More than 20 years ago my parents bought a timeshare in Daytona Beach and started a tradition of going every year for the week of Thanksgiving. They don’t travel anymore, but we’ve carried on the tradition with our sons. It really is a fabulous time of year to go because the weather is mild and the Turkey Run (classic car show) is in town.
If you’re yearning for an unforgettable seaside getaway, look no further than the magical coastal region of Maine. With charming harbor towns, picturesque lighthouses, and stunning national parks, Maine offers countless opportunities for making memories. In this post, we’ll guide you through the must-see destinations that should be on your Coastal Maine vacation itinerary.
Take in the Quintessential Harbor Life at New Harbor
Only 60 miles north of Portland on the Pemaquid Peninsula, New Harbor is one of the last working harbors remaining along the mid-coast. The harbor and surrounding area are steeped in the rich history of fishing, lobstering, and boat building. The area is mostly residential with large tracks of undeveloped land. You won’t find tee shirt shops or the hubbub of most tourist destinations. Things here are simple, peaceful, relaxed, and move at a comfortable pace.
Stroll along the harborside and immerse yourself in the classic seaside atmosphere – complete with lobster boats, scenic harbors, and vibrant local markets. Grab a bucket of steamers at a nearby seafood shack, and enjoy your meal overlooking the serene waters of this idyllic haven.
We found it to be the perfect base for our exploration of coastal Maine. Between day trips to Acadia National Park, Camden Hills State Park, and Monhegan Island, we spent many enjoyable days walking around the peninsula, exploring tidal pools along the rocky coast, riding our bikes to get a treat at the Harbor Ice Cream Shack, and lounging on the deck watching the lobster boats returning after a hard day’s fishing.
Visit the Iconic Pemaquid Point
The closest point of interest is Pemaquid Point with a lighthouse, fort, and beach. Colonial Pemaquid is home to Fort William Henry and archaeological digs from the 17th and 18th centuries. The Fort is a wonderful stone structure to explore and imagine yourself as one of the early pilgrims to this area. There is a museum that houses the artifacts found on this site and explains the long history that exists here. Next, wander over to the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse. This striking historic landmark has graced the Maine coastline since 1835, providing endless inspiration for artists and photographers alike. The 38-foot stone lighthouse sits on an impressive outcropping of stripped granite that extends into the Ocean. We recommend visiting during a low tide to get the full effect! You can even climb the tower to experience the amazing view from the top.
And you won’t want to miss lunch at the Sea Gull Restaurant with magnificent views of the Maine coast.
Pemaquid Beach is a crescent sliver of white sand and calm waters perfect for swimming or soaking in the sun. There is a small entrance fee, but it has a bathhouse, restrooms, snack bar, picnic tables, the town ball field, and plenty of parking.
Conquer Mt Battie at Camden Hills State Park
With its panoramic ocean views and miles of hiking trails, Camden Hills State Park is undoubtedly an adventurer’s paradise with 5,700 acres of wooded hills. Summit Mt. Battie, a rewarding 800-foot peak offering sweeping views of surrounding lakes, the beautiful wooded hillsides, and of course Camden Harbor and Penobscot Bay. Make sure to bring your camera, because you will want to capture every moment of your adventure. By foot, the hike to Mount Battie will normally take up to two hours, but you can opt to get to the top by car if you are not able (or inclined) to hike up. A small fee is charged for the drive up the summit. Camden Hills State Park also has a campground with water/electric hookups for RVs up to 45’ in length.
Explore the Picturesque Town of Camden
After seeing Camden from afar, drive down to the city for lunch and a walk around the harbor. Downtown Camden is a delight of upscale shops, antique shops, general stores, seafood eateries, and cafes. The 1957 film Peyton Place was filmed here. Enjoy lunch at a historic diner, the Boynton-McKay Food Company. The building, which opened as an apothecary in 1893, is still fitted with the original birds-eye maple cabinetry, Minton tile checkerboard floor, and pressed tin ceiling. Wander through its historic streets, lined with lovely Victorian homes and intriguing small businesses, or charter a sailboat and explore the bay.
Discover the Majestic Monhegan Island
My absolute favorite day trip is to Monegan Island. For more than 100 years, Monhegan has been a summer haven for artists and other visitors who appreciate its isolation, the beauty of its wilderness areas, its relaxed atmosphere, and its unhurried pace. Just 10 miles offshore, Monhegan is a mountainous island where about 70 residents live within a square mile of spectacularly scenic terrain with no cars! The only way to the island is via ferry and one of the three points of origin is New Harbor. Hardy Boat Cruises offers the Monhegan Island Ferry Service as well as other trips such as Puffin and Seal watching cruises.
Upon your return stop for fresh lobster at Shaw’s Wharf Restaurant. Be sure to get a lobster roll—Shaw’s serves over 10,000 of them each year. A lightly buttered bun cradles glistening chunks of perfectly shredded, bite-size meat. While eating you can enjoy views of the Harbor, and you might even see a boat pull up to Shaw’s and offload their day’s catch.
Marvel at Acadia National Park
No trip to coastal Maine would be complete without a road trip to Acadia National Park. Spanning over 47,000 acres, Acadia National Park is a true natural wonder with its breathtaking landscapes, diverse wildlife, and endless outdoor activities. Located mostly on Mount Desert Island, Acadia is a must-visit destination for all nature lovers. Here’s what you shouldn’t miss:
Spanning over 47,000 acres, Acadia National Park is a true natural wonder with its breathtaking landscapes, diverse wildlife, and endless outdoor activities. Located mostly on Mount Desert Island, Acadia is a must-visit destination for all nature lovers. Here’s what you shouldn’t miss:
- Drive the Park Loop Road: Spanning 27 miles, the Park Loop Road is a scenic drive that offers panoramic views of the park’s various terrains. Stop at the many overlooks to take breathtaking photos, or enjoy a picnic at one of the numerous designated spots.
- Walk along the Ocean Path to Thunder Hole and Otter Cliff: For a captivating coastal experience, embark on the Ocean Path hike that leads to Thunder Hole and Otter Cliff. Thunder Hole is a natural inlet where crashing waves generate an incredible booming sound, while Otter Cliff is a 110-ft bluff that offers a mesmerizing vantage point over the Atlantic Ocean.
- Catch sunrise or sunset at Cadillac Mountain: As the tallest mountain on the eastern coast of the United States, watching the sunrise or sunset at Cadillac Mountain is a must for any visitor. From the summit, you’ll be treated to remarkable views stretching to Bar Harbor and beyond.
To make your Coastal Maine vacation one for the books, be sure to venture off the beaten path, experience the serenity of nature, and immerse yourself in the unique charm of this enchanting region. Most importantly, take time to unwind and soak in the tranquil atmosphere that Coastal Maine has in abundance.
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