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Day Trips in Maine: 3 itineraries for eating, drinking and adventuring your way through Vacationland

Summer day trips are a big part of life in New England. We visit our favorite beaches and ice cream spots, and we discover new bookstores and trails.

Journalists from the New England News Collaborative have been on the road, seeking out the best local spots in the region. Find ideas for Maine and other New England states at mainepublic.org/daytrips.

Jump to: Portland and Southern Maine| Bar Harbor and Coastal Maine| Rangeley and Western Maine

Maine is known as “Vacationland,” and it really lives up to that name. Whether you want a day trip to the beach, a coastal hike or a mountain lake swim, Maine has it all. As you may have heard, we are known for our seafood, especially our lobster. When it comes to finding the best lobster roll, know that fresher is better, but be prepared to spend some money. We are also known for our spectacular lighthouses and ocean views. You might even see a whale or a moose if you're lucky!

Check out this list of fun things to do, places to see, and food to eat in three key regions of the state — southern Maine and the Greater Portland area; Down East Maine; and the Western Mountains. Know that this is not an all encompassing list but a good place to start your day trip plans.‎

Southern Maine & Greater Portland

Southern Maine and Greater Portland offer a great mix of beach aesthetic and small-city living. Known for its vast array of eateries, Portland in particular is a foodie and beachgoers dream. Plus, there are breweries galore to satisfy all your IPA dreams. As someone who lives here, these are the spots I can thoroughly recommend if you're looking to spend the day eating and exploring in the area.

What to do if you're a...

Beachcomber

If you’re looking to surf, relax with a good book on the sand, or find a spot for your dog to run, these are some of the best beaches in southern Maine.

  • Higgins Beach — This is a great beach for surfing and for lounging. Parking is limited, so make sure to get there early.
  • York Beach — A classic Maine beach with miles of sandy beach to walk, run and play beach games.
  • Ogunquit Beach — A popular beach with a cute downtown within walking distance, Ogunquit also has a natural lazy river that occurs with the tidal change and provides a calm area for kids to play in the water.
  • Old Orchard Beach — This is a busy location, but the beach and activities are well worth it! Ride the Ferris wheel and get some ice cream while you're there.

Lighthouse Geek

  • Portland Head Light — This is a favorite among lighthouse lovers, and is located in Cape Elizabeth, about a 10 minute drive from Portland. The lighthouse is located in Fort Williams Park, with 90 acres of land for walking and outdoor activities. 
  • Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse — A lesser known lighthouse, and my personal favorite, Spring Point Ledge lighthouse is only a 10 minute drive from downtown Portland and offers a great view of the water. Note that it's not easily accessible as it has some large rocks you have to walk across to get to the lighthouse. 
  • Nubble Lighthouse — Located in York, Nubble is a picturesque lighthouse that's classic coastal New England. 
Portland Headlight Lighthouse in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.
Tulley Hescock
/
Maine Public
Portland Headlight Lighthouse in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.

Historian

  • Evergreen Cemetery — Established in 1854, Evergreen cemetery is the largest in Maine and, as a garden-style cemetery, it offers walking trails and a pond. It's also a great location for bird watching.
  • Portland Fire Engine Co. Tours — Take a guided tour in style! Ride a vintage fire engine while seeing historic landmarks and learning about the city of Portland's rich history.

Creative

  • Portland Art Museum — Located in downtown Portland. Note that there is free admission to all 4-8 p.m. Fridays. Through the Portland Art Museum, you can also get tickets to the Winslow Homer Studio tour in Scarborough, and see where the famous Maine painter made much of his work. (Available May 20- Nov. 10, tickets range from $25 to $70.)
  • Longfellow Books — Located in Monument Square, it is easily accessible by foot as you walk through downtown Portland. They have a robust collection of new books and very friendly staff.
  • Cove Street Arts — Check out Cove Street Arts to learn about Maine’s place in American art history and see multidisciplinary art exhibits. Note that they are closed on Sundays and Mondays.

Foodie

With so many good food options across Maine, you'll be happy we have three meals a day. (Or more, if you dispense with formality!)

Breakfast…

  • Scratch Baking Co. — Located in South Portland, Scratch is known for their bagels and baked goods. Make sure to grab some Maine salt bagels, and don’t worry, the line moves fast! Note that Scratch is open Wednesday-Sunday. 
  • Bird and Co. — This taqueria serves brunch on the weekends and has a wide variety of delicious vegan options. 

Lunch…

  • The Highroller Lobster Co. — famous for their lobster rolls, Highroller is conveniently located right in the Old Port and has a bright inside seating area as well as outdoor seating. Make sure to check out their merch as well!
  • Duck Fat — As the name suggests, this restaurant is known for using duck fat to fry their Belgian style fries, giving the food a rich flavor. Don't miss the poutine!
  • Sweet Pea's Ice Cream — Don't forget dessert! Stop by Sweet Pea's after a day at the beach in Ogunquit, Maine.
Sweet Pea’s Ice Cream shop in Ogunquit, Maine on Sunday, June 23, 2024. (Raquel C. Zaldívar/New England News Collaborative)
Raquel C. Zaldívar
/
New England News Collaborative
Sweet Pea’s Ice Cream shop in Ogunquit, Maine on Sunday, June 23, 2024. (Raquel C. Zaldívar/New England News Collaborative)

Dinner…

  • Eventide Oyster Co. — Grab some oysters and fresh seafood at Eventide, and make sure to try their famous brown butter lobster roll.
  • Crispy Gai — Incredible Southeast Asian street food in a casual dining setting. You have to try their famous chicken wings, which come with your choice of sweet or spicy sauces.

Beer Lover

  • Allagash Brewing — Take a tour of the brewery, order samples and grab a bite to eat. Allagash White, a Belgian-style wheat beer, put this brewery on the map.
  • Bissell Brothers — Bissell has a large beer selection as well as fun events happening throughout the year, and especially during the summer. 
  • Tomasos Canteen — This is a great casual spot to grab a beer, share some wings with friends and maybe even munch on some fried pickles. Note that they have limited seating.  
  • Oxbow Brewing — Located in Portland’s walkable East End, Oxbow is a great spot to listen to live music and drink an authentic farmhouse ale in their beer garden. Also make sure to grab some Duckfat frites at their takeout window. 

Bar Harbor & Coastal Maine

The Maine coast stretches some 3,500 miles, including bays and inlets — meaning there are a myriad of beaches, islands and coastal towns to explore. Bar Harbor is just one part of the Maine coast, but it's a top destination, with Acadia National Park as a backdrop and a beautiful, quintessential downtown as well. Maine’s Down East region is known for its natural beauty and fresh seafood, especially lobster! I grabbed a coworker and spent the day checking out some of these spots.

What to do if you're a...

Nature Lover

Coastal Maine is a nature lover’s utopia. Near Bar Harbor, the go-to spot is Acadia National Park. Acadia has a perfect mix of coast and mountains and has tons of trails and views for everyone. You will need to purchase a park pass for your vehicle upon entering the park, but note that these passes last for seven days.

If you want a chill outdoors experience…

  • The Ocean Path Trail — This is a flat, 4.5-mile trail along the rocky coastline offering some amazing views of the water and nearby islands. This is a great path for all ages and abilities. You can park along the road parallel to the trail and start walking at any point, or you can park at the start of the trail at Sand Beach. This might be my favorite thing to do in the park!
  • Sand Beach — The name says it all! This beach is tucked between rocky cliffs and provides a great spot to have a beach day, go for a swim or play in the sand with your kids. Be aware that it can be crowded during peak season. Also make sure to take advantage of the free Island Explorer shuttle, which stops at all popular locations in the park, to help you avoid parking in the busy lots. 

If you want something a little more challenging…

  • Cadillac Mountain — The Cadillac summit is famous for being the highest point on the Eastern Seaboard and, depending on the time of year, it contends for the first place to see the sunrise in the U.S. You can either reserve a permit to drive up to the top; get an early start and hike up the Cadillac North Ridge Trail, a 4.2-mile out-and-back trail; or cycle up one of the best-regarded, most challenging bike climbs in the state.
  • The Beehive trail — This is a rung-and-ladder trail, which can be challenging for some hikers and not easily accessible. But if you’re up for the challenge, the 1.4-mile round trip promises great views that overlook Sand Beach and the Gulf of Maine. 

Foodie

Breakfast…

  • Cafe This Way — a cozy breakfast spot with outdoor seating and friendly, quick service. This was a perfect way to start off our day in Bar Harbor. You can even get a breakfast sandwich with French toast as the bread!
  • Looking Glass Restaurant — A great spot for breakfast with a view of the ocean. Make sure to order a Looking Glass-exclusive item.
A french toast breakfast sandwich at Cafe This Way in Bar Harbor, Maine on June 3, 2024.
Esta Pratt-Kielley
/
Maine Public
A french toast breakfast sandwich at Cafe This Way in Bar Harbor, Maine on June 3, 2024.

Lunch…

  • Geddy's — A classic Bar Harbor restaurant located right in downtown. The interior highlights a rustic Maine aesthetic with high-quality food and fresh Maine seafood. Don't forget to order a lobster roll! 

Dinner…

  • Finback Ale House — There are a variety of whale-themed restaurants in Bar Harbor, as visitors can spot humpback, finback, and minke whales off of the coast of Maine. I had some fresh clam chowder and, of course, we had to grab a beer to finish off our day of eating and drinking.
  • Thirsty Whale — If you want more of a tavern feel, visit the Thirsty Whale a few doors down that has a wide variety of seafood, appetizers and specialty cocktails.
  • El El Frijoles – If you are headed down the coast towards Sedgwick, make sure to check out El El Frijoles (a play off of Maine’s famous L.L.Bean). This family-owned summer restaurant serves homemade Mexican food made with local Maine ingredients that you can enjoy indoors in a beautiful screened-in porch area, or share a meal with friends around the outdoor fire pit. 

Lifelong Learner

If you’re a history buff or find yourself in Bar Harbor on a rainy day, there are tons of places to check out.

  • Abbe Museum — Located right in downtown Bar Harbor, the Abbe Museum is the spot to learn about the Wabanaki Nation’s heritage, culture and homeland.
  • La Rochelle Mansion and Museum — If you are interested in turn-of-the-century homes, you need to take a morning or afternoon and walk through the Bar Harbor Historical Society’s well-preserved home from the early 1900s. The mansion offers a look into a classic New England high class home with beautiful grounds and views. 
La Rochelle mansion in Bar Harbor, Maine on June 3, 2024.
Esta Pratt-Kielley
/
Maine Public
La Rochelle mansion in Bar Harbor, Maine on June 3, 2024.

If you’re more interested in Bar Harbor’s wildlife and ecology…

  • Mount Desert Oceanarium and Education Center — Here you can meet Maine’s coastal critters including fish and lobster, and learn about coastal habitats.
  • George B. Dorr Museum of Natural History — If you’d rather stay closer to downtown Bar Harbor, check out the College of the Atlantic’s Dorr Museum, where there's a touch tank for all ages to get up close and personal with starfish, crabs and other crustaceans. If you are traveling on the free Island Explorer bus, the shuttle stops right near the Dorr Museum throughout the summer, making visiting easily accessible to all.

Creative

If you are an art lover and are traveling down the coast from Bar Harbor, have you ever heard of the giant trolls of Maine?

  • Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens — The trolls are a big attraction at the Botanical Gardens in Boothbay. Their real name is “Guardians of the Seeds,” and they were made by Danish artist and sustainability activist, Thomas Dambo. The botanical gardens have lots of things to see, including gardens in bloom and a butterfly and moth house. They are open May through Oct. 20, and there is an admission fee. This is a great spot for the whole family!
  • Center for Maine Contemporary Art — Make sure to visit the gallery in Rockland. This museum focuses on art made by Mainers or people who are inspired by Maine. It’s a great chance to see and support local Maine art. 

Rangeley & Western Maine

The western mountain and lakes region of Maine is known for winter season activities including skiing, snowboarding and hunting. But the area also is a great summer getaway, with tons of swim spots, hiking trails and places to eat. I would argue this drive is the most scenic in this guide. I made sure to stop by some of these places and see what Western Maine is all about.

What to do if you're a...

Nature lover

  • Winter skiing — The mountain region is known for winter skiing. Check out Saddleback Mountain, Sugarloaf, Sunday River, Mt. Abram and Pleasant Mountain. 
  • Cascade Stream Gorge Trail — For a quick day hike for the whole family, check out this short, 1-mile loop that leads you to see a series of waterfalls. This is a great option for kids.
  • Saddleback Mountain via Ski Lodge trail — If you’re looking for a more challenging day hike, trek the 5.9 miles (about 3.5 hours) up and back.
  • Rangeley Lake State Park — A great spot to camp, swim or enjoy a picnic lunch by the lake on the public access lawn area.
  • Coos Canyon — Check out Coos Canyon on Route 17, located right on the Swift River. There are swimming and cliff jumping spots, plus places where you can pan for gold!

Foodie

Breakfast...

    • Looney Moose Cafe — Located in Stratton, this might have been my favorite meal of the day! Not only can you eat a hearty breakfast, but they also make homemade doughnuts. Stop by on your way to Sugarloaf to fuel up for skiing or hiking. 

    Lunch...

    • The Red Onion — Right on Main Street Rangeley, the Red Onion is a local favorite known for their pizza.
    • Classic Provisions — This is a go-to breakfast and lunch spot in Rangeley. They have a variety of sandwiches and salads, as well as coffee drinks and house-made pastries. Plus you can walk two steps and grab an ice cream next door.
    A couple eats ice cream by Haley Pond in Rangeley, Maine on June 19, 2024.
    Esta Pratt-Kielley
    /
    Maine Public
    A couple eats ice cream by Haley Pond in Rangeley, Maine on June 19, 2024.

    Dinner...

    • Rangeley Inn and Tavern — Not only is this a great lodging spot, but it also has an attached tavern that serves quality food in cozy dining rooms.
    • The Mountain Social Kitchen and Bar — This is a great fine dining option. They have locally made food and are located right on the main street in Bethel. 

    Beer Lover

    • Furbish Brew House & Eats – Situated on Main Street in Rangeley, you can sip on your brew while enjoying a view of Rangeley Lake.

    Historian

    • Outdoor Heritage Museum — This is a small but robust museum where the whole family can learn about western Maine’s history of hunting, fishing and wildlife from the 20th century. They even have a 100-year-old cabin!
    • Rangeley History Museum — Stop by to learn about the history of Rangeley and western Maine. This location is right on Main Street. 

    Lifelong Learner

    • Maine Mineral and Gem museum — Who knew you could hold a piece of the moon in western Maine? Plus, we even got to touch 7 billion-year-old stardust. This museum has the largest meteorite collection in North America, plus tons of beautiful gems and stones. Their staff can answer all your burning questions about space rocks! Note that admission ends at 4 p.m., while the museum closes at 5 p.m.
    • Did you know that Rangeley is located exactly halfway between the Equator and the North Pole? There’s even a spot on Main Street where you can stand and be exactly in the middle!
    Lunar meteorites at the Maine Mineral & Gem Museum in Bethel, Maine on June 19, 2024.
    MVogelzang2019-20
    /
    Maine Public
    Lunar meteorites at the Maine Mineral & Gem Museum in Bethel, Maine on June 19, 2024.