Portland, Maine’s central coast location makes day trips along the Atlantic coast and into Maine’s lake and mountain regions easy and accessible. Explore the coast for the best of Maine lobster, to see the many historic lighthouses, and charming coastal towns. Explore the islands of Casco Bay and Penobscot Bay or head inland along the rivers. In the mountain regions you’ll find freshwater lakes, panoramic views, campgrounds, and local shopping and dining.
1. Acadia National Park
Acadia National park is one of the top ten most visited parks in the United States. The park spans 47,000 acres, most of which are located on Mount Desert Island, off Maine’s Atlantic coast. With over 150 miles of hiking trails, 45 miles of carriage roads, and 27 miles of historic motor roads, Acadia spans varying terrain and offers something for the casual visitor, or the serious outdoor enthusiast. Ranger led programs include guided hiking or cycling tours and boat cruises, birding programs, hawk and falcon programs, and nighttime starry sky programs. The park is home to Cadillac Mountain, the highest peak on the east coast of the United States.
2. Bar Harbor
Bar Harbor is the largest city on Maine’s Mount Desert Island. The name refers to the sandbar that connects the island to the mainland at low tide. The charming New England town is home to Acadia National Park, and is an easily walkable city great for exploring the shops, galleries and restaurants on foot. Take a walking tour with a certified Maine Guide to learn more about the town. The area’s Abbe Museum exhibits Native American artifacts and teaches guests about the cultural history of the region. Carriage trails throughout the island make for excellent cross country skiing in the winter.
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Freeport, Maine is best known as a shopping destination, a favorite of New Englanders seeking deals among the hundreds of brand-name outlets. The modern shops occupy 18th and 19th century buildings and homes along Route 1. Outside of shopping, visit the Freeport Historical Society and the Historic Pettengill Farm. The Wolfe’s Neck Center is an educational farm offering tours, classes, and kayak or bicycle rentals for use along their trails. The quirky Desert of Maine is among the most popular attractions. The unique sand dune formation was formed by an Ica Age glacier. Take a tour, enjoy the trails and visit the 18th century barn.
Bethel, Maine sits just east of the Vermont border outside of the White Mountain National Forest. Named the most beautiful mountain town in Maine, Bethel offers year round opportunity for outdoor recreation. In the spring and summer months, enjoy fishing, canoeing and kayaking, whitewater rafting, hiking or golf. Stroll through the walkable downtown area for shopping and dining. Once there’s snowfall, Bethel is among Maine’s best destinations for alpine or Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, and après ski fun. Bethel is home to the Maine Mineral & Gem Museum, The Ski Museum of Maine, Maggie Ring’s Nature Park, and the Bethel Recreational Pathway for cyclists. The Appalachian Trail passes just north of Bethel on its way to Canada.
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5. Boothbay Harbor
Maine’s Boothbay Harbor is located along the rocky Atlantic coast about one hour’s drive north of Portland. Over 200 artists make their home in Boothbay Harbor, and their work can be seen throughout town in local shops, galleries, and museums. Visit the Boothbay Region Art Foundation or visit during a Boothbay Art and Crafts Show, which takes place on summer weekends. The Maine State Aquarium is located in Boothbay Harbor. Here you can get up close to invertebrates at the touch tank, learn about the lifecycle of lobsters, and Atlantic sea life. The Boothbay Region Land Trust is home to over 35 miles of hiking trails, while the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens offer a colorful outdoor space in which to relax.
Boothbay Harbor, ME
6. Bradbury Mountain
Maine’s Bradbury Mountain State Park is located just north of Portland and is open to visitors year round for outdoor recreation opportunities. The historic park was founded in 1939, making it one of the first five state parks in the nation. Park facilities include restrooms, drinking water, picnic areas and camping sites for tents or recreational vehicles. Trails range from easy to difficult, and several are open to cyclists, riders on horseback and skiers, as well as hikers. In the winter months, snowmobiles are allowed on the Switch Back Trail, Link Trail and Snowmobile Trail.
528 Hallowell Road, Pownal, ME 04069, Phone: 207-688-4712
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Brunswick, Maine is a charming New England college town that’s been designated as a Main Street Community for its walkable downtown. Home to Bowdoin College, which was founded in 1794, Brunswick is brimming with history. Visit the home of Harriet Beecher Stowe, the underground railroad member who wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Now a National Historic Landmark, the home and museum hosts “Tea with Harriet” each month. At the 1850’s Skolfield-Whittier House guided tours shed light on what upper middle class life was like in the 19th century. Spend time at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art and its collection of over 20,000 objects, or attend one of the college’s many cultural events.
Camden is a coastal town in central Maine, perfect for outdoor and ocean adventure. Located on Penobscot Bay, the deepwater Camden Harbor is home to several tall ships and schooners that offer cruises of the bay, sailing tours and fishing excursions. View the bay from the top of Mount Battie at the Camden Hills State Park. The 5,7000 acre park offers over 30 miles of hiking trails, and views of Lake Megunticook from the 800 foot tall Maiden Cliff. Beaches in the area include the freshwater Barret's Cove on Lake Megunticook, and Laite Beach which extends from a grassy park onto the rocky ocean shore. In downtown Camden, enjoy shopping for antiques, browsing upscale boutiques, and eating fresh seafood, especially lobster, straight from the working harbor.
9. Cape Elizabeth
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The town of Cape Elizabeth, Maine is located south of Portland on the Atlantic coast. The area is home to the 90-acre Fort Williams Park where you’ll find the Portland Head Light. The 1791 lighthouse and award-winning museum, located in the former keeper’s quarters, are open year round. Enjoy the trails at the park, or visit the Cape Elizabeth Greenbelt, a trail system that spreads through town, surrounding the inland waterways. The 41-acre Two Lights State Park is home to twin lighthouses built in 1828. Although not open to the public, the site was made famous by Edward Hopper’s 1929 painting, Lighthouses at Two Lights.
Cape Elizabeth, ME
10. Casco Bay Islands
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The Islands of Casco Bay are visible from Portland, Maine, especially at night when the small towns and villages are lit up. To get to the islands, take the mailboat or a ferry from Portland, or board the Bailey Island Cruise to arrive at Cook’s Lobster House. Peaks Island is the most populous, yet perfect for exploring by bicycle. Visit the Fifth Maine Regiment Hall Museum and the Civil War Memorial. Chebeague Island is the largest and home to a 9-hole golf course. Explore the bay with a canoe or kayak tour, most of which include a trip to Hog Island’s Fort Gorges, built in 1858.
Maine’s Damariscotta region is known for oysters, and has been for over two thousand years. See the history of the industry at the Whaleback Shell Midden State Historic Site, and try some at restaurants such as the Shuck Station or the Newcastle Publick House. Damariscotta itself, and Newcastle, sit opposite each other across the Damariscotta River, separated by a bridge. Both villages claim historic homes and businesses, built in the 18th and 19th century. Newcastle’s 1807 St. Patrick’s Church is the oldest Catholic Church in America. Annual festivals include summer’s Damariscotta Oyster Celebration and autumn’s Pemaquid Oyster Festival.
12. Deer Isle
Maine’s Deer Isle and adjacent Little Deer Isle are Atlantic islands located south of Bangor. Accessible via bridge, the islands retain a charming 1950’s rural neighborhood feel. The small community of 3,000 year round residents include several artists, drawn to the island’s world famous Haystack Mountain School of Crafts. The local economy is still primarily sustained by lobstering. The small island is home to 12 nature conservancies which protect the land and wildlife habitat. Birders, kayakers, and boaters are drawn to the islands for their natural beauty. Hike the lighthouse trail to pass by eight lighthouses, join in on a walking tour with the Deer Isle Historical Society, and shop the local galleries.
Deer Isle-Stonington, ME
Bath is a small town located on the Kennebec River at the center of Maine’s Atlantic coast. One the water activities are the top attraction here, be it fishing, boating or sightseeing. Two public boat launches, a city dock and two marinas serve the town. Visit the Marine Maritime Museum for an overview of Maine’s culture and history, including 400 years of boat building in Bath. The historic shipyard is flanked by 19th century buildings, and the Victorian-era shipyard owner’s home. Area beaches include the Popham Beach State Park and the beaches at Reid State Park, or explore the Kennebec River.
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Kennebunkport sit on Maine’s southern coast alongside the Rachel Carson Wildlife Refuge. Truly a year-round destination, Kennebunkport offers things to do both outside and in. In the warmer months, visit the Colony Beach at the mouth of the Kennebunkport River. The 150 foot long sandy stretch is named for its location in front of the historic 1914 Colony Hotel. More secluded is the Goose Rocks Beach, located in a quiet, residential area. To explore out on the water, hop aboard a whale watch tour, enjoy a fishing or lobstering outing, take a sailing cruise or rent a canoe or kayak. Visit the Bush Family Legacy exhibit at White Columns. Kennebunkport continues to be the summer residence of President George H W Bush’s family.
15. Lakes Region
Maine’s Lakes Region is anchored by the grand Sebago Lake and Jordan Bay, surrounded by several smaller bodies of water. The scenic area is a popular summer destination for swimming, boating and fishing. During the winter, visitors enjoy cross country skiing, snowshoeing or ice skating on the frozen bodies of water. Visit the Jones Museum in Sebago, where you’ll find a unique collection of ceramics and glass. Take a tour with the Naples Historical Society, their small museum features 18th and 19th century artifacts. The Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village was established in 1783, and is located between New Gloucester and Poland. The community offers workshops, a museum and tours.
Lewiston, Maine is located in the Maine Lakes Region alongside the Androscoggin River. Lewiston was founded by French speaking Canadians who immigrated to work textile mills and shoe factories in the early 1800’s. The French influence is still felt today, and can be seen in Lewiston’s Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, built in 1870. The only Basilica in the state of Maine, the cathedral with rose window was modeled after the grand cathedrals of France. Visit the Gendron Franco Center where there are regular French-themed events. The performing arts also excel at Bates College, Lewiston’s Public Theater and the Midcoast Symphony Orchestra.
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Ogunquit is located on Maine’s Atlantic coast close to the state’s southern border. The name, given by the Abenaki tribe, means ‘beautiful place by the sea.’ Once a fishing village, it is now an artist’s haven and tourist destination known for it’s rugged beauty and rocky coastline. The Ogunquit Museum of American Art was founded in the 1950’s by a student working within the famous Perkins Cove artist’s colony. Galleries are located throughout town and the streets are often alive with outdoor art fairs in the summer months. Ogunquit Performing Arts and the Ogunquit Playhouse offer year round theater and live music performances. Visit Main Beach, rated among New England’s top ten beaches, embark on a sailing or fishing cruise from Perkins Cove, and enjoy fresh Maine lobster at the town’s seafood restaurants.
18. Old Port
Portland’s Old Port district is a trip back in time to the early 19th century where brick buildings line the Fore River, cobblestones pave the streets, and fishing piers remain as they were hundreds of years ago. Located on the National Register of Historic Places, Old Port is now home to locally owned boutique shops, restaurants, bars and cafes. The Old Port Festival, celebrated each June, offers live music, locally made arts and crafts, and food from several area restaurants. Any time of year, visit the shops on Fore Street and Exchange Street, find fresh seafood at the Harbor Fish Market, and try a Maine potato donut at the favorite Holy Donuts. Get on the water aboard an early 1900’s ship with Portland Schooner Co., or try your hand at lobstering with Lucky Catch Cruises.
19. Peaks Island
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Peaks Island, Maine is reached with a short ferry trip from Portland. The small island is easily explored by bicycle, with just a 4-mile long circumference. Ride along Seashore Avenue, and explore the island’s backside, facing the open Atlantic ocean. Charming cottages and New England homes line the shore. Along the paths that head inland, you’ll see old Native American trails, remnants of concrete war bunkers, and reach Island Avenue, home of the Peak’s Island shops, restaurants and cafes. Popular destinations include the Peaks Island House, open in the summer months and overlooking Casco Bay, and the Cockeyed Gull, which offers ‘casual fine dining’ year round.
Peaks Island, ME
20. Portland Head Light
The Portland Head Light is a historic 1791 lighthouse that sits within the Fort Williams State Park in Cape Elizabeth, on Portland Head. The iconic lighthouse operated until 1989, when it was decommissioned by the US Coast Guard. The lighthouse and adjoining keepers corners are now owned by the town of Cape Elizabeth. While the US Coast Guard continues to maintain the light and fog signal, the keeper’s quarters have been renovated into a museum. Interpretative displays and lighthouse lenses are on exhibit. A timeline guides visitors through the lighthouse’s 200 years of operations. A small gift shop operates seasonally.
1000 Shore Road, Cape Elizabeth, ME 04107, Phone: 207-799-2661
21. Portland Museum of Art
Maine’s Portland Museum of Art boasts a permanent collection of American, European, and local Maine art. Over 18,000 pieces rotate through permanent and temporary exhibits. The museum has a special focus on the paintings of Winslow Homer (1836-1910). The New England born artist is best known for his oils and watercolors depicting coastal living. Homer’s 1883-1910 studio in Prouts Neck, Maine is now owned by the museum and open to the public. Tours of the studio depart from the museum. Past exhibits at PMA include Portraits by Richard Avedon, a Nan Goldin retrospective, and the Art Books of Henri Matisse.
7 Congress Square, Portland, Maine 04101, Phone: 207-775-6148
22. Reid State Park Beach
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Along Maine’s central coast, the Reid State Park was the first to preserve Maine’s Atlantic coast beaches. Today, Mile Beach and Half Mile Beach are among Maine’s longest and widest white sand beaches, and enjoyed by outdoor recreationists, as well as the endangered least tern, who uses the beach’s rare sand dunes for nesting and feeding. Overlooking the park is Griffith Head, a rocky outcropping with views of the Seguin Island lighthouses. Bird watching is a popular activity, as well as swimming, fishing and hiking. In the winter months, the park is open for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
375 Seguinland Road, Georgetown, ME 04548, Phone: 207-371-2303
Rockport, Maine has the honor of being named one of America’s prettiest towns by Forbes Magazine. The small coastal village is located in Penobscot Bay halfway between Bar Harbor and Kennebunkport. Named for the rocky terrain and its history of limestone mining, today’s Rockport is a laid back scenic destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Boating opportunities include sailing or boat tours aboard historic windjammers and schooners. Kayak the calm waters of the harbor, or enjoy the views from the grassy
Rockport Marine Park. The 136-acre Aldermere Farm, managed by the Maine Coast Heritage trust, educates the public on sustainable farming, and runs farm tours and other educational programs.
24. Sebago Lake
Just northwest of Portland, Maine’s Sebago Lake spans over 28,000 acres. The second largest inland body of water in the state, Sebago Lake is surrounded by the towns of Sebago, Casco, Naples, Raymond, Standish, and Windham. With a depth of over 300 feet, it’s a popular lake for fishing and outdoor recreation. Lake trout, crappie, small mouth and large mouth bass, and perch all frequent the coves, inlets and rocky underwater islands. Visit the Sebago Lake State Park, rent a canoe or kayak with the Sebago Trails Paddling Company.
25. White Mountains
New Hampshire’s White Mountains National Forest traverses the border between New Hampshire and Maine. While the Visitors Center is located towards the west of the park in North Woodstock, there’s plenty to see and do across the span of the range. At over 6,200 feet, Mount Washington is the highest peak in the northeast. Climb to the top via the historic Mount Washington Cog Railway, take the auto road, or enjoy a hike. At 5,200 feet, Mount Lafayette in Franconia is among the most scenic in New England. Enjoy hikes throughout the area, ski resort attractions, and historic adventures.
200 NH-112, North Woodstock, NH 03262, Phone: 603-745-8720
What are the 25 Best Weekend and Day Trips from Portland, Maine?
The 25 Best Weekend and Day Trips from Portland, Maine according to local experts are:
Maine Islands: Deer Isle
Located in Hancock County, Maine, Deer Isle is an island community separated from mainland Maine by Eggemoggin Reach, home to two incorporated towns offering a variety of natural and tourist attractions.
The town of Deer Isle, Maine was incorporated in 1789 to include the land area of Deer Isle along with the nearby Little Deer Isle and Isle au Haut islands. The islands were named for their large populations of deer species in the 16th and 17th centuries. In 1868, Isle au Haut seceded as its own town, and in 1897, the community of Stonington was formed on the southern tip of Deer Isle.
Throughout the 19th century, Deer Isle became a major hub for granite quarrying, supplying materials that were used in the construction of notable American landmarks such as the Smithsonian Institution, the Manhattan Bridge, and the United States Naval Academy. The island was mentioned in John Steinbeck’s novel Travels with Charley, based on his own visit to the island’s Dunham’s Point. Other notable residents of the island have included musician Dan Fogelberg and painter Fairfield Porter.
Today, Deer Isle is home to the towns of Deer Isle and Stonington, which retain much of the historic character of their mid-20th century appearance. The island is separated from mainland Maine by the waters of Eggemoggin Reach and is accessible via a suspension bridge constructed in 1939. Approximately 2,000 year-round residents live in the island’s towns, which encompass a total land area of nearly 30 miles.
The island is best known for its arts community, which offers an internationally-renowned art school, two performing arts venues, and a wide variety of art galleries and studios. Courses and workshops are offered throughout the summer months at the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, which brings a large population of artists to the island both seasonally and year-round. Guided tours of the school’s campus are offered to the public on Wednesday afternoons. The Reach Performing Arts Center, located on the island’s high school campus, showcases local student and community theatrical productions and offers a summer arts camp for students in grades K-8.
The Stonington Opera House presents a full season slate of annual productions, including theatrical performances and readings, film screenings, and public concerts. A wide variety of art galleries and studios are also located throughout the island, including the Stonington Art Market and the Deer Isle Artisan Market, which offer handcrafted pieces and goods from local vendors. Other galleries include the Avery Faulkner Studio, the Carolyn Walton Gallery, J.McVeigh Jewelry, and the Marlinespike Chandlery.
In addition to art studios, a variety of craft, antique, and souvenir stores are located on the island, including Dockside Books and Gifts, which offers nautical-themed volumes and gift items, Shore Shop Gifts, which sells items from a variety of local artisans, and Nervous Nellie’s Jams and Jellies, which offers a jam and chutney manufacturing facility, sculpture studio, and tasting and tea room within a historic farmstead building. Throughout the summer and fall months, the Stonington Farmer’s Market, one of the largest farmer’s markets in the state of Maine, operates at the Island Community Center on Friday mornings. Restaurants on the island include organic small-batch roasting company 44 North Coffee, sustainable farming restaurant Cheryl Wixson’s Kitchen, farm-to-table Mexican restaurant El El Frijoles, and the casual seaside restaurant Stonecutter’s Kitchen. Additional dining options are offered at the Pilgrim’s Inn and Inn on the Harbor, which offer overnight accommodations in a historic setting. Campground, bed and breakfast, and cottage rental accommodations are also available throughout the island.
Indoor tourist attractions on the island include the Deer Isle-Stonington Historical Society, which offers exhibits related to the island’s social and cultural history, and Stonington’s Lobster Hatchery, which is operated by the Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries and offers guided public tours. The island provides opportunities for a variety of nature activities, including boating, birding, and wildlife watching and photography. 12 nature conservancies are located on the island as an effort to preserve its natural biodiversity. Areas of Acadia National Park are accessible on nearby Isle au Haut, which may be accessed via water taxi and ferry service. Information for an eight-location Lighthouse Trail showcasing nearby historic structures is also provided by the Deer Isle-Stonington Chamber of Commerce in conjunction with the United States Lighthouse Society.
A wide variety of public events and festivals are offered throughout the year on the island, including the annual Wings, Waves, and Woods bird migration festival in May, which offers guided birding walks, nature lectures, and a gallery showcase from local artisans. Over Columbus Day weekend, the Peninsula Potters Tour opens more than a dozen pottery studios throughout the island to visitors, and every other Friday throughout the summer and fall months, DIS Friday First Friday events offer special events at many participating art studios and galleries.
During the winter holidays, a traditional Christmas display decorating contest includes a contest for the community’s best-decorated lobster boat. Other public special events include the Annual Stonington Lobster Boat Races in July, the Healthy Island Project in January, and the statewide Maine Open Lighthouse Day event in September.
More Things to Do in Maine, Best Islands in Maine
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