s vacation. We suggest you plan a week to visit Maine, stopping in a few coastal towns for a few nights each. On a separate trip, explore Maine’s lakes and mountains. We want you to really enjoy your time here, walking the beach, meeting some Mainers, savoring our best Maine made food, including fresh Maine lobster. If you try to see too much, you will be driving more than you are enjoying.
See our Tour the Coast page for recommendations on where to stop along the Maine coast and where to stay along your way. Some of the best towns include York, Ogunquit, Kennebunkport, Portland, Boothbay Harbor, Rockland, Camden, and Bar Harbor. Inland, the Sebago Lake region is beautiful, so are the ski resort towns of Sunday River, Saddleback and Sugarloaf. To really get away, we recommend time on Moosehead Lake, The Forks and Baxter State Park.
Where should I go in Maine if I only have a few days?
For a Maine weekend, or a two day getaway, head to the Southern Maine Coast, and stay in a seaside town like Kittery, York, Wells or Ogunquit, Wells, Kennebunk, Kennebunkport. These beautiful Maine towns are just an hour to an hour and a half drive from Boston, easy to reach off I-95 and offer great lodging, Maine’s best beaches, dining, shopping and a vibrant art and entertainment scene in summer plus fun festivals in fall and winter around the holidays.
Where is the best shopping in Maine?Maine is famed for its outlet shopping, LL Bean, antique shops and Maine made crafts sold in small boutiques and shops throughout the state. Maine’s best outlet shopping is in Bangor, Kittery and Freeport – where you will find the legendary LL Bean- open 24/7/365. In smaller coastal towns of Maine you will find general stores and Maine craft shops that sell Maine made jewelry, art, crafts and delicious food made with Maine blueberries and maple syrup. Maine art galleries in seaside villages like Ogunquit, Kennebunkport, Rockland and Bar Harbor offer Maine inspired scenery that you can take home on a canvas. For bargain hunters, make a stop in Maine discount stores Mardens and Reny’s – where they sell everything from tarps to lobster traps, hunting vests to designer shoes.
Can we visit a Maine lighthouses?
Yes, there are 65 Maine lighthouses, some you can get very close with your camera, some are on more remote islands and rocky coastal bluffs, so you can take photos from a lighthouse boat tour. Some lighthouses like Portland Headlight offer tours and have an onsite museum and gift shop, plus a scenic park for picnicking. See our Maine Lighthouse directory and dot your way up the coast visiting Maine’s best beacons.
Where should we go to eat our first Maine lobster?
Never eaten a lobster? Then we suggest a casual lobster pound or a clam shack with picnic tables overlooking the water, here you can roll up your sleeves and wear a bib for your first buttery crustacean encounter. No need to go fancy on your first lobster bake. It will be love at first claw.
Should you buy Maine lobsters to bring home with us?
Sure, lobster can be packed properly for you to bring home, see our instructions on how to cook a Maine lobster. You’ll need a big pot and melted butter (real Mainers suggest unsalted butter). Fresh lobsters are best cooked and enjoyed the same day. Otherwise, we suggest you order live lobster to be shipped professionally to arrive the day you plan to cook and eat them.
Are the Maine beaches packed in summer?
Maine has many beautiful beaches, with the majority located along the southern Maine coast. Even though Maine beaches are quite popular in summer, you can still find a quiet space and untouched sand. Even Old Orchard Beach, voted Maine’s best beach, is seven miles long so there is plenty of place to spread out your beach towel, or toss a Frisbee. The further you walk from the Pier and beach parking, the more private and peaceful your beach retreat will be.
Is there anything to do on the Maine coast in winter?
Yes, local Mainers call the off-season their favorite. You can still walk the beach, the ocean mediates the temperature as it is warmer than the air in winter. Maine seaside villages have just enough inns, hotels and restaurants that stay open in winter. And you can enjoy un-crowded shopping, horse drawn carriage rides, and even cross-country skiing when it snows. Some of the best festivals in Maine are in early December just before the holidays, like Christmas Prelude in Kennebunkport, and Lighting of the Nubble in York. Ogunquit and Portland have holiday celebrations and Valentines festivals in February too. Maine’s mountains are spectacular in winter, covered in snow. Maine is a wonderland for outdoor adventure, with alpine skiing at 18 Maine ski resorts, plus snowmobiling, Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, ice fishing, tubing, and ice skating.
What’s the weather like in Maine?
They say in Maine if you don’t like the weather, stay another day. Maine temperatures do vary greatly. Summer days are typically 70-80F, and evenings cool off as low as 55F. In winter, temperatures range from 20-40F daytime, and cool off at night as low as 15F. We suggest in summer that you bring a sweatshirt or light jacket for those cool evenings, or a boat ride as it is always cooler out on the water. In winter, be prepared with a coat, hat, gloves and footwear that works in the snow… you just never know! See our Maine Tides and Weather pages as you plan and pack for your Maine vacation.
When’s the best time to see a Maine moose?
The moose are loose all year round in Maine, but the majority of the Maine moose population, about 70,000, live in the western lakes and mountains and the northern part of the state. So your best bet for a moose sighting is near Rangeley, the Maine Highlands and the Moose River valley. Moose tend to be out and visible most during the spring and fall, and the best time of day to see a moose is dawn or dusk when they are out roaming for food. Most Maine Moose safaris can pretty much gurantee they will find you a Moose!
How far is it to Bar Harbor?
Bar Harbor is about 224 miles from the southern Maine border, so it’s a 3 ½ hour drive to Down East and Mount Desert Island from Kittery – the first town you enter in Maine on I95 from Portsmouth New Hampshire.
Do you have to take a ferry to Bar Harbor?
You can drive to Bar Harbor. Although it is located on Mount Desert Island, the Island and Acadia National Park, and the largest town of Bar Harbor, are reached via bridge, from the mainland town of Trenton on Route 3.
Are Maine locals friendly?
Mainers are a rare breed, mostly friendly, quite funny, with wicked accents, sarcasm, and a Yankee mentality. See our Maine slang for a briefing on how to talk native. Don’t have huge expectations of making Maine buddies though… these things take time, ayuh.