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Maine coastal towns

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Personality Types that Like it Best

Did You Know … ?

  • Machias was the site of the first naval battle of the American Revolution (June 1775).
  • Andrew Wyeth was staying in Rockland when he painted “Christina’s World.”
  • Cabot Cove, setting for TV’s “Murder She Wrote,” is fictional; film sites were in California.
  • The Penobscot Narrows Bridge Observatory at Bucksport is the world’s tallest public bridge observatory (420 feet).
  • In the 1870s, Bar Harbor was so popular, visitors had to book hotels two years in advance.

Where whales and tourists play

It’s generally agreed that the towns on Maine’s coast are attractive to the eye, and, even more, that their locations — on bays, coves, rivers or the Atlantic Ocean itself — vary from picturesque to drop-dead gorgeous.

Physical beauty is one reason travelers vacation in Maine’s coastal towns, but their appeal is considerably broader. Additional selling points are the beaches and other typical features of waterside resort towns; a history that recalls colonial days; the classic look of New England coastal architecture, including numerous lighthouses; a still-viable fishing industry (with its companion: fresh seafood), and shopping.

Visitors also have many choices along the coast for fishing, kayaking, puffin viewing, sailing, whale watching and more, well beyond the samples named below.

Some of the more popular towns follow, listed based on their locations, from south to northeast:

  • Kittery, Maine’s oldest settlement, known for outlet shopping, historic architecture, quaint pubs and antiques shops.
  • York, America’s first chartered city (1641), known for its beaches, historic buildings (including America’s first jail), museums and its Cape Neddick Lighthouse.
  • Ogunquit, an early 20th century art colony and year-round 21st century resort, known for its beaches, boutiques, cafes and galleries.
  • Kennebunkport, site of popular beaches, arts and entertainment, dining, shopping — and a presidential retreat.
  • Portland, actually Maine’s largest city, covered separately at
  • Freeport, known for shopping, particularly L.L. Bean.
  • Bath, located on the Kennebec River, the place to explore Maine’s boatbuilding heritage (at the Maine Maritime Museum).
  • Boothbay Harbor, a choice destination for active travelers, for kayaking, sportfishing or seeking out puffins and whales.
  • Rockport, noted as an arts community, but also a harbor town offering wildlife viewing and other boat tours.
  • Camden, a classic harbor town with the de rigueur pubs and fishing boats, in a setting framed by the Camden Hills.
  • Bar Harbor, a 19th century retreat for the wealthy, now a quaint town with access to Acadia National Park.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Explore Acadia National Park’s trails on foot or on a mountain bike. The park is accessible from Bar Harbor. Or, go ice climbing there in winter.
  • Pursue an interest in maritime history at the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath, the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport and the Maine Lighthouse Museum in Rockland. The museum in Bath features an original boatyard, now restored.
  • Be transported (after a fashion). Visit the Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport, home to more than 250 transit vehicles from around the world.
    Also, visit the Wells Auto Museum to wander — for hours, if you want — among 80 classic vehicles.
  • Head up the coast to the area called DownEast for your sailing and sea kayaking. Or, join a guided kayak tour in Freeport.
  • Come to Eastport in September and stay long enough for its salmon and pirate festivals. If practical, be goofy and enter the bed race during the latter event.
  • At Bar Harbor, climb aboard a private aircraft for a flightseeing tour over the city, Acadia National Park and more. Also, take a first flight lesson to get a feel for what it would be like to be a pilot (if you don’t already know).

Things to do for Centrics

  • The Maine Coast Railroad offers tourist excursions, from Wiscasset, along the scenic Maine coast.
  • If a seafood lover, eat oysters in Maine’s coastal towns. Vary your dinner choices with lobster, too.
  • At Portland, choose from your options for harbor cruises and fishing expeditions. Then, shop and dine in the city’s Old Port area.
  • In summer, relax on Maine’s beaches and eat local favorites: fried dough and cotton candy. Then, stroll for a mile or more (to walk that off) on one of several footpaths that show off the coastline’s craggier self. One such route is the Marginal Way at Ogunquit.
  • Take guided or self-guided walking tours of charming downtowns noting examples of classic New England architecture. Besides, in some places, such as York, you’ll find buildings that are historically significant as well as attractive.
  • Go whale watching from Bar Harbor, or take a trip to see Atlantic puffins, from Cutler or Jonesport. Take an excursion that shows off lighthouses, too.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Plan a trip around a selection of unique New England bed-and-breakfast establishments.
  • Shopping is a special pleasure around Freeport, a lovely coastal village. It offers quaint antiques stores and is headquarters for some of the finest outlet stores in the U.S. Rockport Shoes and L.L. Bean are the best known.
  • Attend the Arts in the Inns Festival in Kennebunkport, but the event isn’t just about fine art — it’s a foodie’s fest, as well.
  • Go antiquing in Ogunquit and York.
  • Be entertained. Several towns — Arundel, Berwick, Biddeford and Ogunquit — have summer theater.
  • Ride the elevator to the top of the Penobscot Narrows Bridge Observatory near Bucksport for a 360-degree view of the Penobscot River and area. It is accessible via the mid-19th century Fort Knox. Time your visit for a reenactment event at the fort.

Additional Resources

For information, consult the Maine Office of Tourism at