Maine in the summer… is there a better place to be? A beautiful state, known for its lighthouse and harbor views, Maine is the perfect place for a summer road trip. Here are our favorite things to do in Maine and a 4 day road trip itinerary for a long weekend visit.
What To Do in Maine – 10 Must Do Activities
- Eat a lobster roll. Or three.
- See a lighthouse. Maine has 65.
- Visit Acadia National Park.
- Enjoy blueberry ice cream.
- Watch a sunrise. Bonus points if you’re on top of Cadillac Mountain from mid-October to early March. You’ll be seeing the first sunrise of the US.
- Visit a scenic harbor overlook. Coastal Maine towns and their harbors are perfectly picturesque.
- Peek in a tide pool (Be sure to check out the tide charts before you set out!).
- Eat blueberry pie… or cake, or scones, or muffins. You get the idea.
- Eat all the seafood. Maine is most known for lobster and clams, but you really can’t go wrong. Unless you’re allergic to shellfish of course.
- Get out on a boat. This will also help you with #2 as lighthouses are located on Maine’s many islands and are not accessible by bridge.
Where to Stay
This Maine road trip starts in Portland, goes up to Camden, and ends in Bar Harbor. We’ll recommend hotels to stay at for each leg of the trip.
If you’d like to RV to Maine, we recommend building extra days into this itinerary, as little coastal towns are not the most RV friendly and you’ll need to park and unhitch before exploring each day. Spacing a drive day in between each sight-seeing day should be sufficient or you could enjoy a few days in each city.
Portland: Check out Bayley’s Camping Resort or Wassamki Springs Campground.
Camden: Camden Hills Campground and Camden Hills State Park are the two closest campgrounds.
Bar Harbor & Acadia: Bar Harbor Campground is a full service campground with free area shuttle service and plenty of space for large rigs. They do not accept reservations. Acadia National Park has three campgrounds: Blackwoods Campground is dry camping with a 35 foot max, Seawall Campground is dry camping with a 20 foot max, and Schoodic Woods Campground has some electric and water sites with space for larger rigs.
Where We Stayed
In Camden, we stayed at a Harvest Hosts. (Find out more about that here.) And in Acadia we stayed at Blackwoods Campground. Our visit to Portland had to be eliminated from our trip because of weather.
Best Things to Do In Maine with Kids
Before I share the itinerary, I wanted to mention a couple of things that our kids really enjoyed. If seafood and scenic views don’t appeal to your kids, here are some fun things to focus on during your trip.
Compare ice cream shops – If you’re in Maine for a summer weekend, ice cream every day seems like the perfect vacation treat.
Blueberry Hill in Acadia – You’ll find rocky coastlines all around Maine, but our boys especially loved the rocks at Blueberry Hill, both climbing on the larger ones and digging through areas of smaller rocks to find all the blue ones.
Picnic at the scenic overlooks – Anytime we bring food, the kids have more fun.
Play at the beach – Echo Lake and Sand Beach in Acadia and the beach at Camden City Park were all big hits with our kids. Camden City Park also has a swing set and a nice picnic area.
Peek in tide pools – We didn’t really know what to expect from Maine tide pools after visiting the west coast, but we saw a lot of snails and hermit crabs, we identified different types of seaweed, collected some sea glass, and saw some tiny fish. The Bar Island Land Bridge is a nice two for one, part beach, part tide pool.
Take a boat ride – I wish we’d had time to take the boys out on a boat during our time in Maine. I know they would have loved it. Take the vehicle ferry to Swan’s Island or the passenger ferry to Schoodic Harbor. A Bar Harbor whale watching tour would also be a fun family activity.
Junior Ranger Program – The junior ranger program is a great way to connect kids with what they’re seeing at the national parks. We picked up our book at the campground entrance, but the visitor centers will have them as well.
Kids Books about Maine:
Blueberries for Sal, One Morning in Maine, and other books by Robert McCloskey
Lighthouse Dog to the Rescue
Izzy and Frank
The Little Island
Welcome to Maine
Find a Moose with Me
Andre the Famous Harbor Seal (The town of Rockport has a statue for Andre!)
Celia Planted a Garden
I Met a Moose in Maine One Day
Grandma Drove a Lobsterboat
Duck Duck Moose
Moose on the Loose
Lucky the Lobster Buoy
Local Camden Author, Chris Van Dusen, has published several beautiful children’s books. The Mr. Magee trio of picture books and his newest book Big Truck Little Island have the most obvious Maine setting.
Coastal Maine Road Trip Tips:
Bring layers. Summer in Maine doesn’t always guarantee warm temperatures and if you’re out on the water, you’ll definitely want additional layers and a waterproof jacket.
Parking is very limited around Mount Desert Island in both Bar Harbor and Acadia. Wear comfortable walking shoes and go early when you can.
Don’t forget your Acadia pass and keep it displayed in your car all the time. Not all roads into Acadia have a ticket booth and you’ll be driving in and out of the national park as you move around the island, so it’s easy to forget to display it when you park at an overlook or hike. You can pay your entrance fee or pick up a hang tag for your national pass at Hulls Cove Visitor Center, Sand Beach Entrance Station, or any of the three national park campgrounds (Blackwoods, Schoodie, and Seawall). You can also purchase your pass online at Recreation.gov and print it for your dashboard.
4 Day Coastal Maine Itinerary
Here’s our 4 day Maine road trip itinerary for a long weekend in Maine, starting in the capitol Portland. Over the course of 4 days in Maine you’ll see 6 lighthouses, eat your fill of seafood and blueberries, and drive by many harbors full of boats.
Day 0 – Get to Portland
Portland, Maine has a multitude of amazing restaurants to enjoy. Have a seafood at DiMillo’s on the Water, enjoy a Spanish-French fusion at Chaval, or try Mediterranean small plates at Evo Kitchen & Bar.
Spend the night at one of Portland’s stunning hotels like Pomegranate Inn, the Blind Tiger, or The Mercury.
Day 1 – Portland
3 hours of driving
Breakfast at The Holy Donut
Try an original potato donut (or six) at The Holy Donut. Choose classics like old fashioned or maple bacon, or try a unique glaze like margarita, honey lavender, or blueberry lemon.
Take a little lighthouse tour in South Portland. Start with Bug Light and the Liberty Ship Memorial. Then visit Spring Point Lighthouse and Fort Preble. Round out the morning at the Portland Head Light at Fort Williams Park. Don’t miss the lookout point to the right of the lighthouse for the iconic shot of the Portland Head light. If time allows, check out the fort, the children’s garden, and the Goddard Mansion ruins.
Lunch at Duckfat
Enjoy duck-fat Belgian fries, paninis, and milkshakes at Duckfat or pickup frites and poutine at their Duckfat Frites Shack on Washington Avenue.
Take a Walk
Wander the Western Promenade walking path and admire the historic homes. Or walk, run, or bike the nearby Back Cove Trail. This 3.5 mile loop offers great views of the Portland skyline, the cove, and the harbor.
Drive 1.5 hours to Camden, Maine.
Have seafood on the water at Blaze, Peter Ott’s, or The Waterfront Restaurant.
Camden Hills State Park
Drive to Camden Hills State Park for a beautiful view of the town and harbor. Check out the historic Mt. Battie Tower, and enjoy the sunset.
Accommodations Stay overnight at one of the many historic inns like 16 Bay View, Camden Harbour Inn, or the Inn at Ocean’s Edge.
Day 2 – Camden
2 hours of driving
Explore on Foot
Have blueberry pancakes at Marriner’s Restaurant or pick up a yummy bagel sandwich at Bagel Café. Stop by Owl & Turtle Bookshop Café for a coffee and a picture book by local author Chris Van Dusen. We haven’t read all his books yet, but Camping with Mr. Magee is a favorite at our house! Stop by French & Brawn to pick up a slice of pie, a ready made sandwich, and a bottle of Moxie, the official soft drink of Maine. Take your picnic lunch to Harbor Park. You’ll find Megunticook Falls cascading down near the waterfront restaurants. Wander across the street and enjoy the beautiful grounds and architecture of the Camden Public Library.
Drive down Bay View Street to Camden City Park and walk down the hill to the rocky beach. Continue a little further down this road to the Curtis Lighthouse Overlook. This short path through the woods is marked with a simple wooden sign.
Merryspring Nature Center
Take a leisurely walk at this free nature garden. With over a dozen different garden sections and 4 miles of trails, you could spend an entire day enjoying Merryspring Nature Center.
Red Barn Marketplace
On your way out of town, shop for antiques and locally made gifts at Red Barn Marketplace. On the way, enjoy the historic homes on High Street.
Drive 1 hour and 45 minutes to Bar Harbor.
Dinner & Ice Cream
On the way into Bar Harbor, stop for an ice cream cone at Blueberry Hill Dairy Bar and a casual outdoor dinner at Smokey’s BBQ & Lobster Pound.
Book a room at one of the many local inns for 2 nights. I love the nautical pirate vibe of Queen Anne’s Revenge, and The Primrose is a lovely historic and modern blend with some incredible wallpaper.
Day 3 – Acadia National Park
2 to 2.5 hours of driving
Plan to either start or end your day at Cadillac Mountain. Either way, you’ll need to pay $6 for a timed entry reservation. Sunrise reservations go very quickly. If you go for sunset, you’ll want to make your reservation a few hours early so you have time to explore the overlooks at the top before finding a spot in the west-facing parking lot and finding a place to sit on the large rocky expanse.
Park Loop Road
Enjoy a scenic drive and the overlooks along Park Loop Road. Start at the Hulls Cove Visitor Center, then stop at Sieur de Monts and the Wild Gardens of Acadia. Take a little detour to see Egg Rock Lighthouse at Schooner Head Overlook. Then you’ll come to Sand Beach, one of two swimming areas in Acadia National park, and the popular and challenging Beehive Trail hike. (If this is a hike you’d like to do, plan to come straight here in the early morning, because parking fills up quickly.) If you’re driving Park Loop Road at high tide, stop at Thunder Hole to listen for the boom of crashing waves. Next you’ll find Otter Cliff overlook, Otter Point, and Hunter’s Beach Overlook. Finally circle around to Jordan Pond Path for a leisurely walk around the pond or stop at Jordan Pond House Restaurant to try their famous popovers or a delicious popover sundae! You can also enjoy a refreshing blueberry lemonade, blueberry soda, or ice blueberry tea here and blueberry sorbet or blueberry crisp for dessert.
Bass Harbor Lighthouse
Drive across the island to the Bass Harbor Lighthouse. Paths on either side of the parking lot offer different views of the lighthouse, one right up close and one from the rocks below. While you’re on this side of the island, you might also enjoy hiking Ship Harbor Trail or Wonderland Trail or stopping at Echo Lake Beach.
If you didn’t stop to eat at Jordan Pond House Restaurant, The Upper Deck and Abel’s Lobster are both great options you’ll pass on your way.
Day 4 – Bar Harbor
Less than an hour of driving
Breakfast in Bar Harbor
Have breakfast at 2 Cats or stop by Mount Desert Bakery or A Slice of Eden for a pastry or bagel. Wander through shops like The Acadia Shop and Sherman’s Bookstore on Main Street.
Bar Island Land Bridge
60 to 90 minutes before low tide, plan to walk the Bar Island Land Bridge. You’ll find some tide pools here along the half mile strip of land. The land bridge will be quite wide at the lowest tide, but keep an eye on the time or you might find yourself stranded on Bar Island for 9 hours until the next low tide.
Whale Watch Co Boat Tours
Whether you want a whale watching tour or a closer view of the area’s lighthouses, you won’t regret taking a boat tour during your trip to Maine. I wish we had.
Ice Cream & Dinner
Get blueberry ice cream at Mount Desert Island Ice Cream or CJ’s Big Dipper and walk to Agamont Park to look at the harbor. Have some seafood at Thirsty Whale Tavern or enjoy the kitschy décor and classic American fare at Route 66 Restaurant.
Drive 3 hours from Bar Harbor back to Portland.
Extend the Trip
5 Day Coastal Maine Itinerary
With a 5th day in Maine, I would spend one more day in Acadia National Park, visiting Schoodic Peninsula. Take the hour drive to Schoodic Point with a picnic lunch. The large rocks here are perfect for spreading out a blanket and enjoying the ocean views.
Blueberry Hill was one of our favorite stops, because the blue rocks were so unique. Finish the loop drive with a stop at Me and Ben’s Dairy Crème. This popular spot had the most delicious blueberry soft serve!
You might also enjoy visiting Grindstone Point and driving through the town of Winter Harbor.
7 Day Coastal Maine Itinerary
With 6 or 7 days to explore Maine, here are some cities you could add onto your trip:
Kennebunkport –Walker’s Point, Kennebunkport Marina, the Wedding Cake House, Seashore Trolley Museum, and Rococo Ice Cream
Ogunquit – walking Marginal Way, Ogunquit Beach, and Lobster Point Lighthouse
Freeport – Wolfe Neck Woods State Park hiking and tide pools, L.L. Bean flagship store, lobster stew at Tuscan Brick Oven Bistro
Bailey Island – Giant’s Stairs Trail and Land’s End Gift Shop
Other fun stops around Maine:
Cutler Bold Coast Trail
Wild Blueberry Land
Apple Picking at Treworgy Family Orchards
Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens
Make it a Lighthouse Tour
There are more than 60 historical lighthouses in the state of Maine, so you can’t see them all in one trip. And many of Maine’s lighthouses are located on islands and can only be seen by boat. Here are some located on the mainland or easily viewable from the shore (binoculars might be helpful for some). Add a day trip to see a handful of these to your 4 day Maine road trip itinerary.
North of Portland: Heading north, visit Pemaquid Point Lighthouse, Marshall Point Lighthouse, Owls Head Lighthouse, Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse. Two hours of driving will make for a beautiful lighthouse touring day.
In the Portland Area: Visit Portland Breakwater Lighthouse (known as Bug Light), Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse, Portland Headlight, and Two Lights State Park on Cape Elizabeth. It will take approximately 30 minutes to drive between these and along the way, you can visit the Liberty Ship Memorial at Bug Light, Fort Preble at Spring Point, and Fort Williams Park at Portland Head. Get your photo of Portland Head Lighthouse from Lookout Point.
If you want to continue south from Portland, check out Wood Island Lighthouse, Nubble Lighthouse, and Whaleback Light.
Every September, the state hosts Maine Open Lighthouse Day where more than 2 dozen lighthouses will be available for touring, some of which are not usually open to the public. Find more information at the American Lighthouse Foundation.
You can even stay in a lighthouse! Whitehead Light, Little River Light, Burnt Coat Harbor Light, and Isle an Haut Lighthouse all offer guest accommodations. If this is a must do, you’ll want to book your lighthouse stay first and plan the rest of your trip around their availability.