Aerial view of the coastline of Bar Harbor, Maine.

6 Most Idyllic Small Towns in Maine

Maine is the largest New England state, bordering Canada's Quebec and New Brunswick, the United States's New Hampshire, and the Atlantic Ocean. This sparsely populated state is known for its natural beauty, with more than four-fifths of its land covered by forest. The state is home to much of the Appalachian Mountains, long sandy ocean beaches, and rolling valleys and rivers. Here, visitors can uncover idyllic small towns embedded in Maine's natural beauty. These towns showcase local culture, heritage, and entertainment from a fresh perspective.


Aerial view of Lewiston, Maine.
Aerial view of Lewiston, Maine. Editorial credit: James Aloysius Mahan V /

Lewiston is the second largest community in the state, home to 37,000 residents. The bustling town sits along the Androscoggin River and is known for its world-class healthcare, technology, and telecommunications. In recent years, Lewiston's arts scene has exploded, an ode to Bates College. To this end, the town has a bustling calendar of events, ranging from shows at venues such as the Public Theatre and the Schaeffer Theater to annual festivals such as the Great Falls Balloon Festival and Riverfest. The historic downtown with the river's backdrop and meticulously maintained trails are the cornerstones of Lewiston's idyllic charm. Lewiston also features the Bates College Museum of Art, the Thorncrag Bird Sanctuary, and the Basílica de San Pedro y San Pablo, which boast diverse activities for visitors.


Great Falls in Auburn, Maine.
The scenic Great Falls in Auburn, Maine.

Across the Androscoggin River from Lewiston, Auburn is a town of 24,000 residents. The town was founded as a shoe manufacturing district, but today, it is known for its outdoor recreation and proximity to Lewiston. Sitting on Lake Auburn, the scenic Auburn Riverwalk, and Mount Apatite, Auburn's natural backdrop encourages its visitors and residents to engage with the outdoors. The Lost Valley Ski Area and Fox Ridge Golf Club are two of the town's best spots for outdoor recreation, attracting tourists and locals year-round. Every year, the town hosts its Winter Festival and Balloon Festival, and, like Lewiston, it has a full calendar of events across its many community and arts centers.


Buildings along the coast in Waterville, Maine.
Buildings lining the coast of Waterville, Maine. Editorial credit: Feng Cheng /

Waterville, home to 16,000 residents, is a small college town along the Kennebec River. Colby and Thomas Colleges contribute significantly to Waterville's arts and recreational scenes, which both locals and tourists adore. Some of Waterville's showstoppers include the Waterville Opera House and City Hall, Colby College Museum of Art, and the Waterville Historical Society. Each year, on the first Wednesday in August, The Taste of Waterville festival opens up the town's kitchens and food trucks, featuring live music, beer and wine tastings, and entertainment. Nature lovers should not fret, as there is plenty of wilderness to explore nearby. For example, the Quarry Road Trails offer all-season adventure, including cross-country trails along the Messalonskee Stream.


View of Sebago Lake from Standish, Maine.
View of Sebago Lake during the sunset in Standish, Maine. Editorial credit: Zachary Hirst Photography /

Sitting on Sebago Lake, Standish is home to 10,000 residents. The town sits near several additional bodies of water, including Watchic Lake and Thomas Pond, which offer endless outdoor opportunities. That said, history lovers delight in town as it was incorporated in 1785 and showcases eclectic architecture, including old log cabins, preserving its origins. The 1789 Daniel Marrett House and 1804 Old Red Church are among the most popular, showcasing local history through rustic tours. Those who can't decide how to spend the day can head into downtown, which is full of shops and eateries to keep its residents and visitors comfortable.


The Maine Maritime Museum in Bath, Maine.
The historic Maine Maritime Museum in Bath, Maine. Editorial credit: EQRoy /

Located on the Atlantic Coast, this historic seaside town is known for its beautiful Main Street, tourism, and salty air. While there are only 9,000 permanent residents, Bath sees 25,000 tourists on average each year. Most visitors head straight to the downtown area, which is well-preserved, showcasing Bath's 300-year-old heritage. Continuing along the streets, some popular attractions include the Maine Maritime Museum, Chocolate Church Arts Center, and Maine's First Ship. From exhibits on the town's past to intriguing maritime tales, these sights are perfect for a day out. That said, Bath's outdoor charm shines through the nearby Popham Beach State Park, Reid State Park, and numerous city parks. One can take in the scenic views by hiking, biking, fishing, and even boating.

Bar Harbor

Aerial view of Bar Harbor, Maine.
Aerial view of Bar Harbor, Maine.

Bar Harbor is a quaint town famed as the gateway to the Acadia National Park and several other major ecological wonders. This is thanks to its location on Mount Desert Island, the second largest island along the eastern seaboard of the United States, second only to Long Island. Most visitors head straight to Acadia National Park, where 50,000 acres of coastal landscapes offer boating, hiking, and many more outdoor pursuits. Back in town, there is no end to the boutique hotels, restaurants, and shops offering a cozy getaway or pit stop on the border of Maine's wilderness. The town is also known for its exquisite seafood, craft beer, and home-grown produce. After grabbing a meal, consider visiting one of the many spas, such as the Bar Harbor Inn & Spa or the Harborside Hotel, Spa & Marina, to thoroughly experience the town's tranquility.

Maine's diverse geography and commitment to ecological preservation make it an ideal destination for nature lovers. Outdoor activities abound, from mountain adventures to fishing and coastal exploration. These towns allow visitors to witness its idyllic charm, whether through outdoor activities or historical landmarks. Moreover, its accessible location in New England attracts tourists from the U.S. and Canada for the perfect vacation.

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