New England On A Budget - Things To Do In Maine

On our 11 day trip to New England we saw many sites both historical and 21st century.  We visited one of the most populated areas in the United States and some of the least populated areas. We visited Maine for 5 days during our trip. Listed below are some of the sites we saw on our trip.

We rented a car in Boston and drove up the coast of Maine on Highway 1. We really expected to have more ocean views as we drove but there were trees that obstructed our view. The towns we drove through were quaint. The speed limit was 45 MPH on most of Highway 1 so be prepared to take it slow. One of our favorite towns was Kennebunkport..

Kennebunkport, Maine
Kennebunkport, ME - A short 1 1/2 hour drive from Boston will lead you to this quaint seaside village. We had limited time to spend, but found it to be very beautiful.  We stopped in at the library and purchased a book about coastal Maine from the Friends of the Library.  It was a real bargain and we had a great story associated with the book. You should find Saint Ann's Church for a beautiful, serene Maine setting. You can also view the Walker Compound where President George H.W. Bush vacations. After our brief time in Kennebunkport we headed north to Portland.

  • Portland is a beautiful city on the coast of Maine.  We visited the Portland Head Lighthouse.  Of all the light houses we saw while in Maine, this was by far the most beautiful.  The white tower glistens next to the blue ocean.  I would recommend getting a picnic and take it to the park on the grounds of Portland Head..
  • Portland Head Lighthouse, Maine
  • International Cryptozoology Museum - I must preface this post with a disclaimer.  I do not believe in big foot, yetis, the Loch Ness monster, or aliens.  However, my 10 year old son has spent the better part of 2 years in search of a big foot. He has watched every documentary and searched every wooded area we visited for the mythical creature.  When we discovered Portland, Maine is home to the world's ONLY cryptozoology museum we had to visit it. The museum is located in downtown Portland in what could be considered the "shady" side of town.  There were lots of homeless people and graffiti everywhere. I do not believe we would have stopped if it were not the middle of the day. The museum is located in a back alley for lack of a better description. You have to park on the street and pay a meter. Once we entered the museum there was lots to see.  My son had a blast taking photos of actual "big foot poo" and life sized replicas of the creature.  For the big foot enthusiast this is must see museum.  Would I go if my son did not have the interest in big foot? Probably not.  Cost: $7 adults $5 Children up to 12 years of age 
After spending a few hours in Portland we headed north. I read many reviews searching for the best lobster roll in all of Maine, I selected Libby's Market in Brunswick, Maine.  Libby's Market is located 30 minutes north of Portland.  You can find my review for Libby's on my blog titled New England on a Budget - Eating Out.  Libby's has some of the nicest people who own it and a very tasty lobster roll too. 

Freeport, ME LL Bean Flagship Store - As an avid fan of LL Bean products our trip to Maine would have been disappointing if we did not visit this iconic store. The store is massive in size.  While the prices are the same as online and the catalog, I liked being able to see the item and try it on.  This luxury is not available in Texas. The area around LL Bean is comprised of "outlet" stores.  Freeport, Maine seems to cater to those who want to shop.  We were not interested in shopping so after visiting the LL Bean store we headed out to our next destination where we would spend the night, Rockport, Maine.

Rockport, Maine - This seaside village is located between Rockland and Camden. We stayed in Rockport at the Ledges by the Bay. See my review at my blog New England on a Budget - Lodging.  . We only stayed one night in Rockport and wish we had spent at least 3 days. At the time of our visit the Owl's Head Lighthouse in Rockland allowed visitors to go inside the lighthouse and tour it on Wednesday afternoons. We tried to make it in time for the tour, but the tours closed before we could get there.  I am most disappointed I did not get to go up inside the lighthouse.. maybe on my next trip to Maine. In addition to Owl's Head Lighthouse Rockland also has the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse.  This lighthouse is located at the end of a 1/2 mile granite breakwater. The reviews I read said the granite was slippery and unstable - we did not visit the lighthouse due to my husband's injured foot. Rockland also has ferry service that runs out to Matinicus, North Haven, & Vinalhaven. See my blog titled New England on a Budget - Getting Around Maine for information about the ferry service. We spent the night in Rockport because lodging was less expensive than Camden or Rockport.  The next day we headed to Vinalhaven via ferry service. 

Vinalhaven, Maine
Vinalhaven, Maine -  Do you seek to truly "get away from it all"? If so, Vinalhaven is for you! It is one of the many islands off the coast of Maine and is a true lobster village.  You will need to ride the ferry from Rockland for 1 1/2 hour to get to this small lobster village. From the ferry terminal you can easily walk to the town for a nice lunch.  After lunch you can spend time perusing the shops.  If shopping is not what you seek head down to the harbor and watch for sea life and lobster fishermen. Take in the sea air and appreciate the beauty you are surrounded by.  But don't get too lost in the moment because you will need to catch the ferry out or risk not having anywhere to sleep that night. Accommodations are limited in Vinalhaven and reservations need to be made in advance. We spent a memorable 4 hours in this quaint village.  If you have the time, get away from the tourist spots and head out to one of Maine's many islands.

Ellsworth, Maine - After a disastrous one night stay in Bar Harbor we switched hotels to one 20 minutes away in Ellsworth.  Ellsworth has several hotels/motels from which to choose.  See my blog New England on a Budget - Lodging for my stellar reviews of my hotel. Ellsworth also has many restaurants to choose from including chain restaurants as well as locally owned establishments.  Ellsworth has a movie theater and several stores, including Walmart.  We utilized Walmart daily to get our lunch for Acadia National Park each day.  Budget tip: Go to Walmart and purchase a lunch bag and Lunchables or summer sausage packs to carry a picnic lunch to Acadia.  Just throw some cold bottles of water in the lunch kit to keep your food cold during the day. This will save you time and money.

Bar Harbor, Maine - Bar Harbor is a tourist town. There are many shops and restaurants that line the streets of this picturesque seaside town. This small town is often overrun with tourists coming by land and sea - cruise ships dock in Bar Harbor several days a week bringing an influx of visitors.  Visit the Bar Harbor Maine website to see the scheduled dates for cruise ships to dock. This should help you plan accordingly.  Bar Harbor frequently has entertainment in the downtown area.  Check the town website for a calendar of events.  Our primary purpose in visiting Bar Harbor was to visit Acadia National Park.

Acadia National Park - In a word - beautiful. Acadia is one of the most visited national parks in the United States.The land was originally owned by the Rockefeller's but was given to the U.S. to preserve as a national park. The park is spread out over Mount Dessert Island.  The most popular portion of the park is nearest to Bar Harbor and Cadillac Mountain on the eastern side of the island. If you want to get away from the crowds, visit the west side of the island. During June it rains frequently, make sure to take a parka.  We visited the second week in June to avoid the crowds.  From what I have been told, the crowds start to get bad from the third week in June through the second week in August (more than 2 million visitors visit Acadia each year, most of them during the summer).  Cost: $20 per vehicle for 7 days OR $5 per person for bicycle for 7 days OR $5 for motorcycles for 7 days, Military personnel are admitted for FREE with valid documentation, Senior Citizens can get a lifetime pass for $10, & permanently disabled persons get a lifetime pass for FREE.

Things to do in Acadia include:

  • Visitor Center - at the visitor center you can get your pass for the week.  There is also a video about the history of the park that will make your visit more informative. This is also a great place to get information about trail closures etc. 
  • Island Explorer Shuttle Bus - Starting the third week in June running through Columbus Day you can ride the Island Explorer shuttle around Acadia.  The shuttle runs from several hotels and inns in Bar Harbor into Acadia.  There are 8 routes from which to choose. Cost: Free!
  • Family fun in Acadia National Park - As with most national parks, Acadia has many activities to keep the whole family having fun while visiting. Click the link to find out more. In April you can register your family for the Friends of Acadia Quest that is a scavenger hunt.  To participate in the scavenger hunt you create a team that is comprised of at least 1 person under the age of 18 and 1 person over the age of 18.  The team works together to complete activities to win prizes. The best part about the Friends of Acadia Quest is that it is FREE. They even mail you a map and a quest card prior to your arrival. This is a fun activity - make sure to sign up and play!

    View from Great Head hiking trail
  • Hiking/Biking - John D. Rockefeller Jr. created 57 miles of carriage roads that are utilized today for hiking and biking. If you decide to bike the carriage roads make sure to ask which are most suitable for biking safely.  The rocks can be very slippery when you are headed downhill. We did not bike but did see others doing so. You can also bike on the park roads. In addition to the carriage roads, there are over 120 miles of hiking trails in Acadia. To find out more about some of the trails at Acadia visit Everytrail Website for reviews by people who have hiked the trails.  I will say from our hikes that Mount Dessert is covered in granite rock making the hikes on rocky terrain VERY slippery.  (I almost slid off a cliff when we were hiking - be careful.)

  • Ranger-led programs - Depending on the time of year you visit, there are ranger led programs.  When we visited we took two ranger led hikes - Rockefeller's Bridges and Cadillac Mountain.  Both park rangers were very informative and we thoroughly enjoyed our hike. There is no additional fee for ranger led programs. 
  •  Cadillac Mountain - is the tallest mountain on the eastern seaboard. Another claim to fame of Cadillac Mountain is that it is the eastern most part of the United States.  If you get up early you can drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain and be the first in the U.S. to see the sun that day. The drive up Cadillac Mountain has several beautiful scenic overlooks - take it slow and enjoy the views. 
  • Sand Beach
  • Sand Beach - You don't find too many sandy beaches in New England.  You really don't want to miss this one. It is gorgeous!  We were lucky and got there before anyone the day we visited and had the whole beach to ourselves. The water temperature was around 50 degrees and there were kids swimming in it! It literally took my breath away when I got into the water up to mid calf. I highly recommend hiking the sand beach trail that gives great scenic overlooks of the beach below. 

    Jordan Pond Loop Trail
  • Jordan Pond - There is a restaurant located at Jordan Pond that is famous for popovers. We did not partake of the popovers, but many websites highly recommend them.  We did hike around Jordan Pond and it was quite the adventure. The hike started out as any other would.  Then we came to the wooden planks. This trail has about 1/4 -1/2 mile of the trail that requires you to walk on wooden planks that are about 14" wide.  You will find the planks at the soggy portion of the trail. We had never seen plank hiking trails before, making it an adventure! Jordan Pond is crystal clear making the hike all the more beautiful.