5 Best Places to Visit in Maine

Looking for the best places to visit in Maine? Planning an epic adventure trip? Maine is expansive, with a huge area of coast and wild and wonderful scenery both coastal, inland, and small towns and cities. We had an amazing time exploring some off-the-beaten path places you should consider visiting the next time you head up to this incredible eastern state.

1. Portland, Maine

It really takes more than a day to really explore Portland, but we had a great experience exploring the famous Old Port. With its cozy and tight-packed brick buildings and old cobblestone streets, this part of town makes the most of its old world ambience. For shopping, there are a wide variety of unique shops from clothing to jewelry to souvenirs to household decor, and LOTS of food options. Portland is a must-visit for best places to visit in Maine!

One of our favorite stores was Simon Pearce, which is a glass and pottery production based near Woodstock Vermont. This showroom store is a visual feast of tasteful colors and glittering glass everywhere. We wanted to buy pretty much everything.

Because of the cruise ships docking daily at the harbor, it’s always busy, and street vendors set up booths down by the docks for the boat tourists.No matter the weather, there is always a sort of festival atmosphere down in Old Port.

The East End (Munjoy Hill) has been gentrified into a trendy and hip up and coming area packed with interesting architecture and restaurants, steep hills, and a spectacular promenade at the harbor end. Definitely visit at sunrise for some outstanding pictures out over the harbor, with peaceful ships at anchor. It’s pretty stunning. My favorite running route was straight from the West End to the East End, a nice safe and scenic 5 mile loop.

Portland Maine East Harbor, one of our 5 best places to visit in Maine

Things to Do:

Portland Head Light/Bug Light

The famous Portland Head Light is always busy with bus trips and other tourists, but still worth it. You can’t miss lighthouses on the list of best places to visit in Maine! The views are amazing and the lighthouse—in one form or another—has been operating since 1791. It’s still operating but is now automated, so no one lives in the keepers cottage, which has been turned into a small museum. It’s worth going through for the history. Hint: notice how the lighthouse keeps changing heights up and down over the years. We found that very funny.

The Portland Breakwater Light at Bug Light Park was a surprisingly great picture spot, with a lot less people. It’s a simple and lovely small light tower from which you can look over the bay and if you’re lucky, take pictures of sailboats coming into the harbor. We got some of our best pictures here, and we got very lucky with a big old-fashioned sailboat coming in under sail at just the right angle to the lighthouse.

Where to Stay:

We enjoyed our VRBO apartment in the historic West End, very walkable to Old Port and Downtown. While parking can be challenging in a historic neighborhood, the apartment was neat and tidy and comfortable, and I felt very comfortable running in the neighborhood and all over town in the morning.

The West End is a quiet and very upscale neighborhood looking over the town, with extravagant brick mansions lining the streets and exquisite landscaping of very small green spaces around them.

What to Eat:

Central Provisions

This was our favorite Portland restaurant. Adventurous menu, tapas style, characterizes this famous Portland standard in a jaw dropping old brick building. It’s another one of those wonderful places where it doesn’t matter what you order or even if you know what the ingredients actually ARE, it’s guaranteed delicious. The FOOD options here alone made it one of our best places to visit in Maine.

We had the fried cauliflower with fried chickpeas, goat cheese, fresh apple sticks, and topped with fresh mint and parsley. We don’t know what magic they put in that dish but we didn’t even care. Every single scrap of it disappeared and we could’ve kept going.

Another standout recommendation from the waiter was the Black Pepper and Jamon popover (very peppery) with a poached egg in the middle and topped with scallions. The combination of the two dishes was just perfect.

Butcher Block

Butcher Burger—in search of the perfect fries, we stumbled over Butcher Burger on (which side street?). THE WINNER!! The fries were some of the best I’ve ever had, and I am a fry snob. The secret dipping sauce definitely enhances the experience, so don’t bother with regular ketchup if you’re a dipper, as their recipe is outstanding.

Holy Donut

These potato (yes potato) donuts are classic and famous Portland. Try anything. It really doesn’t matter. All amazing! I had lemon, which was nice and bright and tender, and also they have great coffee and tea. I had Maine Blueberry Tea, and it was some of the best tea ever. Tasted just like wild blueberries!

Standard Baking Company

This very popular and very picturesque bakery in the French style will not disappoint. The lines are long but cheerful, and it takes you awhile to actually decide what to eat so it works out fine. Try the brown butter pecan chocolate chip cookie, the lemon tart, and DEFINITELY the financier, which is a decadent flower shaped pastry made basically of ground pecans and butter. It was like no pastry I’ve ever had, but very worth it.

Breakfast and Brunch

Ugly Duckling

This adorable tiny breakfast bar type place makes their own fresh English muffins and some pretty unique breakfast sandwiches. Try Pastrami on Rye (yes it works) with smoked provolone and horseradish aioli. Wow, the muffins are really really good. Number 2 is a classic and very large and messy egg and local homemade sausage sandwich with ketchup. Had we more appetite, the sweet pastries also looked amazing. Hint: Try the blueberry tea which goes a really interesting shade of blue as you brew it.

Miss Portland Diner

This very cute train-car-turned-diner restaurant gets packed fast, so come early even on a weekday. Eat in the train car portion if you can, but the food is worth it wherever you sit. Try any of their famous omelette—we had the Greek and the Steak and Cheese, and both were delicious. The Greek is packed with veggies and goat cheese while the Steak and Cheese is something like a Philly cheesesteak omelette with cheddar and shaved ribeye and green peppers. Hint: try the Italian toast. I’m not sure why it’s so good, but it just IS. We were SO full after this, with plenty of fuel for a day of hiking on the coast.

2. Harraseeket Trail and Casco Bay

We headed north from Portland in search of some coastal views and hiking away from tourist crowds. We hit the jackpot with Wolfe’s Neck State Park, a small and gorgeous park with hiking trails right along Casco Bay.

Take the Casco Bay trail and then come back by the Harraseeket Trail to Hemlock Ridge. It’s about 1.5 miles of easy hiking unless you want to scramble on the rocks at the beaches (of course we did), but you can take the full Harraseeket Trail for a longer hike if desired. This was totally one of our favorites on the list of best places to visit in Maine.

Where to Eat:

Harraseeket Lunch and Lobster Company

A very very authentic lobster shack, this is one of those places where you order your lobster at the lobster window (NOT the window for fried food and sides), and the sturdy looking lady hauls it out of a tank still wiggling, waves it at you and ask if “he looks good”. If you say yes, off he goes to become your lunch. We were not used to A.) Food with Eyeballs and B.) Cracking Seafood, but we were up to the challenge and conquered our first lobsters.

Also try the epic giant cornbread and clam chowder of course. Well worth the very very very fresh lobster experience, which you cannot miss when hunting for best places to visit in Maine.

3. Fort Popham and Beach Walk

The tiny and remote town of Phippsburg was what we pictured for real coastal Maine. Start on Bay Point at the ruined civil war Fort Popham (which was never completed, but is still rugged and beautiful to explore, and ramble up and down the two floors with sturdy stone stairs and magnificent decaying brick barrel vaults. Hint: if you’re a singer or interested in acoustics, there are some secret underground rooms that are worth visiting. Bring a light and your favorite minor-key song, as they are eerie, very dark, and the sound is otherworldly.

We walked a few miles along the nicely level and hard packed fine sand beaches, and it was a great beach hike. Half the fun is watching people, dogs, horses, and surfers, as it’s a very active and popular beach. You do have to bring your own horse, but riding is permitted on the beaches Oct 1-April 1 after the summer season ends. A local secret but definitely up there on the best places to visit in Maine.

Another fun stop en route back to Portland was Cabot Mill Antiques in Brunswick, a giant mill converted to shops/restaurants and a very large antique mall. Antiques in New England tend to be much less expensive, more unique, and much older than more Western shops, so I’m contemplating bringing back a large van to hunt for treasures someday.

4. Reid State Park

This stunning state park on a very secluded island beach was a random pick that won the lottery. We were shocked to find that Maine is such a surfing destination, and this park beach is really highly rated. You can see why when you walk the 1 mile Beach Walk and see the crash of the big waves. A well-kept secret for best places to visit in Maine!!

We did see signs to watch out for great white sharks, who apparently come to eat harbor seals. If the the shark flag is up, one has been sighted and apparently you are supposed to avoid splashing about in the water. We climbed up and down the craggy rocks to the left of the beach for some broad scenic bay views.

Hiking in the park can be park roads, single-track hiking trails, and broader cross country ski trails, or a combination of the above. All are beautiful, and we wish we could have explored more of them. The beach walk connects with more inland trails, just follow the blue markers on trees and there are signs to tell you which loop you’re on. We took the Seguinland Loop trail to hook back up with the park road, and saw everything from woods to gorgeous marshes, creeks, and of course the ocean.

If you do brave the waves, there are restrooms/changing rooms at the end of the park loop on the beach to put on your wetsuit (definitely necessary here). The beach is walkable but due to the slope has a lot of shifting sand, not much hard pack, so it will definitely give you a workout.

Where to Eat:

Run With Soup

We stopped in Bath on the way to the park and picked up some amazing soup and bakery items at a surprisingly fantastic take-out place called Run with Soup. It’s tiny, just one room, but both people and food are absolutely fantastic. They make two homemade soups (and other lunch things varying daily), as well as some really spectacular sweet and savory baked goods. Try the soup of the day (either one!!) with a savory scone, and finish off with a sweet treat like the pumpkin bread with pecan caramel frosting. Wow!! This was one of our favorite meals. The people definitely made it one of our top best places to visit in Maine!

5. Kennebunkport/Wells Beach/Ogunquit


The southern route was so different from the northern coast! Tidy little tourist towns line the ocean, and actually for miles and miles you can’t see the ocean, just houses. We stopped in Kennebunkport, playground of the rich and also former presidents, and it was an adorable summer tourist town.

Despite being past the season and on a Monday, it was an absolute madhouse with tourists everywhere. We didn’t have any luck with a beach walk here but did have fun shopping and sampling Maine blueberry pies and fresh lemonade made right in front of us at Aunt Marie’s Ice Cream downtown. It’s a fun place! Apparently it’s up there on EVERYONE’s best places to visit in Maine!

Wells Beach

We headed south to Wells Beach, a wild and vigorous taste of the Maine coast. Popular for surfers, kiteboarders, horseback riders, walkers, and runners, this was a great long walk on the hard sand. The wind was wild and the waves were crashing, and we pretty much blew sideways along the sand.

What a view!!! This slightly off the beaten path public beach is well worth the visit. Careful with the tides, there are narrow spots at high tide if you’re taking a long hike. This wild place blew us away–literally–and was totally one of our best places to visit in Maine.

Ogunquit–Where to Eat

Barnacle Billy’s

We ate at Barnacle Billy’s, tender broiled fresh haddock. When in Maine, eat seafood!!! There’s the original Barnacle Billy’s typical lobster shack right down the road from the more traditional restaurant, but we were cold so we opted for indoor dining. Next time we will have to try the famous original!

Trip in a Nutshell!!

Maine is beautiful and wild and there is SO much ocean!! I hope to go back and explore more inland areas, but definitely highly recommend these 5 Best Places to Visit in Maine for your next trip. Also, for more great New England ideas, see my article for Where to Visit Vermont in Fall!

Similar Posts