Touring the Maine Coast is an extraordinary journey. With more coastline than California (3,478 miles), it takes time to view the entire Maine Coast. The State of Maine is larger than the other 5 New England states combined, 17 million acres, with 6,000 lakes and ponds.
With all that vastness and many shore routes, we recommend touring the spectacularly scenic Maine Coast in sections, spending several nights in each town. Get off the beaten path and explore the peninsulas of this remarkable coast. On a lodging budget? Choose camping in the many campgrounds along the coast.
Travel Tip: Our Maine driving advice, use I-95 (the Maine Turnpike) to travel South to North, versus traveling on Route One, to get to your destination. While sections of Route 1 appear coastal, the Interstate is much quicker.
The truth is Route One is several miles closer to the coast than the Maine Turnpike but not close enough to see the coast to offer significant ocean views. With all Route One’s small Maine towns with slower speed limits, and traffic lights, your drive time will double.
The first 30 miles of coast are known as the “Southern Maine Coast Region” comprised of the towns of Kittery, The Yorks, Ogunquit, Wells, Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, Biddeford, Saco, and Old Orchard Beach.
These eight towns offer more to see and do than one could possibly hope to accomplish in a busy week of sightseeing and touring. The first 30 miles of Maine’s coast comprises 90% of the State’s sandy beaches!
Kittery l Most people cross over the mighty Piscatiqua River (on I-95) into Maine from New Hampshire. Immediately the coast beckons. Many visitors are first drawn to Kittery’s factory outlet shopping, with over 120 famous brand factory and retail stores and the popular Kittery Trading Post. Shoppers are sure to find what they are looking for at prices 20-70% off retail. Kittery is also home to beautiful seaside parks, Fort McClary and Fort Foster, and the waterfront of Peperrell Cove.
York | The historic and picturesque town of York summons you to venture out along scenic Rt 1A. The Old York Historical Society provides a wonderful living history museum here, including the oldest jail in America, “where history comes alive” for all ages in a school house and tavern. No visit to York is complete without a trip out to York Harbor and to Nubble Light, perhaps the most beautiful lighthouse in America, plus Short and Long Sand Beaches.
Ogunquit | As you continue our journey up the coast you discover the Village of Ogunquit – which means “Beautiful Place by the Sea” in the language of the Algonquin Indians. A visit to the lively Perkin’s Cove is definitely in order. This miniature working lobster and fishing village is chock full of wonderful little shops, restaurants and art galleriers. There is a walking drawbridge, a beautiful walkway along the ocean (known as The Marginal Way) and numerous boating excursions that sail from Ogunquit harbor’s docks. Ogunquit is also home to a 3-mile stretch of near perfect beach sand. Another attraction not to be missed is the Ogunquit Playhouse, one of the last remaining summer stock theaters, which attracts big name stars each season.
Wells | Wells is home to the most antique stores in Maine and also to the Wells National Estuarine Reserve at Laudholm Farm. This captivating saltwater farm preserves 1,600 acres of field, forest and beach, with seven miles of nature trails ideal for cross-country skiing in winter or scenic walks year round. Wells also offers beautiful beaches, lots of lodging, and some great seafood restaurants along Route 1.
Kennebunk/Kennebunkport | Our journey next brings you to the famous villages of Kennebunk and Kennebunkport. Kennebunkport is best known for its’ popular summer residents… the President Bush family compound at Walkers’ Point. Both Kennebunk and Kennebunkport offer a wealth of history, art galleries, hospitality and five long and beautiful sandy beaches. Some of the popular arts and heritage attractions include the Brick Store Museum, White Columns, Vinegar Hill Music Theater and Parsons Way walking path on Ocean Ave past Walkers Point and the “summer white house of the Bush family.” The Seashore Trolley Museum hosts the largest collection of trolleys and mass transit vehicles in the country, great for motorheads of all ages. Kennebunkport is also home to some top Maine restaurants and beautiful seaside hotels.
Saco | If you’re in the mood for an amusement park, Saco has fun for you. Funtown/Splashtown is the largest amusement and water park in Maine. The Saco River and the revitalized Mills in Saco and Biddeford tell their own history, these brick buildings are now brimming with breweries, boutiques and small businesses.
Old Orchard Beach is a perfect stretch of long-wide sand, hence their well-deserved name “Maine’s Premier Family Beach Resort”. This 7-mile stretch of beach is home to Palace Playland, a seaside amusement park, cotton candy and fried dough and “The Pier” jutting nearly 500 feet straight out into the Atlantic. For those looking for some “action” they will want to play frisbee or sunbathe near the Pier. If it is quiet you prefer, no problem, just move a mile north or south of the Pier. Old Orchard Beach is fun, family-oreinted, and plenty big and diversified enough to accommodate everybody.
Portland| Just 12 miles north of Old Orchard Beach is the cosmopolitan city of Portland Maine and its historic Old Port district brimming with galleries, boutiques and Maine’s best restaurants. On the way to Portland, discover the unique Cape Elizabeth Light. Originally twin lighthouses, the second has been inactive since 1924. The active light, subject of two Edward Hopper paintings, is the most powerful on the New England coast.
Keep your camera ready for the oldest, and possibly the most famous of all Maine lighthouses, Portland Headlight. America’s first lighthouse, built in 1787, it was commissioned by America’s first President, George Washington, to guard the state of Maine’s busiest harbor.
Freeport | Continuing up the fabled Maine Coast you will come upon the wonderful village of Freeport – Home of L.L. Bean and 120 upscale factory outlets. Non-shoppers can explore the delights of the nearby Harraseeket River by caone or kayak, and Wolf’s Neck Park and Farm, and the Desert of Maine.
Mid-Coast | Heading north again, you’ll follow a rugged coastline so dotted with lighthouses and picture-perfect seaside villages that it’s impossible to describe them all here! Boothbay Harbor, Camden, Rockport and Rocklandare just a few of the many delightful Mid-Coast Maine towns. Enjoy schooner rides, whale watches, lobster boat toursfrom any of these spectacular harbors out to beautiful lighthouses like Seguin Island and The Cuckholds, and Penobscot Bay – a true boaters haven.
Downeast | Traveling up the Maine coast (Down East, as the natives say) you will cross a narrow causeway onto Mount Desert Island, home of Bar Harbor.
The Island, discovered by Samuel de Champlain in 1604, hosts Acadia National Park, the most visited national park in the U.S. You will want to take a scenic drive through the Park, bike the carriage roads and trails, and drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain, which rewards you with spectacular land and ocean views. Or enjoy one of the numerous seasonal hiking trails, established by the Rockefellers in the 1920s. Acadia Park was dedicated in 1916.
A few miles before the park is the busy town of Bar Harbor, once the playground for America’s rich and famous and today, home to a wide variety of fascinating shops and restaurants. The seaside inns and grand home near Bar Harbor are spectacular, catering to celebrities like Martha Stewart.
Enjoy the beautiful state of Maine, a state of seaside treasures for you to discover.