The best winter towns in Maine embrace the season and explore all of its possibilities. Instead of staying tucked inside for a season, Mainers head outdoors and make the most of what is often called “God’s Country.”
Even author Paul Theroux famously said, “Maine is a joy in the summer, but the soul of Maine is more apparent in the winter.” It’s a state where complaining about the cold gets you nowhere, but embracing the weather gets you everywhere (especially by snowmobile).
Where do you go when you really want a slice of Maine’s winter? Here are the top winter towns of Vacationland.
Why Winter? Small crowds and Acadia National Park
While renowned for its summer allure, Bar Harbor transforms into a serene winter escape, offering breathtaking views of Acadia National Park blanketed in snow and a quieter, more intimate coastal experience. You’ll never forget your winter wonderland cross-country moments on the carriage trails.
All the charming shops and eateries in Bar Harbor are open in the winter. Museums don’t close either, aside from maybe a few January weeks. Explore everything from the history of Indigenous People to the artists of Acadia to stately mansions.
Why Winter? A landscape you’d expect in a snow globe and a ski destination
Nestled amid the White Mountains of Western Maine, Bethel invites winter enthusiasts to explore its scenic beauty, indulge in outdoor adventures at Sunday River Ski Resort, and bask in the warmth of its historic downtown.
The rugged landscape of nearby Grafton Notch State Park also offers some of the most impressive ice climbing in the state. That includes the 800-foot-tall Eyebrow Cliff. But, don’t tell too many people about that. We don’t want those New Hampshire people to figure it out.
Why Winter? A snowy coastline and mountain in one destination
This coastal gem embraces winter with open arms, offering a charming harbor adorned with frosty sailboats and a backdrop of snow-dusted mountains. Winter in Camden is a tranquil retreat for those seeking coastal serenity and outdoor exploration.
Skiers can save the long drive inland and take the slopes at the Camden Snow Bowl and Camden Hills State Park. Be sure to see the summit at Mount Battie. Intrigued by the aforementioned ice climbing? Beginner lessons are offered here too.
And did we mention yet that you can stay in a castle here? The Norumbega is open year-round!
Why Winter? Snowiest place in Maine
It might be “Hard tellin’ not knowin’” how much snow is coming in a given year, but Caribou has had an average 131 inches a year since 2012. It’s the snowiest and northernmost city (not town) in Maine.
The nearby Aroostook National Wildlife Refuge opens its trails for skiing and snowshoeing, while moose might make their way through the snow nearby. Early March brings the Snowbowl celebration of winter as well.
The local watering hole is The Rendezvous Restaurant, complete with a round fireplace to warm up after an epic day outside.
Why Winter? The state’s largest ski resort is here
Tucked between Mount Bigelow and Sugarloaf Mountain, you should really love the outdoor aspect of winter to visit here. Ski Sugarloaf’s famed slopes include cat skiing on Burnt Mountain.
You can also walk the famed Appalachian Trail (just call it the A.T.), and 20 miles of trails weave through Bigelow Preserve across 36,000 acres, including the shore of Flagstaff Lake.
Due to the popular ski resort, you can easily find that cozy cabin deep in the woods and either ski in or sleep in.
Why Winter? Three words — dog sled races
Fort Kent is widely known for the Can-Am Crown International Dog Sled Races. While the event spans 250 miles, Fort Kent is the heart of the race, and you’d be amazed how many people come to cheer on their favorite musher.
Who said you need mountains to have a ski destination (other than the laws of gravity)? Lonesome Pine Trail is as fancy as a ski destination you will get ‘round here, and it’s a real labor of love for the volunteers who run it.
Additionally, Fort Kent is a snowmobile destination along the Interconnected Trail System (ITS) that goes all the way to the coastal regions and Downeast.
Why Winter? L.L. Bean makes sure you’re prepared for the great outdoors
As the saying goes, “Mainers don’t believe in bad weather—just bad clothes.” Freeport’s L.L. Bean Flagship store can help you dress for the seasonal occasion with every outdoor accessory imaginable.
Then head to the L.L. Bean Outdoor Center to book a winter adventure with an expert guide. Glide through the snow along the water at Wolfe’s Neck State Park in Freeport too.
On top of that, you have an entire outlet mall across the way. Eat your way through the coastal cuisine alone, or attend the Flavors of Freeport celebration in February.
Why Winter? Moosehead Lake is walkable
Greenville’s perfect position on Moosehead Lake suits all winter interests because it’s close enough to paved roads to enjoy the shopping and scenic views but far enough away to wander the wilderness by ski or snowshoe.
In fact, Moose Mountain (or Squaw Mountain, depending on who you ask) is making a comeback as a ski destination through the generosity of local businesses.
The lake is a community of its own with ice fishing tents, and we recommend finding a spot in the shadow of Mount Kineo. In some parts of this region (The Maine Highlands), you’re three times more likely to see a moose than a person.
Why Winter? Town is OPEN during the off-season
Maybe once upon a time, Kennebunkport might have been a ghost town in winter, but not now. Coming fresh off the Christmas Prelude in December, the Kennebunk Wild Blueberry drops on New Year’s Eve to usher in winter fun.
You still get the same charm at Dock Square with dining to fit various budgets. Come February, “Paint the Town Red” fires up the romance with events for couples and lodging specials. (Ladies, start dropping hints to your hubby now!)
Why Winter? Go for the night skies alone, but that’s just the beginning of winter fun
Millinocket is the Gateway to Katahdin, the tallest mountain in the state. The Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument and the nearby AMC Maine Woods are acclaimed International Dark Sky Parks. During the day, enjoy views of Mount Katahdin in Baxter State Park.
This region has some of the most remote snowmobile trails in the state. Snowshoe through Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness Area among some of the oldest trees in the state, untouched by the logging industry forever.
Why Winter? Finding a reservation, room, and traffic route in winter is so much easier
Portland’s pricepoint increased with its popularity, which can out-price many budget travelers or last-minute planners from summer seaside fun.
As the state’s largest city, though, the restaurants, shops, and museums are open year-round. You can get great room discounts in Portland during the winter while still eating all the fresh seafood you can stomach.
The Casco Bay ferry runs to the nearby islands through the winter, while the entertainment venues heat up in the winter too.
Why Winter? Even a top New England publication ranked it as one of the “Best Cozy New England Winter Towns.”
Rangeley is to Maine what Aspen is to Colorado but much more down-to-earth. Nearby, the Rangeley and Mooselookmeguntic Lakes offer shoreline views of stunning mountains, and Rangeley Lake State Park’s winding winter trails are rivaled only by Narnia.
On top of that (literally), is the Height of Land, a famed overlook on the Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway. This is also epic ice fishing territory — the trout are as famous as the locals who invited fishing lures. Winter is a buckin’ black during the annual Snodeo in January.
And, you can’t visit Rangeley without having a taste of the award-winning chili from The Red Onion.
Why Winter? It’s called Winter Harbor… duh
On the opposite side of the Frenchman Bay is a smaller (and much more “Mainer” vibe) town leading to Acadia’s quieter side. In fact, this is the only part of Acadia that doesn’t have scheduled closures on the winter roads.
The town name Winter Harbor comes from the fact that the bay doesn’t freeze in winter. That means you can still watch lobstermen work and take a ferry over to Bar Harbor. Two must-see locations are Grindstone Point and Schoodic Point if you love the winter majesty of the ocean.
Why Winter In Maine? Why Not!?
Maine truly brings out another side of its rugged personality in the winter. Whether you want to curl up by a fire with fat flakes falling outside, explore the backside of mountain wilderness, or ride in a one-horse open sleigh, it’s all waiting in Maine this winter.
For first-timers, winter adventures are best experienced with a tour guide. When snow is measured by the foot instead of inches, it’s the safest way to enjoy winter. Need help packing? L.L. Bean has awesome online guides for packing and preparing for winter adventures.
Just be sure to leave your boots in the dooryard, will ya?