Our research is editorially independent but we may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Maine offers everything from rocky shores and picturesque islands to soaring mountains and glistening lakes, making it ideal for all sorts of outdoor activities. Whether you want to hike, bike, paddle or something else you’ll probably find the opportunity here. And, even better, you can enjoy them while surrounded by spectacular scenery no matter where you go, although these destinations are particularly ideal.
Grafton Notch State Park in Newry is an outdoor lover’s paradise nestled among some of the most spectacular mountains in the Mahoosuc Range. The park offers rugged terrain Grafton Notch State Park is a top destination for backcountry hiking – in fact, it includes 12 of the Appalachian Trail’s most challenging miles. It also offers plenty of shorter treks, including options that lead to waterfalls and gorges, like Screw Auger Falls. It can be viewed by a less than half-mile walking path that follows a narrow gorge along Bear River. Below the falls, the river traverses through a series of cascades, past large potholes, grottoes and shallow wading pools, ideal for a cool dip on a hot summer’s day. For a longer challenge, take the 7.6-mile (round trip) Old Speck Trail which offers awe-inspiring views from an observation tower at the summit of Old Speck Mountain.
Acadia National Park is a haven for outdoor adventure and nature lovers, with its breathtaking coastline highlighted with a pretty lighthouse and a magnificent mountain backdrop. Take the challenging hike up Cadillac Mountain, the tallest on the Atlantic coast at 1,530-feet-high, for jaw-dropping vistas of Frenchman Bay, Bar Harbor and the Porcupine Islands. Or, head out onto the water by joining a kayak or canoe tour before retreating to one of the cozy hotels nearby.
Boothbay Harbor is an especially picturesque town on the coast, known for its rich history, quaint local shops and boutiques, fabulous dining and the opportunity for recreational activities, including world-class boating excursions and opportunities to watch for whales. There are some 25 daily boat excursions that leave right from the harbor, offering encounters with whales as well as puffins and seals. If you like to surf or swim, the Atlantic waves draw thousands of swimmers and surfers alike to places like Popham Beach.
Camden is a “jewel of the Maine coast” and one of the best places to visit in Maine. It’s popular for its postcard-perfect looks, and there are multiple ways to enjoy its scenery while getting active. Take the easy two-hour trek into the Camden Hills that soar above the village, leading into Camden lush Camden Hills State Park. It offers 30 miles of hiking trails that wind through forest, providing fabulous views of the hills and lakes. If you want to sail, you can join a Schooner Olad Windjammer Cruise for an excursion around Penobscot Bay, which brings frequent views of bald eagles along with lighthouses, small islands and the rugged shoreline.
If you’re looking for the ideal mix of relaxation and activities, you might want to head to the Cranberry Isles. It offers a tranquil getaway that’s just a 30-minute ferry ride from Mountain Desert Island. On Great Cranberry, you can enjoy outstanding hiking and biking – the flat roads with little traffic make it ideal for families. Bring a picnic and enjoy the beach along with the museums, gift shops, and gorgeous views of the mountains in Acadia National Park.
Monhegan Island can be accessed by ferry from New Harbor, Port Clyde or Boothbay Harbor. It’s located 12 miles off the mainland, and with no paved roads or cars, it’s a great place to enjoy peace, solitude, beautiful scenery and active pursuits. The island hosts miles and miles of trails for hiking, some of which lead to the highest ocean cliffs in the state. The 4.4-mile Monhegan Island Cliff Trail is popular for bird watching and also features gorgeous views that include colorful wildflowers in the summer.
Set along the Kennebunk River in southern Maine about a mile from its mouth on the Atlantic, Kennebunkport may be most famous for Dock Square, it’s center of town which hosts a wide range of local craft shops selling everything from handcrafted jewelry to souvenirs along with a variety of eateries. But with so much water, it’s also a great place to go for boating excursion, including lobstering adventures where you can step into the shoes of a real-life fisherman and even pull up a lobster trap. There are also whale watching trips, and opportunities to rent kayaks and canoes, paddling out onto the water on your own as well as a range of top-rated hotels for when you need some respite.
Baxter State Park is home to Mount Katahdin, the tallest peak in Maine at a mile. It’s the end point of the Appalachian Trail and it also offers a big challenge for serious hikers. It requires a full day to reach the summit and requires being prepared for all types of weather. The Knife Edge is a treacherous 1.1-mile-long granite spine that’s no wider than three feet in some places, connecting Baxter Peak with its neighbor, Pamola Peak. This is a trek you’ll need to plan for well in advance – if you’re not up for it, there are kayaks and canoes available to rent at every pond-side campground and most backcountry ponds with trail access.
Ogunquit is home to Marginal Way, which is considered one of the most scenic walking paths in the entire state. Visitors can enjoy spectacular views of the Atlantic and the town throughout the trail, with places along the way to just sit and gaze out at the mesmerizing coastline. Ogunquit Beach is often named as New England’s very best, with more than three miles of sand for flying kites, tossing a Frisbee and more. Ogunquit Beach ‘n’ Sport offers all sorts of beach gear, including boogie boards for rent.
The seaside town of Castine is especially enchanting, canopied under one of the most picturesque stands of elms in New England while enjoying an incredibly picturesque harbor. Here you can enjoy everything from sunset sailing excursions and kayaking to golf, and tennis, as well as exploring museums and concerts on the pier. The Witherle Woods boasts trails for walking and hiking, while Wadsworth Cove is popular for swimming. Castine is also steeped in history, with pristine preservation of its 18th– and 19th-century Georgian and Federal homes complemented by historic sites, restaurants, shops and galleries.