Aerial view of Camden, Maine.

7 Serene Towns In Maine For A Weekend Retreat

Maine's charm is so consuming that it often precedes the fact that it is a serene state. But, looking out into the Atlantic and with roots deep in the very first years of European settlement, even large cities like Portland don't feel stuffy. The ocean breathes over the jagged, irregular coastline of the northeastern state, from the island towns into verdant heartland landscapes. Chebeague Island, a remote paradise with Greek Revival homes, is steeped in the history of stone sloopers who carried granite for buildings like the Washington Monument.

Don't miss Houlton in the heartland, one of Maine's oldest towns, for a dose of Americana charm on a stroll through its brick-and-mortar downtown with lovely Victorianas and the Historic District Market Square. Home to the Maine Maritime Academy, Castine, one of New England's earliest settlements, flaunts serene places for every type of traveler, from the scenic Wadsworth Cove Beach and the creaking docks with history to the Witherley Woods and the preppy Dyces Head Lighthouse.

Blue Hill

Blue Hill from Parker Point, Maine
Blue Hill from Parker Point, Maine. Image credit: Anewt72690 via Wikimedia Commons.

If there was one word to describe this town where everything sings of Maine’s beauty and lobstering is an art, it would be "serene." Blue Hill charms you at first glance and leaves you with everlasting memories, whether that be dipping succulent tails in hot butter, dreamy sunset strolls, a vibrant festival, or the thriving arts. In the town, straight from a blissful postage stamp, visitors can feel part of a local Monet painting along its pastoral landscapes, like the Blue Hill Mountain Osgood Trail with a boardwalk through verdancy.

Overlooking the scenic Blue Hill Bay, across from Mt. Desert Island and the renowned Acadia National Park, the town of under 1,000, in the shadow of more popular destinations, guards its peace against the pristine sea beauty. Visitors can imbibe the local culture at beautiful galleries like the Blue Hill Bay Gallery or the craft at Handworks Gallery and mingle at the Blue Hill Farmers Market. For a peaceful rest, the Blue Hill Inn at the heart of the town and the Farmhouse Inn just up Pleasant St. are reputable stays, while for gifts, the Meadow of Blue Hill and Out on a Whimsey Toys ensure you don't come home empty-handed.


The harbor at Camden, Maine
The harbor at Camden, Maine.

Camden, a glorified resort destination for its picturesque white sails lining the waterfront, rules a serene atmosphere despite its popularity for a relaxing retreat between the ocean and mountains on Penobscot Bay. Dubbed the Jewel of the Coast, visitors can enjoy traditional seaside recreation, scenic drives, and outdoor adventures, including Mt. Battie Trailhead and Camden Hills State Park. Camden's High Street Historic District charms with quaint 19th-century homes and unique boutiques, coffee shops, and eateries, while the restored Camden Opera House features live shows and performances.

The waterfront is magnificent: on a stroll at sunset from the beach, where the kids splash in the shallows, or setting off sail in a rented canoe, paddleboard, or kayak from local gear shops like Maine Sport Outfitters. A sailing cruise is a popular pastime to try your hand at with the Schooner Olad and Cutter Owl, while the casual mix of cabins and luxurious rentals will make you feel at home for another take on Camden, perhaps a cultural one. How about waking up at the House Bed and Breakfast Inn from 1870 for an excursion to Mt. Battie Tower and descending as the sun sets behind Curtis Island Lighthouse on its own island, or perhaps sailing to meet the sunset from its "foreign" shores?


The shoreline in Castine, Maine.
The shoreline in Castine, Maine.

Founded by French colonists in 1613 along Penobscot Bay, Castine is one of the oldest towns in New England. Offering a delectable slice of seaside Americana with a thick local accent and a side of cozy with its famously thick Maine clam chowder, each breath in the salty air—surprisingly thin and nippy in the evening—comes easy away from the suffocating urbanity. Attracting nautical fans, a boatload of fun awaits families at the mouth of the Penobscot River estuary and the pleasant ocean surf to ahoy at your own vibe. As an enthralling piece of Maine’s maritime past, including pirate folklore, Castine played a prominent role in the American Revolution and became quainter after the Civil War.

The winding streets offer stunning vistas down to the grey-blue ocean and the harbor where the famous Bowdoin Schooner took sail in 1921 on a daring journey to explore the Arctic. Find serenity on the scenic Wadsworth Cove Beach, a relaxing stroll along the docks, creaking with history, or a hike through the Witherley Woods. The preppy Dyces Head Lighthouse pokes its head out of the mainland greenery against a fiery sunset, while Pentagoet Inn & Wine Bar is a popular stay. From Fort Madison and the nearby Wilson Museum to the Maine Maritime Academy, why not take on high-seas adventures with top-rated Castine Kayak Adventures?

Chebeague Island

A supply boat departing Chebeague Island
A supply boat departing Chebeague Island. Editorial credit: quiggyt4 /

About 90 minutes from Portland, including the ferry, this island, pronounced "shuhbig," is a real refuge of serenity. One of the state's most beautiful isles covers some five by 1½ miles of quintessential Maine beauty that generations of year-round 360 residents pristinely maintain and are happy to see their some 1,600 friends who call it home in the summer. Dubbed the "isle of many springs" and steeped in the history of sailors, the stone sloopers built many of the lovely Greek Revival homes. Visitors can learn more at the Museum of Chebeague History with a gift shop about how these ballast-carrying men in the 19th century later carried granite for the most iconic buildings in the US, like the Washington Monument.

Drenched in tranquility, the unique island is idyllic for adventures on foot or a bike at your pace, from its picturesque roads to the rolling farmland on one side and the pristine coastal trails on the other. The captivating Deer Point and Hamilton Beach beckon with views, sands, and virtually no soul in sight. Whether you stick to the Great Chebeague Island, where the community feel permeates the air or explore Little Chebeague Island and smaller islets for lonesome picnics, swimming, and true communing with nature, visitors can stay at the commanding Chebeague Island Inn and try to score a rental or friendly local company at the Chebeague Island Boat Yard.


Aroostook County Courthouse in Houlton, Maine.
Aroostook County Courthouse in Houlton, Maine. Image credit: Doug Kerr via Wikimedia Commons.

Tiny and often overlooked, this former boomtown with Irish roots is a great escape from the beachy crowds when seeking serenity in the heartland. Renowned for its small-town appeal and truly untouched natural beauty, Houlton's tranquil ambiance is palpable even before you reach the point of destination. Nestled against the Canada border, the beautiful old town, the northern terminus for Interstate 95, also hosts the annual Houlton Agricultural Fair over the Fourth of July weekend. Home to under 5,000 locals who don't know the meaning of hustle or bustle, the vast surrounding woodlands lend a cozy feel inside while beckoning photographers and dreamy nature ventures with overlooks and new scenery around each corner.

As one of Maine's oldest towns with roots dating back to the 19th century, its brick-and-mortar downtown with beautiful Victorian exudes Americana charm. There is so much to discover in the well-preserved architecture, like the Amazeen House from 1882, while the Temple, one of the oldest cinemas in the state, or the Houlton Opera House makes for a fun evening pursuit. After a stroll through the Market Square Historic District and a stop at the top-rated Aroostook County Historical and Art Museum, escape the heat this summer to the nearby lush banks of the Meduxnekeag River through the heart of town.

New Harbor

View from Shaws Wharf in New Harbor, Maine.
View from Shaws Wharf in New Harbor, Maine. Image credit: Eric Richards via Wikimedia Commons.

Escape the hustle at New Harbor, which embraces visitors in serenity away from the tourist trails. Replete with unique discoveries and ways to explore this serene coastal slice of Maine, New Harbor guards its tranquility along the scenic Pemaquid Peninsula, as close to the heart as its rich maritime heritage, with features like historic lighthouses. There is no better place around for rock climbing than the rugged shores of New Harbor. Top-rated, Rachel Carson Salt Pond Preserve just north is a real love affair for thrill seekers and photographers, while Fort William Henry to the west offers historical insights against the sea views.

Overlooking breathtaking ocean vistas from the top, the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse is a glorious historic attraction, tipping the peninsula that will imprint in your memory, especially against a fiery sunset. Nearby, the Saltwater Artist Gallery and SeaGull Restaurant & Gift are worth revisiting, with something for every taste and interest level. From local waterfront eateries to the must-hit Harbor Ice Cream on a hot summer day, the warm glow of the sunset is the most serene and local favorite time of day. Home to under 1,000, this stunning coastal village is replete with inns and cottages to unwind in serenity, like Thompson Cottages.


Fall in Ogunquit, Maine.
Fall in Ogunquit, Maine.

The Abenaki word for "beautiful place by the sea," Ogunquit, is picturesque and abounding in outdoor opportunities to discover after dropping your bags at the beachfront Norseman Resort, whose reputation precedes its popularity. Its vibrant coastal landscape spoils visitors into never wanting to leave the blue of the ocean, the sandy beach under impressive rocky bluffs, and verdant trails overlooking the scenery to the horizon from high above. The Marginal Way meanders across cliffs for stunning views of white sails in the sparkling water under the sun and a small, lonesome, but most charming Lobster Point Lighthouse.

From the mega-popular Ogunquit Playhouse to the Barn Gallery in a garden, Ogunquit is easy to discover on a bike before combing for your serene spot on Footbridge Beach with boardwalk access, among the few bodies at Moody Beach just north and its relaxing scenery, or the main Ogunquit Beach, the closet to downtown hotspots like the Front Porch Piano Bar & Restaurant. The 18th-century former home of Captain James Winn is the Ogunquit Heritage Museum, with exhibits and artifacts on local history, while the Ogunquit Museum of American Art is top-rated for inspiration from local creativity dating back to its 1800s art colony days.

Home to the iconic Mount Desert Island and its crown, Acadia National Park, among other blufftop state parks and coastal preserves, Maine's dramatic scenery changes suddenly into pastoral landscapes. Across the waters from the national park, Blue Hill, where lobstering is an art, is so picturesque that it could pass for a painting from the wall in the Louvre!

Basking in seaside beauty, these ambient towns, often off the beaten path, offer a positive change for the everyday traveler on a serene escape from the city or a coastal road trip. So say "ayuh," the local yes, to one of the above, and then scream it from the top of your lungs on a cliffside or from one of the many lighthouses.

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