It was a “wicked” challenge (that’s Maine slang for ya) to choose the best small towns in Maine. There are just too many charming places to explore in the Pine Tree State — and we’re talking across the whole state, not just the coast.
So if you’re planning to visit Maine this year, or if you’re a Mainer who wants to discover something new, check out some of the best small towns that you MUST explore (in alphabetical order).
The town of Abbot Maine is ideal for anyone looking to enjoy outdoor recreation. Locals and visitors love fishing at Piper Pond. Despite the name, it’s more of a lake than a pond with a large body of water for boating, kayaking, and casting a line.
During the fall, leaf peepers will enjoy the beautiful foliage along Piper Pond and throughout the woodsy areas of Abbot. There are numerous ATV and hiking trails to explore while you bask in the natural, untouched beauty of the town.
The town of Allagash is one of the largest in Maine by land area but the smallest by population. Mainers call it “Moosetown” because of the number of moose that you can find throughout the town. With lots of woodsy areas, moose thrive in Allagash.
The town is also a stop on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, which encompasses 92 miles of bodies of water from lakes to ponds to streams that snake throughout Aroostook County. Several guide services are available to help visitors navigate the expansive Allagash Wilderness Waterway.
Bar Harbor makes every list of the best places to visit in Maine for a very good reason. It’s situated on Mount Desert Island where the mountains meet the sea in a glorious coastal scene.
Bar Harbor has it all — great dining, authentic art galleries and boutiques, and amazing coastal diversions. Cafe This Way is a great eatery to check out. Also, you’re right next to Acadia National Park, one of the nation’s top national landmarks that you must visit when staying in Bar Harbor.
Balance Rock is a top in-town hotel with excellent resort amenities, but you can view more lodging in Bar Harbor to find accommodations that suit your needs.
Bethel is surrounded by the natural beauty of Maine’s Lakes and Mountains. The town has great spirit, it’s the site of festivals all year, and it built the world’s tallest snowman — that’s a hint of their enthusiasm.
At neighboring Sunday River, skiers and snowboarders have New England’s 2nd-largest ski resort and a great ski town for a vacation stay. Also, nearby Grafton Notch State Park is an area for outdoor entertainment year-round — from ice climbing in winter to rock climbing and hiking in summer and fall. Bethel has its share of historic inns and bed and breakfasts too.
With its rich history and nearby attractions, Boothbay Harbor easily makes our list of the best places to visit in Maine.
During the summertime, this small town is bustling with visitors exploring lighthouses, islands, and quiet coves along the coast, marveling at floral designs at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens and savoring the delicacies of fresh seafood from the Maine coast.
For quiet escapes, stay at the Ocean Point Inn or Linekin Bay Resort — both are right on the water’s edge just a short drive from town. Of course, there are several more lodging options in Boothbay Harbor to consider.
If you love to ski, you have to check out Bridgeton Maine. It’s home to the Pleasant Mountain Ski Area, also called Shawnee Peak, which has 44 well-maintained trails, six ski lifts, and 19 trails available for nighttime skiing.
Looking for some historical spots to check out? The Rufus Porter Museum of Art and Ingenuity is open seasonally and by appointment for visitors to view Rufus Porter’s artwork, inventions, and writings.
Aside from big winter events at The Camden Snowbowl — like the U.S. Toboggan Championships — this working harbor town in Mid Coast Maine is one of the few coastal towns that deliver year-round fun.
Mt. Battie offers breathtaking views from the summit of Camden nested against the Atlantic Ocean. The Camden Snow Bowl attracts winter skiers and riders with the only ski mountain in New England that presents ocean views. And in summer, you can hike for the ocean views.
If you want some lobster chowder that’s out of this world (but caught in Maine), check into the Atlantica with beautiful views and good vibes. Stay at the Blue Harbor House Inn for a romantic atmosphere or Whitehall Inn. Or, view more lodges in Camden.
Fryeburg shares the natural beauty of Maine that other small towns have. With amazing foliage in the autumn, skiing in the winter, and hiking in the summer, the White Mountain National Forest in Fryeburg is the ultimate scenic Maine destination. White Mountain is home to deer, moose, and other native Maine wildlife, which visitors delight in catching a glimpse of.
What makes Fryeburg stand apart from other small towns is the historic Fryeburg Fair, held every October for a weeklong agricultural celebration. Mainers from far and wide flock to the town for carnival-type rides, livestock shows and contests, agricultural exhibits, raffles, flea markets, and more.
The Fryeburg Fair boasts over 3,000 animals — from cattle to chickens to horses, rabbits, sheep, llamas, and swine. This is the place to be if you’re in the area in October!
Kennebunkport is among the most well-known tourist destinations in Maine, partially thanks to the prestige of two former presidents — George H. W. Bush & George W. Bush.
However, the port town largely owes its favor to wide beaches and coastal entertainment from boat tours, kayaking, waterfront bars and restaurants, and shopping at Dock Square. Vivid memories can satisfy a lifetime simply by driving along the coast on Ocean Ave.
For seaside views, stay at the Nonantum Resort, a classic century-old riverside resort where you take a boat excursion from the marina. Or, stay on Kennebunk Beach at The Seaside Inn. You can consider other lodges in Kennebunkport too.
Kezar Lake is a big attraction for residents and tourists in Lovell. At the marina, visitors can rent a boat by the hour, day, or even week. Add on a water ski rental for a fun full day on the lake. Additionally, the marina has a small restaurant, a store with fishing supplies, snacks, and more.
Once you’ve had enough time on the water, check out the Lake Kezar Country Club for a game of golf on a gorgeous 18-hole course. Lovell is a great location for outdoor recreation, and you can find numerous lodging options to make the most of your visit.
The most popular spot in the small town of Millinocket Maine is definitely Mount Katahdin. Located on the Appalachian Trail, it’s the tallest peak in the state. Getting to the summit of Mount Katahdin is challenging but offers sweeping, breathtaking views of Maine’s wilderness.
If you aren’t interested in hiking the whole Appalachian Trail, you can still see what the hype is all about. There are trails and paths that you can follow to get a taste of the trail.
Monson is a town undergoing a transformation. It was once a sleepy town with dilapidated buildings, but now, the small town has art galleries, delicious food options, a brewery, guided tours, antique shops, general stores, and friendly faces greeting locals and tourists.
As a gateway to the Appalachian Trail in the Kennebec and Moose River Valley, Monson sees many travelers passing through. The Monson Appalachian Trail Visitor Center helps hikers plan their Appalachian Trail trips and navigate the Maine wilderness. It also has maps, guidebooks, artifacts, and passport stamps.
Mount Chase has a population of under 200 residents, but that doesn’t mean it’s short on things to do. With two large lakes, the Upper Shin Pond, and the Lower Shin Pond, there are many spots for fishing, kayaking, canoeing, and other water activities.
Mount Chase is also known for its recreational facilities, like Shin Pond Village. These facilities offer campsites and cottages, indoor recreation like billiards, food options, and ATV and snowmobile rentals. These friendly, family-run recreational facilities have everything you need in one location.
If you’re looking to see waterfalls and maybe even have a swim in a natural swimming hole, the town of Newry is the perfect place to stop. Enjoy a hike at the Step Falls Preserve Hiking Trail, which has several small swimming holes on the preserve and smaller waterfalls.
For larger waterfalls, check out Screw Auger Falls or Frenchman’s Hole. Follow clean, bubbling brooks to where the water flows off the cliffs. These spots are also known for their stunning fall foliage.
When you think of small towns in Maine, you probably don’t think of a bustling downtown. Norway is set to change that image with a downtown filled with family-run, locally owned shops and restaurants that rival five-star city spots. Visitors will also find bakeries, a brewery, a yoga studio, a massage parlor, and more.
Norway’s historical architecture has been maintained, offering many examples of period architecture dating back to the 19th and 20th centuries. Just walking through downtown, you’ll see placards designating each building’s historical significance.
Outdoor recreation opportunities in Norway include golfing, fishing, boating, visiting local farms, ice skating, and cross-country skiing. The town is a family-friendly destination all year.
The small town of Patten is located near the famous Mount Katahdin and Mount Chase. Being so close to both mountains makes for amazing scenic views all over the town.
Rugged roads lead visitors to Katahdin Woods and the Waters National Monument. In the warm weather, you’ll find hikers and visitors observing the wildlife. In the wintertime, cross-country skiers and snowshoers love the Katahdin Woods trails.
The Lumberman’s Museum is also in Patten and provides a glimpse into what life was like during the peak logging years in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Exhibits display logging tools, photographs, and memorabilia that detail the lives of those who worked and lived at logging camps in the area.
Rangeley advertises itself as “a four-season jewel in the mountains” because there’s something to do no matter when you visit. In the winter, visitors love the well-groomed snowmobile trails. In the spring and summer, the snowmobile trails make for great hiking trails with opportunities to see Maine wildlife.
Bring along binoculars for bird-watching, summit views, and stargazing at night.
In addition, Rangeley is home to museums such as the Maine Forestry Museum, the Outdoor Heritage Museum, the Rangeley History Museum, and the Wilhelm Reich Museum. History buffs will love exploring the various museums and learning all about the Rangeley region.
If you want to experience as much as possible during your visit, check out the Rangeley lodging options.
The town of Van Buren has plenty of nature to explore and rivals other small Maine towns with gorgeous hiking trails and outdoor recreation. The town’s rich history and the Acadian Village make it stand out.
The National Park Service runs the Acadian Village in Van Buren, which features 17 buildings that portray the original Acadian settlements from the mid-18th century. Visitors can go from building to building exploring and learning.
The buildings include a blacksmith shop, a schoolhouse, a country store, an Acadian barn, a chapel, and a few homesteads. Learn about the original Acadian settlers’ skills as well — shipbuilding, fishing, and lumbering.
Discover More Small Towns in Maine to Visit
As we said at the top, this is such a small sample of the best places to visit in Maine — there are inland towns, mountain towns, coastal towns, and many more that make great Maine vacation destinations.
Which Maine town is your favorite?