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The Perfect Maine Coast Road Trip

The coast of Maine is undoubtedly one of the beautiful destinations in the United States, making a Maine coast road trip the perfect route for a road trip filled with beaches, sunshine, lighthouses, natural beauty, small town charm, tasty seafood, and plentiful shopping for unique and locally made gifts and souvenirs.

A road trip starting in Southern Maine and taking you up through Acadia National Park is a must do for any road trip lovers out there! Begin in Kittery and explore historic forts, beaches, and local art galleries! Then head up the coast to Ogunquit, where you can enjoy art, live entertainment, and nature. Kennebunkport is next on your list, where you can enjoy beaches, whale watching, and restored street cars.

Cape Elizabeth will take you to some of Maine’s best lighthouses and Portland will bring you to a historic port district with cobblestone streets to stroll. Hike Mount Battie in Camden and then head to Bar Harbor and explore Acadia National Park. No matter what activities you choose to experience, a Maine coast road trip is full of adventure, fun, and many memories to be made!

view along Maine's coast line, Maine coast road trip
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Maine Coastline

7 Maine Villages to Visit on Your Maine Coast Road Trip

Kittery

Recommended time: 2-3 days

Where to Stay:

Dockside Guest Quarters: Waterfront bed and breakfast with harbor views, dining, and nearby attractions

York Harbor Inn: Oceanfront hotel with an oceanfront dining room, pub, and live entertainment

What to Do:

Located in Southern Maine, Kittery is a charming New England village that was once big for shipbuilding, but is now known for shopping, beaches, and great seafood! Kittery is located in Southern Maine on the border between Maine and New Hampshire. You will find historic forts, shopping, great dining options, and art galleries featuring the work of local artists.

Fort McClary State Park is a must visit spot for history lovers. The fort was built as as protection for the Portsmouth Harbor. Still standing today the fort can be visited on a self-guided tour. Fort Foster Park is another great stop not only for history lovers but also for those who love to just relax at the beach. Fort Foster Park is home to the ruins of a late 1800’s fort that you can explore and climb on, a beach area for swimming or sunbathing, and a play area for the kiddos.

For shopping, visit the Kittery Trading Post for clothing, footwear, outdoor recreation gear, and more or stop by the Kittery Premium Outlets where you will find many brand name shops. For some local shopping visit the Kittery Foreside, the downtown area that features plenty of local shops, restaurants, gift shops, art galleries, and historic sites. To view some local, handmade goods and artwork visit the Just Us Chickens Gallery to see work from local artists.

For some family adventure, head over to Take Flight Adventures, an aerial adventure course and zipline. If you are looking to get outside, the Wiggly Bridge, although technically located in York, could easily be combined with a visit to Kittery (9 min. drive). The Wiggly Bridge is known as one of the world’s smallest suspension bridges. The bridge is easily accessible from a walkway off of a main road and takes you to Steedman Woods, a small nature reserve where you can enjoy easy hiking trails.

Of course, you can’t visit Maine without opting in for some of the great seafood to be found. Head to Robert’s Maine Grill for some lobster, Bob’s Clam Hut for clam rolls or clam chowder, or Henry VII Carvery for some lobster rolls. For some sweet treats head over to Yummies Candy and Nuts.

The Wiggly Bridge, stop on Maine Coast Road trip
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The Wiggly Bridge

Distance to Next Stop: 14.5 miles (20 minutes)

Ogunquit

Recommended Time: 1-2 days

Where to Stay:

The Dunes on the Waterfront: Hotel offering New England style cottages and cabins, views of Ogunquit Beach and access by rowboats at high tide or by foot at low tide, and close proximity to the village center with shops and restaurants.

The Beachmere Inn: waterfront hotel on Marginal Way with ocean views, an onsite spa, hot tub, fitness center, and assistance with reserving SUP and surfing.

What To Do:

Ogunquit is well known for its stunning beaches and rocky cliffs. If you are a sun and waves person you will find that Ogunquit is home to two sandy beaches: Ogunquit Beach and Footbridge Beach. Ogunquit Beach is the more popular and more populated beach, while Footbridge Beach is a quieter, less populated area that can be reached over a footbridge and North of Ogunquit Beach.

If you are a nature lover, you won’t want to miss a walk along Marginal Way, a 3 mile oceanfront pedestrian walkway that goes from the village to Perkins Cove, a small seaside fishing village with quaint shops and local restaurants. While you enjoy the walk you will also be treated to lighthouse views and plenty of picnic tables/benches for relaxation.

Ogunquit has a history of being known for its artistic community and you can find several studios and galleries to explore. The Ogunquit Museum of American Art is home to over 1,600 permanent pieces of art, including photography, paintings, sculptures, and more.

Visit the Ogunquit Playhouse for plays, shows, and live entertainment. And, of course, you will want to try some local Maine dishes when visiting Ogunquit. For some seafood, check out Barnacle Billy’s or Lobster Shack. You can also enjoy some craft cocktails at Ogunquit’s unique bars, including That Place and Beachfire.

Ogunquit harbor, maine coast road trip
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Ogunquit. Image by 2302427 from Pixabay

Distance to Next Stop: 12 miles (25 minutes)

Kennebunkport

Recommended Time: 2-3 days

Where to Stay:

The Nonantum Resort: a waterfront resort with close proximity to Dock Square, family activities program, three restaurants, a pool, and plenty of water sports including SUP and kayaking, and 3 boat tours leaving from the property.

The Breakwater Inn & Spa: waterfront inn on the Kennebunkport River with a full spa, onsite dining, fitness center, and great views.

What to Do:

Kennebunkport is another picturesque New England village full of beaches, small shops, local art, and plenty of opportunities to get out on the water! Visit Cape Porpoise, a small village near Kennebunkport that was the original settlement in the area. Here you can view the Goat Island Lighthouse from the Cape Porpoise Pier (or take a boat ride to the island), enjoy a bike ride, or enjoy a kayaking trip.

To cool off on a hot summer day stop at one of Kennebunkport Beach’s three beaches: Gooch’s Beach, Middle Beach, or Mother’s Beach. If enjoying your Maine Coast road trip with kids, Mother’s Beach is the best option with the calmest waters and a playground on site. Stop at the Parsons Way trail for an easy hike with great views of Cape Arundel, Spouting Rock, and Blowing Cave.

The Seashore Trolley Museum is great for history lovers and car lovers alike. You can explore numerous transportation exhibits, restored street cars, a working restored street car that you can take a ride on, and view the restoration shop.

For a different view of the town hit the waters on the Pineapple Ketch. You can also hop aboard a First Chance Whale Watching Excursion and take in views of Humpback, Finback, and Minke whales. If you are interested in Maine’s lobstering business you can join a Rugosa Lobster Tours, which will take you on a 1.5 hour tour of the Kennebunkport River, teach you about the business, and even give you the chance to try your hand at a trap if you want.

If you are interested in the history of Kennebunkport, take an Intown Trolley tour, which will take you through Kennebunkport while giving you an overview of the town’s history on a 45 minute ride. You can also visit the First Families Kennebunkport Museum to learn about the town’s history.

For food lovers, take a Maine Foodie tour starting in Dock Square extending into the village. You can also enjoy some beer tasting at Federal Jacks restaurant and Brewpub or wine tasting at Maine Mead Works. For some shopping, stroll Dock Square, where you will find small boutique shops, restaurants, and galleries.

kennebunkport waterfront, maine coast road trip
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Kennebunkport. Photo Credit: Image by 1778011 from Pixabay

Distance to Next Stop: 34 miles (45 minutes)

Cape Elizabeth

Recommended Time: 1-2 days

Where to Stay:

Inn By the Sea: A luxury waterfront hotel with a private boardwalk to Crescent Beach, close proximity to fishing, boating, nature walks, and spa with outdoor cabanas (this option is a little pricey)

Options in Cape Elizabeth are limited. I would recommend looking into options in nearby Portland, Maine, your next stop on this Maine Coast road trip!

What To Do:

Cape Elizabeth, located just outside the Maine city of Portland, is home to some of the best Maine lighthouses. You will want to visit the Portland Head Light, one of the most well known lighthouses in the country, and the lighthouses in Two Lights State Park.

One of the top things to do in Cape Elizabeth is a visit to Fort Williams Park. Here you will find one of the most photographed lighthouses in the United States, the Portland Head Light. While you can’t climb the lighthouse, you can enter the base which houses a gift shop and museum. The views from the hiking trails alone make it worth a visit to the Portland Head Lighthouse. Aside from the lighthouse, you can enjoy roaming the remains of a US army fort that was active during WW I and II, and visit the children’s garden.

For more lighthouses, visit nearby Two Lights State Park, where you can view one of the twin lighthouses, walk across a jetty, and enjoy views of the crashing waves against Maine’s rocky coastline. For some swimming, sunbathing, surfing, and hiking visit Crescent Beach State Park.

Visit the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge and enjoy some wildlife viewing and nature. If you are visiting with kids, print out these activity books before visiting and get them excited! For some nightlife, dining, and shopping visit the Old Orchard Beach Pier. Here you can enjoy live entertainment, dinner comedy shows, and special events throughout the summer season.

the portland head lighthouse, maine coast road trip
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Portland Head Lighthouse.

Distance to Next Stop: 8.4 miles (20 minutes)

Portland

Recommended Time: 2-3 Days

Where to Stay:

The Portland Harbor Hotel: hotel located in the Old Port district with uniquely decorated rooms, Old Port views, complimentary bikes to explore the city, dining, and whirlpool spa tubs.

The Press Hotel: A hotel set in a building that was once the printing plant for Portland’s largest newspaper with rooms inspired by the press, on-site dining, and a fitness center.

What To Do:

A change from the smaller towns found along much of the coast of Maine, the city of Portland is a must stop spot on the perfect Maine Coast road trip. Portland is known for its historic district, food, nightlife, and lighthouses.

While in Portland, stroll through the cobblestone streets of Old Port for its historic streets and buildings, old fishing piers, shops, restaurants, and the clubs that are a great nightlife attraction for the adults. If you are an art lover, be sure to check out the Portland Museum of Art, which features a combination of American and European artwork.

Commercial Street is perfect for those who love shopping, with plenty of great options near the waterfront. Explore the Old Fort and other areas of Portland in a unique way on a vintage firetruck tour. Visit Fort Allen Park and walk the 2.1 mile Eastern Promenade Trail for views of the waterfront at Back Cove. You can also reach East End Beach along the trail.

If visiting with children, visit the Children’s Museum and Theater of Maine, which has 3 floors of interactive exhibits. The Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Co and Museum is another fun museum to visit with kids. You can learn about the history of the 2 ft. gauge railway, take a scenic ride on the Eastern Promenade, and stay busy with some children’s activities. The Southworth Planetarium is also worth a visit, where you can watch a variety of shows that take you out of this world.

Visit some of Maine’s most well known lighthouses, including the Bug Light and Spring Point Light. Bug Light is located in Bug Light Park, where you will be able to walk to the base of the lighthouse, watch ships as they enter and leave the harbor, and stroll along the coast. At Spring Point Light you can see the ruins of an old fort and climb the rocks along the breakwater to the base of the lighthouse. Get out on the water and take a ferry to the Calendar Islands (Great Diamond Island, Peak’s Island, Chebeague Island, Long Island, and Cliff Island).

Spring Point lighthouse, maine coast road trip
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Spring Point Lighthouse, Portland.

Distance to Next Stop: 80 miles (1 hr. 40 minutes)

Camden

Recommended time: 1-2 days

Where to Stay:

Camden Riverhouse Hotel: hotel with easy access to Camden’s shops, the Camden harbor, a terrace and fire pit, and indoor pool

Grand Harbor Inn: waterfront inn with continental breakfast served to your room, balcony views, and access to the nearby Penobscot Bay YMCA

What To Do:

Camden is another small coastal town found in mid-Maine along the Penobscot Bay. Camden should be a part of any Maine coast road trip, especially for nature lovers, with opportunities to get out on the water and escape for a day of hiking.

Get out on the water and enjoy a cruise aboard the 1918 Schooner Surprise. The two hour cruise takes you out onto Penobscot Bay where you can enjoy wild life, lighthouses, and coastal views or opt for a sunset cruise and watch as the sun sinks below the Atlantic Ocean. Another option is the Schooner Olad Windjammer, which provides a similar experience. After your boat ride, head over to Barret’s Cove on Megunticook Lake for some swimming or relax with some great views and a picnic lunch.

If you are an outdoor enthusiast, or just love great views, head over to Mount Battie & Camden Hills State Park. Camden Hills State Park is perfect for hikers, with over 30 miles of trails, including the trail to the Mount Battie Summit, where you will find yourself overlooking Camden and the Penobscot Bay (you can also drive to the summit). The Merryspring Nature Center is another great way to enjoy the natural beauty of Camden. The 66 acre park is free and open for visitors to roam about and enjoy the gardens featuring perennials, roses, daylilies, and more.

Depending on when you are visiting, you may be able to catch something of interest at the Camden Opera House, which hosts ballets, musicals, films, concerts, and more throughout the year.

view of Camden, Maine from Mount Battie, Maine coast road trip
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Camden from Mount Battie. Idawriter, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Distance to Next Stop: 76.7 miles (1 hr. 45 minutes)

Acadia National Park & Bar Harbor

Recommended Time: 3-4 days

Where to Stay:

Atlantic Oceanside Hotel and Event Center: oceanfront hotel with a private beach, dining options, indoor and outdoor pools, and a hot tub

Acadia Inn: waterfront hotel with direct access to Acadia National Park trails

What To Do:

Bar Harbor is a picturesque seaside town on Mount Desert Island that is surrounded by the towering mountains of Acadia National Park and the waters of Frenchmen Bay. Bar Harbor is loaded with quaint local shops, restaurants for seafood tasting, and peaceful streets to stroll down. You can relax and have a picnic lunch on the Village Green or join a culinary walking tour to taste some of Maine’s tasty local dishes.

A Bar Harbor Puffin and Lighthouse Cruise is another activity you won’t want to miss! Not only will you be able to enjoy seeing many of Maine’s coastal lighthouses and wildlife, you will also be treated to unique and breathtaking views of Acadia’s landscape from the water. The cruise takes you past several lighthouses, including the Egg Rock Lighthouse, the Petit Manan Lighthouse, and the Winter Harbor Lighthouse.

When visiting Bar Harbor, you would be amiss not to stop at Acadia National Park. You could easily spend two or three days exploring all that Acadia National Park has to offer. Some highlights you won’t want to miss include Park Loop Drive, the Cadillac Mountain Summit, Jordan Pond, Thunder Hole, and Sand Beach. Park Loop Drive is a 27 mile long loop road that takes you past many of the highlights of the park and is a great introduction.

Park Loop Drive will take you to the top of Cadillac Mountain, where you can walk around the summit and take in views of the surrounding mountains, lakes, Atlantic Ocean, and Bar Harbor below. It will bring you to Thunder Hole where, if you time it just right, you can hear the roaring thunderous sound of the waters colliding with the air trapped in the cave below. It will bring you to Sand Beach where you can cool off on a warm day. Stop at Jordan Pond, where you will find stunning scenery and easy hiking trails.

view of bar harbor from the cadillac mountain summit
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View from Cadillac Mountain.

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Take a Maine Coast road trip and experience some of the most beautiful views to be found in the USA and New England small town charm
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