5 unmissable places to vacation in Maine

Last updated on February 5, 2024

Victoria on the lake in Huttopia Southern Maine

Maine took me by surprise. I know it’s well known in the USA as one of the best summer spots (a Maine vacation is iconic!), but in the UK, it flies under the radar in favour of other big hitters like Florida and California. You could say the same for the whole of New England really – its charms aren’t as well known in its namesake country, making it feel like a hidden gem.

We’ve already covered all the details of our full New England road trip itinerary (please copy it, it’s one of the best trips we’ve ever done!), and today I’m focussing on the lobster state and all the best places to vacation in Maine.

It’s a land of cute seaside towns, epic coastal landscapes and some of the best seafood in the USA. You may not have heard much about it before, but it’s definitely a place to add to your bucket list. We fell head over heels for the place.

5 bucket list Maine vacation ideas

Acadia and Bar Harbor

Top of your list for a Maine vacation has to be Acadia National Park, the jewel in the state’s crown. The rugged coastal park in northern Maine is a land of unspoiled coast, pine forests and mountainous peaks. It’s a big hit with adventurous folk, filled with all sorts of hikes, climbs and outdoor adventures – but there’s also plenty to do for all ages and abilities.

One of the best things about Acadia is its network of carriage roads, created in the early 1900s, which you can now explore either by horse and carriage, or by bike. Hire bikes for the whole family, or a carriage for the little ones, and explore the inner park without the noise of traffic.

If you prefer four-wheels, driving the loop road is an easy way to see some of the major sights in a day, including Sand Beach, Thunder Hole and Jordan Pond. And we’d also recommend getting out on the water and seeing the park by boat.

Other awesome things to do with kids (or without) in Acadia include rock pooling, easy hikes, boat trips and spending time on the beach.

And that’s not to mention Bar Harbor, one of the cutest towns we ever did see (it reminded me a bit of Stars Hollow!). It’s one of the best Maine vacation spots even without being next to Acadia. You could easily spend a few days just in town, exploring all the shops and eating your way around the restaurants. We particularly loved the central green, where they host live music at night.

If you can only choose one place, I’d say this is the best place to vacation in Maine.

Here are some tours you could do while exploring Bar Harbor and Acadia…

Where to stay in Acadia and Bar Harbor

Villager Motel

We loved this budget-friendly option in Bar Harbor. It’s a slap bang in the centre, so it’s easy to walk everywhere in town and catch the Island Explorer to the rest of the park.

Check availability and book now.

Ivy Manor Inn

A more upscale option is the Ivy Manor Inn, just across the road from the Villager Motel. The Tudor-style building and its front garden were always bustling when we were there in summer, and I was jealous of all the people sipping cocktails around the fire pits.

Check availability and book now.

Explore the beach towns of Southern Maine

The first place I set eyes on in Maine was Ogunquit and it was love at first sight. You know I love a pretty town, and this is one of the best. It’s on the coast, lined by colourful shops and B&Bs housed in historic, gabled houses. The name literally translates as “beautiful place by the sea”. For good reason, it’s one of the most popular vacation spots in Maine.

We were there in summer, and the vacation vibes were palpable, families walking to the beach in flip-flops, sand toys at the ready. And the biggest queue in town was for the ice cream shop (the amazing Sweet Pea’s Ice Cream).

There are two main sections to Ogunquit – Perkins Cove and Ogunquit Beach – with the fabulous Marginal Way trail linking the two (although you can also drive, of course). It’s a perfect Maine summer vacation spot.

An alternative to Ogunquit is Kennebunkport, another charming town with lots of history (it’s one of the first European-settled towns in the states). It’s also known for its impressive mansions. The Bush family holiday there and it has an overall more WASP-y vibe than the younger, more creative Ogunquit.

For a quieter option on the coast, head to Wells. It doesn’t have the same charming downtown as Ogunquit and Kennebunkport, but the beach is gorgeous, it’s right between the other two towns for day trips, and it’s a cheaper option too.

If you’re in Southern Maine, we also recommend hopping over the border into New Hampshire and visiting Portsmouth too.

Where to stay in Ogunquit and Southern Maine

We stayed inland at Huttopia when exploring Southern Maine. But if you want to be closer to the coast, we loved the look of the Nellie Littlefield Inn & Spa (right next to the best ice cream shop in town). It looked perfectly charming and the reviews confirm that.

Foodie escape in Portland

Portland is yet another place I fell in love with in Maine (notice a pattern here?!), and this is the place I could most realistically see myself living. The small portside city has a lot going for it, edged by the Atlantic with epic ocean views dotted by the Charlotte islands.

And it’s also Maine’s – if not New England’s – premier foodie destination. For decades, innovative chefs have congregated in the city, creating exciting destination restaurants that draw visitors from nationwide. It’s an ever-evolving space, so check sites like the Eater for the latest recommendations.

The city, like its sister in Oregon, also has a distinct hipster vibe with loads of creative, indy businesses, especially around Munjoy Hill. There’s even a kombuchery.

Portland was one of our favourite spots on our Boston to Maine road trip.

Here are some fun tours you could do to explore Portland..

Where to stay in Portland

When visiting Portland, we stayed at Fortland Maine, an island glamping escape off the coast of Portland (see the next Maine vacation idea below). But if you want to be city-based, The Parker is a great option.

Glamping in Maine

Our time in Maine was made extra special by the places we stayed, and in particular our glamping experiences at Huttopia and Fortland Maine.

Huttopia Southern Maine is just inland from the coastal towns of Ogunquit and Kennebunkport. It’s beside a lake and the resort has all you need to stay on site, including a swimming pool, cooking facilities, a restaurant, and a programme of events. It’s particularly good for families (there’s even a playground).

Fortland Maine is spectacular and was one of the highlights of our whole time in New England. Set on an old Civil War-era island fort, just a 10-minute boat ride from Portland, the island has been transformed into a unique glamping escape.

There are stylish yurts to stay in, private beaches to enjoy, and the fort itself to explore. We also loved the communal area where you cook and get to meet with other guests. Plus, the 360 views from the island are incredible. See our full review in our guide to the best New England glamping. I know I said I’d choose Acadia as the top vacation in Maine, but a stay at Fortland combined with a city break in Portland is also a top contender.

Where to go glamping in Maine

We highly recommend both Huttopia Southern Maine and Fortland Maine. They were both highlights of our Maine vacation. And we also hear that Under Canvas near Acadia is a great option.

A cute small-town escape in Camden, Belfast or Rockport

Can you guess what I’m going to say? Yep, there’s another final place I genuinely fell in love with in Maine. This time it’s Camden, a cute little town on Penobscot Bay in Maine’s mid-coast region. It’s charm personified with historic homes collected around a pretty bay and plenty of characterful shops, cafes and restaurants.

While very popular with tourists, there’s also a strong local community, and many Portlanders, pushed out by high rents, are starting to move to the area, bringing with them their creativity. We particularly loved the wine bar by Pastoralia, which pops up in venues around town. And the food from Long Grain and Mixed Greens was top-notch.

When it comes to families, kids will enjoy the lakeside beach at Barret’s Cove (perfect for a picnic). And the Owl and Turtle Bookshop has an incredible kids’ section and a café.

Other nearby towns to visit or even stay in are Belfast and Rockport. We particularly like Belfast, which has fewer tourists and some excellent places to eat.

Where to stay in Camden

Lord Camden Inn

Lord Camden Inn

We stayed in the centre of town at the Lord Camden Inn, which had all the charm of a historic inn, including friendly, attentive service. We all especially loved the daily fresh-baked cookies!

Check availability and book now.

16 Bay View

16 Bay View is the more modern sister hotel of the Lord Camden Inn. It has a sophisticated bar downstairs, plus a rooftop bar and restaurant with fabulous views of the harbour.

Check availability and book now.

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New England travel guides

We LOVE New England and have loads of tips to help you make the most of your trip. And just let me know if you have any questions!

Itineraries: Boston to Maine road trip | New England road trip

Destination guides: Things to do in Boston with kids |Things to do in Portsmouth, NH | Best places to vacation in Maine | Things to do in Southern Maine | Things to do in Vermont with kids | Where to find the real Stars Hollow

Accommodation guides: Glamping in New England | New England family resorts | Maine family resorts | Vermont family resorts

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