10 Best Places to Go for an Idyllic Maine Summer Vacation

This article has links to products and services we love, which we may make commission from.

Planning to take a Maine summer vacation this year? This New England state offers so much natural beauty, history, and fantastic food that you’ll love exploring from the coast to the mountains.

In this guide, you’ll find popular vacation ideas, more remote suggestions, and all our best tips for visiting the islands off Maine’s coast.

Check out our Boston to Maine road trip suggestions or our epic East Coast road trip itinerary to keep the fun going from Maine to Miami!

Popular Maine Summer Vacation Ideas

1. The City of Portland and Day Trips

As Maine’s largest city by population and one of the best places to live in the US, Portland is a great base for those who like city breaks with day trip opportunities.

In the city, visit the Old Port District for cobbled streets and converted warehouses selling craft beer and lobster rolls.

There is also still a working port!

If you like art and culture, make time for the Arts District where you can visit the Portland Museum of Art and Maine College of Art (MECA) and catch a show at the State Theatre or the Merrill Auditorium.

Photographers may like to spend slow mornings in the West End, taking photos of the fancy houses and learning more about them at the Victoria Mansion Museum.

The East End neighborhood is home to Munjoy Hill, the Eastern Promenade, East End Beach, and the Portland Observatory.

The Old Port and West End are some of the best areas to stay in; read more about where to stay in Portland for neighborhood tips and advice.

From Portland, you can also plan a day trip to South Portland where Bug Light at Bug Light Park and Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse are located, as well as the Fort Preble ruins.

Travel to Cape Elizabeth to see the famous Portland Head Light at Fort Williams Park.

Alternatively, combine this city vacation with a ferry ride to Peaks Island, which we’ll discuss below.

If you like the idea of a city break, read our Maine cities guide next.

Portland Head Light Maine plants

Where to Stay in Portland

Check availability for The Francis (747 Congress St) on ExpediaHotels, or Booking.

Another favorite of ours is the gorgeous Press Hotel (119 Exchange St); check availability on ExpediaHotels, or Booking.

Wharf Old Port District Portland Maine

2. An Acadia National Park Road Trip & Hikes

One of the most visited places in Maine is its national park, Acadia.

Pre-book your entry ticket before you arrive at the park and, if you hope to do the popular sunrise or sunset Cadillac Mountain drive, arrange your time slot well in advance.

Most visitors stay overnight in Bar Harbor, shopping and dining on and around Main Street and spending 3-4 days in the area to enjoy the many fun things to do in Acadia and beyond.

Plan for early mornings as you enjoy scenic drives around the 27-mile Park Road Loop.

Acadia is known for its awesome hiking; we recommend the 3.2 miles around Jordan Pond or hiking The Bubbles for a view from Bubble Rock overlooking Jordan Pond.

If you like hiking, don’t miss our guide to the best hikes on the East Coast.

Jordan Pond from Bubble Rock Acadia National Park Maine

The full park actually includes Mount Desert Island, Schoodic Peninsula, Isle au Haut, and other outer islands, so you can explore lesser-visited parts of Acadia if you venture away from Mount Desert Island.

You may also like our guide to Bar Harbor in the fall.

Where to Stay in Bar Harbor

Stay at the Kimball Terrace Inn (ExpediaHotels, or Booking) to stay close to the park, or take a look at The Best Western for convenience (ExpediaHotels, or Booking).

Read our full guide for where to stay in Bar Harbor and elsewhere on Mt Desert Island for tons more recommendations.

3. Kennebunk and Kennebunkport for a Classic Coastal Summer Vacation

The Kennebunks are located next to each other, only divided by a river.

Visitors tend to spend time in both Kennebunk and Kennebunkport so you get two destinations for the price of one!

Check out our full guide to things to do in Kennebunk and also our guide to Kennebunkport so you can see the differences between the two.

Spend your summer days at one of the local beaches — Mothers Beach, Gooch’s Beach, or Colony Bay — and then dine at Dock Square in the evening.

Visit the sweet Maine Art Hill in Kennebunk to see the pastel buildings and snap a pic of the iconic Wedding Cake House.

Wedding Cake House Kennebunk in Maine

Learn more about the town’s history through the Museums on the Streets information boards, take this delicious food tour, or book a walking tour on GetYourGuide or Viator.

Maine is one of the whitest states in the country so, unfortunately, most of the history you will learn is likely to come from a white person’s perspective.

For a more diverse representation, check out Rev. Lara K-J Campbell’s research and local historian Kathy Ostrander Roberts’ session on YouTube here.

Driving the coastline of Kennebunkport will afford you amazing views of nearby lighthouses, but we’ll recommend a few of the most stunning structures in the Kennebunkport area.

First, Goat Island Lighthouse is viewable from the Cape Porpoise Pier, which is the best place to start on your lighthouse tour.

Next, make sure you don’t miss one of the most beautiful and most photographed lighthouses in the world: The Nubble Lighthouse in York, which is located just a half-hour drive from Kennebunkport.

Nubble Lighthouse of Cape Neddick York Maine

It can be found between Short and Long Sands Beaches.

While you’re on the hunt for lighthouses, stop by the beach and play in the surf!

The Boon Island Lighthouse is a tall and narrow structure just off the coast of Kennebunkport and can be seen distantly from Long Sands Beach.

You can even take a day trip from Boston to Kennebunkport to let someone else handle the driving and navigating.

The Kennebunks feature in our most beautiful small towns in Maine guide.

Where to Stay in the Kennebunks

This is another really popular Maine summer vacation spot, so book your accommodations early.

In Kennebunk, look at the Port Inn & Suites (55 York St) on ExpediaHotels, or Booking.

Alternatively, you might like the White Barn Inn & Spa in Kennebunk (37 Beach Ave) for a relaxing getaway; check availability on ExpediaHotels, or Booking.

In Kennebunkport, the Kennebunkport Inn (1 Dock Square) is a classic place to stay; check availability on ExpediaHotels, or Booking.

Another lovely option in Kennebunkport is The Boathouse Waterfront Hotel & Marina (21 Ocean Ave); see the options on ExpediaHotels, or Booking.

Kennebunk sign post Maine

4. Rangeley Lakes Region for a Lesser-Known Vacation

If you prefer fewer crowds, consider the Rangeley Lakes Region in northwestern Maine.

Maine’s Western Mountains and Lakes Region offers hiking trails at Rangeley Lake State Park and Mt Blue State Park.

The Height of Land Overlook (Route 17, Roxbury, ME 04275) is a stop with views over Mooselookmeguntic and Upper Richardson lakes.

The marker and view at the Height of Land lookout in the Rangeley Lakes Region in Maine

There are several other viewpoint areas along that stretch of road, so take your time driving and stop to enjoy the views along the way.

Downtown Rangeley is a quaint town with locally-owned shops and places to eat; spend time strolling the streets and stopping in to support the local crafters and creators who make this place so special.

You can also spend time at Rangeley Lake State Park or get out onto any of the many bodies of water with a paddleboard, kayak, or a classic Rangeley-style boat.

The Outdoor Heritage Museum (8 Rumford Rd, Oquossoc) is worth stopping at to learn a bit more about the region during your visit.

If you’re planning to stay around the area for a while, you can find some lakefront rental accommodations in Rangeley featured in this guide.

Are you considering visiting The Jewel of the Western Maine Mountains? Tell us in the comments.

5. Jasper Beach for a Unique Beach Experience

Jasper Beach in Howard Cove, Machiasport, is one of only two Jasper beaches in the world; and you’d have to travel to China to find the second one!

If you’re planning a summer vacation in Maine and want to go somewhere truly special, you have to head to Jasper Beach, a secluded geological wonder and a bit of a local’s secret in this area.

Jasper rocks are a unique type of quartz that is usually red, yellow, brown, or green.

Imagine an entire shoreline of perfectly smooth, colorful stones jostling in unison as each wave swells and recedes; this beach is truly breathtaking!

The sensation of sitting on the shore among these almost-dancing stones is one of the most peaceful and beautiful experiences you could have this summer in Maine.

Many people claim to hear the rocks singing while they explore this beach—you really can’t miss this experience.

If you’re ready to escape the busy tourist spots, this beach is definitely where to go in Maine in the summer.

Check out the Machias River Inn (103 Main Street, Machias) to stay close to Jasper Beach (about a 30-minute drive); book on Expedia or Hotels.

Here’s where you’ll find the beach: further north along the coast of Maine, past Acadia National Park.

Map showing the location of Jasper Beach in northeastern Maine

6. Experience Fine Dining in Kittery

Kittery is a lovely spot for folks who are ready for a shopping and dining adventure!

Located just over the border from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Kittery is the first town you should stop in if you’re driving into Maine from elsewhere in New England.

Be sure to snap a pic at the Big Easy Chair, do some shopping at the Lost Coast vintage shop, and head to the outlets for great deals and discounts.

Once you finish with your fun for the day, we recommend The Black Birch (2 Government St) for a fancy meal that won’t break the bank.

Enjoy a highly seasonal menu, fancy pickled veggies, and creative local dishes.

Rustic wood interiors, vintage decorative accents, and super friendly staff make dinner here one of the best things to do in Maine in the summer.

Where to Stay in Kittery

If you’re planning an overnight stay in Kittery, you should definitely reserve a room at the Water Street Inn (6 Water St); check availability on ExpediaHotels, or Booking.

Just a short drive to the Kittery Outlet shopping center, this inn features a gorgeous garden and terrace and super comfortable accommodations.

Or, for convenience, check availability at the Hampton Inn (275 US Route 1) on ExpediaHotels, or Booking.

A coastal building says Lobsters and has fishing and boating lines attached, seen near Bar Harbor Maine

Islands to Visit in Maine in the Summer

If you’re planning a trip to Maine in the summer, you can’t skip this northeastern state’s incredible variety of islands.

Just off the coast and within easy access, you can explore everything from historic lighthouses to gorgeous views of the mainland and more.

Here are some of our favorites…

7. Head to Peaks Island for a Summer Getaway in Maine

Peaks Island is a great day trip if you’re enjoying a summer vacation in Portland, but are ready to explore even more of the surrounding area.

Accessible most easily by a 17-minute ferry trip, Peaks Island is a quaint little island town with hiking trails, beaches, and little shops and restaurants to explore.

The Casco Bay Lines ferry leaves from the Ferry Terminal at the corner of Commercial St and Franklin St in downtown Portland.

Check the schedule for regular departures in the summer.

Parking is available at the ferry terminal and on the island, if you do decide to bring your car.

Just make sure you plan ahead—both lots can fill up quickly in the summer and can get expensive at peak season.

If you require a car for accessibility, you are totally welcome and able to do so!

Otherwise, you’ll probably prefer biking or walking the island to avoid narrow streets, throngs of pedestrians, and limited parking.

The 3.7-mile hiking loop around the island features ocean views, historic WWII landmarks, and excellent birding and wildlife sighting opportunities.

The two public beaches, Sandy Beach and Cairn Beach, are fun for kids and adults alike!

You can swim, kayak, and lounge on the shore at Sandy Beach, or explore the rocky stretch of Cairn Beach, a perfect spot to check out lighthouses across the water.

Other fun things to do include visiting the Fifth Maine Museum, biking to Evergreen Landing, or enjoying fresh lobster at Covey’s Lobster Shack.

A woman walks in the shallow waters of Peak Island in Maine

8. Bike Around Great Cranberry Island

For an adventure around an even smaller island than Peaks, take the ferry to Great Cranberry Island.

This island is one of the best places to visit in Maine in the summer for its stunning views of Acadia National Park and Mount Desert Island.

Check out more tips for visiting Acadia in our East Coast National Parks guide.

With an area of only two square miles, you’ll love biking Great Cranberry from tip to tip and stopping at all the little rocky beaches along your route.

The island is only accessible by boat, and you won’t be able to take your car over—only passengers, pets, and small freight like bicycles and wheelchairs are allowed on the ferries.

Take a ferry over from Northeast Harbor, Southwest Harbor, or Manset and spend an afternoon exploring the walking paths and small town center.

Once on the island, you’ll find a café, a small museum, an art gallery, and a gift shop, plus a 1-mile hiking trail beginning behind the Cranberry House.

When you’re ready to come back to Acadia for the night, stay at the beautiful Bar Harbor Grand Hotel (269 Main St).

Located just over a mile away from Acadia’s entrance, you’ll get to enjoy a deluxe breakfast, a heated outdoor pool, and a hot tub.

Check availability on ExpediaHotels, or Booking.

Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park also feature in our guide to the best places to visit in Maine.

Bar Harbor stores Acadia National Park Maine

9. Escape to Monhegan Island for Tons of Outdoor Activities

If you want to get a bit further out into the open sea, journey an hour away from shore by ferry to the incredible Monhegan Island.

Located 10 miles from the nearest spot on the mainland, Monhegan features cliffs, hiking trails, shops, art galleries, restaurants, inns, and great cafes.

Ferries leave from Port Clyde, New Harbor, and Boothbay Harbor on a seasonal schedule.

There are often multiple trips a day from each port in the summer.

Cars are not allowed with visitors to the island, so prepare for as many walking adventures as possible during your stay.

Golf carts are available for rent, so you can check ahead of time to reserve a rental if you’ll be needing one in place of a car for transport.

Medicine and First Aid is operated by a small group of volunteers; make sure you come to the island well-prepared with everything you’ll need to keep yourself in good health—consider bringing your own First Aid Kit as well!

There are several restaurants and cafes on Monhegan Island.

Grab a quick bite and a coffee at The Black Duck or make a reservation for a romantic meal in the Island Inn Dining Room.

You might not taste a better beer after an afternoon of hiking than at the Monhegan Brewing Company.

With a delicious food truck on-site, make sure you order a flight of Monhegan Brewing’s small-batch brews to enjoy.

You can even take your favorites back home with you in cans!

Base yourself in Boothbay Harbor at the beautiful waterfront Harborage Inn on the Oceanfront (75 Townsend Ave).

Check availability and book your stay on ExpediaHotels, or Booking.

10. Hike for an Afternoon at Great Wass Island Preserve

Exploring the 2.5-square-mile Great Wass Island Preserve in the Downeast part of the state is an idyllic summer activity in Maine.

Just off the mainland town of Jonesport, you have to cross two bridges to get to the island; one from the mainland to Beals Island, and then another connecting Beals to Great Wass.

The island is highly exposed to marine climates because of the way it sharply juts out into the sea, and the vegetation and wildlife reflect these harsher conditions.

Keep an eye out for very rare plants like Beachhead iris and bird’s eye primrose, both of which love the extreme conditions, sea spray, and constant wind.

You’ll also get to explore some of the only remaining healthy bogs in the Northeast.

These trails are walking only, so don’t bring your bike with you!

Unfortunately, pets are also not allowed, so you’ll have to keep them at home.

If you are looking for a shorter trail than the entire island loop, you can check out the Little Cape Point Trail (2.2 miles) or the Mud Hole Trail (2.3 miles).

Prepare for rocky terrain, steep ledges, and exposed bedrock on each of these trails, but every step of the way is filled with amazing views, beautiful vegetation, and fresh sea breezes.

The Machias River Inn (103 Main Street, Machias) can be a good base from which to explore Great Wass Island — it’s about a 40-minute drive between the two.

You can check availability on Expedia or Hotels.

Maine the way life should be mug Camden Maine

Final Words

Ready to plan your own epic summer vacation in Maine? Let us know where you go and share your own tips in the comments below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *