11 Amazing Things to See and Do in Maine

Near Thunder Hole | © Kim Carpenter/WikiCommons
Near Thunder Hole | © Kim Carpenter/WikiCommons
Photo of Christopher Crosby
5 October 2017

Spoiled for vistas, your trip to Maine will be beautiful regardless of where you go. Whether you trek north into the woods, slip around peninsulas along the coast, or head into downtown Portland’s cobblestone streets, choices abound. In the summer the coast is stunning but busy, while the lakes fill with cabin denizens looking for a slower pace. The bold should strike out in the woods and confront nature, treking through Maine’s most abundant resource: solitude and space.

Allagash Wilderness Waterway

Thoreauvian wilderness. The 92-mile stretch of protected forest and interconnected waters of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway is one of the largest untouched, largely uninhabited regions remaining in the northeast. Visitors can paddle around on day trips, but the true highlight is to explore the vast landscape—as humans have for more than a millennia—by canoeing over several days (up to 10) from a series of lakes interconnected by the mighty river that gifts its name to the region. Go in the spring when the crowds are thin, the camping sites along the river unpeopled, and the trout are jumping. Several guide services offer all-inclusive trips.

Allagash Wilderness Waterway, Maine, USA

Mount Katahdin, Baxter State Park

Katahdin, Maine’s tallest peak, rises from Baxter State Park, a stretch of pine wilderness and lakes. The hike is transportive: a crowded parking lot thins on the trail, which follows a boisterous stream before plateauing to a sky-blue glacial pond over which the cathedral—a crown of peaks—encircles. The trip is a strenuous 10-hour ascent, but the views and experience are unique and unforgettable.

Mount Katahdin, Baxter State Park, Maine, USA

Acadia National Park

Map View
© Colin D. Young / Alamy Stock Photo
Spruce and pine forests end abruptly at red rouge bluffs on this island national park. Countless hiking trails, fjords, sounds, secluded beaches and world-class food. Acadia first enchanted the Gilded Age industrialists before becoming the state’s tourism centerpiece. Sure, there are crowds, but there are also hikes hugging the Atlantic from which all pepole disappear from view. Not interested in a lot of physical activity? The park’s loop road gives you all the views without the fuss. Spring and fall, when the numbers dwindle are the best times to go, when everything on the island is still open and the weather is at its peak.

L.L. Bean

If you had to compile a list of things associated with Maine, this outfitter-turned-flannel fashion icon would be third on a list after lobster and blueberries. Their duck boots, originally intended as stealthy hunting footwear, are worn from Rome to New York by fashionistas injecting a hint of rustic into their attire. Despite branching into a brand, L.L. Bean stays true to its roots, selling top-notch camping, hunting, and cold weather gear. The flagship store itself has a trout pond and massive aquarium inside, while the hunting section features taxidermy to put most lodges to shame.

L.L. Bean 95 Main St, Freeport, ME, USA, +1 877 755 2326

Casco Bay Islands

Baileys, Little and Greater Diamond, Long, and the one you’ll most likely hear of—Peaks. What sets the islands apart (aside from their stunning beauty of course) is that in the summer tourists are locals who live and commute via the same mail boat into work in Portland every day. For those on break from the daily grind, this island-abundant bay can be explored by hopping from one to another via public ferries, giving you a chance to walk secluded beaches and partake in a local Maine passtime.

Casco Bay Islands, Maine, USA

Mount Kineo, Moosehead Lake

Rising from a peninsula that juts into Maine’s largest lake, Mount Kineo offers stunning views of the rambling waters and surrounding country. The lake’s waters are cold even in the height of summer, and swells can rise as the weather turns. Hike or boat in, and then tune into the phrase “going up to camp,” a Maine-ism honed by generations of summer lake dwellers sitting in Adirondack chairs, watching the sun set over the water.

Mount Kineo, Moosehead Lake, Maine, USA

Breakwater Lighthouse

Nearly a mile of granite slabs form a wide walkway jutting into the harbor before ending at the Breakwater Lighthouse, one of Maine’s most visited attractions. In summer, bronze sloops and bright sailboats glide past to create an idyllic scene. Rockland is a quaint, quintessential Maine sea village, and a good jumping off point for visiting nearby towns like Rockport and Camden.

Break Water Lighthouse, Rockland, ME, USA, + 1 207 542 7574

Height of Land

Travelers through western Maine often make their way to the ski slopes, but along a rural back way this hill offers stunning views over the Androscoggin River watershed. Near the ever-popular Rangeley Lake is a rise aptly called Height of Land, with stunning views of Mooselookmeguntic, a lake dotted by evergreen islands. The area is treasured by outdoorsman for its fishing, and boaters for its quiet waters. This is camping territory, and hikers should try day trips along parts of the Appalachian Trail, which runs by the main road.

Height of Land, Roxbury, Maine, USA

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

One of the first sights of spring, after Mainers thaw from five months of winter, are huge purple and pink rhododendrons growing at the stunning Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. Spread out over 300-acres in coastal Boothbay, the gardens are one of the state’s premier attractions, drawing an estimated 190,000 visitors in 2016, which is a record. Their popularity is partly due to their willingness to adapt to the season. There are sections for roses, native plants, bulbs, and when the snow falls, gardeners trade in their spaces for LEDs, stringing thousands of lights for a sold out lights display called Winter’s Aglow. You can search on their website to see what’s in bloom at any time, and the gardens exhibit sculptures by local artists.

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, 132 Botanical Gardens Dr, Boothbay, ME, USA, + 1 207 633 8000

Gulf Hagas

Locals call it the Grand Canyon of the East. Here at the Gulf Hagas, the east branch of the Pleasant River falls hundreds of feet through a series of screw auger falls into deep bowls teaming with trout. The trail, accessible only by hiking knee-deep through a mild river, skirts the rim of the gorge and opens up on outcroppings plunging into the river far below. Dedicate a day to the hike, and swim the Buttermilk Falls, a deep, dark bowl of water fed by icy falls churning the water into thick, cream-colored foam. You can camp nearby along the river and start your hike early in the morning.

Gulf Hagas, Brownville Maine, USA, +1 207 941 4014

The Old Port

Brick and cobblestone, winding, Portland’s downtown, the Old Port, exudes old world charm. As though the world-class restaurant, boisterous beer halls, and gulls crying on the quay bounding the streets weren’t enough reason to go, this pedestrian-friendly hub is easy on the eyes. Maine’s commercial and creative center hums with life, as artists, tourists, and locals rub shoulders, each seeking a slice of something similar. Portland often convinces travelers to stay, wooing urbanites to move. Bespoke bars, farm-to-table restaurants; Portland combines Maine’s rural and urban tendencies around a dinner table. Walk around or grab a seat to watch the fashionable prowl the streets.

The Old Port, Portland, Maine, USA