What is there to do in the most Eastern State of the US? Lots and lots, as you’re about to find out. Maine is a state known for its early European settlement of the Americas, historical marine fishing trade, and beautiful New England sights.
It is a popular holiday destination state, due to its summer beaches. But it also has winter-time skiing, vast national parks and waterways, and plenty of recreational activities for all.
Let’s take a look at 37 unique things to do and see in Maine, with an eye to occupying a weekend or even longer on your travels to “Vacationland”.
37 Unique Things to Do in Maine
Table of Contents
- 37 Unique Things to Do in Maine
- 1. Acadia National Park
- 2. Allagash Waterway
- 3. Asticou Azalea Garden
- 4. Bar Harbour
- 5. Baxter State Park
- 6. Boothbay Harbour
- 7. Bowdoin College Museum of Art
- 8. Camden
- 9. Portland Head Light
- 10. Casco Bay
- 11. Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens
- 12. Colby College Museum of Art
- 13. Funtown Splashtown USA
- 14. Old Speck Mountain
- 15. Gulf Hagas Rim Trail
- 16. Hamilton House
- 17 Kennebunkport
- 18. Stephen King’s House
- 19. Maine Maritime Museum
- 20. Marginal Way
- 21. Monhegan Island
- 22. Mount Desert Oceanarium
- 23. Mount Katahdin
- 24. Nubble Lighthouse
- 25. Old Fort Western
- 26. Old Orchard Beach
- 27. Rangeley Lake
- 28. Sugarloaf
- 29. Sunday River
- 29. Thuya Garden
- 30. Victoria Mansion
- 31. West Quoddy Head & Lighthouse
- 32. Wiscasset
- 33. Pemaquid Point Light
- 34. Ogunquit
- 35. L.L. Bean Store
- 36. Wiggly Bridge
- 37. Windjammer Cruise
- Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Maine
Looking for beaches to chill on, mountains to hike, or museums to explore? These are the best of those that Maine, one of many beautiful US states, has to offer.
Mount Desert Island
It may surprise you to learn that Acadia is one of the top 10 national parks visited in the entire US, registering around 3.5 million visitors every year. There’s a little bit of everything here, including mountains, lakes, beaches (some of them quite secluded), gardens and little villages, hiking trails, and glorious wilderness.
The highlights include the famous Beehive hiking loop, Thunder Hole, and the Cadillac Mountain Peak. there’s also stargazing the huge night sky, and the traditional bread and tea served in the Jordan Pond House Restaurant – apparently, it’s the same recipe served since the late 1800s.
Aroostook County to Piscataquis County
The general consensus is that you will need a whole day at least to fully enjoy the experience of the Allagash Waterway. This is a network of rivers, creeks, and lakes that invite all sorts of water activities like kayaking, swimming, hiking, and camping along the shores. It really is a nature lover’s paradise, especially if you love the idea of spending a few days out in the wild.
Asticou Azalea Garden was established in 1956 on Mount Desert island in the Acadia National Park (mentioned above). This is a Japanese garden that sells itself on the tranquility of its environment, not to mention the pure beauty of its flowers.
It’s 2.3-acres large and features paths upon which to walk. Azaleas, conifers, rhododendrons, and other plants can be viewed here, helping you let go of the world’s worries, and contemplate the wonders of life in general.
Mount Desert Island
You could consider Bar Harbour as an introduction to Acadia National park, but it is definitely a tourist favourite on Mount Desert Island. Visitors love Frenchman Bay, long walks along the island’s coast, and fresh seafood found in the town.
There are a surprising amount of luxury accommodation options here too, like the Bar Harbor Grand Hotel, a highly rated and grandly-named hotel on Main Street. One fun thing to do is walk across the sandbar to the island in the harbour, provided you remember to walk back before the tide comes back in.
An alternative to Acadia National Park is the less-frequented Baxter State Park, near Millinocket. One distinction is that the State’s tallest mountain is found in this park (see Mount Katahdin further down this list). At over 5000 feet, it’s a challenging hike, but well worth the views.
You can also camp in the park in order to explore more of its some 215-miles of trails over a couple of days. You may even spot bears or moose while you’re walking about.
This summer resort is known as one of the best boating harbours in the state for good reason. The entire area used to be a shipping port, so it’s well-equipped to handle boats and boaters with their specific interests and needs.
They’ve managed to add lots of cultural and recreational activities, too. Today there are restaurants (seafood speciality, of course) art galleries, museums, and shops. Still, the main attractions are boat cruises, schooner trips, kayaking, and an aquarium.
Art lovers will get a good day’s viewing out of the 20 000 pieces of various art housed here. Everything from ceramics and paintings (the 15th-century Fra Angelico is a highlight) to furniture and more can be seen in these halls. The Museum is registered on the National Register of Historic Places.
Camden Town is known for its tall-masted sailboats, and the harbour is the main attraction, not surprisingly. But you can also take a walk up Mount Battie. While these are decidedly summer activities, Camden also hosts an annual Winter Snow Bowl-Camden is the home base for the only snow-covered mountain in the region. Come to think of it, there’s aren’t that many slopes in the world where you have an ocean view.
Cape Elizabeth, Cumberland
The Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth is the oldest lighthouse in Maine. That’s no mean feat in a coastal state with such a rich history of boating and shipping. The lighthouse was completed in 1791 and is one of the most intriguing lighthouses to photograph. It is an absolutely picture-perfect example of old-time sea village imagery, especially at dusk hours.
Remarkably, the lighthouse is still active today. Helping ships navigate the entrance to Portland Harbour. Cape Elizabeth Itself is worth exploring, too, friendly to cyclists and beachgoers.
Gulf of Maine
Casco Bay ranks as another one of the most popular water-related attraction areas in Maine, which makes it one worth trying to visit. Boat trips are the name of the game here, as they are a great way to explore the various areas of interest. Take Peaks Island, which you can access via the Peaks Island ferry.
For some idea of why this is so popular, consider that it’s sometimes called the Coney Island of Maine. So think of a carnival-type atmosphere and all the various family-related fun that goes with it. Like many other coastal towns, seafood is your food of choice here, and lobster especially is a must-try.
Almost 300-acres of delightful gardens and pathways await you here. There are several sections that you should consider themed, like woodland, water, and so on. You get a beautifully curated flora experience that will help you relax and simply take in the wonders of the greenery.
There are daily guided tours talking about the various plants. If for some reason, you need something extra to look at, several public art sculptures provide a welcome distraction, if only for a moment, from the serene beauty of the gardens.
The Museum of Art puts focus on representing diverse cultures within its collection. It also offers a broad chronological timeline from which artworks are drawn.
Lots of intriguing exhibitions pass through the museum. For example, Of particular interest to historical art buffs was the collection of First Nation works, which explore the art of the Native American peoples.
Funtown has the distinction of being two parks in one. As the name suggests, there are dedicated water park attractions. But, there is also a section more akin to a traditional amusement park.
The amusement park hosts Maine’s only wooden rollercoaster – a novelty find these days. It also has one of the tallest log flumes in the country. Still, the water park remains popular for families and especially kids. Prepare to spend an entire day between the two at least.
14. Old Speck Mountain
Grafton Notch State Park, Newry
If you’re a keen mountain hiker or climber, visiting the Old Speck Mountain within the Grafton Notch can be well worth your holiday time, as many attest to its beauty and charms. Part of the Appalachian Trail, the mountain is a decent challenge for the casual mountaineer but offers hiking options for those with less energy too.
Beyond the mountain itself, the park offers a fabulous natural setting for birdwatchers and those looking to relax by a waterfall.
If a place has been nicknamed the Grand Canyon of Maine, you know you need to look into visiting it to see what the fuss is about. The canyon itself sees the Pleasant River run through its roughly three miles. The gorge is 500-feet-deep and is a beautiful, leafy canyon to behold on a hike around the river.
Fans of the area do warn that the hikes around here are challenging and that visitors should expect a decent workout on the trails, not to mention get dirty. This is rugged country, but beautiful nonetheless.
One of Maine’s most well-known historical buildings and homes, the Hamilton House was built in 1787 by John Hamilton. Hamilton was an English merchant who built it as a country house. Today it is a National Historic Landmark and serves as a museum.
At the time of its construction, the house was recognized as the most valuable property in the district. The house remains largely unchanged from its heyday, with restorations and repairs preserving its look and interior.
Another one of Maine’s many coastal towns, Kennebunkport offers the popular Goose Rocks and Arundel Beaches as top attractions for tourists. But that’s not to sell short the unique appeal of the Seashore Trolley Museum and its collection of streetcars, or the eateries and shops of adjacent Cape Porpoise.
Like most coastal towns in Maine, Kennebunkport has a lighthouse too-the Goat Island Lighthouse, which was built in 1833. If seeing what the wealthier side of Maine lives like is your deal, you may get some idea here, as the town is known for its upmarket feel.
Legendary novelist Stephen King also happens to have a similarly famous house in Bangor, which one can glimpse through the gates from the street. It’s a thrill for fans of the horror genre, as they hope to see their hero on the grounds.
It’s a Victorian mansion, so quite the sight in and of itself, with a pair of towers on each side. Amusingly, the wrought-iron fence and gates are designed as spiderwebs, as bat figures adorn the pillars.
Naturally, New England and Maine’s proud history with boats and ships invites the opportunity for a maritime museum and this one is one of the coolest. The museum sits on the site of an old shipyard, so it immediately brings a geographical history to its appeal.
Browse the various paraphernalia and artefact collections, but also visits sites like a blacksmith shop and a lobster exhibit – yes you can interact to some degree. Most intriguingly, the museum has a collection of 140 boats that can be discussed and learned about – most with a history of service in Maine.
Some might say it’s just a walkway, but the unique charm of the Marginal Way is talked about by many tourists. It is a paved trail that winds its way between Ogunquit Beach and Perkins Cove. The latter is a fishing village that appeals to the sense of adventure with restaurants and shops to boot.
The walk is marked by several benches for stops as you enjoy the amazing sea views. It’s also a relatively easy walk as it’s flat. Perfect for a long afternoon stroll, and a calm romantic walk, if your holiday is at all inclined to do so. The walk is just over a mile long.
Something different. This tiny island ( about a square-mile in total area), is only accessible by boat and sits about ten miles from the mainland. Walk the island’s coastal hikes along its cliffs – there are about ten-miles of them, and talk to one of the 70 residents about life in this small community.
The island became known as an artist colony at one point, contributing to a specifically intriguing culture in this community. It’s a unique getaway, and making use of one of the small villages’ lodging options for an overnight stay is awesome for a taste of small island life. More than likely you’ll make a few new friends along the way.
If you’ve ever wondered how a lobster hatchery works, pay a visit to the Mount Desert Ocean Aquarium, which does a great job of exploring the rich marine life of Maine. The actual name of the place seems like a misnomer, but the focus of the oceanarium is education, and it also includes a marsh walk looking at eco issues.
You can also experience a touch-tank offering direct experiences with various marine specimens. At the very least, you’ll discover where Maine’s ample seafood culture starts. In 2021, a new owner purchased the oceanarium, promising to maintain it as a non-profit.
Welcome to the highest mountain peak in Maine, standing a proud 5,269 feet. The name derives from a Native American name meaning “great mountain”. The mountain sits within the Baxter State Park.
The mountain is a National Natural Landmark. Black bears, moose, and dear are known to roam the mountain. One interesting claim to fame-though now disproven-was the possibility that Katahdin was the first piece of the US mainland to see sunlight every morning. Sadly, this isn’t true.
Nonetheless, there is a quarter-mile section of a climbing trail that is just three-feet-wide, with a sheer cliff on both sides. This is called the Knife Edge! Only for those with nerves of steel.
The official name for the lighthouse is Cape Neddick Light Station, and it is on a small island about 100 yards off the mainland. Legend has it that a famous cat lived there in the 1930s. Mr. T (no relation to the movie star), weighed 20 lbs and would often swim to the mainland.
Another of Nubble’s claims to fame is that it was the very last lighthouse in the US to switch to automation. In that sense, it was home to the last official actual lighthouse keeper and operator in the US. Today, it remains one of the most photographed lighthouses in the country.
Fort Western was a British military outpost built in 1754. It was commissioned during the French and Indian War. Today, only one main building remains and has been restored to resemble its original use as a trading post. What remains of the fort as a whole is now a museum, open to the public during summer.
It stands on the Kennebec River, designated a Historical National Landmark. It is one of the oldest forts in the US still standing, and may well be the US’ oldest surviving wooden military structures.
This resort town offers a typical Maine beach vacation opportunity complete with the swimmable beach in Saco Bay. Choose a spot on the nearly seven-miles of sandy beach, or head to the popular pier with its entertainment, shops, and restaurants.
There is a beach-side amusement park that will entertain the kids as well, enough to keep the whole family occupied all day. There’s a sense of a classic beach resort town here – everything you need is contained within short distances. Best of all, the beach area is cleaned and maintained by local volunteers, which has led to some describing it as the best-kept beach in the state, if not New England.
At Rangeley Lake, you can swim from a rare grass verge beach, with steps leading into the water. The lake is an impressive 32-miles-long and offers excellent mountain settings for your total relaxation. Access is mostly unrestricted to the lake and its surrounds.
The town of Rangeley sits on the northeastern shore. Looking more broadly, the lake itself forms part of what is commonly called the Rangeley Lakes Area, which is known for its offerings of fly-fishing, watersports, and of course delightful natural beauty.
One of many Sugarloaf Mountains in the world, the Maine edition is known as a ski destination. It has a long-standing rivalry with Sunday River (see next entry below) as the best and most popular resort for snow and slopes.
Sugarloaf, for its part, is the third-highest peak in the state, and the second-largest ski mountain in the state by area. In the summer, several non-snow activities can also be enjoyed – golf, zipline, mountain biking, and court-based games like tennis and basketball are popular.
Sunday River has eight peaks to ski (as opposed to Sugarloaf’s one) and is considered the largest ski resort by area in Maine. This resort is year-round, and also offers summer sports as an option in those months.
The story goes that the fierce rivalry started in the early 70s when a new developer started Sunday River’s journey to becoming a major player. Today it has the longest season in the region and has developed major improvements to its terrain and snowmaking ability.
A herbaceous garden on the estate of Thuya Lodge, the garden is a place to wander around the paths for a few quiet moments to contemplate your thoughts. Gorgeous green grass and stone pathways mark the preserve, which explodes with delightful colourful beds of flowers and bushes.
The name of the garden derives from its distinctive white cedar trees, which are scientifically named Thuja occidentalis. The garden opened to the public in 1962.
The Morse-Libby House, as it is also known, is an elaborate historical home that is now a national landmark. From the outside, it shows elements of Italian design, and it is officially recognized as one of the best examples of this architecture in terms of woodwork and interior in the US.
The house was only named Victoria Mansion after it was saved from demolition by a new owner in 1941. The owner, William H. Holmes, opened the house as a museum named after Queen Victoria. It is still a museum today, in part because it has remained largely unchanged since its original construction in 1860.
One of the main reasons you’ll want to visit West Quoddy and its lighthouse is that it sits on the easternmost point of the continental United States mainland. Some visitors note with amusement that cell service may switch to a Canadian provider when you visit here.
The lighthouse is classic and unique, with red and white stripes that will remind you of drawings in a children’s book. In fact, only three lighthouses in the US are coloured this way.
The very first lighthouse here was completed in 1808, though the tower that stands there at present is not much younger, having been completed in 1857. Visitors can access the lighthouse during certain times of the year when it is opened as a museum.
The name Wiscasset was adopted by the town in 1802. It is an Abenaki word meaning, roughly: “coming out from the harbour but you don’t see where.” The town is very old, though, and even before European settlers arrived here in 1663, it was known as a gathering place for the Abenaki peoples.
Today visitors can visit the charms of “the prettiest town in Maine” at a Heritage Village, as well as several historically preserved buildings. Included in those is the smallest Church in the world according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Rumour has it that this was also the location of the intended refusal of Marie Antoinette during the French Revolution.
If you truly want to see a truly iconic lighthouse, consider visiting the Pemaquid Point Light, which happens to be so famous, it adorns the 25c coin in Maine. Originally built (very poorly) in 1827, it was rebuilt in 1835. There is also a park and museum to explore.
Pemaquid is an Abenaki word, too, meaning “situated far out”. Like Wiscasset, the area was settled by Europeans in the 1600s. The area has a storied history, with conflicts between the native Abenaki and Europeans well-documented.
The town of Ogunquit itself is much more than the aforementioned Marginal Way (see above). Explore Footbridge Beach or Ogunquit Beach themselves for a fun day out – the latter is three-miles long. It’s best also to ride through the town on a traditional public trolley.
Many regard this as one of the prettiest towns in America too. It has the makings of an old-new England town’s architecture, dramatic landscape (cliffs, rocks, and oceanside beaches), and all the modern amenities of restaurants, shopping, and top-class accommodation. The perfect Southern Maine getaway. And, don’t forget the Maine seafood.
The store that never closes exists in Freeport. It may seem strange to recommend a retail store as an interesting place to visit, but L.L. Bean’s flagship outlet is so much more than just a shop. It’s actually a major tourist attraction, claiming to have three million people through its doors every year.
The trademark giant boot is a favourite posing place for tourist camera hounds. Contained within though, is a large aquarium, museum, and even carriage rides. One of the most beloved aspects of the store though is that it is open 24-hours, every day of the year.
For a thrill, check out and walk the Wiggly Bridge, allegedly the world’s smallest suspension bridge and one of America’s most interesting bridges. The bridge is so named party because it bounces and moves slightly when walked upon. It is about 75-feet long.
Local legend has it that the bridge was named by a group of girl scouts. The bridge was popular for children as it was a good jumping-off point from which they could plunge into the water.
If you’re intent on sailing out on the waters while in Maine-and you should be-you should consider a schooner sailing experience on a windjammer cruise. Windjammers are multi-mast sailing shops that offer a unique boat experience for the curious.
Usually, meals and accommodation are included in multi-day sails. A few options exist when choosing cruises. For example, some itineraries focus on sightseeing (lighthouses and coastal sites), while others on food experiences, and others still on recreation.
“Vacationland” is indeed packed to the brim with wonderful excursions for nature lovers and foodies, historical travellers, and boat enthusiasts alike. Lakes, mountains, rivers, and beaches – it’s all here.
Why not consider Maine for your next holiday? This list gives your 37 things to look forward to when you get there.
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