With picturesque lighthouses, old ports, and endless beaches, as well as all seafood one can stomach, Maine is the marine state of the country. All of this and more can be experienced by visiting one of its best small towns, exuding a homey atmosphere from the hearts of the people who truly love and want to share their sea-bound life with others.
Located on Mount Desert, the picturesque seaside town of Bar Harbor is the ultimate gateway to the Acadia National Park, rewarding tourists with an array of outdoor adventures and mesmerizing views, such as the Cadillac Mountain vistas over to the bay and the Cranberry Islands. The scenic Shore Path that runs along the eastern shore of Mount Desert Island is charming to stroll during the sunrise. The heart of the town offers a lively arts scene, excellent shopping, and renowned restaurants, alongside sightseeing cruises, ghost, and food tours.
Set on the crumbling coast of the Lincoln County, the picturesque seaside town of Boothbay Harbor is right out of the storybooks. Attracting everyone who appreciates any kind of art, Boothbay Harbor has been a gathering point for artists and craftspeople from around the nation. Established in the 17th century, the town has grown from a small British colony to an industrially prosperous center in the late 19th Century, with a lobster-canning factory and fisheries still relevant today. Yachting around the jagged coast, islets, and inlets comprises one of the most popular summer pastimes, with the town's celebration of its marine heritage also taking place in June, known as the Windjammer's Day. Touring the beautiful grounds and exploring the gardens of the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens is a must for anyone in town.
Right from a postcard, Camden is a lovely coastal town perched on the Penobscot Bay, often adorned by the Maine Windjammer Fleet of beautiful sailing ships. The downtown area is full of upscale restaurants, galleries, and boutiques, with frequent cultural events and performances happening during the summer. Aside from the town's own beach, its best-known natural attraction, the Camden Hills State Park features over 30 miles of hiking trails and a lovely freshwater beach at Barrett's Cove on Megunticook Lake, along with family-friendly campground and picnic areas. The trail leading to the Maiden's Cliff opens up in stunning vistas of the Megunticook Lake below. One can also access marvelous views of Penobscot Bay and the surrounding mountains from Mount Battie by car.
Having been around since the 1600s as one of Maine's oldest towns, Castine is set rather remotely on a peninsula in Penobscot Bay. Churches, antique shops, and inns set in between rows of white clapboard houses with American flags flapping in the salty air paints the picture of this quaint seaside village, also home to Maine Maritime Academy. The town also features the magnificent Dyce Headlight and the Fort Madison, with the latter offering sweeping views of Castine Harbor, for plenty of sights to see and history to hear. The sunset views are unforgettable, with the Wadsworth Cove Beach ideally exposed to the West.
The often-overlooked village of Damariscotta has a lot to offer, despite being 20 miles upriver from the open ocean. It comes inclusive with the Maine Coast Book Shop and Cafe for a cozy pastime with views, a gallery for art enthusiasts, and the Lincoln County Community Theater for art fanatics. Set on the eastern edge of the tidal Damariscotta River and the tranquil Lake Pemaquid to the other side, Damariscotta is famous for its fresh seafood, while the town's shipbuilding roots have transformed into a laid-back beach vibe. A notable landmark comprises the nearby Whaleback Shell Midden dumping of oyster shells over 2,000 years old.
Part of the Pine Tree State, Kennebunkport is a high-in-demand destination for its award-winning restaurants, independently-owned shops, and lively bars, with many famous summer residents of the town, such as the Bush family. The Kennebunkport's Dock Square comprises the heart of the town, while Walker's Point is a famed viewing spot of the scenic rocky shoreline. The Christmas Prelude celebration is a favored annual event to experience an old-fashioned holiday spirit, while summertime brings around the Kennebunkport festival full of fine art, music, and top chefs-orchestrated culinary events, in June. The beautiful beaches and the Kennebunk River are perfect for swimming, relaxing, or sailing during the sunset, with whale watching and deep-sea fishing also an option.
A premier summer vacation town in the state, its Algonquin Indians' name means "Beautiful place by the sea," which it is with the 3.5 miles of beautiful sandy shores offering oceanfront stays and lively nightlife. Set on the southern shore of the Maine coast, Ogunquit waters are calm and warm due to the gradual slope. The Marginal Way coastal walking path runs from the center to a sweet fishing village of Perkins Cove, known for great shopping, seafood, and a drawbridge. The town is known for its arts scene, with the Ogunquit Playhouse, many galleries, local craftspeople, live entertainment, and the Ogunquit Museum of American Art, with various exhibits throughout the year.
Old Orchard Beach
Set point-blank on Saco Bay, Old Orchard Beach is a dream-come-true family vacation spot. It features arcades, amusement parks, fireworks, and lively nightlife right on the coast. The seven miles of beaches here are voted "Maine's Best" for accessibility and cleanliness. One will need at least a week to see and do everything the town has to offer, including savoring the fresh seafood, partaking in a nostalgic ride on the Tilt-A-Whirl at Palace Playland Amusement Park, and visiting the Pirate's Cove. The perpetual nostalgia resonates in everything, including the Old Orchard Beach Pier boardwalk on stilts with restaurants and shops.
Set inland near the border with New Hampshire, Rangeley is a true marvel of nature town with pronoun roots. Upon being founded on bedrock, the town was home to hardworking people on the farms and sawmills on the grounds. By the late 19th Century, the town welcomed tourism, comparatively early to many others in the region. Its spectacular lakes for summertime fun, swimming, and fishing attract people like bees to honey, fleeing from the big metropolises of the nation to relax in the tranquil surroundings.
Set seaside almost halfway up Maine's coast, some 80 miles north of Portland, Rockland has a historic downtown area and a great Main Street filled with shops, restaurants, and galleries that feature local artists and artisans. Its port holds a collection of historic sailing ships known as the Maine Windjammer Fleet that offer sightseeing cruises and multi-day sailing trips and take center-stage at the grand parade along the Rockland Breakwater in July. The 19th-century building hosting the Farnsworth Art Museum downtown is home to over 10,000 works of art, including paintings and sculptures. The Maine Lighthouse Museum, with the adjacent Maine Discovery Center, offers a collection of artifacts and exhibits, perfect for a family day of exploration.
Stonington radiates charm with wooden houses lining the glassy waters and the little boats bobbing next to piers. The green surroundings that contrast the jagged rocks, and the true hometown vibe that Stonington retains, attract fleets of tourists from around the nation. Set in the picturesque southern end of the granite Deer Isle, off the coast of Hancock County, the calm bay, the Crockett Cove Woods Preserve, and the islands all the way to Isle au Haut offer relaxation, adventure, and exploration all in one place. The town's spanned-out fishing and lobster industries are one of the proudest and highest-producing, with more than 300 boats.
Wiscasset is a dream destination for seafood lovers, with everyone's first stop being the family-run Red's Eats, serving award-winning lobster rolls that earn consistent praises from known chefs and everyday tourists. The historic town has many notable landmarks, including an ancient mansion, the Federal-style Nickels-Sortwell House, and Castle Tucker. Scenically perched on a hill, the mansion overlooks the Sheepscot River for a one-of-a-kind view and a favorite Instagram shot. Wiscasset also set a world record for having the smallest church in the world.
The premier perched location on the Gulf of Maine of the Atlantic Ocean makes this second-oldest town in the state a popular summer destination. Its beautiful beaches and the photogenic Nubble Lighthouse make the town proud. Various birds like Black Backed Gulls, Herring Gulls, Double-Crested Cormorants, Sun Fish, and Harbor Seals can be sighted. The resort town offers a myriad of family pastimes along with marine-themed food, such as clam chowder, lobster rolls, and saltwater taffy for dessert. Settled by Europeans in 1624, the oldest part of Old York Gaol dates back to 1720, while the 18th Century John Sedgley Homestead is one of the oldest in the state. There is also a hike-able Mount Agamenticus, while the York Harbor, York Beach, and Cape Neddick are collectively known as 'The Yorks.'
Maine has a unique atmosphere of beaches galore coupled with a deep-rooted marine history, so distinct from other states favored for the summertime beach fun. Even the smallest towns in Maine come with lively nightlife, spanned-out art scenes, and beautiful surroundings of the wild sea to one side juxtaposed by the tranquil countryside hugging the town from the other.