Maine is our easternmost state (well, not including the little bit of Alaska that’s on the other side of the International Date Line and thus counts as “east”). Though the New England state is often assumed to have been one of the original 13, having been colonized as early as 1604, in fact it didn’t enter the Union as a state until 1820. In any case, Maine is certainly a historically and geographically fascinating state, with most of its population on its southern flank, close to its rocky Atlantic coastline.
If you’re planning a visit to Maine, here are some destinations you might want to consider:
Acadia National Park
For sheer natural beauty in Maine, you’d be hard pressed to beat the Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island, Bar Harbor area of coastal Maine near Bangor.
This nature reserve is a region of forests, mountains, hills, lakes, rivers, streams, islands, and the ocean shoreline. People from all over New England have been coming to this area for social and recreational activities for centuries. Otter Cliffs and Otter Point are great places to observe wildlife. There are scenic drives (weather permitting) to the top of Cadillac Mountain and a 28 mile loop around the National Park. There are terrific hiking and biking opportunities in what was the first National Park established east of the Mississippi River.
Children’s Discovery Museum, Augusta
Certainly there are science museums with a fair number of hands-on exhibits.
But the Children’s Discovery Museum in Augusta takes that concept much farther to create a unique interactive, hands-on world of play and education for kids of all ages that goes well beyond science to all different areas of life.
Examples are probably the best way to convey the range of activities children participate in at the Discovery Museum:
Play the role of a bank teller.
Learn to use an ATM machine.
Prepare healthy meals.
Play at working in a grocery store, stocking shelves and selling products.
Play in a replica of a submarine with a view of the Kennebec River.
Climb into the loft to read or enjoy a quieter space.
Stage puppet shows.
Stage impromptu plays on a real stage, or just dress up in the available costumes.
Play African drums and other instruments, and learn about music from around the world in the Multi Cultural Music Center.
Check out live animals in the tanks and aquariums.
Play in the tree house.
Crawl into and learn about a real beaver dam.
Learn about surveying, drafting, engineering, and construction. Practice your own with Legos, construction toy equipment, and drafting tables.
Admission is $5 for kids; $4 for adults.
Roosevelt Campobello International Park, Campobello Island (New Brunswick)
Campobello Island is not technically in Maine, but in New Brunswick in Canada. It is an island just off the coast of the easternmost point of Maine (and the easternmost point of the United States). The Park is a 2,800 acre special territory funded and administered jointly by the United States and Canada.
Campobello is where President Franklin Roosevelt had his summer home. FDR and his family spent countless visits in the woods and on the beaches of Campobello, as well as sailing the waters around it.
The Park includes a Visitor Center with photos and a video about FDR and his time at Campobello. The 34 room Roosevelt residence is preserved and open to the public as a museum, as are the beautiful flower gardens that surround the residence. Guides are available to answer questions about the property and FDR.
The island itself remains an enjoyable place to explore, as you wander the beaches, and the wooded paths and fields.
The Roosevelt residence and Visitor Center are open May through October, though you can certainly visit the island itself any time of year.
Pumpkin Valley Farm, Dayton
If you’re going to be in Maine in September or October, consider a visit to Pumpkin Valley Farm on the Saco River. Open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, the Farm features a Pick Your Own Pumpkin opportunity for Halloween.
But there’s a lot more fun for kids especially at the Farm than just picking pumpkins. There are hay rides, a maze of eight foot high corn stalks, a corn launcher and targets, a tire pyramid to climb, miniature train rides, a slide tunnel, a petting barnyard, and snacks.
Dayton is in the southern part of the state, 25 miles southwest of Portland.
Desert of Maine, Freeport
The Desert of Maine is quite the geological oddity. The area was once farm land belonging to the Tuttle family, but as the result of massive land clearing and not rotating crops, eventually the soil eroded away and the land became a barren 300 acre desert.
Technically, though, this “desert” is not made of sand, but of glacial silt, a sand-like substance.
Today the area is a tourist site, featuring a 30 minute narrated tram ride around the perimeter of the desert, the original Tuttle Barn from the 1780s preserved as a farming museum, a picnic area, a gift shop, and free gem stone hunts for the kids. Of course, visitors can walk around the desert itself.
Bordering the desert are wooded areas with hiking trails, and a campground called the Desert Dunes of Maine.
The Desert of Maine is open May through October, seven days a week.
Freeport is about 15 miles up the coast from Portland.
Victoria Mansion, Portland
The Morse-Libby House, later renamed the Victoria Mansion in honor of Queen Victoria, is one of the finest surviving examples of how the richest of the rich in New England lived in the second half of the 19th century.
Built in the 1850s, over 90% of the original furniture and other contents of the house remain in place. Designed by New Haven’s Henry Austin, the brownstone house features deep overhanging eaves, ornately carved window surrounds, and a four-story tower.
The interiors were designed by New York City’s Gustave Herter, and included features unusually modern for their time (e.g., central heating, and hot and cold running water).
The house has been a museum since 1941. It is open to the public from May through October, and then reopens for a month at Christmas when it is specially decorated for the season by professional designers, decorators, and florists. Admission is $15 for adults; $5 for kids.
Maine Windjammer Association Cruise, Rockland and Camden
In the 19th century, the introduction of steamships caused schooners to gradually become obsolete. Among the last, and grandest, of the schooners were the windjammer sailing ships.
A few windjammers survived. A dozen are currently used in Maine for a unique kind of cruise.
The three to six day cruises take you up and down the rocky Atlantic coast of Maine, stopping at small port towns and uninhabited islands for you to explore. Sightings of whales and other wildlife are common.
Expect to rough it, though, compared to what you might normally experience on a cruise. It’s not quite the 19th century perhaps, but it’s pretty much back to basics. If you really want to get into the spirit of things, you can be assigned to help raise and lower the sails, scrub the decks, or otherwise live out a fantasy of being a seamen of centuries past.
Cruises leave from Rockland and Camden, about midway up the coast of Maine.
Funtown Splashtown USA, Saco
Though it’s changed names, Funtown Splashtown has been around for about fifty years in Saco, less than 20 miles down the coast from Portland.
What started as a diner with its own miniature golf course has become a major amusement park and water park.
At Funtown Splashtown, enjoy the largest vertical drop ride in northern New England, the only wooden roller coaster in Maine, the longest and tallest log flume ride in New England, many much tamer rides, bumper cars, shops, food, and an arcade. During the warmer months, the water park section is open for imposing water slides like the Mammoth and Tornado, and the Fun Lagoon for the younger kids.
Belfast & Moosehead Lake Railroad, Unity and Belfast
Step into the past and take your pick of two leisurely rail excursions.
One option is a two hour round trip from Unity to Burnham Junction on a 1913 Standard Gauge Steam locomotive. Enjoy the views of the countryside and Lake Winnecook, and listen to the narration. Explore the vintage rail cars, spend time in the open air viewing car, and have a meal in the dining car.
A second option is to ride the GE 70 ton locomotive for an hour and 45 minute round trip from Belfast. The trip takes you around Penobscot Bay, Maine’s largest bay, through coastal woodlands, rolling fields, and streams, with lovely views of Belfast Harbor. Explore the Swedish railcars, and have lunch in the dining car.
Belfast is about midway up the Maine coast. Unity is 25 miles inland from there, on the Unity Pond.
Fawcett’s Art & Antiques Toy Museum, Waldoboro
This eclectic museum features such fun items as classic comic books, old Disney memorabilia, Betty Boop, Popeye, Felix the Cat, World War II toys, 1950s space toys and robots, and Star Wars action figures. The saddles and western outfits of cowboy stars Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and the Lone Ranger are on display.
In addition, there are conventional antiques, and a contemporary fine art gallery.
Fawcett’s is open from 10 AM to 4 PM from Memorial Day to Columbus Day, and then on a reduced schedule of weekends only from Columbus Day to Christmas. Waldoboro is on the coast, about midway between Portland and Bangor.
Seacoast Fun Park/Seacoast Snow Park, Windham
During the warmer months, Seacoast Fun Park features such attractions as the Slingshot Trampoline, a 32 foot climbing wall, the 100 foot Giant Sky Swing, bumper boats, go karts, miniature golf, a driving range, arcade games, and treats to eat.
But when the weather turns cold, the Park becomes the Seacoast Snow Park, featuring ten lanes of snow tubing and an express lift to the top of the hill.
Admission is free; the attractions are paid for individually.
Windham is in southern Maine, 20 miles northwest of Portland.
Woolwich History Museum, Woolwich
The Woolwich History Museum is a restored 19th century farmhouse, fully furnished in the style of its time. The Museum hosts various special programs, including lectures, music, and a summer camp for children. It is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 10:30 AM to 2:30 PM, and by appointment.
Woolwich is about 35 miles up the coast from Portland.
York’s Wild Kingdom, York
In the Maine Beaches region in the southernmost area of the state along the ocean is York’s Wild Kingdom-the largest park in the area, a zoo, and an amusement park all rolled into one, host to over 200,000 visitors a year.
There you can see 70 species of animals, including elephants, zebras, bears, lions, and all your favorites. There’s an aviary, a reptile house, seven primate habitats, a petting zoo, and a duck pond with paddleboats. York’s Wild Kingdom is also the home of Rewa, the only white Bengal tiger in the state.
In addition, there are go karts, a 90 foot super slide, bumper cars, midway and video games, a haunted house, miniature golf and a beach view ferris wheel.
There is plenty of food in the park, or if you prefer, there are many oceanside restaurants and shops to explore in the York Beach area.
“Maine.” Visit Maine
“Maine Tourism.” Maine Beautiful
“Maine Tourist Attractions.” We Go Places