Things to do in Southern Maine

Last updated on February 5, 2024

View of Ogunquit Beach

By now you know how much I love New England, and Southern Maine was one of the first spots that stole my heart. It’s a gorgeous area of quaint and colourful coastal towns, sandy beaches and rugged cliffs – in other words, it’s the perfect place to take a vacation. And don’t people know it, with thousands flocking to the region every summer.  

Southern Maine encompasses Portland and everywhere south of the city. Portland is an iconic destination in itself and needs a post of its own, so this one is focused on some of the smaller towns of Southern Maine, including Ogunquit and the Kennebunks. It’s our round-up of the best things to do in Southern Maine.

And if you’re heading that way, also see our guide to the best places to vacation in Maine, and our epic New England road trip itinerary.


Lake view at Ogunquit, Southern Maine

I fell in love with Ogunquit at first sight. It’s immediately charming with cute, candy-coloured homes, tree-lined streets, artistic enclaves, a gorgeous coastline and the exciting bustle of a popular seaside town. Its name literally means “the beautiful place by the sea” in the indigenous Abenaki language. 

When we visited in July, it was filled with families, enjoying the beaches, seafood and charm. We ate fabulous ice cream, played in the sand and were generally enchanted by the little town.

Things to do in Ogunquit

The Marginal Way

The Marginal Way is a gorgeous 1.25-mile cliff walk along the rugged shoreline between Perkins Cove and Ogunquit town. It starts near the Sparhawk Oceanfront resort on Shore Road and winds its way along the cliffside, offering panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean. Cute cottages and rocky terrain add to its charms. You can see why this area has inspired artists over the generations.

Ogunquit Beach

Ogunquit Beach is one of the most popular in New England with 3.5 miles of soft sand and water that’s perfect for paddling or a swim. We saw a few people kayaking too. It’s ideal for families. 

Set between the Atlantic and the Ogunquit River, it’s a picturesque spot with plenty of facilities, including beach umbrellas, floats and plenty of cafes and restaurants to choose from. Footbridge Beach and North Beach are on the same peninsula, and can be a bit quieter than the main bit.

Perkins Cove

Perkins Cove is just down the road from downtown Ogunquit. It’s a charming little harbour inlet, originally a fishing community that drew in artists with its beauty. It’s the starting point for the Marginal Way, but also a cute place to grab lunch and enjoy the views. It’s especially known for its seafood.

Perkins Cove is also the place to go for boat trips, with lots of providers offering fishing or sightseeing sails. 

And if you have kids, check out Perkins Mini Golf!

Ogunquit Museum of American Art

Ogunquit has attracted artists for years and the town celebrates and fosters that status. There’s even an impressive gallery – the Ogunquit Museum of American Art – which showcases America’s artistic history through paintings, sculptures and special exhibits. It has a spectacular oceanfront location, and beautifully landscaped gardens dotted with sculptures. 

Also visit the Barn Gallery to see artworks by local artists, curated by the Ogunquit Arts Association. 

Ogunquit Playhouse

The historic Ogunquit Playhouse is a beloved institution that has been around since 1933. Nestled amidst the coastal landscape, the iconic playhouse is known for its Broadway-caliber performances delivered in an intimate setting. From musicals to classic dramas, the playhouse’s shows a diverse repertoire of productions. 

While there, take a stroll in the Ogunquit Playhouse Foundation Gardens, a peaceful, flowery retreat.

Go whale watching 

One of the most exciting boat trips you can take from Perkins Cove is a whale watching tour. Spot whales and dolphins in their natural habitat while experienced guides provide insight into the marine life and coastal ecosystem. 

The Kennebunks

Cape Arundel
Cape Arundel

The Kennebunks includes Kennebunk and Kennebunkport, the latter most famous for being the home of the Bush family’s summer compound. But the towns are about much more than that with a beautiful, old-world charm – think cobblestone streets, riverside walks and historic Colonial and Greek Revival architecture. It’s also well known for its lobster and seafood.

The main vacation destination of the two is Kennebunkport and where you’ll find most of the attractions. Be sure to hang our around Dock Square where you’ll find lots of boutiques, restaurants and cafes. 

Things to do in Kennebunkport and Kennebunk


Hit the beach

There are some lush beaches in Kennebunkport, including Gooch’s Beach, Middle Beach and Mother’s Beach, which are collectively known as Kennebunk Beach. These are all wide sandy beaches, but you’ll also find rocky spots along Beach Avenue, a long stretch of road that goes from Gooch’s Beach to Lord’s Point. Beach Avenue is an ideal place for a walk or run as all the beaches are linked by paths. 

Gooch’s and Mother’s Beach have lifeguards in the summer. You need a parking permit ($25 a day) if exploring by car, but you could also get there by trolley.

Another popular option is Colony Beach, the only sandy beach in downtown Kennebunkport.

Get out on the water

There are all sorts of watersports and activities available in Kennebunkport. You can kayak, swim, stand-up paddleboard, deep sea fish and even whale watch. For something totally laidback, opt for a scenic cruise.

Do a historical walking tour

A fun way to learn about the town’s history is on a Museum in the Streets walking tour. There are 25 boards around town detailing its history and you can pick up maps in businesses around town (or download one here). There’s also a History Hopper app with more info on Kennebunkport history. This is run by the Brick Store Museum, which is alos a good place to explore local history.

Walkers Point and the Bush Compound

You can’t go inside Walker’s Point, the summer residence of the Bush family, but you can see it from afar at an especially, designated parking overlook on Ocean Avenue (about two miles from Dock Square). You can only stop in the designated space so be sure to obey those rules and don’t just stop on the road. While there, you can also see the Anchor to Windward, a tribute to George H. W. Bush. 

Even if you have no interest in the Bush family, driving Ocean Avenue is with it for the scenery alone.

Seashore Trolley Museum

The Trolley Museum is a great option for vehicle-obsessed kids (or adults) with an impressive collection of vintage streetcars and trolleys.

First Families Kennebunkport Museum 

If you’re into historic homes, especially from the Victorian era, then be sure to stop by the First Families Kennebunkport Museum. The 1853 Greek Revival home has classic Doric columns and was gifted to the historical society by the Nott family with the promise it would stay unchanged forever. You can do a guided tour of the house. 

It’s also known as the “Bush Museum” as it’s where you can see exhibits about the family’s connection to Kennebunkport.

Wedding Cake House

Does what it says on the tin, so be sure to visit the wedding cake house if you want to see an impressive architectural sponge. Also known as the George W. Bourne House, you’ll find it at 104 Summer Street in Kennebunk.

Maine Art Hill

While Ogunquit is the town most known for its artistic traits, Kennebunk also has a creative side. At Maine Art Hill, you can explore a collection of galleries and studios, showcasing local artists. The wind sculptures are a highlight.

Madelyn Marx Preserve

Just outside of Kennebunk is the Madelyn Marx Preserve, a 24-acre nature preserve of the local salt marsh ecosystem. There are some good trails to follow. Another place to explore the salt marshes in Southern Maine is the Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center where there’s an aquarium and the chance to rent kayaks.

Other towns to visit in Southern Maine


A photo of Wells Beach.

Wells is a cute coastal town in Southern Maine where you can enjoy a beach day or coastal walk. But perhaps the most popular reason to visit is to stop at Maine’s most famous diner – the simply named Maine Diner. If in Wells, also visit the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Reserve, which includes 14,000 acres of protected coastal areas and four trails to choose from (The 1-mile Carson Trail is the most popular).

There are some lovely beaches in Wells including Wells Beach, Drakes Island Beach, Crescent Beach and Moody Beach. And other things to do in Wells include: Wonder Mountain Fun Park, Wells Beach Mini Golf, and the Historical Society of Wells and Ogunquit. Hire surf stuff at Wheels and Waves.


Nubble Lighthouse in York.

York is a good spot for hikers, especially around Mount Agamenticus. And it’s also home to one of the most photographed spots in Southern Maine: the Nubble Lighthouse.  

If you have kids, be sure to take them to York’s Wild Kingdom, a zoo and amusement park. And York Harbor Beach is great for families, with lots of sand and opportunities for tidepooling.

Nine of York’s historic buildings have been turned into museums, collectively known as the Museums of Old York. Visit these to explore the town’s history. If you visit these, you get a free parking pass for the George Marshall Store Gallery, which is close to Steedman Woods and a popular wiggly suspension bridge.


Marina at Kittery Maine.

Kittery is the first town you come to after crossing from New Hampshire into Southern Maine. It’s most known for its outlet shopping, but other fun things to do include the Take Flight Aerial Adventure.

Where to eat and drink in Southern Maine 

Just a little handful of top recommendations for places to eat in Southern Maine…

Maine Diner 

Maine’s most iconic diner and one that road trippers have religiously stopped at since the 1940s. It was featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. 

Dock Square Coffee House

A charming coffee shop in Kennebunkport that reminds me of Luke’s Diner in the Gilmore Girls.

Sweet Pea’s Ice Cream

One of the best ice creams we had in all of New England. The colourful Sweet Pea’s Ice Cream shop sells a dazzling array of inventive flavours.

HB Provisions

The whoopie pies at HB Provisions in Kennebunkport have gained a mythical reputation. Be sure to try one!

Rococo Artisan Ice Cream

Rococo Artisan Ice Cream is the palace to go for scoops in Kennebunkport

Spinnakers Maine

For a quintessential Maine seafood restaurant, head to Spinnakers in Wells.

The Front Porch

The Front Porch in Ogunquit is a destination restaurant and piano lounge serving American fare in an atmospheric lounge.

Where to stay in Southern Maine 

Here are some of our favorite recommendations. And also see our guide to the best family resorts in Maine.

Huttopia Southern Maine

We stayed at Huttopia Southern Maine, a stylish glamping spot on the shores of a lake and amid a glorious pine forest. Huttopia is particularly perfect for families with everything you need on-site for a fun and easy stay. There’s a swimming pool, playground, games, watersport hire, and a lake with shallow shores for paddling. The on-site restaurant has kid-friendly meals, including crepes and pizza, plus all tents/cabins have indoor and outdoor cooking facilities. And there’s a shop with camping essentials, including s’mores kits. They also have kids’ activities in the day and entertainment at night – we saw an acapella group while there, and had fun doing the scavenger hunt and macrame by day. For accommodation, you can choose between safari-style tents and cabins. 

Check availability and book here. 

Cliff House Maine

One of the top luxury Maine family resorts, Cliff House Maine is in Ogunquit with views of Nubble Lighthouse. It’s the epitome of a luxurious resort.

Check availability and book now.

Nonantum Resort 

Nonantum Resort is one of the most popular places to stay in Kennebunkport. It includes restaurants, a swimming pool, and more along the banks of the Kennebunk River and perfectly blends historic charm with modern amenities. 

Check availability and book now.

Hidden Pond

Hidden Pond is another special resort in Kennebunkport that combines luxury with nature. The 60-acre resort is surrounded by forest and features two outdoor swimming pools, a treetop spa, and organic dining.

Check availability and book now.

Stage Neck Inn

Stage Neck Inn in York Harbor is an oceanfront resort with indoor and outdoor pools and a spa. They also keep a calendar of events and activities happening in nearby areas, including Kennebunkport.

Check availability and book now.

Nellie Littlefield Inn & Spa

We ate our ice creams from Sweet Pea’s Ice Cream next to the Nellie Littlefield Inn & Spa while I lusted over its architecture and style. It looks perfectly charming, and the reviews confirm that.

Check availability and book now.

Awol Kennebunkport

Awol Kennebunkport is a beautifully designed eco-hotel that looks straight out of the pages of Kinfolk magazine. 

Check availability and book now.

How to get around Southern Maine

Huttopia Southern Maine Lake

While the seaside towns of Southern Maine tend to be highly walkable, people generally use a car to get between them. That said, the Shoreline Explorer operates a trolley and shuttle bus service in the high season that links the main towns along the coast. It also operates a dedicated Kennebunkport trolley and Ogunquit trolley.

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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