With its picturesque lighthouses, old harbors and endless beaches, plus all the seafood you can swallow, Maine is the nation’s seafaring state. All this and more can be experienced by visiting one of its best small towns, exuding a warm atmosphere from the hearts of people who truly love and want to share their life at sea with others.
Located on Mount Desert, the quaint seaside town of Bar Harbor is the ultimate gateway to Acadia National Park, rewarding tourists with an array of outdoor adventures and mesmerizing sights, such as views of the Cadillac Mountain to the Bay and the Cranberry Islands. The scenic Shore Path that runs along the eastern shore of Mount Desert Island is lovely for a sunrise stroll. The heart of the city offers a bustling arts scene, excellent shopping and renowned restaurants, as well as sightseeing cruises, ghost shows and food tours.
Located on Lincoln County’s crumbling coast, the quaint seaside town of Boothbay Harbor is straight out of the storybooks. Attracting anyone who appreciates any type of art, Boothbay Harbor has been a gathering point for artists and artisans from across the country. Founded in the 17th century, the town grew from a small British colony to a thriving industrial center in the late 19th century, with a lobster cannery and fisheries still in operation. Boating around the jagged coastline, islets and coves is one of the most popular summer pastimes, with the town’s celebration of its marine heritage also taking place in June, known as Windjammer’s Day . Visiting the beautiful grounds and exploring the grounds of Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens is a must for anyone in town.
Straight out of a postcard, Camden is a charming coastal town perched on Penobscot Bay, often adorned by the Maine Windjammer fleet of magnificent sailboats. The downtown area is full of upscale restaurants, galleries, and shops, with frequent cultural events and shows taking place during the summer. Besides the Town Beach, its best-known natural attraction, Camden Hills State Park offers more than 30 miles of hiking trails and a beautiful freshwater beach at Barrett’s Cove on Lake Megunticook, as well as campgrounds and picnic areas suitable for families. The trail to Maiden’s Cliff opens up to stunning views of Lake Megunticook below. Marvelous views of Penobscot Bay and the surrounding mountains can also be accessed by car from Mount Battie.
Having been around since the 1600s as one of Maine’s oldest towns, Castine is located rather secluded on a peninsula in Penobscot Bay. Churches, antique shops and inns set between rows of white clapboard houses with American flags fluttering in the salty air paint the picture of this quaint seaside village, which is also home to the Maine Maritime Academy. The city also includes the magnificent Dyce Headlight and Fort Madison, the latter of which offers stunning views of Castine Harbor, for plenty of sights to see and history to hear. The sunsets are unforgettable, with Wadsworth Cove beach ideally facing west.
The often overlooked village of Damariscotta has a lot to offer, despite being 20 miles upriver from the open ocean. It includes the Maine Coast Book Shop and Cafe for cozy pastime with a view, a gallery for art lovers, and the Lincoln County Community Theater for art fanatics. Located on the eastern edge of the tidal Damariscotta River and peaceful Pemaquid Lake on the other side, Damariscotta is famous for its fresh seafood, while the town’s shipbuilding roots have blossomed into an ambience of relaxed beach. A notable landmark includes the nearby Whaleback Shell Midden spill of oyster shells over 2,000 years old.
Part of the Pine Tree State, Kennebunkport is a popular destination for its award-winning restaurants, independent shops and lively bars, with many of the town’s famous summer residents, such as the Bush family. Kennebunkport’s Dock Square comprises the heart of the city, while Walker’s Point is a famous vantage point for the scenic rocky coastline. The Prelude to Christmas celebration is a favorite annual event to experience an old-fashioned holiday spirit, while summer brings the Kennebunkport Festival full of art, music and culinary events orchestrated by the best chefs, in June. The beautiful beaches and Kennebunk River are perfect for swimming, relaxing or sunset sailing, with whale watching and deep sea fishing also an option.
The state’s premier summer vacation town, its Algonquin Indians’ name means “Beautiful Place by the Sea,” which is true with the 3.5 miles of gorgeous sandy beaches offering beachside stays of sea and a lively nightlife. Located on the southern shore of the Maine coast, Ogunquit’s waters are calm and warm due to the gradual slope. The Marginal Way coastal walking path connects the center to the charming fishing village of Perkins Cove, known for its shopping, seafood and drawbridge. The town is known for its art scene, with the Ogunquit Playhouse, numerous galleries, local artisans, performances, and the Ogunquit Museum of American Art, with various exhibits throughout the year.
Old Orchard Beach
Located point blank on Saco Bay, Old Orchard Beach is a family vacation dream come true. It offers arcades, amusement parks, fireworks and vibrant nightlife on the coast. The seven miles of beaches here are voted “Best in Maine” for accessibility and cleanliness. It will take at least a week to see and do all the city has to offer, including savoring the fresh seafood, taking a nostalgic ride on the Tilt-A-Whirl at Palace Playland amusement park, and visiting Pirate’s Cover. The perpetual nostalgia resonates throughout, including the Old Orchard Beach Pier promenade on stilts with restaurants and shops.
Located inland near the border with New Hampshire, Rangeley is a true wonder of nature town with pronoun roots. After being founded on rock, the city was home to people who worked hard on farms and sawmills in the field. In the late 19th century the town welcomed tourism, relatively early for many others in the region. Its spectacular lakes for summer recreation, swimming and fishing attract people like bees to honey, fleeing the country’s major metropolises to relax in peaceful surroundings.
Located by the sea almost halfway up the coast of Maine, about 80 miles north of Portland, Rockland has a historic downtown and a large main street filled with shops, restaurants and galleries that showcase artists and local artisans. Its harbor is home to a collection of historic sailing vessels known as the Maine Windjammer Fleet that offer multi-day sightseeing cruises and sailing excursions and take center stage during the Grand Parade along the Rockland Breakwater in July. The 19th century building housing the Farnsworth Art Museum in the city center houses over 10,000 works of art, including paintings and sculptures. The Maine Lighthouse Museum, with the adjacent Maine Discovery Center, offers a collection of artifacts and exhibits, perfect for a day of family exploration.
Stonington radiates charm with its wooden houses lining the glassy waters and small boats floating beside the piers. The verdant surroundings that contrast with the jagged rocks and the true hometown vibe that Stonington retains, attract fleets of tourists from across the country. Located at the scenic south end of granite Deer Island, off the coast of Hancock County, the calm bay, Crockett Cove Woods reserve and islands up to Isle au Haut offer relaxation, adventure and exploration in one place. The city’s extensive fishing and lobster industries are one of the proudest and most productive, with over 300 boats.
Wiscasset is a seafood lover’s dream destination, with everyone’s first stop being the family-run Red’s Eats, which serves up award-winning lobster rolls that earn constant praise from celebrity chefs and everyday tourists alike. . The historic town has many notable sites, including an old mansion, the Federal-style Nickels-Sortwell House, and Tucker Castle. Scenically perched on a hill, the mansion overlooks the Sheepscot River for a one-of-a-kind view and Instagram favorite. Wiscasset also set a world record for having the smallest church in the world.
The premier location perched on the Gulf of Maine of the Atlantic Ocean makes this second-oldest city in the state a popular summer destination. Its beautiful beaches and the photogenic Nubble Lighthouse are the pride of the city. Various birds such as black-backed gulls, herring gulls, double-crested cormorants, bluegills and harbor seals can be spotted. The resort offers a myriad of family pastimes as well as marine-themed dishes, such as clam chowder, lobster rolls, and saltwater taffy for dessert. Settled by Europeans in 1624, the oldest part of Old York Gaol dates back to 1720, while the 18th-century John Sedgley property is one of the oldest in the state. There is also a hikeable Mount Agamenticus, while York Harbour, York Beach and Cape Neddick are collectively known as “The Yorks”.
Maine has a unique atmosphere of beaches galore coupled with a deep-rooted marine history so distinct from other states favored for summer beach fun. Even the smallest towns in Maine have vibrant nightlife, sprawling art scenes, and a beautiful setting of the wild sea on one side juxtaposed by the tranquil countryside hugging the city on the other.