Acadia National Park
- 3 Days
For adventurers, the activities here are hard to beat. Mountain hiking. Coastal kayaking. Woodland cycling. Bird-watching. When you're done exploring, unwind by stargazing on the beach.
Before zooming into Bar Harbor on ME 3, stop at the Hulls Cove Visitor Center to get the lay of the land and pay the admission fee. From the visitor center, head off on the one-way 27-mile Park Loop Rd, which links many of the park's highlights.
Nature-lovers and history buffs will enjoy a stop at the Sieur de Monts Spring area. Here you'll find a nature center and the summer-only branch of the Abbe Museum, which sits in a lush, naturelike setting. Twelve of Acadia's biospheres are displayed in miniature at the Wild Gardens of Acadia, from bog to coniferous woods to meadow.
Afterwards, head for the trails. For something exhilarating, hit the Precipice Trail, ascending via iron rungs and along cliff ledges. A gentler option, but with no less stunning views, is the Great Head trail, which follows the rocky shoreline. At the end, take a breather on nearby Sand Beach. It's home to one of the most beautiful shorelines in the park.
Continue to the lodge-like Jordan Pond House, where afternoon tea has been a tradition since the late 1800s. Out on the lawn, you can enjoy tea with hot popovers (hollow rolls made with egg batter) and strawberry jam.
Get up before dawn the next day to drive (or hike!) up to the 1530ft summit of Cadillac Mountain, one of the best places in Maine to watch the sunrise. Afterwards hire a bike in Bar Harbor and go for a spin along the carriage roads; some 45 miles of these wooded vehicle-free lanes crisscross the park. In the afternoon, visit the Bass Harbor Head Light, Mount Desert Island's only lighthouse, in the far southwest corner of the park.
On your last day, spend the morning exploring Bar Harbor. Check out the fascinating collection of Native American artifacts at the Abbe Museum, browse the shops along Main St, then head off on a coastal kayaking trip or a whale-watching cruise. In the evening, treat yourself to meal at one of the fine restaurants in town.
- 10 Days
This highlights-filled wander across the state takes in coastal beauty, charming small towns and enchanting landscapes in the interior.
Start off in the southern corner of the state in picturesque York. Take in the colonial buildings that make up its historical center, then drive to Ogunquit Beach for a stroll along lovely Marginal Way. Afterwards, tuck into some seafood on Perkins Cove.
Continue up the coast on the following day, stopping at Kennebunkport to stretch your legs. Arrive in Portland for lunch, then spend the rest of the day exploring the waterfront and the Old Port district. That night have a memorable meal at Fore Street, followed by drinks at Sagamore Hill.
Continuing up the coast, stop in charming Brunswick for an architectural stroll among 19th-century beauties, and a perusal of the town's intriguing museums (one devoted to arctic exploration).
Rise early the next day for a trip down to Boothbay Harbor, strolling its waterfront and wandering through the state's prettiest botanical gardens. In the afternoon, drive up to Damariscotta, where you can lodge for the night after feasting on the region's world-famous oysters.
The next day, stop in Rockland and wander the vibrant waterfront, check out its cultural attractions (including the great Farnsworth Art Museum) and enjoy dinner at one of its many enticing restaurants.
From Rockland, drive to Camden for window-shopping and dining in one of Maine's most photogenic towns. Walk off your lunch in Camden Hills State Park, one of the best places to take in the dramatic sweep of Penobscot Bay.
It's about a two-hour drive from here to breathtaking Mount Desert Island. Base yourself in Bar Harbor or – to escape the crowds – in Northeast Harbor. Spend a day or two exploring the wonders of Acadia National Park.
Rather than retrace your drive along the coast, head inland for the return journey. Stop in Augusta to visit the state's best historical museum (and dine in neighboring Hallowell). Then spend the night in Bethel, Maine's loveliest inland town. Before leaving, get in a hike at mountainous Grafton Notch State Park, then make your way down to Bridgton. Here you can indulge in a final bit of small-town Maine, browsing antique shops, people-watching from a Main St cafe and perhaps catching a movie at the drive-in.
Great North Woods
- 6 Days
Welcome to the highlands, a land of superlatives where you can hike Maine's highest mountain, canoe its largest lake and ogle the stomping grounds of America's spookiest author – if you dare.
Start off in Bangor, the last city on the map before the North Woods. Pay a visit to the towering statue of Paul Bunyan, look for diabolical creatures near Stephen King's house and learn about the town's dark past at the Bangor Historical Society.
Afterwards, hit the road for the 75-mile drive straight up to Millinocket. This makes a fine base to grab a bite to eat and load up on supplies before heading into the wilderness of Baxter State Park, one of Maine's great natural treasures. Be sure to stop by the Baxter State Park Authority Headquarters for maps and park info. Plan on spending at least two days in the park, hiking the trails, canoeing the lakes, and looking for wildlife around the mountain streams and forest-covered valleys. Inside the park you can camp or sleep in a bunkhouse or rustic cabin; there are also appealing lodges (such as NEOC Twin Pines Camp) a few miles outside the park.
After getting your fill of Baxter, set out early for the drive south to the Katahdin Iron Works, the ruins of a once-burgeoning industrial site that closed in the late 19th century. Keep going another 6.5 miles to reach the the trailhead for Gulf Hagas, a dramatic gorge with numerous waterfalls.
After the hike, it's a one-hour drive to Greenville, where you can overnight at guesthouse overlooking Moosehead Lake. In the morning, head out for an adventure on this island-dotted lake, which sprawls over 120 sq miles of North Woods wilderness. For moose-spotting safaris, guided fishing trips and canoe adventures, stop by Northwoods Outfitters in the center of Greenville. You can also go white-water rafting through a 12-mile gorge along the Kennebec River; this is one of America's premier rafting locations. If you just want to enjoy the views, take a leisurely cruise on the SS Katahdin or enjoy a panoramic flight on a seaplane.
Your final stop is Rangeley Lake, a 2½-hour drive southwest of Greenville. This is another great four-season destination for adventures, offering hiking, skiing, canoeing and scenic drives. Plus there are some charming B&Bs and good restaurants right in town.
- 1 Week
The coastal road between Kittery and Lubec is a route meant for lingering: fog-wrapped lighthouses, oceanfront picnic tables, seafaring artifacts in dusty museums and lovely waterfront villages.
Start off in Kittery, gateway to the state of Maine. Get an introduction to Maine's coastal allure at Fort Foster Park, then continue to the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Reserve, with its wetlands, woodlands and beaches.
Just south of Portland, Fort Williams Park has the ruins of an old fort, wonderful views and Maine's oldest functioning lighthouse. From here, it's an easy drive to Portland, with its renowned food scene, historic port district and buzzing nightlife.
Curiosities abound in Maine, and just outside of Freeport you can check out Eartha, the largest rotating globe on the planet. In Freeport itself, you can pick up supplies at the headquarters of the legendary LL Bean store.
You'll leave the shopping mayhem behind in Bath, an elegant but industrious town with an active shipyard and a museum that covers centuries of seafaring in these parts.
Rockland has one of Maine's most photogenic harbors. Fishing boats and tall-masted ships dot the waterfront; it's well worth heading out on a sailing trip. Afterwards, stretch your legs on the 1-mile seaside walk out to Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse.
Further up the coast, you'll reach Searsport, a tranquil town with Victorian mansions and the Penobscot Marine Museum, Maine's biggest maritime collection.
The Blue Hill Peninsula lies east of Searsport. It's home to one of Maine's prettiest villages, the tiny town of Castine. It's a good base for coastal strolls, kayak trips, and town wanders past diverse architecture and a notable archaeological museum. It's also worth driving down to Deer Isle, where you can eat well in charming Stonington, and take a boat trip out to Isle au Haut for some fantastic coastal hiking.
The Acadia region is next. Get your fill of restaurants and shops in Bar Harbor, but don't bypass other coastal villages on Mount Desert Island, such as elegant Northeast Harbor or buzzing Southwest Harbor.
East of Acadia, the population thins considerably, and you'll have the road to yourself as you make your way to Lubec, the last stop before Canada. End this trip in Quoddy Head State Park, with its rugged shoreline trails and a much-photographed lighthouse.