Colorful buildings along the main street in Editorial credit: Kristi Blokhin /

6 of the Most Overlooked Towns in Maine

Maine is the largest of the six states comprising New England and offers no end of exciting travel opportunities for those willing to venture beyond its better-known vacation spots. In fact, the savviest travelers know that the most authentic experiences in this hospitable East Coast state can be enjoyed not in bigger cities like Portland but in those often overlooked small towns that dot the landscape.

From the beaches of Ogunquit to the maritime heritage of Brooklin, with a few stops along the way, each of these charming towns offers a unique slice of New England charm that simply begs to be experienced. Find out more and be inspired in six of the most overlooked towns in Maine.


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

Located in southern Maine, Ogunquit is a picturesque coastal town that’s all too easy to miss as you zip along the I-95 highway. Settled in 1641 and given the Abenaki name for “beautiful place by the sea,” the town’s name perfectly sums up the splendid ocean views and the soft sandy beaches that characterize this quaint resort town. Ogunquit Beach itself is a must-visit and is a sprawling, white stretch of sand that offers a perfect setting for sunbathing and swimming in the Atlantic Ocean.

Another must-visit is the Marginal Way, a paved scenic coastal path that provides superb views of the rugged Maine coastline. This well-maintained public trail meanders from the center of Ogunquit to the neighboring village of Perkins Cove, a quaint fishing harbor filled with unique shops, art galleries, and seafood restaurants. Other popular attractions include the Ogunquit Museum of American Art and the Ogunquit Playhouse, a historic theater built in 1937 that offers a range of Broadway-quality productions.


Coastline of Brooklin, Maine.
Rocks and trees along the coastline of Brooklin, Maine.

Its stunning setting on Blue Hill Peninsula overlooking Jericho Bay only makes the relative remoteness of Brooklin all the more appealing. Those who venture out from Ellsworth 25 miles to the north get to enjoy a very pretty drive and experience attractions like the Brooklin Boat Yard. One of the country’s leading wooden boat builders, the boatyard is renowned worldwide for its traditional craftsmanship and is well worth a visit. The Wooden Boat School is another popular attraction and offers boat building, sailing, and navigation courses.

Brooklin was also the home and inspiration of author E.B. White, whose Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web books remain much-loved classics. Those wanting to spend time outdoors won’t be disappointed with Eggemoggin Reach, a narrow strait offering spectacular sailing and breathtaking views, as well as hiking and birdwatching.


The Fort Popham State Historic Site along the Kennebec River in Phippsburg, Maine.
The Fort Popham State Historic Site along the Kennebec River in Phippsburg, Maine.

Phippsburg is another often-overlooked destination that’s worth including on a Maine travel itinerary. A short drive south of the town of Bath in the state's Midcoast region, this picturesque town is situated at the mouth of the Kennebec River. It is home to various interesting landscapes, including rugged coastlines and lush forests. Highlights of a visit include Popham Beach State Park, a 605-acre area of outstanding natural beauty that’s popular (but never too much so!) for its expansive sandy beaches. In addition to sunbathing and swimming, it’s an excellent spot for shell-seekers and beachcombers thanks to its high tides, which, when out, reveal a whole other world to explore.

Nearby, the Fort Popham State Historic Site is another must-visit for those who venture to Phippsburg. These Civil War-era fortifications at the mouth of the Kennebec River provide a unique historical perspective to the conflict along with stunning views of the surrounding area and out over the Atlantic. While here, pop into the Popham Colony historic site. One of the first English colonies established in America, though short-lived, its remnants and the stories behind it are a fascinating exploration of early colonial life.


Street in Damariscotta, Maine full of cars.
Lively Main Street in Damariscotta, Maine full of shops. By Smuconlaw - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons.

Damariscotta is another great spot to visit in Maine's picturesque Midcoast region. Believed to have gotten its name from a Native American word meaning "river of little fish," this charming small town sits on the Damariscotta River, a must-visit spot famous for its oyster farms. Here, visitors can indulge in fresh oysters, take tours of oyster farms, and learn about the aquaculture that makes Damariscotta the oyster capital of New England.

For history enthusiasts, the Whaleback Shell Midden State Historic Site offers a unique glimpse into the past, with enormous heaps of oyster shells discarded by Native Americans over thousands of years (long before European settlement). Downtown Damariscotta is also fun to explore with its shops, art galleries, cafés, restaurants, and the old Lincoln Theater, a restored early-20th-century venue that still hosts performances and movies. Round off your adventure with a visit to Damariscotta River Grill for fresh oysters and other mouth-watering seafood dishes.

Bar Harbor

Aerial view of the coast in Bar Harbor, Maine.
Aerial view of the harbor in Bar Harbor, Maine with vibrant buildings lining the streets.

Bar Harbor is another of Maine’s many picturesque seaside towns worth visiting. Situated on Mount Desert Island, this charming coastal haven makes for a great base to explore Acadia National Park, an area of remarkable natural beauty covering 50,000 acres. This unique wilderness area includes mountains, woodlands, lakes, an ocean shoreline, and the magnificent Cadillac Mountain. The 1,530-foot tall landmark offers breathtaking views and is the first place in the USA to see the sunrise in winter.

Fun things to do in Bar Harbour’s charming downtown area include exploring its food and drink scene, especially its famous fresh Maine lobster. Visitors can also explore the region’s rich maritime history at the Bar Harbor Whale Museum. For those wanting to catch a glimpse of these majestic creatures up close, exciting whale-watching tours can be arranged through reputable companies like the Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co. Another notable attraction is the Abbe Museum, dedicated to preserving and sharing the history and culture of Maine's Native American communities, specifically the Wabanaki, through artifacts and educational exhibits.

Fort Kent

The marker of America's First Mile in Fort Kent, Maine.
The marker of America's First Mile in Fort Kent, Maine. Editorial credit: John Blottman /

Last but by no means least, Fort Kent is a great place to stop for those wanting also to explore the neighboring views of Canada. Not that the curious traveler should be quick to leave this lovely north Maine town. Fun things to do here include grabbing a selfie at the granite monument proclaiming America's First Mile, an icon marking the beginning of U.S. Route 1, stretching from here to Key West, Florida, some 2,000 miles south.

Another fun activity is wandering the scenic one-mile trail that runs the length of downtown Fort Kent along the St. John River and popping into the University of Maine at Fort Kent for a stroll around the campus. Fort Kent also serves as an entry point to the vast North Maine Woods, an area of over 3.5 million acres of stunning landscapes and outdoor adventures such as hiking, fishing, and camping.

The Final Word

Anyone who has ever been there will agree: Maine's small towns are the Pine Tree State’s beating heart. Each of these often overlooked towns stands as testimony to this fact, offering a unique slice of New England life that needs to be experienced at least once in a lifetime. From the fascinating maritime history of Brooklin and the literary allure of Damariscotta to the natural wonders near Bar Harbor and Fort Kent, these six most overlooked towns in Maine deserve to be explored.

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