Our Lady Queen of Peace catholic church on the shore of Boothbay Harbor, Maine. Image credit Bob Pool via Shutterstock

7 Most Underrated Towns in Maine

Maine is the easternmost state in the United States of America. It is best known for its gorgeous Appalachian Mountains and natural landscape including its rocky coastline, lush forests, The Appalachian Trail, and the many islands within the Acadia National Park. Maine also has an abundance of picturesque lighthouses, as well as towns full of maritime charm, sandy beaches, and impressive seafood restaurants. While many enjoy the attractions that the bigger centers, such as Portland or Lewiston, offer, exploring the roads less traveled provides an authentic dive into the true spirit of Maine. There are many underrated, hidden gem towns in the state of Maine that are worth a second look.


Harpswell, Maine
Summer in Harpswell, Maine.

Harpswell is a small beach town located along the southern coast of the state, not far from the larger cities of Brunswick and Freeport. The town has a population of just under 5,000 people and consists of a number of islands, stretched inlets, and rocky shorelines. Visitors can enjoy exploring the many harbors, and coves, taking in the unusual terrain and stunning views of land and sea. Walking paths are abundant here, and are an ideal way to get around since the town only has two roads joining it to the mainland.

One of the greatest appeals of Harpswell is its remote nature, but proximity to larger cities. Visitors and those that live in the area can enjoy a quiet lifestyle, but have access to all the amenities they need. The food is also amazing here. Harpswell has many oyster farms, fish shacks, and lobstering places which offer some of the freshest seafood on the east coast. This hidden gem of a town is a wonderful example of Maine culture at its finest.


Aerial view of Rockland Harbor during Rockland Lobster Festival in summer, Rockland, Maine
Rockland Harbor during Rockland Lobster Festival in summer, Rockland, Maine. Image credit Wangkun Jia via Shutterstock

Rockland is another adorable seaside town along Maine’s picturesque coast. Located roughly 190 miles from Boston, it is easily accessible, but far enough away from the big city to have a quieter, small-town feel. Rockland’s downtown sector is full of history. Historic buildings populate the downtown sector, including the Farnsworth Homestead, Olson House, and Timothy and Jane Williams House. There are also many art galleries, local shops, and restaurants in the charming downtown.

Another big attraction in Rockland is the Maine Windjammer Fleet. This fleet includes a collection of beautiful and historic sailing ships moored in the port. Visitors can enjoy sailing trips of their own from the harbor, as well as sightseeing cruises. For those who wish to experience impressive sea views while staying on solid ground, the Rockland Breakwater is an impressive pier jutting out into the harbor. This long breakwater makes for a great stroll and features the gorgeous Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse at the end.

Other attractions include the Farnsworth Art Museum which houses over 10,000 pieces of art, the Maine Lighthouse Museum, the Maine Discovery Centre, and the Coastal Children’s Museum. There are many great places to explore and numerous festivals to enjoy in this underrated town in Maine.

Winter Harbor

Lobster boats at Winter Harbor, Maine near Schoodic Point.
Lobster boats at Winter Harbor, Maine near Schoodic Point.

The Acadia National Park is one of the most popular draws to Maine. This beautiful park offers stunning views and unique natural landscapes. It can, however, get quite crowded, which is why Winter Harbor is such a great alternative to the more frequented Bar Harbor. The area known as Schoodic Peninsula was recently added to the protected Acadia National Park and includes the tiny town of Winter Harbor.

While the accommodations and amenities in the town are few, the beauty of the area is well worth the trip. Oceanside peaks, sea views, and hiking and biking trails offer endless opportunities for outdoor adventure. Winter Harbor oozes with small-town charm and is a great place for those looking to get off the beaten path and soak up all that Maine has to offer.


Train bridge over a river and autumn color near Bethel, Maine
Stunning autumn colors near Bethel, Maine.

The town of Bethel is in the western part of Maine and is a beautiful example of Maine’s forested terrain and scenic landscape. The town offers a range of outdoor activities and has access to the Grafton Notch State Park and the Appalachian Trail. Visitors can enjoy scenic drives in the area, especially in the fall when the foliage turns radiant colors. The area also has a plethora of wildlife, including the majestic moose.

Bethel also has a lot of history. The Bethel Historical Society has two museums in town, as well as the O’Neil Robinson House which features exhibits and a research center. Local history is the main focus, but exhibits change and shift focus to cover a variety of topics relevant to the area. Another point of interest is the Mason House, restored to replicate its original look from the 19th century.

For something unique to Bethel, check out the Maine Mineral and Gem Museum which has an impressive collection of rocks and gems, including meteorites. Visitors can also learn about the geological history of Maine by exploring the Arthur M. Hussey Memorial Rock Garden.

Boothbay Harbor

Aerial view of Boothbay Harbor on Maine coastline
Boothbay Harbor on Maine coastline.

Boothbay Harbor sits along the coast of Lincoln County and has a population of around 2,000 people. This beautiful and picture-perfect seaside town looks as though it came right out of a postcard. The history of the area dates back to the 17th century. It started as a British colonial settlement and later underwent a boom in the industrial period of the 19th century. Its main industries at the time were fishing and lobster canning.

The coastline is a huge draw, and sailing, boating, and yachting are all popular activities for visitors and residents alike. The region has a number of inlets and islets that make for interesting places to explore by boat. In June, Boothbay Harbor celebrates Windjammer Day which reflects on the rich maritime heritage in the area. Other attractions in the town include the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, the Opera House, and the Carousel Music Theater.


Winter storm covers the town of Kingfield, Maine in rural New England
Winter storm covers the town of Kingfield, Maine in rural New England. Image credit M.Bailey via Shutterstock

Tucked against the mountains of western Maine is the hidden gem of a town, Kingfield. The mountains not only make for a picturesque town but are popular for snow sports lovers. Kingfield is home to the Ski Museum of Maine where visitors can learn about the connections between the state and the sport and check out early examples of equipment. Another museum in Kingfield is the Stanley Museum which highlights the first ever steam-powered automobile, known as the Stanley Steamer.

Outdoor recreation is a huge draw, and there are activities for every season. Hikers and runners and fishers can enjoy the Narrow Gauge Pathway beside the Carrabassett River. In the winter, the paths convert to cross-country ski trails.

Other trails in the region include the first trailhead of the Maine Huts and Trails, a web of trails that measures some 80 miles including European-style lodgings for visitors to rest along the way. This tucked-away town is a great place to take in the natural wonders of Maine.

New Harbor

The beach near Pemaquid River in summer in the village of New Harbor in the town of Bristol, Maine
The Pemaquid River in summer in the village of New Harbor, near Bristol, Maine.

New Harbor is a coastal village just south of Bristol on a protected piece of Maine's coastline. It has a similar look and feel as the popular Pemaquid Point, but is less well known, and therefore offers a quieter option for those looking to avoid crowds while still enjoying the beautiful landscape and shoreline. Visitors can enjoy boat tours which will explore the area from the sea.

Puffin tours are popular, traveling to Eastern Egg Rock Island where these adorable birds nest. There are also routes to and from many of the popular islands in the area. The town has a variety of seafood options, and the classic Maine fare is everywhere, from fried seafood to lobster and fine dining. Trailheads for hiking and biking are also nearby, at the Coastal Rivers Conservation Trust, and offer a great way to take in the scenery on foot.

From sleepy towns to seaside villages, Maine has many wonderful places to visit and explore. Detouring off the beaten path and taking in some of these hidden gem towns is a great way to see the heart of the state and get a feel for the true nature of Maine. Enjoy amazing seafood in New Harbor, explore coastlines in Winter Harbor, or take in a charming downtown stroll in Bethel. Each of these adorable underrated towns in Maine has something different to offer to visitors and residents alike.

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