Historic buildings showcasing rustic architecture along Water Street in Hallowell, Maine. Editorial credit: Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

These 10 Towns in Maine Have Beautiful Architecture

Maine's awe-inspiring natural scenery, from picturesque coastlines to lush alpine forests, has for years made it a popular playground for holidaymakers on the East Coast of the United States. Most of its small towns are as old as the country, harboring an abundance of historical architecture that rivals any destination. From well-preserved coastal villages to grand estates showcasing Victorian splendor, Maine's picturesque towns showcase exquisite examples of old-world craftsmanship.

A trip to any of these rustic gems is an opportunity to experience the wealth of historical and cultural heritage in the Pine Tree State. Whether one’s interests lie in exploring the interior of majestic manor homes, posing for photos against postcard-worthy lighthouses, or strolling the main drags of quaint downtown districts frozen in time, the following charming towns in Maine promise visual delights with their architectural masterpieces.


The Cape Porpoise Fishing Shack in Kennebunkport, Maine.
The Cape Porpoise Fishing Shack in Kennebunkport, Maine.

This charming coastal community in southern Maine draws tourists with its sandy beaches and exquisite harbor views. It boasts a mix of museums, galleries, and souvenir stores with a couple of old-world structures that offer a hint of its historical heritage. Guests also witness some of its architectural treasures, best exemplified by the gorgeous 19th-century St. Ann's by-the-sea Episcopal Church. Guests are allowed to picnic on the church's grassy compounds and soak awesome views of the Atlantic Ocean. Goat Island Lighthouse is another popular spot in Kennebunkport. Built in 1833, it is a prominent subject for many photographers visiting the town.

It would be unfair to visit Kennebunkport and fail to check out its pristine beaches. Summer crowds will naturally gravitate towards Gooch's Beach, which impresses with a clean, sandy shoreline, offering swimming and surfing opportunities. Meanwhile, history buffs will fancy a tour of the Seashore Trolley Museum, home to an interesting collection of antique trolley cars, trolley buses, and other transport modes.


Rustic buildings in downtown Camden, Maine.
Rustic buildings in downtown Camden, Maine. Editorial credit: KMarsh / Shutterstock.com

This picturesque harbor village on Penobscot Bay hosts a lovely historic district with a fine display of Victorian, Federal, and Colonial architectural styles on its antique structures. Walking down the High Street Historic District feels like stepping into a time capsule, thanks to its lovely display of 19th-century homes. Highlights include the Camden Public Library, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the restored Camden Opera House. This prominent performance venue dates back to 1893 and continues to entertain the public with a variety of live shows, such as comedy, theater, drama, and dance.

The town also hosts Camden Hills State Park, an excellent escape for outdoor enthusiasts. Straddling over 5,700 acres, it has numerous multi-use trails leading to vantage points at Mount Battie and Mount Megunticook. For those who remember to carry their cameras, Curtis Island Lighthouse is a must-visit. Stationed at the entrance of Camden Harbor, it delivers an amazing photo opportunity.


View of the Rockport Harbor in Maine.
View of boats docked along the scenic Rockport Harbor in Maine. By Benggriff - Own work, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons.

A stone's throw away from Camden, tourists will bump into Rockport, which mirrors the charm of its neighbor but with a more subtle vibe. This popular art colony draws visitors with a mix of delightful attractions, chief among them is the Rockport Opera House. An architectural gem built in 1891, it not only delights with its appealing facade but also the cultural and artistic live performances it continues to stage. Rockport offers ample opportunities for outdoorsy travelers at Beech Hill Preserve. Covering 295 acres, the nature space hosts two wooded trails leading to a mountain summit, culminating in unprecedented views of the coast.

Rockport Marine Park also excites newcomers with a serene waterfront atmosphere and pristine picnic areas. It also features a boat launch that lets visitors get on the water. After working up an appetite from exploring the town, remember to sample Maine's famous seafood scene at Offshore Restaurant.


The Nubble Lighthouse in York, Maine.
The Nubble Lighthouse in York, Maine. By Hidden Fox Photography - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons.

Situated near Maine's southern tip, this charismatic coast town features a mix of seaside mansions, colonial cottages, and a beautiful village green. Its bustling downtown corridor houses various businesses and a couple of treasures worth checking out. The George Marshall Store Gallery is an excellent stop, showcasing a selection of contemporary art pieces by various artists from Maine and the entire New England region. However, the open spaces prove to be more charming in York, with multiple parks offering a cozy escape to the great outdoors. Beachgoers will love the tranquility of Long Sands Beach, while hikers can take a scenic trek along Fisherman's Walk.

Those who prefer a bit of greenery in their space will fancy a picnic at Hartley Mason Reserve, presenting a serene seaside setting with sweeping vistas of York Beach. Finally, the iconic Nubble Lighthouse is another architectural wonder that visitors will want to glimpse.


Waterfront buildings along the coast in Castine, Maine.
Waterfront homes along the shore in Castine, Maine.

One of the oldest towns in Maine and the entire North American region, Castine has continuously been inhabited since the 17th century. It hosts an unrivaled collection of forts, missions, and trading posts with a unique display of colonial and pre-colonial era architecture. When strolling down the bustling Main Street, several structures stand out for their unique facades, particularly the Trinitarian Congregational Parish of Castine. A tour of the Wilson Museum provides a window into the workings of an early Castine home, where visitors can watch artisans and craftsmen demonstrate traditional skills while also exploring fossils.

Castine harbors a respectable arts community that enables enthusiasts to partake in their favorite pastimes. Gallery B exhibits a vast collection of pieces by more than 30 regional and international artists. Stepping into the open, ardent outdoorsmen will enjoy exploring the 100 acres of wilderness at the Rene Henderson Natural Area.


Stores along Hallowell's Water Street.
Businesses lined along the historic Water Street in Hallowell, Maine. Editorial credit: Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

Hallowell is a quintessential New England community known for its historical flair and artistic vibe. It boasts a picturesque downtown district with rows of 18th and 19th-century structures displaying unique period architecture, many of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A lazy walk down Water Street reveals a treasure trove of historic sites, including Gaslight Theater, one of Maine's longest-continuously operating theater venues. Along the same route, visitors will run into Hubbard Free Library, a mainstay in Hallowell since the 1870s. It is also the state's oldest library building.

Beyond its captivating history, Hallowell offers plenty of outdoor opportunities at its different nature spaces, including the Hallowell Reservoir. Straddling 165 acres of forested wilderness, it harbors quiet and secluded trails that invite hikers to immerse in the great outdoors. The same is true for Vaughan Woods, a beautiful park with a historic home listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


The historic Lincoln Theater in Damariscotta, Maine.
The 1875 Linclon Theater showcasing historic architecture in Damariscotta, Maine. By Smuconlaw. - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons.

This picture-perfect Lincoln County village is popularly referred to as the "Oyster Capital of New England." Central to the state's oyster industry, Damariscotta presents fun oyster-tasting opportunities, especially during the Pemaquid Oyster Festival. This an excellent time to explore local culture and partake in a revered, long-held tradition. Oysters aside, Damariscotta boasts a walkable historic district with well-preserved buildings with their original old-world architecture. Notable stops while exploring the town center include Lincoln Theater, an 1875 venue staging live performances and movie screenings.

History buffs have something to look forward to while in the town, most notably the Whaleback Shell Midden State Historic Site. This 11-acre site comprises oyster shell heaps and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Finally, lovers of open spaces can take a relaxed sailing trip on the tranquil waters of Damariscotta River, courtesy of Damariscotta River Cruises.

Boothbay Harbor

View of vibrant buildings in Boothbay Harbor, Maine
VIbrant coastal architecture on display in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. Editorial credit: EQRoy / Shutterstock.com

Boothbay Harbor's charm lies in its easy-going coastal vibe, providing a reprieve from the daily grind of urban living. The downtown corridors entice visitors with an impressive mix of cultural centers, quaint museums, galleries, and delectable restaurants. It has a socially charged atmosphere ideal for beginning exploration. Several historical buildings decorate Boothbay Harbor's downtown skyline, starting with the Opera House at Boothbay Harbor. Besides hosting captivating musical performances, it boasts a rustic and acoustic charm.

Boothbay Harbor Historical Society is a must-visit for history enthusiasts. Housed in the 1874 Elizabeth F. Reed House, it offers a hint of the town's colorful past through a range of artifacts. Away from the town center, more treasures await discovery in the open spaces, led by the nearby Hendrick's Head Lighthouse. Dating back to 1829, it is a vital piece of the town's past eras, and the site places you at a vantage point to admire the scenic Sheepscot River.


The historic Opera House in Stonington, Maine.
The historic Opera House in the town of Stonington, Maine. Editorial credit: Miro Vrlik Photography / Shutterstock.com

This cozy coastal village hosts a modest community of about 1,000, enticing travelers with its small-town charm and beautiful water vistas. Furthermore, a mix of bustling art scenes, fun aquatic adventures, and scrumptious seafood scenes sustain tourist traffic through the town. Art lovers are spoilt for choice when it comes to sampling the local creative community, with stops at the historic Opera House Arts and G Watson Gallery offering the opportunity to experience unique visual and performance art.

Multiple local outfitters in Stonington offer exciting tours into the open waters that are always a hit with tourists. These include laid-back laying excursions with Osprey's Echo Sea Kayaking. Finally, a trip to Stonington will not be complete without sampling the region's seafood culture at Greenhead Lobster.

Blue Hill

Scenic lakeside view near the town of Blue Hill, Maine.
Scenic lakeside view near the town of Blue Hill, Maine. By Anewt72690 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons.

This tranquil village in Hancock County packs a punch of touristy delights despite its relatively modest population. It offers a slew of exciting experiences for visitors indoors and outdoors. Exploring its quiet downtown presents a chance to discover its heritage while scoping out its unique architecture. At Handworks Gallery, visitors can browse an assortment of arts and crafts and pieces by local Maine artists. Meanwhile, Blue Hill Country Club is one of the many architectural attractions in the town and also offers luxurious amenities like a private golf course and multiple tennis courts.

Blue Hill is enveloped by a beautiful wilderness area beckoning adventures to embrace outdoor living. Taking on the Blue Hill Mountain Trails poses a short and moderate climb that rewards hikers with unparalleled vistas of the surroundings. Alternatively, thanks to The Activity Shop, you can go on a fun kayaking tour to experience the calm waters of the Blue Hill peninsula.

Wrapping Up

Maine offers a wealth of picturesque small towns that serve as architectural wonders showcasing historic New England design. Visiting any of these charming towns in Maine provides an insightful look at how past eras left enduring marks of beauty across the state's landscape. Their historic buildings remain well worth seeing for any appreciation of historic New England character and craftsmanship. They are also a living testament to the superior craftsmanship and architectural genius of old-world communities that once called the Pine Tree State home.

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