Downtown in Belfast, Maine. Image credit Enrico Della Pietra via Shutterstock

6 Most Inviting Towns in Maine

Maine's coastal towns offer a unique blend of history, natural beauty, and welcoming communities. From Ogunquit's tranquil shores to Belfast's bustling streets, each town has its own charm and character. Stroll along the historic Marginal Way or indulge in fresh seafood at Barnacle Billy’s after a lobster boat tour. Cruise the "Boating Capital of New England" in Boothbay Harbor, or visit York's iconic lighthouses and family-friendly beaches. In Belfast, appreciate the maritime history or retreat for beachcombing and wildlife exploration in Wells.

Set off and explore these inviting six towns and discover the beauty of the 23rd state in the United States.


Colorful view of fall foliage and boats docked in Perkins Cove in Ogunquit, Maine.
Colorful view of fall foliage and boats docked in Perkins Cove in Ogunquit, Maine.

Ogunquit is on the southern coast of Maine, around 35 miles south of Portland. It is renowned for its picturesque beaches, rocky cliffs, and spectacular ocean views. Ogunquit is a trendy tourist spot, and it’s not hard to see why. From delicious local seafood to one-of-a-kind shops and eclectic art galleries, there is much to see and do in this pretty little town of about 2,000 friendly full-time residents.

Stretch your legs and walk along the scenic 99-year-old Marginal Way, a picturesque cliffside public footpath stretching along the coastline from Ogunquit Beach to Perkins Cove. As well as an iconic landmark in Ogunquit, the path is a testament to the town's residents, who saw the potential in this spectacular coastal path along the Atlantic Ocean and cleared it for all to enjoy. Starting from downtown Ogunquit, the path is a 1.25-mile-long walk to the charming fishing village of Perkins Cove, where visitors can join a lobster boat tour from Finestkind Scenic Cruises to learn about Maine's lobstering industry firsthand. After the tour, stop at Barnacle Billy’s or its “sister” location, Barnacle Billy’s, etc., to taste the real thing.

Spend some time beachcombing along the shores of Ogunquit Beach and Perkins Cove. Hunt for seashells, sea glass, and other treasures washed up by the ocean tide, or simply relax and enjoy Ogunquit's laid-back atmosphere and the opportunity to unwind and recharge.

Boothbay Harbor

Downtown Boothbay Harbor, Maine.
Downtown Boothbay Harbor, Maine. Image credit EQRoy via

Boothbay Harbor is about 60 miles northeast of Portland, Maine’s largest city. The town is a popular destination for visitors who want to enjoy whale watching, fishing, and exploring the area’s islands, lighthouses, and nature trails. Often called the “Boating Capital of New England,” Boothbay Harbor is a great launching pad for a two-hour boat tour aboard a Boothbay Harbor Schooner with Boothbay Sailing. The tour cruises past Burnt Island Light, Squirrel Island, Ram Island Light, and several of the outer islands around Boothbay, and visitors should be on the lookout for porpoises, harbor seals, osprey, and bald eagles.

One of the top botanical gardens in the country, The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, is a beautifully landscaped garden with scenic trails and waterfront vistas on more than 300 acres. Once inside the gardens, visitors can explore the Native Butterfly and Moth House, dedicated to the entire lifecycle of native moths and butterflies, from caterpillar to moth or butterfly. The Learning Apiary and Native Bee Exhibit contains 16 honey bee hives where visitors can watch the busy bees gather food and water, build combs, and produce honey. Resident beekeepers are on hand to provide more information about Maine’s 276 species of bees.


Folks enjoy playing summer games on Long Sands Beach in York, Maine
Folks enjoy playing summer games on Long Sands Beach in York, Maine. Image credit James Kirkikis via Shutterstock

York is home to one of the most photographed lighthouses in the United States, the 41-foot-tall Cape Neddick Light Station, also known as the Nubble Lighthouse, or just “The Nubble” by the locals. Established in 1879, the lighthouse is an important navigational landmark, jutting into the Atlantic Ocean between Portsmouth and Portland. While in Cape Neddick, book a table at the Cape Neddick Lobster Pound, Harborside Restaurant, which is celebrating its 65th season in 2024. Loved by locals and tourists alike, the Lobster Pound is a gathering place with decks overlooking the water where visitors can watch the sunset or the paddlers float by.

There is no shortage of beautiful, family-friendly swimming beaches in and around York. York Harbor Beach is a small beach nicknamed “Mothers’ Beach” by the locals because it’s ideal for small children. Long Sands Beach is a popular destination thanks to its white sandy shoreline, shallow tide pools, and raft rentals. The beach is also known as the best beach in Maine for sand dollars. Short Sands Beach is another pristine beach in York, with several walkable shops and businesses nearby, like the York Beach Beer Co., Johnny’s Candy Corner, and the Wiggly Bridge Distillery.

Visitors with families won’t want to miss the signs to York’s Wild Kingdom, which attracts more than 200,000 visitors yearly. The family-friendly zoo and amusement park has popular rides like bumper cars, go-karts, kiddie bumper boats and swings, concession stands, a petting zoo, and midway games.


Early morning in Belfast, Maine.
Early morning in Belfast, Maine.

With a history steeped in shipbuilding, trade, and fishing, Belfast flourished as a maritime community in the 19th century. Like many coastal towns, Belfast had its share of economic troubles with the decline of the shipbuilding industry in the early 20th century. Today, the city is known for its vibrant arts community and scenic waterfront district. It has developed a reputation for being a bit of a foodie destination for visitors, with numerous cafes, restaurants, and farmers’ markets drawing attention to Maine’s culinary offerings.

The Nautilus Seafood and Grill offers casual oceanside dining in downtown Belfast. Its impressive menu features specialty cocktails and margaritas, fresh seafood, gluten-free options, and a kid’s menu. Downshift Coffee is the place to go for a cappuccino on the deck with a water view of Belfast Harbor while waiting on a pound of freshly roasted coffee beans from Papua New Guinea or Ethiopia. Next door, Rollie’s has been serving up great food and drink since 1972 in a friendly atmosphere.

Don’t leave Belfast without taking a stroll along the Belfast Harbor Walk, a two-mile-long walk along the Passagassawakeag River. This walk offers scenic views of the harbor, parks like Steamboat Landing and Heritage, historic buildings, and public art installations. Enjoy the fresh sea breeze, watch boats coming and going, or drop in for Happy Hour at the Harborwalk Restaurant.


Quiet Beach, Wells Beach, Maine
Wells Beach, Maine.

Founded in 1653, Wells is the third oldest city in Maine, after Kittery (1647) and York (1624). Wells is also known as the “Friendliest Town in Maine.” Learn more about Wells's history at the Historical Society Museum of Wells and Ogunquit, housed in an 1862 Meetinghouse that showcases artifacts from local families, fishermen, farms, and businesses in the Meetinghouse Museum.

Like nearby towns of Ogunquit and York, Wells is renowned for its beautiful beaches, perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and beachcombing. Separated from the mainland by the Webhannet River, Wells hosts four beaches: Wells Beach, Drakes Island Beach, Crescent Beach, and Moody Beach. The most popular of the beaches is Wells Beach, with its view of Wells Harbor, where visitors can watch the boats watch the boats come and go. Visitors to Wells Harbor can rent kayaks, longboards, and paddleboards at Maine’s Oldest Surf Shop, Wheels N Waves, or take a scenic boat tour of the coastline.

The nearby Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge spans over 5,000 acres and was established in 1966 to protect valuable salt marshes and estuaries for migratory birds. The refuge provides habitat for various wildlife, including migratory birds and endangered species like the piping plover, a beach-nesting shorebird. Spend an afternoon in the refuge, hiking one of the easy trails like the Carson Interpretive Trail—a one-mile-long looped trail.


Waterfront view of Bath, Maine
Waterfront view of Bath, Maine.

Bath, Maine, has nearly 9,000 residents along the Kennebec River, known as the “City of Ships.” Like many other coastal Maine towns, Bath played a historically significant role in the shipbuilding industry. The Maine Maritime Museum showcases the state's rich maritime heritage through exhibits, historic shipyard buildings, and the country’s only surviving historic wooden shipyard. The museum also provides daily cruises aboard the Merrymeeting for an up-close look at 10 of Maine’s most iconic lighthouses, including Doubling Point Light, Kennebec Range Lights, Squirrel Point Light, and Perkins Island & Light.

In Bath's downtown historic district, visitors will find beautifully preserved 19th-century architecture, quaint shops, art galleries, and restaurants. Embark Maine Tours provides walking tours of the area where visitors will enjoy learning about the people and events of the past 400+ years. Spend some time supporting the local economy with a visit to the independent Mockingbird Bookshop or Lisa-Marie’s Made in Maine, stocked with handcrafted products by Maine artists. Byrnes’ Irish Pub is a local favorite with trivia nights, Guinness and Smithwick’s on tap, and a bar menu with Irish bangers and mash.

From picturesque beaches to bustling streets, Maine invites visitors with open arms to indulge in fresh seafood, explore historic landmarks, and enjoy scenic walks along coastal paths. Whether it's whale watching in one town, searching for sand dollars in another town, or exploring wildlife in still another, Maine's seaside towns offer diverse experiences for visitors seeking relaxation and adventure.

  1. Home
  2. Places
  3. Cities
  4. 6 Most Inviting Towns in Maine

More in Places