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Planning a trip to Maine? While Acadia National Park, Portland and Bar Harbor, Maine garner most of the attention, there are plenty of hidden gems along the coastline waiting to be explored. Untouched dramatic scenery, amazingly fresh seafood, and unbelievably friendly people are just a few good reasons to stop on your coastal drive from Portland Maine to Bar Harbor. From south to north, we highlighted some of the best coastal towns along U.S. Route 1 that will blow your mind away in the Midcoast Maine and DownEast Acadia regions.
Looking for inspiration for similiar road trips in other parts of the US? Check out our guide for the ultimate Miami to Key West Road Trip!
U.S. Route 1 is one of the most scenic drives in Maine, dotted with tiny picturesque towns along the way. Below, we have included a map of Maine’s coastline for you to follow along.
13 Maine Coastal Towns That Will Blow Your Mind Away
Tucked away like a well-kept secret, Harpswell is a seaside town just 60 km north of Portland, Maine. This historic town is home to the longest stretch of coastline (348 km in length!), covering Harpswell Neck, 3 main islands (Bailey, Orrs, and Great Islands) connected by bridges, and a scattering of over 200 smaller islands accessible only by boat.
A great place to explore the rugged coastline and sweeping ocean views is the Giant’s Stairs on the eastern coast of Bailey Island. The 500m-long trail wends through jaw-dropping rock formations, making you wonder how they came to be.
Spend some time enjoying the expansive views of Casco Bay, and if you’re lucky enough, you might spot some ducks or even harbor seals!!
Dubbed ‘the prettiest village in Maine,’ Wiscasset draws visitors for various reasons. For one, the many historic sites and architectural landmarks allow you to dive deep into the state’s rich maritime history. Nickels-Sortwell House and Castle Ticker are just a few examples.
Foodies will want to get in line to try Red’s Eats – the best lobster roll in Maine. This seafood shack is so popular that during the summer season, you will see massive traffic jam extending miles long! Don’t let the wait discourage you. Once you sink your teeth into the decadent (and overflowing) lobster meat, you will not regret!
Because they use the freshest Maine seafood, the price fluctuates depending on supply and demand and whether the time of the year is Maine lobster season or not. Typically, it is ~USD$25 per serving.
3| Boothbay Harbor
The charming seaside village of Boothbay Harbor is an oasis to experience a truly unplugged lifestyle. One of the best places to unwind and connect with nature is Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. Covering nearly 300 acres of coastal waterfront, the nature attraction hosts 17 cultured gardens showcasing plants native to Maine’s coastal conditions.
In addition, there are several themed gardens to refresh your mind, including: the Bibby and Harold Alfond Children’s Garden, which was inspired by Maine children’s books, and the Lerner Garden of the Five Senses, where you can get a sensational experience through touch, smell, sound, sight, and taste.
Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens offers a place of peace and tranquility. A visit here is absolutely one of the best things to do in Maine in summer.
For those who are into spooky history, Red Cloak Haunted History Tours is for you. You will hear hair-raising stories and see the area’s most haunted sites. Goosebumps guaranteed!
Wildlife watching is one of the top things to do in Maine. In Boothbay Harbor, there are several operators offering boat tours to catch a glimpse of puffins, seals, harbor porpoise, ospreys and whales!
Looking to stay overnight? We recommend Topside Inn. This property is owned by a lovely gay couple, Buzz and Mark, who have transformed the inn into one of the most beautiful oceanfront hotels in Maine. Sitting atop Mckown Hill, the highest point in town, you can easily see the entire Boothbay Harbor! Unlike other traditional B&B, all the rooms come with modern amenities to give you all the comfort and convenience you need.
Reminder: Topside Inn operates seasonally from May through mid-October.
Crossing the Damariscotta River, you’ll reach the town of Bristol on the Pemaquid Peninsula. At the southern end stands the iconic Pemaquid Point Lighthouse guarding the entrance to Muscongus Bay and Johns Bay.
Although the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse is not particularly grand in size, the scene below the light is extremely dramatic and rugged. The ledges were made up of metamorphic and igneous rocks exposing bands of different colours. The details are just visually outstanding!
Back in town, spend some time at The Good Supply, a restored barn storefront selling quality goods made by Maine-based artists. It is the perfect place to buy a unique gift that will remind you of Maine!
Camden is what you’d imagine a classic New England harbor town to be: full of sailboats, seaside inns, and vintage brick houses. This quaint seaport town has more than enough going on to keep you busy with a series of festivals running all year round, including the US National Toboggan Championships (February), the Summer Harbor Arts & Books Fair (July) and Windjammer Festival (Labor Day Weekend).
Even if your visit doesn’t coincide with any of the festivals, there is plenty of things to do in Camden. Go canoeing on Penobscot Bay. Sail on a historic schooner. Hike to the top of Mt. Battie in Camden Hills State Park. Or eat your way through the town at places like Thai-inspired eatery Long Grain and modern New England fine-dining restaurant Natalie’s. You’ll never have a dull moment.
As for accommodation, we recommend 16 Bay View. Transformed from a century-old industrial brick building, the luxury boutique hotel combines exquisite comfort with quaint, historic charm to create a unique destination.
Each room comes with a full walk-in shower with body jets, a freestanding massage tub, heated floor, and a two-sink vanity!! You can see why we consider it one of the best places to stay in Maine for couples.
Reminder: In the summer, the town is swarmed with visitors because that’s the best time to visit Maine (weather-wise). We encourage you to visit during the shoulder season (around late-May or late-September) to avoid high accommodation prices and crowds.
Just a short distance from Camden Hills State Park is the vibrant community of Lincolnville. Not many people know that this town in Midcoast Maine is actually a food and wine paradise.
Prepare your taste buds for a treat and visit the Cellardoor Winery. They produce over 20 distinctly Maine-made wines, appealing to every palate. Enjoy a full winery experience with a wine tasting, an insider’s tour, or a food pairing!
Want to brush up on your culinary skills and learn something new? Book a cooking class with Salt Water Farm. From May through December, the institution invites guests from near and far to learn the art of seasonal cooking, using fresh seafood and produce from the region. Topics range from bread baking to butchering and cover an array of global cuisines.
Going further north on U.S. Route 1, you will reach Prospect. Fort Knox and the Penobscot Narrows Observatory are the main attractions here.
A tour around Fort Knox, Maine’s largest historic fort, will take you back in time to relive the history of the troops who served to protect American interests during the 1800s.
Complete your visit with a trip up the Penobscot Narrows Observatory – the tallest bridge observatory in the world. Standing proud at 128-m, the tower offers a spectacular panoramic view of the Penobscot Bay area.
Bucksport is a picturesque town located right cross the river from Prospect. In the summer, you can stroll along the mile-long waterfront walkway, go boating in Penobscot Bay, or go fishing on Silver Lake. When winter comes, snowshoeing, cross country skiing and snowmobiling are popular activities.
If you’re just here for a quick stop, we encourage you to grab a bite at Friar’s brewhouse Tap Room. This brewpub is not your ordinary brewpub – it is actually run by monastery brothers. They sell iconic Maine food (like lobster rolls, lobster mac & cheese) and small-batch craft brews with proceeds go to keeping their monastery open. One thing to keep in mind when dining there is that the use of cell phone is prohibited!
Castine is known for its scenic rocky coast and rich seafaring history. It is actually considered one of the oldest communities in North America.
The best way to explore Castine is by visiting the historical sites, museums and well-preserved military sites around the town. You can join the Castine Historical Society for a guided walking tour offered every Saturday in the summer. Alternatively, grab a copy of the walking map outlining 50+ landmarks and discover the village on your own!
Some of the attractions you do not want to miss include The Wilson Museum, Dyce Head Lighthouse, John Perkins House, and The Abbott School. Add some fun elements to your trip by taking a harbor cruise or night kayaking in the bioluminescent bay!
An overnight stay at Pentagoet Inn is a must! This bed and breakfast in coastal Maine is an elegant 3-story, Queen Anne-style mansion filled with antiques and collectibles.
Tucked away in the south-west corner of Blue Hill Peninsula, Brooksville is characterized as laidback, unspoiled and remote, especially when you travel off the beaten track to Cape Rosier, you will feel even more so.
You might not know that nestled in the woods is The Good Life Center – a hand-built stone home of Helen and Scott Nearing to advocate a pure, and simple way of living. Thousands of people come to Brooksville each year to learn practical homesteading skills and search for meaning in their own lives.
In the summer from June to October, visitors can tour the organic gardens, stone home, and wooden yurt to get a glimpse of their self-sufficient homesteading lifestyle.
11| Deer Isle
A series of twists and turns will take you through the unspoiled Down East Maine landscapes to the idyllic Deer Isle. Artists have long been attracted to its striking coastal views and complete remoteness which they find so inspirational. That’s why you will come across many wonderful art galleries in the area.
One particular place that draws our attention is the Nellieville in Nervous Nellie’s Jams and Jellies. The quirky sculpture garden is created by sculptor Peter Beerits, featuring life-size sculptures made out of scrap metal and wood. Some are whimsical, some a bit spooky. Installations such as wizard’s tower, medieval castle, and Mississippi juke joint will keep you entertained for the whole day!
Before you leave, make sure to stop by the shop to stock up on delicious homemade jams, marmalade and chutneys (they have 15 flavors!).
At the southern tip of Deer Isle is a fishing village called Stonington. The town is big in the lobstering industry, pulling more lobster than any other Maine port in recent years!
Besides lobster catching, the town offers a wide variety of summer activities outdoor enthusiasts. You can go sailing, take a scenic sunset cruise, or join a boat tour to see lighthouses and puffins!
13| Blue Hill
The charming coastal town of Blue Hill in DownEast Maine offer endless surprises for travelers.
As a hub of art, music and food, Blue Hill boasts many shops, restaurants, galleries, beaches, and hiking trails to explore. For those looking to grab a bite, you’ll appreciate the comfort food at Sandy’s Cafe. This Blue Hill Maine restaurant serves up delicious blueberry stuffed french toast topped with maple butter cream cheese, lemon curd and maple syrup!
Before you leave, make sure to stop by Blossom Studio & Gallery. It is a wonderful place to shop for glass beaded jewerly and cat-themed artwork!
This rounds up some of the most beautiful Maine coastal towns in between Portland and Bar Harbor. Next time when you road trip to Maine, consider go off the beaten path and discover these under-the-radar seaside towns. You will see a much different aspect of the Maine coast!
Disclaimer: This post is written in partnership with Midcoast Maine and DownEast Acadia. As always, all opinions on For Two, Please are our own and we only recommend brands that we 100% stand behind.