People lined up outside of Dunton's Doghouse hot dog stand in the town of Boothbay Harbor Maine.

7 of the Most Hospitable Small Towns in Maine

Home to a rocky coastline, sandy beaches, and some of the prettiest seaside villas you'll ever lay eyes on, New England's charm pulls you in, and the local hospitality makes it hard to leave. Boothbay Harbor hosts the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, the largest in New England, showcasing the region's botanical beauty, while Bangor boasts the Maine Discovery Museum, the largest children's museum in the state.

These towns overflow with culture, such as Castine, one of the original settler towns, offering a journey through centuries from its beginnings in the early 1600s as a trading post. With influences from the French, English, and Dutch still visible on its streets today, its sloping main street descends to the sea, offering views that stretch to the horizon. Meanwhile, Saco embodies Maine's "Main Street" town, nestled between 7 miles of sandy ocean beaches and the beautiful Saco River.


Historic Blocks at Main Street in downtown Bangor, Maine
Historic Blocks at Main Street in downtown Bangor, Maine

Welcome to Bangor, home to the legendary lumberjack Paul Bunyan, whose massive fiberglass statue offers a grand welcome at the city's entrance. Bangor's eclectic charm includes the taxidermied wood duck, the Bangor Police Department’s "Duck of Justice," a beloved city icon housed in the police station's small museum. The historic downtown, stretching along the Penobscot River, features inviting shops, boutiques, and restaurants, while the transformed waterfront has become a major regional event center, offering entertainment for all ages. The Bangor Waterfront Trail offers scenic runs and food truck explorations, complemented by outdoor concerts at the Maine Savings Amphitheater. The Maine Discovery Museum provides three floors of interactive fun for children. Don't miss Dysart’s, a truck stop and diner known for its huge pancakes and pie slabs for over 50 years, or the fresh local seafood at 11 Central and The Tarratine.

Visitors can explore Bangor's history and culture through the Best of Bangor Walking Tour or a guided walk around Mount Hope Cemetery from 1836, the second-largest garden cemetery in the nation. The City Forest, with over 9 miles of trails, offers outdoor activities like hiking and biking. Stephen King fans can take a special tour of sites that inspired his stories. The historical Victorian mansion soon to serve as a writer’s retreat, and the private downtown Queen City Cinema Club, which screens King's films alongside offering a board game lounge and an arcade with a full bar and kitchen, are must-visits. The historic Bangor Opera House and the Zillman Art Museum at the University of Maine, showcasing modern and contemporary art, including works by Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso, welcome culture enthusiasts.

Boothbay Harbor

View of Boothbay Harbor, a tourist fishing town in Lincoln County, Maine
View of Boothbay Harbor, a tourist fishing town in Lincoln County, Maine, United States, via EQRoy /

The peninsular town of Boothbay Harbor, located in the south of Maine, captivates visitors with its natural beauty and warm local hospitality. Boating is a favorite pastime, and trail running along the water provides cooling breezes under the summer sun. The town celebrates its maritime heritage with non-stop enthusiasm for seafood and water activities, including yachts ready for sightseeing, sailing excursions, or fishing charters. Established in 1730 as a major fishing port, Boothbay Harbor continues to be a beloved vacation spot for seafood lovers.

The downtown area is filled with shops and restaurants, and cultural events are held throughout the year. The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, the largest in New England, spans 300 tidal acres with 17 acres of gardens explored through meandering trails, opening up to the Back River shore. The Boothbay Railway Village offers an interactive glimpse into rural Maine from 1850 to 1950 across 35 acres, including the Boothbay Rail Museum. After a day of exploration, relax seaside with a glass of wine or a cold beer before enjoying a dinner of freshly caught seafood at the Boathouse Bistro Tapas Bar & Restaurant, Cap’n Fish’s Cruises, or the Tugboat Inn for an exceptional stay.


The marina in Castine, Maine.
The marina in Castine, Maine.

Castine, a picturesque coastal town in Maine, delights with its rustic charm and rich history against the backdrop of Penobscot Bay. It's among New England's oldest towns, established in 1613. The Samuel P. Grindle House, home of the Castine Historical Society, serves as an excellent starting point for visitors. Here, you can embark on a journey through the centuries, from its early days as a trading post to its time under French, English, and Dutch influence during the colonial period. The Castine Inn, dating back to 1898, stands out with its large wraparound porch, beautiful public garden, and traditional hospitality, making it a newer addition amidst the town's historic artifacts.

With a population of just 1,320, Castine takes pride in its heritage, offering modern attractions within historic settings. Its quaint downtown slopes towards the sea, providing breathtaking views of the horizon. History enthusiasts should not miss the Abbot School, built in 1859, and the Wilson Museum. The TS State of Maine, a training ship at the Maine Maritime Academy, also offers tours that appeal to all ages. For stunning views of Penobscot Bay, consider a sunset sailing tour with Guildive Cruises, a memorable experience for any visitor.


Aerial view of Greenville, Maine.
Aerial view of Greenville, Maine. 

Greenville, nestled beside Moosehead Lake, has been attracting outdoor enthusiasts for over two centuries with its commendable hospitality. The town is surrounded by the state's largest lake, vast forests, and mountains, offering a year-round natural playground. Moosehead Lake, measuring 40 miles long and 20 miles wide, is a paradise for fishing enthusiasts and boaters, featuring Mount Kineo's striking 763-foot cliff and rare rhyolite formations. Greenville, located in the heart of the Maine Highlands, is teeming with wildlife, including moose sightings in the spring.

Lily Bay State Park provides shaded trails with water access for various activities, from swimming and boating in the summer to cross-country skiing and snowmobiling in the winter. Visitors can embark on moose safari adventures, participate in birding, fishing, or dogsledding, and enjoy the annual Wilderness Dog Sled Race. The Katahdin steamboat offers leisurely cruises around the lake, complemented by the Moosehead Marine Museum's rich history.


Kennebunkport: Shopping plaza on sidewalk street in downtown village during summer day
Kennebunkport: Shopping plaza on sidewalk street in downtown village during summer day, via Kristi Blokhin /

Kennebunkport, far from being just another sleepy beach town on the Southern Coast of Maine, ranks as the seventh friendliest town in America. It's filled with positive vibes, nautical scenes, and numerous activities, making it a beloved destination with genuine charm. Dock Square, the town's heart, is a cultural hub with a plethora of shops and restaurants. Summer Street boasts over 17 historic sea captain houses, while the historic Goat Island Light, established in 1833, has been a guiding beacon for sailors for nearly two centuries.

Originally a humble fishing village, Kennebunkport quickly evolved into a cherished Maine destination known for its seafood, water activities, and local culture. It's also a prime location for whale watching, with several tour operators offering excursions. Goose Rocks Beach is a family-friendly spot known for its gentle slope to the shore, pristine sands, and protective barrier island. The Seashore Trolley Museum, the world’s first and largest electric railway museum, invites visitors to explore the enchantment of a bygone era with its collection of trolleys, streetcars, and buses from around the globe.


Mill Street business in downtown Orono, Maine
Mill Street business in downtown Orono, Maine. Image credit: Bcody80, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

This inviting town is full of epic discoveries and low crowds, staying under the radar compared to the state's more famous locales. From astronomical observatories to wall-climbing and exploring Maine bogs, a wide range of activities is possible here. Orono is the original home of Maine’s Native peoples and now hosts the Black Bears. With offerings from classical music to theatrical performances, its most notable "resident" is the University of Maine, the flagship campus of the state’s university system. The campus offers museums, parks, and collegiate games, allowing visitors to cheer for the Black Bears as they fiercely compete in sporting events. Also on the college campus, the Maine Bound Adventure Center welcomes visitors for indoor climbing and bouldering with gear rental available, and the Orono Trampoline Park offers a different kind of active fun. The university’s Collins Center for the Arts serves as a prime venue for evening entertainment.

For those eager for outdoor exercise, the Orono Bog Boardwalk offers a fantastic mile-long journey through a Maine bog, showcasing native plants and animals. Local gear shops like Shaw & Tenney, established in 1858 and specializing in hand-made canoe and kayak paddles, and the Byer of Maine’s Factory Store, offering outdoor gear and furniture, are a dream for those who love shopping for outdoor equipment. Don't miss the Page Farm and Home Museum for insights into local Maine farming and the Hudson Museum for a global perspective on Native cultures. The Penobscot Valley Country Club features an 18-hole championship golf course, and for a romantic evening, the Versant Astronomy Center offers a night sky full of stars with its planetarium and observatory.


The historic brick buildings downtown Saco, Maine
The historic brick buildings downtown Saco, Maine, via Enrico Della Pietra /

Nestled between 7 miles of sandy ocean beaches to the east and the picturesque Saco River to the west, Saco's Main Street epitomizes the quintessential oceanfront town brimming with hospitality, making it a perfect destination for families. Ferry Beach State Park boasts a splendid beach ideal for unwinding after exploring nature trails or enjoying leisurely strolls with serene ocean sounds and views. The park is noted for its rare stand of tupelo, or black gum trees, and the Saco Bay Trails provide an excellent opportunity to experience the town's natural beauty. Home to Maine’s most beloved amusement parks, Funtown Splashtown USA stands as the state's largest amusement and water park, with Aquaboggan Water Park being its original water park.

For dining, consider Palace Diner for lunch and Magnus on Water, a James Beard-award-nominated restaurant, for its remarkable outdoor dining experience. Elda offers a fine dining prix fixe tasting menu, while Pacifico and the casual Fish & Whistle are top choices for fresh Maine seafood. For a refreshing drink, visit the Run of the Mill Public House & Brewery. The Saco Drive-in, one of the few remaining historic drive-in theaters, is a must-visit for an atmospheric movie night. Start your day with a boost from Rapid Ray’s or Quiero Cafe, readying you for exploration of public spaces, parks, and river access from the nationally designated Main Street downtown, which is dotted with art galleries and venues.

Maine, nestled in the northeast corner of New England, is a treasure trove of virtually untouched wilderness, nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and an extensive mountain range system, with rivers weaving through. Greenville's Moosehead Lake, the state's largest lake, features an accessible mountain offering panoramic views.

These charming towns invite visitors with unique experiences, from the state's most popular water and amusement parks, including Funtown Splashtown USA in Saco, to the collegiate museums, parks, and Black Bears games in Orono.

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