Maine can be a wondrous place for smaller travelers. There are adventures aplenty, including boat trips, kid-centric museums and hands-on activities, plus good old-fashioned beach fun. Along the way, there are plenty of things to motivate (ahem, bribe) the little ones, including sweet bakery treats, fresh berries at farmers markets and ice cream galore.
Best Regions for Kids
- Southern Maine Coast
Beach-hopping, nibbling at snack shacks, short nature hikes that take in both forest and shore.
All-day fun at the Children's Museum & Theatre, running around on the lawns and checking out the old ruins in Fort Williams Park, indulging in kid-pleasing food (donuts, pizza, fish and chips).
- Midcoast Maine
A great place for boat trips, whale-watching cruises, sailing ships and ferries out to Monhegan Island. Some good museums and hands-on activities, plus lots of fun shoreline walks, too.
- Down East
Endless activities in Acadia National Park (carriage rides, biking, coastline frolics, mountain climbs, boat trips). There's also an island you can walk to at low tide and a lumberjack show.
- North Maine Woods
A great place to get kids outdoors, with boat trips out on Moosehead Lake, camping and hiking in Baxter State Park, plus white-water rafting for bigger kids.
Maine for Kids
Maine is a very family-friendly travel destination, and it's easy to design an itinerary that's pleasing for all ages.
Outdoors there's endless old-fashioned fun to be had. On the coast, kids can build sandcastles on the beach, walk the shoreline in search of colorful shells, and explore enchanting tidal pools. Maine's many forest and coastal parks offer memorable hikes (including short rambles), and there are loads of great places for camping in the state.
In towns and cities you'll find plenty of green space, where kids can run free, enjoy some playground time and take a break from sightseeing.
If your kids are averse to museums, don't necessarily cross these off your itinerary. Many art galleries and history museums have hands-on activities for kids and host special events for families. Check individual websites before your visit to see what's on. There's plenty of other kid-pleasing entertainment, including drive-in movie theaters, wildlife sanctuaries filled with rescued animals, and even lumberjack shows.
Dining is one of the great pleasures of a Maine visit. Seafood shacks and lobster pounds are great for families, as getting messy is very much encouraged (just don't forget to don your bibs!). The state also has many great picnic spots, so it's worth planning at least one meal around a local market and enjoying the culinary goodies on the seashore, beside a lake or with a mountain viewpoint. Kids are welcome in nearly every restaurant. At fancier places, you may want to dine earlier (around 5pm) to avoid the crowds – indeed this is the time when many locals dine out with their children.
- Forest safety If you head off on a nature hike, be mindful of poison ivy. Remind kids of the old adage, 'leaves of three, let it be.' Ticks are also a worry, and can carry Lyme disease and other nastiness. Be sure to use insect repellent and undertake a thorough body inspection after tromping through the woods.
- On the Shore Be aware of strong currents when swimming off Maine beaches (for those game enough to brave those frigid waters, that is!). Tidal pools are fun to explore, but watch out for slippery surfaces when walking the rocky seashore.
- Driving State law requires that children under 40lb ride in a car seat, while kids who weigh 40lb to 70lb and are under the age of 8 must ride in a booster-seat system. Most car-rental agencies rent rear-facing car seats (for infants under one year of age), forward-facing seats and boosters for about $10 per day, but you must reserve them in advance.
- Ogunquit Beach Spend the day frolicking in the waves and exploring the shoreline.
- Jasper Beach, Machias Bay Area Roam the rocky shoreline, checking out the amazing, sea-polished stones.
- Carriages of Acadia, Acadia National Park Take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the park following streams and passing below old stone bridges.
- White-water Rafting, The Forks Feel the cool spray as you paddle along churning rapids in northern Maine.
- Baxter State Park Campgrounds Roast marshmallows over a crackling fire as the sky fills with stars at this state park.
- Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, Boothbay Harbor Arrive in time for puppet shows, chicken feeding and more in the lovely children's garden.
Rainy Day Activities
- Children's Museum & Theatre of Maine, Portland Hands-on fun milking a fake cow, hauling up lobster traps and other activities.
- Maine Discovery Museum, Bangor Dig for dinos, take an indoor nature walk and have fun with science at this family favorite.
- Penobscot Marine Museum, Searsport Maine's best maritime collection, with lots to look at, and activities for kids.
- Seashore Trolley Museum, Kennebunkport Most kids love exploring the streetcars and vintage buses here, plus there are free trolley rides.
- Cap'n Fish's Boat Trips, Boothbay Harbor Runs family friendly tours, with opportunities to spot whales and seals.
- Maine Wildlife Park, Gray This rescue center showcases Maine's diverse wildlife, including beavers, lynx and bears.
- Diver Ed's Dive-In Theater, Bar Harbor Take a boat trip with Diver Ed, and learn about (and touch) creatures from the sea.
- Lulu Lobster Boat, Bar Harbor Bigger kids might enjoy this two-hour cruise, where you get a first-hand look at Maine's favorite sea crustacean.
- Boothbay Railway Village, Boothbay Harbor Ride a narrow-gauge railway through a fascinating recreated New England village.
- Timber Tina's Great Maine Lumberjack Show, near Trenton Catch the high-energy summer show featuring two-person sawing, axe throwing, log rolling and pole climbing.
- ImprovAcadia, Bar Harbor In the summer, this comedy club hosts family-friendly nights.
- Stars over Sand Beach, Acadia National Park Several nights a week park rangers point out planets, constellations and other galaxies in the night sky.
Weather and crowds are all-important considerations when planning a Maine family getaway. The peak travel season is from June through August, when schools are out and the weather is warmest. Expect high prices, abundant crowds and heavy traffic on the roads – you'll need to reserve well in advance for popular destinations. The same holds true for the more popular winter resorts (like Sugarloaf) during their high season from late December to March.
The leaf-viewing season from late September to mid-October also sees a fair number of visitors, but generally smaller crowds than in other New England states.
For all-round information and advice, check out Lonely Planet's Travel with Children. To get the kids excited, check out Not for Parents: USA (also from Lonely Planet).