Summer in Maine is a magical time. Just ask the 9.1 million people who visited the Pine Tree State in the summer of 2022, which comprised 60% of all visits in 2022. The weather is perfect, and all of the attractions, museums, and businesses are open.
Places like Dock Square in Kennebunkport are packed with people, and the southern Maine beaches are brimming with sun-seekers. More than half of the 4 million people who visited Acadia National Park did so between June and August 2022.
Those are the stats, but let’s look at the facts. There’s so much more to Maine summers than crowded coastlines and long lobster lines. We want you to have all the options that await in the different regions, so let’s explore the best places to visit this summer in Maine that might not be on your radar.
The Bold Coast
Stretching from Western Head in Cutler to the Canadian border city of Lubec, the Bold Coast National Scenic Byway spans nearly 150 miles of small-town, big-shore territory. It’s also just a two-hour drive from Bangor International Airport.
The Bold Coast is home to the largest whirlpool in the western hemisphere. Its name is Old Sow, and don’t let anyone tell you that you can only see it from the Canadian side. You can see it from Eastport when it’s churning, especially if you can get a boat to Dog Island.
To get the best view, cross your fingers and book a trip with a boating company, like Eastport Windjammers, where you can mix whale-watching with the search for the Old Sow.
NOTE: The name “Old Sow” comes from the pig-like noise it makes when the water funnel is at its fiercest.
This 541-acre state park includes the West Quoddy Head Lighthouse, which is the easternmost of its kind in Maine. A 4-mile coastal trail takes you from rocky ledges to salt marshes to a sandy beach.
Dramatic, if not intimidating, cliffs and cragged shoreline await at this 12,000+ acres of Maine beauty. Whale activity peaks in the summer, and you won’t have to worry about crowds on the beach.
A handful of campsites are what you dream about but rarely get in the more crowded camping areas, like beautiful Sebago Lake.
“Few hikers can tell the tale of Black Point Brook Loop. This isn’t because of the trail’s precipitous cliffs paired with tree-toppling winds… encounters with America’s largest rodent, which wanders in these woods… or visitors taken by the spectacular scenery and wandered into the surrounding wilderness, never to be found. Instead, many hikers are simply unaware of Black Point Brook Loop, making it perhaps Maine’s greatest secret.”Natural Heritage Hikes guide
The Black Point Brooke Loop takes you along nearly 3.5 miles of coastline, with Ocean Outlook as another trail option. Summer also brings the harvest season for Maine’s wild blueberries, which grow in all their splendor here.
This northern part of the state saw just 6% of all summer Maine visitors in 2022. Even a drive on the Million Dollar View Scenic Byway is worth the trip to The County, as Mainers call it. The region is also referred to as “The Crown of Maine” for the way it sits atop the rest of this glorious Vacationland.
On the border with Canada, just east of Caribou and Presque Isle, the small town of Fort Fairfield hosts one of Maine’s biggest summer events — the Maine Potato Blossom Festival.
While you’re looking for lobster rolls and fried clams, you might not know that potatoes are Maine’s biggest agricultural commodity.
HISTORY LESSON: In 1937, Maine and Idaho had a “Half-Baked Potato War,” in an effort to see which state had the best potatoes.
The skies of Presque Isle bloom with color for the Crown of Maine Balloon Festival each summer. This pays homage to the 1978 transatlantic crossing of the Double Eagle II that departed from Maine.
Aroostook State Park is on Echo Lake, with hiking trails for all skill levels and paddle rentals available for those who want to get on the water. And while you’re in the area, check out the Maine Solar System, which runs from Presque Isle to Houlton.
You’ll find a bilingual community with small-town charm in Frenchville, and you’ll be able to boat or paddle on the international boundary of the St. John River. Nearby, St. Agatha sits on Long Lake, the deepest of the Fish River Chain of Lakes.
Just three hours from Portland is a place where two of Maine’s staple attractions thrive — moose and dark skies.
Moose reportedly outnumber people here three to one. The majestic animals are actually skilled swimmers and likely to swim faster than you! They can also dive, holding their breath for a minute or more. Don’t believe me? I don’t blame you. Here’s proof:
The dark skies near Moosehead Lake are part of New England’s first International Dark Sky Park. Not even Acadia National Park can offer that.
In between the moose and mystical night sky, you have hiking, fishing, beaches, and boating to explore. Seaplane tours are also available with Jack’s Air Service in Greenville at the south end of the lake.
The small town of Machias makes a big noise in the summer, not just because of the falls at Bad Little Falls Park.
The Machias Wild Blueberry Festival is a summer tradition, and even if you miss the events, you can still visit one of many farms where you can rake your own wild blueberries. It’s a whole different variety than the larger ones you have at home.
In addition to all the summer festivities at the L.L. Bean Flagship Campus and Discovery Park, there are also Outdoor Discovery Programs with activities for all skill levels and time limits available on the shores nearby.
Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park is another hidden treasure with dramatic coastlines and woods to explore nearly 250 acres with educational kiosks along the way. The favorite visitors are the Ospreys that nest here before migrating to South America in the fall.
Old Orchard Beach, or OOB, is Maine’s answer to Jersey Shore, with more history than fist bumps. This 7-mile stretch of beach is packed with people on what was once an emergency landing strip for Charles Lindbergh.
The seaside amusement park of Palace Playland and the iconic OOB pier have been staples for summer guests for more than a century.
Islands of Maine
Maine has thousands of islands off its coastline. The most popular is Mount Desert Island — the home of Acadia National Park. But, there are so many other fantastic islands to explore.
Get familiar with the ferry schedule to see how easy it is to get to the most popular islands. The Maine State Ferry Service offers the largest number of trips in the summer to several of the state’s islands.
TIP: The Maine ferries are dog-friendly and some offer car transportation. You can also bring bicycles, supplies, and gear with you.
Frenchboro is a town that is accessible by ferry or private boat. The town actually covers a dozen islands, with Long Island being the largest.
The Frenchboro Preserve is part of the Maine Coast Heritage Trust. It covers the majority of Long Island and offers beaches, rocky shores, and wooded hikes where, even at the height of summer tourist season, you might not pass another person on the trails.
This series of islands spans the length of the coastline from Camden to Belfast and is just 3 miles from the shore. Guests arrive at the town dock with the Grindle Point Light Station greeting them. The Islesboro Islands Trust manages more than 1,000 acres of preserved land here.
Also, Islesboro has several uncrowded beaches tucked away from town, and an easy trail around Turtle Head is comparable to the Great Head Trail at Acadia, yet you’ll likely be the only person there. Plus, Warren Island State Park was specifically designed for boaters and includes 70 acres to explore.
This island is as far away from the mainland as you can get in a populated community. It’s 22 miles from Rockland. Time the trip perfectly to match the limited ferry trips, but the summer offers the most trips.
Matinicus Rock has a famous Puffin colony, and Matinicus Excursions offers boat tours to see the birds and the lighthouse on the rock. You’ll have few resources here but will enjoy wide stretches of sandy beaches lined with pine trees and dramatic rock cliffs.
This island community is 12 miles from Rockland and boasts natural landscapes with seclusion from summer crowds. Mullen Head Park is 250 acres with woods, fields, and three beaches.
This year-round community is the largest of its kind, leaving plenty of amenities and options to put on your itinerary. It’s almost a “mini-Maine” with beaches, mountains, a lighthouse, lobstermen, and shops to explore. Must-see locations include Tip Toe Mountain Preserve and Brown’s Head Light Station.
NOTE: North Haven and Vinalhaven are known as the Fox Islands.
Swan’s Island is a great getaway from Acadia National Park if you want more breathing room. The island is just 6 miles from Bass Harbor.
TRAVEL TIP: To visit the best beach on the island (and possibly much of Maine), work your way to Fine Sand Beach on the western side of the island.
Summer Shines in Maine
Maine quickly earned a reputation as a four-season state, but summers will always be the apex of adventure. You can’t go wrong with any location in Maine for a summer vacation.
We only encourage you to explore as much as you can, and we’ll be here to help you plan a return trip that is sure to follow.