19 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Maine

Jul 22, 2021

How to spend your holiday on Maine depends very much on where you want to travel in Maine. Whether you are looking for outdoor adventure, off the beaten track history and culture, or you are dreaming of peace and quiet, Maine is the place for you!

While visiting Maine, you can have a great time visiting all the major cities and towns in Maine, especially if you travel between northern and southern Maine. The spectacular coast and the craggy mountains are attractive and they certainly deserve to be seen at least once.

Explore Maine and get inspired with our list of the best places to visit in Maine.

Portland Head Light

Photo of Portland Head Light
Portland Head Light: en.wikipedia.org

Though relatively little-known, Portland Head Light was one of the world's first lighthouses. In 1790, the Congress in Philadelphia declared Portland, Maine, to be the 49th State, and federal authorities quickly began to construct a lighthouse. Located on the highest point on the Portland Peninsula, the original lighthouse consisted of a small wooden structure topped with a 13-meter-high wooden pole. In 1828, the tower was replaced by a much sturdier structure, with a much taller wooden tower. This great and fine lighthouse is one of the lighthouses the intrepid Richard Byrd sailed past while making his famous flight in 1926. The Head is the second oldest lighthouse in the United States and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. A reconstructed Coast Guard Station now stands where the original 1828 lighthouse stood, and an elevator descends to the light station. Exhibits, film, books, and a gift shop are also located there.

Acadia National Park

Photo of Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park: en.wikipedia.org

Acadia National Park is a walled wilderness covering more than 2,600 square miles in Maine. It is part of a vast federally protected area designated as the Acadian National Park Reserve, and was designated a national park in 1934. The park's craggy shoreline contains many white sandy beaches and inlets and a large area of forest. Lace your shoes and pick a beach that offers plenty of space for picking wildflowers. The park also provides space for hiking, camping and horseback riding, and for hunting and fishing. The ocean is prime habitat for seabirds. At the northern tip of the park is the town of Bar Harbor, where you'll find most of the tourist amenities. Beyond the town are a number of granite rock formations: Steamer Rock, Gulf Hagas and Otter Cliffs. There are also caves, waterfalls and hiking trails.

Portland Museum of Art

Photo of Portland Museum of Art
Portland Museum of Art: en.wikipedia.org

Portland Museum of Art has a fine collection of work by American artists, mostly from the late 1800s to the 1930s. These included images of Boston by Robert Wilson Alfred Austin, American subjects by Robert Guise and John Singer Sargent, and the American impressionist painting of Frederic Edwin Church by Frederic Church. Another artist, William Charles Edwards, also painted some of the works on display. Among the smaller and more personal works is a large selection of the distinctive watercolors of Henry David Gilkey. For their most powerful expression of New England, visit the rooms of the Shaker family, whose work is showcased in a group of watercolors by Charles Guiteau. There is a wide-ranging temporary exhibition every year, usually opening in March, and there is also a program of seminars and lectures.

Cape Elizabeth

Photo of Cape Elizabeth, Maine
Cape Elizabeth, Maine: en.wikipedia.org

Cape Elizabeth is a sleepy coastal town in the northeast corner of Maine. It was settled in 1716 by the Winslow family of fishing and shipbuilding fame. Now, the town is known for surfing and attracting tourists who want a chance to stretch their legs and catch a lobster from its surf-friendly waters. Activities include kayaking, windsurfing, and sailing, as well as fishing and lobstering on the Penobscot River. There's also an old fort that's been turned into a museum and provides visitors a rare chance to walk on the sea wall and watch the water rise. The best way to travel from Boston to Maine is via the Pierce International Airport. The following towns are all on the way: Kittery, York, Ogunquit, Portsmouth, Cape Elizabeth, South Portland.

Portland

Photo of Portland, Maine
Portland, Maine: en.wikipedia.org

Portland has long been known as an offbeat city with a love of environmental issues, indie music, and sustainable lifestyles. To the average American, it seems counterintuitive to find a major seaport without a visible harbor, but Portland's waterfront is so protected by rock walls, jetties, and greenbelts that it could be called the greenest harbor in the country. There is even an annual environmental film festival that is one of the largest and most important in the country. Portland's mild, continental climate is due in part to its elevation, as it's more than 700 feet above sea level. The result is that summer days are warm, spring and fall are crisp, and winter days can be bitterly cold. Portland's main claim to fame is that it's a haven for back-to-nature living. There are a handful of outdoor shops, a new vegan restaurant, a great bookshop, and a youth hostel, among other things. The city also has an excellent film festival in August.

Blue Hill

Photo of Blue Hill, Maine
Blue Hill, Maine: en.wikipedia.org

Blue Hill is a magical place surrounded by a protective cloak of privacy and fog. The small, remote village is a New England coastal village of almost three thousand people, many of whom live off the land, fishing, and farming. It is known for its crystal-clear waters, its hundreds of wild and wondrous birds, and for having a long and storied history. A handful of hotels in Blue Hill are perched on the bluff above the azure waters of Saco Bay. These hotels are spectacular, offering many activities from fishing and whale watching to hiking and sailing. They are often tucked away and reachable only by boat or on foot. These hotels are the perfect base for a visit to this magical seaside village.

Portland International Jetport

Photo of Portland International Jetport
Portland International Jetport: en.wikipedia.org

The Portland International Jetport is an important aviation center located on 80 acres (32 ha) in South Portland, a short distance from downtown Portland. The hub has eight runways, an operating control tower, and a weather station, and is open 24 hours. The control tower was designed by architect Thomas Beal. Completed in 1998, it is a showcase of energy-efficient building methods, and features photovoltaic panels on the roof. Historically, Portland International Jetport was the former home of Bangor International Airport, now closed. Portland's airport received an FAA Gold Open Door award for facility design in 1995, recognizing it as the best terminal in the United States. Other buildings, including a hangar for the DeHavilland Twin Otter and a control tower for smaller aircraft, are nearby, as are retail and retail/office space. When visiting this interesting airport, you can visit the control tower at 10:00 in the morning and see the DeHavilland DHC-6 Twin Otter taking off and landing, and view passengers boarding and disembarking the aircraft. Also you can visit the offices of the Airport Commission and view a documentary film about the airport.

Monhegan Island

Photo of Monhegan, Maine
Monhegan, Maine: en.wikipedia.org

Monhegan Island is a 585-acre island off the coast of Maine, containing several unique natural features including the world's largest unbroken tidal rock formation and one of the world's few remaining kelp forests. There are a handful of good lodging options on Monhegan, including The Inn at Monhegan Village in the small town of Mid-Island, a stone building built in 1850. This resort offers free passes to the nearby island's lighthouse and free off-road cycling. Those who want to experience the island at a more leisurely pace should check out Monhegan Island Center, the only lodging that offers a Dine In or Pick Up service that allows guests to purchase dinner from the Center's on-site restaurant. There is also a museum at Monhegan Island, highlighting the island's natural environment and the history of the island's quarrying and shipbuilding industry.

Mount Desert Island

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Mount Desert Island: en.wikipedia.org

Mount Desert Island (MDI) is an island of forests, cliffs, lakes and inlets best known for its cranberry bogs and unspoiled beaches. It is part of Maine's Kennebec Peninsula, which juts out into the Atlantic Ocean east of Mount Desert Rock. This tiny destination is more about hiking and biking than tourism, although its expansive hiking trails (including a mile-long walking path over the top of the island, called the Atlantic Trail) and natural beauty have made it a favorite of outdoorsy types. The island is also home to Acadia National Park, which has one of the most beautiful views of the Atlantic Ocean. Within the park are the Blue Hill Cliffs, which are beautiful, though the cliffs are dangerous. For most visitors to MDI, it is easier to access the cliffs by boat or car and then hike them. Historical attractions include the Mt. Desert Island Museum, which offers changing exhibitions and lots of information on the island, and the Acadia Forest in Bar Harbor, which was the first national forest established in the US. Both can be reached by car, bus or boat.

Penobscot Bay

Photo of Penobscot Bay
Penobscot Bay: en.wikipedia.org

Gardening enthusiasts flock to this part of the world for its sublime summers, and for good reason. Even with an average summer temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit, fresh vegetables are readily available from the local farmers, and the bright green foliage of local hardwoods accent the rolling Atlantic surf along the coastline. Penobscot Bay is known as the "garden of the world" thanks to its expansive maritime forests, beautiful beaches, and abundant harbors. Just take a look at what this area offers! Things to do in Penobscot Bay include hiking, fishing, kayaking, and whale-watching. There is also a delightful concentration of fun attractions, including a circus and a rodeo.

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse

Photo of Pemaquid Point Light
Pemaquid Point Light: en.wikipedia.org

The site of the old Pemaquid Point Lighthouse, on the rugged coast of Maine, is now a small museum and visitor center, with exhibits about the lighthouse and the lighthouse keepers who helped maintain the light. The first light was not lit until 1839, as it took the keepers several days to build a foundation for the original 72-foot tall tower. This massive edifice of stone and mortar was the first lighthouse in the country that could also be seen from shore. A walk around the museum reveals many artifacts of the day, including the keeper's house, a flax room, and a third-order Fresnel lens that was installed in 1851.

Fort Knox

Photo of Fort Knox (Maine)
Fort Knox (Maine): en.wikipedia.org

Home to the US gold reserves, Fort Knox was built in World War II as an armory and is today a US military installation. The US Mint and the National Institute of Standards and Technology headquarters are located there. Since the Fort Knox area is off-limits to the public, the highlights of a visit are an attractive walking trail around the town (through forests and along the waterfront) and a visit to the Fort Knox Museum and Visitors Center, with information on the facilities and activities at the Fort. Access to the areas around the Fort is possible by car, but private tours are also available for a small fee.

Rockland

Photo of Rockland, Maine
Rockland, Maine: en.wikipedia.org

Rockland is a small town that's been experiencing a building boom, perhaps because of its location on the main branch of the East Coast Greenway. While the ATV trails are a real asset for the region, other places of interest include the Farnsworth Art Museum, the place that restored Jonathan Fitch's Eye of the Storm sculpture. After a relaxing visit, perhaps exploring historic Bath and taking a hike along a hiking trail that crisscrosses many of the picturesque farms in the area, perhaps it's time to take a historic visit to Rockland, a National Historic Landmark district with buildings that date back as far as 1692, or for a new home? Check out our homes page for all the information you need.

Portland Harbor Islands

Photo of Harbor Defenses of Portland
Harbor Defenses of Portland: en.wikipedia.org

Portland Harbor Islands is a series of 23 islands just offshore from the city of Portland, Maine. Although the islands are part of the city's jurisdiction, they are well known for their independent identity and lifestyle. The six in the southern half of Portland Harbor are arranged in a horseshoe shape and include Estron Island and Casco Bay Islands. Of the six, Lubec Island is the largest. It is home to a few marinas, year-round homes, and a working lobster pound. But Lubec's greatest claim to fame is its Lobster Festival, held every September.

La Jolla Cove and Torrey Pines State Beach

Photo of Farallon Islands
Farallon Islands: en.wikipedia.org

La Jolla is a great place to walk around and explore during the summer. At the northern end of the cove is Torrey Pines State Beach, a great location to spot seals and the shoreline is protected from wind and waves, ideal for a great picnic or surfing. When visiting the cove, the Bayshore Drive provides a great view of the lagoon. While it can be a popular route, there are plenty of places to stop and look over the water from the various cliffs. With easy access from the San Diego International Airport and freeways, and some great hotels and restaurants, it's a great place to spend a day.

Palace Station

Photo of Palace Playland
Palace Playland: en.wikipedia.org

Like a giant, old fashioned train station, Palace Station has over 5 miles of tracks that run under it, so long that cars need to travel in a counter-clockwise manner to leave the station and head back towards the city. It is home to countless railroads and shops, but also houses several restaurants, a church, and public art. It's one of those places you feel like walking around inside and looking for free souvenirs. It's particularly interesting to explore this antique with a collection of cars that visit every year and a car that has "Arnold" written on it.

Universal City

Photo of Bangor, Maine
Bangor, Maine: en.wikipedia.org

Built in 1990, Universal City is one of the largest attractions in the New England region. Based on the movie theme park Universal Studios (also based in California), this is a real tourist town where visitors may enjoy the numerous rides on offer, shopping, eating out and doing other things normally associated with a major city. Universal City features a mixture of indoor and outdoor attractions and is located in the town of North Berwick, a small town in York County, Maine, just south of Portland. There are also attractions in neighboring towns of Freeport and Scarborough, also in Maine. Universal Studios is currently the most popular tourist attraction in Maine.

Provincetown

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Provincetown Harbor: en.wikipedia.org

It has long been famous for its natural beauty and glamorous arts scene. The town is a unique destination that combines fine New England architecture with a lively cultural life and great seafood. From Ogunquit to Eastham, the beaches of the New England coast roll in like waves and the narrow roads meander through the quaint villages that line the shore. Among the many delightful shops, cafés and restaurants there are a number of places worth visiting, including the Provincetown International Airport, which is the center of the small port. From here, U.S. 1 (one of the most beautiful drives in the United States) takes you into the town and connects it to the rest of the region. Another main road is Commercial Street, one of the best shopping centers in the state, which goes through the center of town and runs along the route between the two famous ports. It connects to the Atlantic City Expressway, which allows you to access the best of the town without having to drive in. At the Museum of Art, you can enjoy some of the finest permanent collections in the region and also visit the art galleries of Cape Cod. There are some of the best fine arts, theater, and performing art festivals in New England.

Ellsworth

Photo of Ellsworth, Maine
Ellsworth, Maine: en.wikipedia.org

Ellsworth, located 30 miles north of Portland, is a small New England town with a wonderfully simple, almost rural feel. Lined with cute shops and charming restaurants, Main Street is a pleasant place to spend the day. Ellsworth is home to Maine's largest concentration of artists, who set up their galleries and studios in the town's cobblestone streets, giving visitors a peek into the artistic process. Several renowned artists have studios and workshops throughout the town. Ellsworth is known as the home of Colby College, the best mid-sized, private liberal arts college in the country.