Harbor of Rockport, Maine, seen from above.

Maine's 8 Most Underrated Towns to Visit in 2024

Maine may be the largest state in New England, but it is still the 12th smallest in the Nation as a whole. Tucked up against the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Quebec, Maine is out of the way, which may lead to it being overlooked by vacationers for nearby New York. However, Maine has so much more to offer than lobster and Stephen King. The state is known for its gorgeous coastlines, a laid-back way of life, and some of the most astounding fall foliage in the country. The quality of life in Maine has consistently been ranked as some of the highest in the nation, for good reason. For those who like kayaking past soaring cliffs and strolling through quaint main streets, check out the following underrated towns in Maine!

Bar Harbor

Aerial view of Bar Harbor, Maine.
Aerial view of Bar Harbor, Maine. 

Maine may be more than Stephen King and lobsters, but there are still plenty of lobsters, to be sure. Farm-to-table restaurants in Bar Harbor make great use of the plentiful seafood that Maine’s shorelines offer. Cafe This Way is an excellent place to eat a bite. Not only is Bar Harbor incredibly charming with its boutique shops and its views of Frenchman Bay, but the town also serves as a jumping-off point to Acadia National Park. 

The park is one of the ten most visited national parks in the country and features over 150 miles of hiking trails and 60 miles of coastline. Mount Desert Street is a great place to visit to learn more about the town’s history. The street is chock full of historic buildings from the United States Gilded Age, a time of unimaginable wealth concentrated in the hands of the country’s industrialists, leading to the building of grand structures, many of which survive today.


The charming downtown of Bar Harbor, Maine.
The charming downtown of Bar Harbor, Maine.

The town of Bethel sits amid Maine’s great natural beauty. Surrounded by the many peaks of White Mountain National Forest and crystal clear lakes, it is no surprise that Bethel plays host to numerous festivals throughout the year. The town even once built the world’s largest snowman. The town may not be big in terms of size, but the townsfolk make up for that with their enthusiasm.

White Mountain National Forest, which Maine shares with New Hampshire, is the perfect place for a blue light detox thanks to its streams, hardwood forests, and alpine peaks. In town, the Maine Mineral and Gem Museum which even features moonrocks and material from Mars. Looking for a place to take a commemorative photo? The Lovejoy-covered bridge, which was built in 1868, is just one of so many places in Bethel to take that perfect picture.


Rockport, Maine in a well-protected harbor just west of North Haven Island on Penobscot Bay
Rockport, Maine in a well-protected harbor just west of North Haven Island on Penobscot Bay.

Visitors to Rockport are sure to be taken with its picturesque harbor and its bevy of historic buildings. If taking a trip through time sounds like your idea of a good time, the Rockport Historic District is an excellent place to experience Rockport’s Greek Revival and Italianate heritage. Taking a drive to Thatcher Island to gander at Rockport’s twin lighthouses or swinging by the Rockport Marine Park for a swim are just two ways to spend your time in Rockport.

Of course, no visit to Rockport would be complete without a trip to see Aldermere Farm and their ‘Oreo Cows.’ The 136-year-old farm is a great place for walks and snowshoeing treks in the winter. The cows themselves are a big draw thanks to their unconventional coloring. Lastly, a sunset cruise around Penobscot Bay is the perfect way to cap off a day in Rockport.


Harbor at Stonington, Maine, USA, features a vibrant red lobster boat in the foreground surrounded by scenic coastal beauty.
Harbor at Stonington, Maine, USA, features a vibrant red lobster boat in the foreground surrounded by scenic coastal beauty.

This lovely little Maine town fully displays seafood, the arts, and East Coast charm. Stonington, found on the south end of Deer Isle, is entirely encompassed by Penobscot Bay. Stonington looks like something out of an Edward Hopper painting thanks to its views of the water and its steepled homes built on the gently sloping hillside. The island is connected to the mainland by Deer Isle Bridge, which architectural lovers are sure to appreciate.

 It’s known for its great array of restaurants, shops, art galleries, and exciting activities. It even has an opera house where you can watch live performances. Meanwhile, the tiny village of Deer Isle is located in the island's northern section, about a ten-minute drive from Stonington. It boasts a handful of cafes and shops, but the real attraction here is its enormous suspension bridge that spans Eggemoggin Reach and connects the island to the mainland.

But why would you ever want to leave? Visitors are invited to float in the calm waters of Penobscot Bay and hike through Crockett Cove Woods Preserve. There is more lobster caught here than nearly anywhere else in the state, so be sure to sample the local flavor at places like the Water Street Cafe and the Milagro Cafe.


 Lake Rangeley, Maine.
 Lake Rangeley, Maine.

Rangeley is an ‘all-weather town,’ meaning it is well-suited for any season. The town itself was established in the late 19th century as a small farming community. However, that slow-paced style of living has not gone anywhere, and visitors to this region will be able to find much of the tranquility that the initial settlers found more than two hundred years ago. For instance, star gazing is absolutely spectacular in Rangeley, thanks to its clear skies and the lack of light pollution.

During the warmer months, snowmobile trails transform into opportunities for coastal East Coast hiking at its best. Bald Mountain is a local favorite thanks to the panoramic view of the region’s lakes waiting at the summit. These lakes are also definitely worth visiting, with the nearby Rangeley Lake being a surefire standout. Lastly, there are a multitude of museums to explore, like the Maine Forestry Museum and the Outdoor Heritage Museum, to name a couple.


Buildings on Main Street in downtown Damariscotta, Maine.
Buildings on Main Street in downtown Damariscotta, Maine.

This underrated Maine gem lies between Portland and the previously mentioned Bar Harbor. Damariscotta was at one point a fishing town that has transformed into a wonderful place to rest, relax, and recharge. The town is renowned for its oysters and the Damariscotta River is even known as the ‘Napa Valley of Oysters’ so be sure to eat plenty during your visit. Besides the delicious oysters, nearby Lake Pemaquid is a fine place to spend a lazy summer afternoon diving beneath its placid surface or diving between the covers of a book.

There are a great deal of historic buildings to explore in Damariscotta, such as the Chapman-Hall House or the 1754 brick Lincoln Theater (no relation). For an even deeper plunge into area history, the Whaleback Shell Midden historic site is an enormous oyster shell heap created by the Native Americans over 1,000 years ago.


Calais, Maine, USA (seen from St. Stephen, New Brunswick, Canada, with the St. Croix River in foreground).
Calais, Maine, USA (seen from St. Stephen, New Brunswick, Canada, with the St. Croix River in foreground).

Calais lies in the state’s northeastern portion. This small town sits along the St. Croix River, which acts as the boundary between Canadian and American territory. This capricious river does something else besides demarcating the border between nations: it also swells and sets nearly 30 feet twice per day, revealing an entirely new landscape as the tide goes out.

Whitlock’s Mill Lighthouse, the northernmost lighthouse in Maine, is located on the St. Croix River in Calais, remains operational today, and can be seen from the St. Croix River View rest area. Within Calais itself, the Waterfront Walkway is a charming 1.5-mile jaunt that traces the town’s perimeter. If that brief walk leaves you wanting more, the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge has nearly 30,000 acres of sprawling natural wonder to explore.


Popham Beach State Park, Maine.
Popham Beach State Park, Maine. 

History buffs are almost sure to love Phippsburg. The town was the site of Popham Colony, the first English colony, in 1607, one of the first settlements in the United States. Visitors can spend the night at the 1774 Inn, a rustic farmhouse built in the 18th century for further indulgence in the colonial lifestyle.

Popham Beach is another key Phippsburg attraction. Its three-mile-long strand is a big hit with sunbathers once the weather starts to warm. Not a fan of the beach? Well, the Bates-Morse Mountain Conservation Area, Fort Popham State Historic Site, and Fort Baldwin (with its fabulous overlook) are also all waiting nearby for those looking to explore all the sights and sounds this quiet town has to offer. 

To reduce Maine to its plentiful harvests of marine life would be doing it a disservice. This state is as picturesque as it gets. From its coastal towns to the many lakes, rivers, and forests, Maine is an outdoor lover’s paradise. That is not to say that Maine is one-dimensional. Far from it! Some of the best oysters and lobsters in the country can be had at the delightful eateries found in towns like these. When planning a visit to the Northeast, consider Maine. It truly is a place like any other.

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