From the sandy beach of Ogunquit to the secluded rocky shores of Mt. Desert Island, Maine is home to an astounding 3,478 miles of coastline—more than the entire state of California. So where should you begin when planning a visit to this self-proclaimed Vacationland? Just keep in mind these 10 must-have experiences when traveling the Maine Coast.

1. Look for Lighthouses

Lighthouse in Portland, Maine
Lighthouse in Portland, Maine | Photo courtesy of Eric Kilby

With 65 historic lighthouses guarding its coastline, it’s no wonder that Maine is sometimes referred to as “The Lighthouse State.” The oldest of these is the Portland Head Light, which was first lit in 1791 and is located just five miles south of Portland. Pack a picnic and enjoy the iconic view with a stunning backdrop of Casco Bay.

2. Hit the Beach

Crowd of people at Popham Beach State Park
Popham Beach State Park | Photo courtesy of Ernest McGray, Jr.

You’ll find 90 percent of the state’s sandy beaches, most notably Long Sands Beach and Ogunquit Beach, within the first 30 miles of Southern Maine. But if you’re looking for something a bit more secluded, try Popham Beach State Park in Phippsburg or Reid State Park in Georgetown, both of which are beloved for their quiet natural beauty.

3. Eat a Fresh Maine Lobster Roll

lobster roll and beer
Lobster roll | Photo courtesy of Allagash Brewing

Sure, everyone has their favorite version of the lobster roll, New England’s most famous culinary gift to the outside world. But two of the very best can be found at Red’s Eats, a classic seafood shack in Wiscasset, and Five Islands Lobster Co., a charming hut in the picturesque Georgetown harbor.

4. Drive Route One in Midcoast Maine

Driving through Maine
Photo courtesy of Juan Di Nella

The 70 miles that stretch between Brunswick and Belfast are known as Midcoast Maine, a beautiful, small-town region that is best enjoyed with a leisurely drive along Route One. Stroll through Victorian downtown Bath, stop for breakfast at the Home Kitchen Cafe in Rockland, and admire the impossibly charming harbors of Rockport and Camden.

5. Enjoy a Farm-to-Table Meal at Primo

Restaurants don’t get more locally sourced than Primo, where the animals are raised on the property and the produce is harvested from the farm out back. And with James Beard Award-winning chef Melissa Kelly running the kitchen, you’re in for a meal you won’t soon forget.

6. Hike in Camden Hills State Park

Sunset at Camden Hills State Park
Camden Hills State Park | Photo courtesy of Andrew T. Thrasher

The lovely Camden Hills State Park offers 30 miles of hiking trails that traverse some of Maine’s most beautiful fall foliage. And for a sweeping year-round view of Camden and Penobscot Bay, hike to the top of Mt. Megunticook or drive to the summit of neighboring Mt. Battie.

7. Admire the Coast of Acadia National Park

Coastal view from Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park in Maine | Photo courtesy of Peter Rintels

With frigid waters that rarely exceed 55 degrees, the coastline of Acadia National Park is not exactly ideal for swimming. But it’s stunningly beautiful in all seasons, especially if you follow the Ocean Path, a 2.2-mile walk along the bluffs from Sand Beach to Otter Cliff.

8. Catch the Sunrise on Cadillac Mountain

Cadillac mountain
Cadillac Mountain | Photo courtesy of Jamie

Between mid-October and early March, you can catch the first rays of the sunrise in the continental United States from Cadillac Mountain, the 1,532-foot summit that rises from the heart of Acadia National Park. So how should you get there? Consider making a pre-dawn ascent of the 2.2-mile Cadillac North Ridge Trail, which will give you bragging rights over those lazy motorists you’ll encounter at the top.

9. Brave the Precipice Trail in Acadia National Park

View of Precipice Trail
Precipice Trail in Acadia National Park | Photo courtesy of Mattia Panciroli

More than 125 miles of hiking trails traverse Acadia National Park and Mt. Desert Island, but few provide more thrills than the Precipice Trail. This 0.9-mile ascent of Champlain Mountain is little more than a series of iron ladders that cling to exposed cliffs, but it offers unforgettable views of Frenchman Bay.

10. Paddle the Coast in a Kayak

Sea kayakers in Boothbay Harbor
Sea kayakers in Boothbay Harbor | Photo courtesy of Dan4th Nicholas

Whether you’re looking for rocky shores or postcard-perfect lighthouses, much of the Maine coast can only truly be appreciated by kayak. Stop by Maine State Sea Kayak in Southwest Harbor for rentals and guided excursions of Mt. Desert Island, join Maine Kayak Rentals for a trip around the Pemaquid Peninsula, or visit Maine Sport Outfitters for an outing near Rockport and Camden.

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Author: Maura O'Brien

Born and raised in Northern California and now based in Portland, Maura credits her mom with her sense of adventure. Maura has a special affinity for national parks, the Greek island of Folegandros, and a three-month trip across Europe with her sister that opened her eyes to the magic of travel.