Outdoor markets, warmly lit downtowns, cozy restaurants, cheerful locals... there is something special about American…
If you’re planning a trip to this region, you’re in luck. With so much natural beauty and local passion, there is no shortage of incredible things to do in Coastal Maine. Stretching over 3,400 miles, Coastal Maine has been a summer vacation favorite for generations of travelers. I would know – I’m one of them!
This is a place where postcards don’t lie, you’re never far from a lighthouse, and where the air is always perfectly salted. I promise once you visit once, you’ll want to come again and again.
8 Unique Things to Do in Coastal Maine
1. Explore the Wild Beauty of Acadia National Park
You can’t visit Maine and not spend time in the breathtaking Acadia National Park. Spread over 47,000 acres, much of it on Mount Desert Island, this park is worth a visit at all times of year but is particularly beautiful and accessible during the summer months.
One of the things I loved while I visited Cadillac Mountain is seeing a wide range of people making their way up. Not only is Cadillac the tallest point in Acadia, but it’s also the tallest mountain on the East Coast. From here, you can see out over the Schoodic Peninsula and the funnily named Porcupine Islands, the first place to see the sunrise in the United States. The view from Cadillac will truly take your breath away, and I love how people of all ages and abilities can enjoy it. Not only are there hiking trails for this viewpoint, but there’s also a nearby parking lot.
Another must-visit is Jordan Pond. If Cadillac Mountain allows you to take in the vastness of Acadia, this pristine lake allows you to feel nestled by that same vastness. After you’ve explored the area, stop into Jordan Pond House and see what their tradition of popovers and tea is all about.
2. Visit One or a Few of the Lighthouses
When it comes to classic New England adventures, there’s nothing like taking in the romance of a historic lighthouse, and Maine has a whopping 65 of them.
The most famous of them has to be the Marshall Point Lighthouse, situated at the rocky tip of St. George Peninsula near Port Clyde. Originally built in 1832, this “new” tower was constructed in 1858 and was named for the former owner of the land, Samuel Marshall. Today you can visit the restored Keeper’s House, which acts as a museum. Don’t forget to snap a photo along the long walkway to the tower and pretend you’re in a certain Oscar-winning Tom Hanks movie.
Another incredible lighthouse is the Bass Harbor Head Light, located at the most southwestern point on Mount Desert Island and part of Acadia National Park. When seen from the water, it has to be the most quintessential New England lighthouse painting come to life. While you can drive and fight for space in the parking lot, there’s a much more scenic way…
3. Take a Ride with Bass Harbor Island Cruises
To see the best view of Bass Harbor Head Light, take a tour with Bass Harbor Island Cruises, a family-owned business founded by Kim Strauss and now run by his son, Eli. The company was created due to the family’s love and respect for Coastal Maine’s rugged beauty and Bass Harbor’s incredible history.
Eli got his first boat at 16 and spent his days exploring the quiet islands all along the shoreline. He wants to help give people this same feeling he’s grown up with and today offers a nature cruise, private/custom cruises, and sailboat charters. On my visit, we explored Great Gotts Island, Green Islands (Eli’s personal favorite), Frenchboro, and returned to Blue Hill Bay just in time to see Bass Harbor lighthouse at sunset.
4. Enjoy All the Lobster You Can Eat
If there’s one thing that’s practically synonymous with Coastal Maine, it’s got to be lobster. There’s nothing quite like sitting down with a giant group of family and friends to a giant lobster meal – complete with bibs and bowls of melted butter. Located in Kittery, Chauncey Creek has been in Ron Spinney’s family since the 1930s. They have a rule that you can bring anything not on the menu, including, unfortunately, my sister’s ambrosia salad!
Get your 20+ nearest and dearest to gather around on Chauncey Creek’s picnic tables and order their mouthwatering lobster bake for the most perfect summer evening.
5. Pay a visit to Ernie Abdelnour’s Steampunk Sculpture
What is steampunk exactly? According to Ernie Abdelnour, it’s recreating something and metamorphosing it into something else, thus giving it a second life. He’s not too sure, though, since he didn’t even know what steampunk was until a few years ago! A visitor came in and used the adjectives to describe his fun creations. He likes it better than antique, though!
Working alone, Abdelnour works with all sorts of materials to create whimsical, futuristic products that will delight any visitor. His workshop is a delightfully chaotic world only he can navigate and where visitors can find all sorts of discoveries. He’ll often include motorcycles, trains, and frogs in his work. Yes, frogs!
6. Grab a Bite at Some of Coastal Maine’s Most Iconic Spots
If I can offer you two very specific pieces of advice, it will be to make time for Flo’s Hot Dogs and The Bread Box Bakery. Both of these spots are no-fuss, no-frill spots that have made a name for themselves amongst locals and out-of-towners alike for decades.
Flo’s Hot Dogs holds an especially special place in my heart as I’ve been going here for over forty years. In fact, my love affair with Maine began when I was 12 years old, and my family made a stop at this little shed of a place after hearing rave reviews over these hot dogs. I love Flo’s so much that I wound up having their pigs in a blanket at my wedding decades later!
Located in Cape Neddick, Flo’s has been in business for 60+ years. It’s very popular, and its hours are limited, so don’t be surprised at the line out the door. However, I can guarantee it’s worth the wait. Most customers come for Flo’s Special. This unusual concoction includes a steamed hotdog, mayo, Flo’s secret relish, and a sprinkle of celery sauce. I promise even the most skeptical hot dog lover will love it.
On the sweeter side is the hidden away Bread Box Bakery. Becky Alley started this shop around three decades ago when she decided to turn her love of baking into a business. She simply gutted her living room and got some pizza ovens to start, building the bakery out as she saw more and more customers. If there’s one thing people come for, it’s her blueberry pie, a recipe handed down from her grandmother. Maine, after all, produces 99% of all blueberries in this country, and Alley’s recipe calls for as little flour and sugar as possible to allow the acidly sweet fruit flavor to really shine.
7. Stop into the Maine Maritime Museum
For a really unique experience, stop at the Maine Maritime Museum. Located in the town of Bath the museum is situated on the Kennebec River. It actually encompasses the only intact shipyard in the entire country. Outside you can see a sculpture of the largest wooden vessel built in the entire world, called The Wyoming, and on the river, you can climb aboard the last schooner remaining. Over 250 volunteer staff work at the museum to bring Maine’s maritime culture to life with exhibits as well as interactive activities for all.
8. Wander through Maine’s Many Coastal Towns and Fishing Villages
One of the best things to do in Coastal Maine is to take a drive along Rt 1 and pop into the many idyllic coastal towns and fishing villages. I personally love Kennebunkport, and I’m certainly not alone, as several famous presidents and actors have also stayed here. Enjoy Cape Porpoise, go treasure hunting at Goose Rocks Beach, and relax at one of the waterfront cottages of Cabot Cove.
Another must is Bar Harbor, considered one of the pearls of Coastal Maine. Not only is it on Mount Desert Island and near Acadia, it’s also a charming stop all its own. Don’t miss stopping for dinner at the Reading Room in Bar Harbor Inn, which has been around since 1887.
There are so many incredible things to do in Coastal Maine that you’ll never be bored. This region has such a special place in my heart. Everything from the no-nonsense locals with a passion for their home to the magnificent outdoors accessible to all and the thick fog that somehow adds to the beauty of the landscape, you’ve got to make the journey to this beautiful place!