Whether you’re an out-of-stater planning a vacation or a Maine resident looking to check off your bucket list, here’s a sampling of the best things to do in Maine that was inspired by Yankee’s 2020 feature “The 85 Best Things to Do in New England.” How many have you seen, done, or eaten?
10 Best Things to Do in Maine | Essential Maine Experiences
1. Visit Acadia National Park and See the Sunrise at Cadillac Mountain
To see the first rays of sun strike the U.S., you can drive to the summit of Cadillac Mountain in Maine, the highest point on the North Atlantic seaboard, or you can climb it in the dark, flashlight in hand. Either way, the rising sun glowing on Frenchman Bay will be even cooler than you imagine.
2. Spend a Nostalgic Seaside Day in York
The seaside town of York is a Maine summer favorite. Where else can you find one of New England’s best family-friendly beaches just steps from Skee-Ball, souvenir shops, old-fashioned saltwater taffy, and animal encounters (courtesy of York’s Wild Kingdom)? After getting your fill of sun and sand at Short Sands Beach, walk over to the Goldenrod, New England’s most enchanting candy factory, where you can watch through storefront windows as workhorse machines installed in the ’40s and ’50s crank out hundreds of pounds of taffy each day from mid-May through Columbus Day. Bonus: There’s another mile-plus of beach to explore one mile south, at Long Sands Beach.
3. Fall Under the Spell of a Lighthouse (and Snag a Selfie at the Nubble)
George Bernard Shaw once said, “I can think of no other edifice constructed by man as altruistic as a lighthouse. They were built only to serve.” And in truth these simple structures continue to endure as symbols of security and hope even after retired from use. In Maine, you’ll find some 65 historic beacons scattered across the coastline, including the iconic Nubble Light in York. Perched just out of reach, it delights visitors from all over the world.
4. Go White-Water Rafting at the Forks
Since the late 1970s, the Forks region in central Maine has been New England’s center for white-water rafting trips. And whether you ride down the Kennebec, the Dead River, or the West Branch of the Penobscot, the adrenaline rush is for real.
5. Drive through Aroostook County at Potato-Blossom Time
Three hundred miles north of Portland, Maine, vast swaths of farmland mark Aroostook County (called simply “the county” by Mainers). This is potato country, and in midsummer, its pink and white blossoms stretch to the horizon as if part of the sky itself.
6. Spot a Moose
In New England’s far northern reaches, moose watching is a cottage industry in which local guides lead you to the animals’ haunts, often by van but sometimes by boat. And boy, there is nothing like sharing a stare with a moose as your pontoon boat or canoe slides silently past.
7. Stroll the Marginal Way in Ogunquit
Southern Maine’s signature walkway, the Marginal Way is a smooth bluff path that edges the ocean for just over a mile with stunning views of both sandy beach and rocky shore. Benches invite you to rest and contemplate tide pools, crashing waves, and wetsuited surfers. Finally, the path spills into Perkins Cove, a working harbor that shares narrow lanes with fish shacks, ice cream stands, and shops, all against the backdrop of the sea.
8. Hike the Knife Edge at Baxter State Park
The Knife Edge, a mile-long stretch of trail atop Maine’s Mount Katahdin, has forced more than a few climbers to crawl as it narrows to a yard wide, above drop-offs of 1,000 feet or more. Conquer it, and you’ll reach the summit — and feel you’ve done something extraordinary. How many hikes do that?
9. Experience the Ocean Cliffs on Maine’s Bold Coast Trail
No, you don’t really have the entire Gulf of Maine to yourself on the Bold Coast Trail. It just seems that way on this pristine and oftentimes solitary 10-mile trek along beautifully rugged ocean cliffs in Cutler.
10. Savor a Great Maine Lobster Roll
In a state with a lobster license plate, any visit will surely include a lobster roll or two — and you’ll want to make sure they’re worth the price tag. For 2017’s “The Great Lobster Roll Adventure,” Yankee senior food editor Amy Traverso embarked on a journey up the Maine coast, from Kittery to Eastport, to sample nearly two dozen rolls and crown a champion. Her top pick was McLoons in South Thomaston, but her list of more than a dozen contenders ensures you won’t have to journey far to find a great roll no matter where you are.
What would you add to the list of the best things to do in Maine? Let us know in the comments below!
And see more great things to do in Maine (and beyond) in “The 85 Best Things to Do in New England.”
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