Known for its rocky, rugged coastline, turbulent maritime history, and spectacular nature, Maine is steeped in a history formed by hard-working people and is a wonderful place to visit whether you are a history buff or a nature lover. Maine museums – the Portland Museum of Art or the Farnsworth Art Museum – showcase some of the country’s best and most influential painters. The entire coast of Maine is magnificent, from colorful lighthouses such as the Cape Neddick Light or West Quoddy Head Light to the fine sandy beaches of Mount Desert Island.
1. Portland Head Light & Fort Williams Park
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Located in Cape Elizabeth, perched on the headland above the rocky shores of Fort Williams Park, Portland Head Light was completed in 1791 to guide a safe passage through the main shipping channel into Portland Harbor.
Originally, the lighthouse used whale oil lamps for illumination. A fourth-order Fresnel lens was installed in 1855 and in 1991 it was updated with an aero beacon. The former keepers' quarters are now a museum featuring various lighthouse lenses and with an interesting interpretative display. There is also a shop selling Maine souvenirs. The head light is part of Forth Williams Park, which is popular for hiking, picnics, sports, and gazing over the ocean.
1000 Shore Rd, Cape Elizabeth, ME 04107-1916, Phone: 207-799-9574
2. Portland Museum of Art
© Portland Museum of Art
Located in downtown Portland in the area known as the Arts District, the Portland Museum of Art is the oldest and largest public art institution in Maine. Founded in 1882 as the Portland Society of Art, the museum moved to its current location, the McLellan House, in 1908. After extensive renovation, the museum was opened in 1911. Since then, the scope and size of the museum’s exhibitions have significantly expanded.
Today, the museum holds over 18,000 artworks from the 18th century to the present, featuring artists such as Winslow Homer, John Marin, Marsden Hartley, Louise Nevelson, John Greenleaf Cloudman, and Andrew Wyeth. The museum’s European collection is the biggest in Maine, with works from major European movements from Impressionism to Surrealism, including some by Mary Cassatt, René Magritte, Edgar Degas, Edvard Munch, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, and Auguste Rodin. Things to Do in Portland
7 Congress Sq, Portland, ME 04101-1119, Phone: 207-775-6148
3. Farnsworth Art Museum
© Farnsworth Art Museum
The Farnsworth Art Museum, built in 1948, is a 20,000-acre facility that features more than 15,000 artworks from some of America’s most influential artists, many of them from Maine. The museum complex includes the Farnsworth Library, the Farnsworth Homestead, the Rockland home of its founder Lucy Farnsworth, the Olson House, and Julia’s Gallery for Young Artists.
The museum’s permanent collection includes works by great American artists such as Gilbert Stuart, Thomas Eakins, Thomas Sully, Eastman Johnson, Frank Benson, Fitz Henry Lane, Maurice Prendergast, and Childe Hassam. The museum’s collection of works by Louise Nevelson is one of the largest in the country and its Wyeth Center showcases works by N. C., Andrew, and Jamie Wyeth.
16 Museum St, Rockland, ME 04841-2867, Phone: 207-596-6457
4. Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens
© Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens
Located on the Boothbay Peninsula close to Portland and Augusta, the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens is a 270-acre lush green oasis with diverse plant families stretching along a mile of waterfront. The garden was opened in 2007 and also contains a visitors center, a gift shop, and a café. One of the most popular areas is the Giles Rhododendron Garden, which has a spectacular multi-level waterfall on Barters Island Road.
Kids love the waterfront Fairy House Village and the Bibby and Harold Alfond Children’s Garden, which was inspired by children’s literature penned by Maine authors. There are also the Lerner Garden of the Five Senses, the Burpee Kitchen Garden, the Perennial and Rose Garden, Slater Forest Pond, the Haney Hillside Garden, the Cleaver Event Lawn and Garden, and the Vayo Meditation Garden. There are a number of permanent sculptures scattered across the gardens as well as artworks by Maine artists that are part of temporary exhibits.
132 Botanical Gardens Drive, Off Barters Island Road, Boothbay, ME 04537, Phone: 207-633-8000
5. Ogunquit Museum of American Art
© Ogunquit Museum of American Art
Founded in 1953 by Henry Strater, the Ogunquit Museum of American Art is a small art museum in Ogunquit surrounded by 3 acres of gardens that is exclusively devoted to American artists. The museum’s permanent collection has more than 1,600 pieces that wonderfully represent American art, especially Maine artists.
Some of the artists featured in the museum are Marsden Hartley, Childe Hassam, Charles Burchfield, Rockwell Kent, George Bellows, John Marin, Peggy Bacon, and Robert Henri. The museum has the complete graphical works of Jack Levine, a number of ceramics by Carl Walters, and many other significant works. Many of the larger sculptures are exhibited in the museum garden.
543 Shore Rd, Ogunquit, ME, Phone: 207-646-4909
6. Mount Desert Oceanarium
© Mount Desert Oceanarium
Located about ten miles from Bar Harbor and one mile from the Trenton Bridge at the head of Mount Desert Island, Mount Desert Oceanarium offers a close encounter with Maine marine life. Visitors can learn about what happens to lobsters before they arrive on a plate, see baby lobsters, listen to local lobstermen, explore the saltwater marsh, and get their hands on various sea creatures such as urchins, sea cucumbers, and horseshoe crabs.
The Mount Desert Oceanarium operates one of the last lobster hatcheries in the world. There is an informative 30-minute presentation at the hatchery, after which the visitors can see how the lobsters are raised from eggs until they reach the stage at which they can survive on their own in the wild. In the Lobster Museum, visitors can see a retired lobster boat and various tools of the trade. After the visit to the museum, visitors are invited to take a 1.4-mile walk through the saltwater marsh and see the animals that call it home. Things to Do in Bar Harbor
Route 3, Bar Harbor, Mount Desert Island, ME04609, Phone: 207-288-5005
7. Maine Maritime Museum
© Maine Maritime Museum
The Maine Maritime Museum, previously known as the Bath Marine Museum, celebrates Maine's maritime heritage and culture and the role of Maine in maritime history. Its exhibits cover more than 400 years of ship-building history in Bath. It is located on the banks of the Kennebec River in Bath and besides exhibits offers activities for all ages. The museum occupies a 20-acre campus with the only whole historic U.S. shipyard, comprising five original buildings.
There is a working boat shop, which demonstrates traditional wooden boatbuilding and keeps the tradition alive. A part of the museum visit is a daily lighthouse cruise or a trolley tour. You can visit the life-size sculpture of the schooner Wyoming, the largest of its kind in New England. You can also tour the Victorian Donnell House, listen to the story of America's last clipper ship while visiting its remains, have a picnic by the river while the kids roam around a pirate ship, and do so much more.
243 Washington St, Bath, ME 04530-1638, Phone: 207-443-1316
8. Seashore Trolley Museum
© Seashore Trolley Museum
Located in Kennebunkport, Maine, the Seashore Trolley Museum is the oldest and largest mass transit vehicle museum in the world. While its main focus, and most of the collection, consists of trolley cars or trams, the museum’s 250 exhibits also include trolley buses, rapid transit trains, and motor buses.
The museum is owned and run by the New England Electric Railway Historical Society. Of the museum’s 250 vehicles, 10 trolley and railroad cars that once operated in Maine are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. While most museum exhibits are from New England, there are also trolleys from Canada, Japan, Australia, Germany, England, Hungary, Italy, Scotland, and several other countries. Things to Do in Kennebunkport
195 Log Cabin Rd, Kennebunkport, ME04046-5219, Phone: 207-967-2712
9.The Colby College Museum of Art
© The Colby College Museum of Art
The Colby College Museum of Art is the premiere art museum of Waterville's Colby College, originally founded in 1959. Today, the museum spans more than 38,000 square feet of exhibition space over five wings, showcasing a permanent collection of more than 8,000 works of art, with a focus on American and contemporary art, Chinese antiquities, and European paintings. Major collections include the Alex Katz Collection, which showcases more than 800 pieces by the noted American figurative artist, and the John Marin Collection, which highlights the multimedia artist's paintings, watercolor works, etchings, and photography. Traveling and rotating exhibitions showcase the works of major modern and historic American artists. The museum is also home to the Skowhegan Lecture Archive, which showcases more than 500 recorded talks from prominent American artists on post-war American art.
5600 Mayflower Hill Dr, Waterville, ME 04901, Phone: 207- 859-5600
10. Asticou Azalea Garden
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The Asticou Azalea Garden is located in Northeast Harbor on Mount Desert Island, near Acadia National Park, and was created by Charles Kenneth Savage in 1956. The beautiful 2.3-acre garden with its serene pond is open to the public from May to October. The garden has various species of azaleas and rhododendrons planted all over its landscape, including Maine’s native Rhododendron canadense.
It is designed to be similar to a Japanese stroll garden, with gravel paths that are raked to give the impression of flowing water. The garden is home to 86 bird species. While the best time to see the azaleas in full bloom is between mid-May and mid-June, there is beauty at any time of the year. A flowering cherry tree marks the beginning of the season in mid-May, while Japanese iris, rosebay rhododendron, smoke bush, and the sweet fragrant azalea bloom in July. August brings water lilies, and September and October herald the explosion of fall colors.
3 Sound Dr, Northeast Harbor, ME 04662, Phone: 207-276-3727
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Spread over a granite hillside with the magnificent view of Northeast Harbor on Mount Desert Island and surrounded by ancient white cedars (thuyas) lies Thuya Garden, a beautiful flowering garden built by Charles K. Savage in 1956. This long-term resident of Northeast Harbor, who had financial support from John D. Rockefeller and special input from Beatrix Farrand, built the garden in the English style with a clear coastal Maine influence, so that it incorporates the character of rugged Maine coast.
The two sides of the garden are lined with an abundant variety of annuals and perennials. There is an open observation pavilion at the top of an incline overlooking the main garden, which flows down the slope to a shallow reflecting pool at the bottom. Thuya Lodge was completed 1916 by Joseph H. Curtis, a Boston-based landscape architect and summer resident of the island. He designed the orchard garden around the lodge.
Thuya Drive, Northeast Harbor, ME 04662, Phone: 207-276-5130
© Hamilton House
A National Historic Landmark and a popular local venue for weddings and other festivities, Jonathan Hamilton House, or Hamilton House, is a beautiful late-Georgian mansion completed in 1788. It sits on 50 acres of land on the banks of the Salmon Falls River between Rollinsford and South Berwick. It is made of wood on two and a half stories, with clapboard siding and a hip roof.
It has four brick chimneys and gabled dormers and it was originally owned by a merchant from Portsmouth. The house has changed hands many times since then, but has fortunately survived almost intact, with very few alterations. It is now a well-preserved historical house museum owned by Historic New England. It is open for tours from June to October.
40 Vaughans Ln, South Berwick, ME 03908-1711, Phone: 207-384-2454
13. Merryspring Nature Center
© Merryspring Nature Center
Merryspring Nature Center is a lovely 66-acre private park and nature center located in Camden and Rockport. With winding walking trails, a herb garden, an arboretum, a rock garden, a birds & bees garden, a children’s garden, a rose garden, three different greenhouses, and an informative and welcoming visitors center, the garden offers a wonderful green oasis where something is blooming all the time and where white-tailed deer are as common as squirrels.
You can also spot barred owls, ruffed grouse, and all sorts of songbirds. The center was founded by local horticulturist Mary Ellen Ross in 1974. Her goal was to create a sanctuary and a place where people can study horticulture and enjoy nature. The center offers a range of special events such as lectures, discussions, classes, and workshops. Things to Do in Camden
30 Conway Rd, Camden, ME 04843-1938, Phone: 207-236-2239
14.Fort Knox and Penobscot Narrows Observatory
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Located in the Penobscot Narrows on the west bank of the Penobscot River in Prospect, Maine, Fort Knox is one of the most significant and best preserved fortifications on the coast of New England.
The fort is known for its many unique architectural features and its cannon batteries have seen quite some action. Fort Knox was established in 1844 to defend the Penobscot River valley from future British naval attacks. Named after Major General Henry Knox, America’s first Secretary of War, the fort was designed by Joseph Totten and housed the first troops in 1863. They were mostly volunteers in training before going to active posts. There were troops in Fort Knox during the Spanish-American War in 1898.
Routes 1 & 3, Prospect, ME, Phone: 207-469-6553
15. Ogunquit Playhouse
© Ogunquit Playhouse
The Ogunquit Playhouse is a historic theater located in Ogunquit, Maine, and was established in 1933. It is one of the last summer theatres from the straw-hat circuit – theatres that only produce during the summer. It produces five or more musicals every season, between mid-May and mid-October, with shows from Tuesday to Sunday. Throughout the years, Ogunquit audiences have had the opportunity to enjoy some of the brightest stars as well as professional actors in Broadway's best shows.
Many stars have graced its stage – Bette Davis, Lorenzo Lamas, Myrna Loy, and many others. The playhouse has a rich theatre program for small children as well as high school ages, offering them the opportunity to learn about all the aspects of theater. With the children's theater program and one or more kid-friendly performances every year, students are able to see Broadway-quality shows and meet the actors backstage in a professional theater close to home. The theatre is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
10 Main St, Ogunquit, ME, Phone: 207-646-5511
© Wadsworth-Longfellow House
Wadsworth-Longfellow House was the 1800s home of renowned American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and is today the oldest standing building on the Portland peninsula. The historic house has been preserved with estate furnishings and is now a house museum operated by the Maine Historical Society. The house was completed in 1786 by Peleg Wadsworth, the American Revolutionary War General. It was the first dwelling in Portland built completely out of bricks and has two floors and a pitched roof.
Wadsworth raised ten children here. His grandson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, moved into the house with his parents when he was eight months old and lived in it for the next 35 years. The family added the third story in 1815. The last family member to live here was Anne Longfellow Pierce, who pretty much preserved the house as it was in Peleg Wadsworth's time and who was famous among the neighbors for growing oranges in the house window. She left the house to the Maine Historical Society upon her death, and the society opened the house to the public soon after.
489 Congress St, Portland, ME 04101-3414, Phone: 207-774-1822
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© Pineland Farms
Located in New Gloucester’s beautiful green hills, Pineland Farms is a 5,000-acre farm, business campus, and recreational and educational venue. The farm is the former site of the Pineland Hospital and Training Center, which operated from 1908 to 1996 as the Maine School for the Feeble Minded and was later renamed. As a working farm, it was regarded as a model for the care and treatment of the mentally handicapped. In 2000, the farm was purchased and completely renovated by the Libra Foundation from Portland.
Today, Pineland is used mostly for public recreation. There are about 15.5 miles of hiking and cross country trails as well as trails for mountain biking and cyclo-cross. The trails are often used for students’ cross country training and races. Pineland is also used for orienteering competitions and championships as well as corporate meetings, weddings, retreats, picnics, and so on.
15 Farm View Rd, New Gloucester, ME 04260, Phone: 207-688-453
18.Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village
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Located on 1,800 acres of forests and farms near New Gloucester, the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village is home to the last active Shaker Community in the world. The village was established in 1783 and today consists of 17 historic buildings that date from the 1780s through the 1950s. The Shakers, a religious group that branched out from the Quakers, came to the New World from England looking for religious freedom.
There are today only four Shakers left. The entire property was declared a National Historic Landmark. The Shakers are best known today for their exquisite 19th-century furniture and crafts, but the Shaker legacy includes many innovations and achievements. The museum in the village is the largest world repository of Maine Shaker culture. There are more than 13,000 artifacts with examples of oval boxes, furniture, woodenware, technology, metal and tin wares, tools, costumes, textiles, "fancy" sales goods, visual arts, and medicinal and herbal products.
707 Shaker Rd, New Gloucester, ME 04260, Phone: 207-926-4597
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19.The Maine Brew Bus
© The Maine Brew Bus
With more than 140 craft breweries and an endless number of different kinds of handcrafted beers, Maine is an attractive destination for beer aficionados. The Maine Brew Bus offers brewery tours in Portland, Maine, and the surrounding areas as well as an all-inclusive transport to Maine’s award-winning breweries, including some of the smaller upcoming ones.
You get a guided tour of each brewery, beer trivia, snacks, fun, and of course samples of beer and other beverages. Whether you are a tourist, a local, an amateur beer drinker, or a seasoned connoisseur, you will enjoy learning about and tasting some of Maine’s brews. You can join one of the regular scheduled tours or you can even organize a private one.
79 Commercial St, Portland, ME 04101, Phone: 207-200-9111
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20. Cape Neddick Nubble Lighthouse
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The Cape Neddick Light was built in 1837 on Nubble Island, a steep and rocky little island less than 100 yards off Cape Neddick Point. The lighthouse tower is brick-lined and enclosed in cast iron sheet. It is 41 feet tall and the light is 88 feet above sea level.
The railing stanchions of the walkway circling the lantern room are adorned with four-inch replicas of the lighthouse, an interesting feature not seen anywhere else. The lighthouse is not accessible to visitors, but the area around it is popular for fishing and scuba diving. On the mainland off Nubble Island is Sohier Park, which has a gift shop offering lighthouse-themed souvenirs and a telescope that visitors can use to take a better look at the lighthouse.
Sohier Park Rd, York, ME 03909, Phone: 207-363-1040
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© Victoria Mansion
A magnificent example of Victorian residential architecture and pre-Civil War opulence, Victoria Mansion is located in downtown Portland, Maine, and is one of the most important examples of a historic house museum in the States. The mansion was built in 1860 as a summer residence for Ruggles Sylvester Morse, who made his wealth in New Orleans luxury hotels. The house itself was designed by the architect Henry Austin of New Haven and is considered an important expression of the Italian villa architectural style in the States.
The mansion’s interiors were designed by Gustave Herter and most of the furnishings are still in place. Victoria Mansion is a registered National Historic Landmark and is a popular site for various events such as fundraisers, functions, and celebrations.
109 Danforth St, Portland, ME 04101-4504, Phone: 207-772-4841
22.Owls Head Transportation Museum
© Owls Head Transportation Museum
Founded in 1974 and located off the beaten tourist path in a pine forest off Route 73, the Owls Head Transportation Museum explores the history of not just aviation, but also automobiles, bicycles, trains, and old factory engines. It started with one high-wheel bicycle, a 100-ton working steam engine, two antique automobiles, and two old aircraft to become one the America’s most comprehensive transportation collections.
Those who live in the area are used to watching the museum’s demonstrations and shows – every single vehicle in the museum is fully operational. A bunch of highly skilled craftsmen work hard to keep each mechanical piece of history in top functioning condition. Check the museum’s schedule for shows and demonstrations so you can take part in them.
117 Museum Street, Owls Head, ME 04854, Phone: 207-594-4418
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23.Maine State Museum
© Maine State Museum
The Maine State Museum is the official Government of Maine museum and is located next to the Maine State House in Augusta, sharing the building with the state archives and the state library. The museum exhibits the very best of Maine under one roof: the pre-history, history, and natural sciences. Exhibits range widely, from nature scenes with live trout and a three-story working mill to artifacts made by Maine's earliest inhabitants.
The visitors can see the Lion, one of the earliest steam locomotives in America dating from 1846, the Peary necklace that was given by Admiral Robert E. Peary to his wife Josephine in 1913, a 10,000-year-old meat cache made of stone by paleo-Indians, one of the oldest structures in North America, the 20th Maine battle flag and Confederate gun from the Battle of Gettysburg, the Spear Mill, which is a spectacular three-story water-powered mill, and so much more.
230 State Street, Augusta, ME 04330-6845, Phone: 207-287-2301
24.Wiggly Bridge Distillery
© Wiggly Bridge Distillery
Wiggly Bridge Distillery is a small-batch distillery in York, Maine. Their award-winning spirits are hand-crafted from sour mash recipes in small batches using their traditional handmade copper pot still. The still is Handmade, hand rolled, and hand riveted – it is true it is a lot of labor but the decision to go that route was guided by the belief that it produces a superior taste found only in original hand crafted spirits. The quality shows, and many of their spirits are award winning. One of the best-sellers is White Whisky, a 100-proof whiskey made from bourbon sour mash that rested in used bourbon barrels. Wiggly Bridge offers tours of the distillery, tasting, cocktails, and bottle sales at their distillery barn, where there is live music every Saturday night.
19 Railroad Avenue, York, ME 03909, Phone: 207-363-9322
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© Kisma Preserve
The Kisma Preserve is located on Mount Desert Island, about half an hour from Acadia National Park. It provides a unique opportunity for visitors to observe animals that have been removed from their natural habitat through various human activities. The goal of Kisma is to raise awareness of the inappropriate use of wild animals as well as to rescue them, rehabilitate them, release them, and include them in breeding programs if and when possible.
The animals in the preserve are refugees from illegal facilities, showbusiness, or someone’s home, where they had been kept as exotic pets. While the animals in the preserve change, you might be able to see Maine natives such as fox, white-tailed deer, owls, birds, and raccoons, and exotic wildlife such as big cats, tropical fish, monkeys, reptiles, and birds.
Trenton, ME 04605, Phone: 207-667-3244
25 Best Things to Do in Maine
- Portland Head Light & Fort Williams Park, Photo: Courtesy of hstiver - Fotolia.com
- Portland Museum of Art, Photo: Portland Museum of Art
- Farnsworth Art Museum, Photo: Farnsworth Art Museum
- Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, Photo: Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens
- Ogunquit Museum of American Art, Photo: Ogunquit Museum of American Art
- Mount Desert Oceanarium, Photo: Mount Desert Oceanarium
- Maine Maritime Museum, Photo: Maine Maritime Museum
- Seashore Trolley Museum, Photo: Seashore Trolley Museum
- The Colby College Museum of Art, Photo: The Colby College Museum of Art
- Asticou Azalea Garden, Photo: Courtesy of styxclick - Fotolia.com
- Thuya Gardens, Photo: Courtesy of nd700 - Fotolia.com
- Hamilton House, Photo: Hamilton House
- Merryspring Nature Center, Photo: Merryspring Nature Center
- Fort Knox and Penobscot Narrows Observatory, Photo: Courtesy of demerzel21 - Fotolia.com
- Ogunquit Playhouse, Photo: Ogunquit Playhouse
- Wadsworth-Longfellow House, Photo: Wadsworth-Longfellow House
- Pineland Farms, Photo: Pineland Farms
- Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, Photo: Courtesy of AndreasJ - Fotolia.com
- The Maine Brew Bus, Photo: The Maine Brew Bus
- Cape Neddick Nubble Lighthouse, Photo: Courtesy of Chee-Onn Leong - Fotolia.com
- Victoria Mansion, Photo: Victoria Mansion
- Owls Head Transportation Museum, Photo: Owls Head Transportation Museum
- Maine State Museum, Photo: Maine State Museum
- Wiggly Bridge Distillery, Photo: Wiggly Bridge Distillery
- Kisma Preserve, Photo: Kisma Preserve
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of styxclick - Fotolia.com
York's Wild Kingdom Zoo and Fun Park
Located in York Beach, Maine, Wild Kingdom Zoo and Fun Park is New England’s only zoo and amusement park. It offers fun for all family members – there are hundreds of animals in nicely landscaped animal enclosures, rides for both adrenaline junkies and little kids, a butterfly enclosure, ice cream stands, and much more.
There's even a small sandy beach not far away. Animal lovers can see rare white Bengal tigers, monkeys, snakes, parrots, zebras, kangaroos, and many other wild and domestic creatures. There is a Ferris wheel, bumper cars, a roller coaster, go carts, a haunted house, and more. There are also batting cages, a mini-golf course, and a whole bunch of games in the arcade.
1 Animal Park Rd, York, ME 03909, Phone: 207-363-4911
West Quoddy Head Light
West Quoddy Head Historic Lighthouse is America’s most famous lighthouse – its red and white candy-stripes are depicted in endless calendars and postcards. Built in 1808 to aid mariners travelling through the south entrance to Quoddy Roads, between Campobello Island and the mainland, it is perched on America’s easternmost point.
The first lighthouse on the site was made of wood but had to be rebuilt in 1831, when the new 49-foot-tall rubblestone structure was made. It lasted until 1857, when the current brick tower was completed together with a Victorian keepers’ house. It was equipped with a third-order Fresnel lens and given its red and white stripes, influenced by Canadian lighthouses, where such coloring is common to stand out against the snow. The lighthouse was automated in 1988. There is a small visitors center and museum in the keepers’ house. It is maintained by the West Quoddy Head Light Keepers Association.
189 S Lubec Rd, Lubec, Phone: 207-733-2180