With its unspoiled nature, thriving culinary scene and friendly locals, Maine is a fantastic state to visit whenever you are in need of some vacation therapy. When I discovered Maine, I immediately fell in love with the slow pace of life here. I could even imagine myself retiring in one of the small quiet towns on the edge of a peninsula. Thanks to our amazing hosts who took us around, we really got to experience true Maine beyond the popular tourist destinations. In this post, I share with you a 7 days coastal Maine road trip itinerary that goes off the beaten path. Get ready for some scenic drives!
My experience in Maine was sponsored by MidCoast Maine & Island and DownEast Acadia. All opinions expressed are my own. This article may contain affiliate links, which means, at no extra cost to you, I may earn a commission if you make a purchase. Thanks for supporting!
When is the best time to visit Maine
The peak season for tourism in Maine is the summer from July through August. However, the nicest time is arguably September to October, when there is cool crisp air and the leaves turn into pretty shades of red, orange, and yellow. Maine has long harsh winters between November to April, a time that is generally not popular for tourists. Although, if you enjoy cold weather sports like skiing, winter in Maine can actually be paradise. However, it is important to keep in mind that many businesses may not be open if you visit during this time, so extra research about lodging and dining is recommended. Springtime from May to June is the shoulder season before things get busy, making it a great time to beat the crowd.
Our Maine road trip itinerary is designed to be taken from Spring to Autumn.
How to get to Maine
The Portland International Jetport Airport, located 3 km west of down town Portland, is a convenient way to get to Maine. A flight from New York City takes only a bit over an hour. PWM is the third most affordable airport in New England since it is serviced by several low cost airlines such as Southwest and Jetblue. Find a cheap flight to Portland Maine here.
Where to rent a car in Maine
Renting a car is essential as driving is the best way to get around Maine. There are many car rentals at the Portland Jetport Airport for pick up on site, including Enterprise, Alamo, Avis, Budget, National, and Hertz.
Maine Road Trip Itinerary Day 1 & 2 – Portland
Start your trip in the biggest city in Maine, Portland. Portland’s name comes from the old English word Portlanda, which means “land surrounded by a harbor”. This waterfront city has many charming neighborhoods and lots of things to do. Spend the first two nights here to sightsee and gather yourself for the big road trip ahead.
Things to do in Portland Maine
Since there are so many options in Portland, I will offer some of my favorites. Feel free to mix and match activities that suit your interests.
Visit Portland Head Light House
This iconic lighthouse has been the subject in many postcards and paintings. Perched on a hill with waves crashing on to the rocks below, the Portland Head Light is a striking vision. Out of the 65 lighthouses in Maine, this is the oldest one. Visit in the morning and enjoy the scene in serene solitude.
Walk around the Old Port
Walk down the cobblestone streets of the Old Port District and get to know Portland’s history. You can see a mix of the old and new with 19th-century brick buildings and fishing piers being close by to modern shops, restaurants, and bars. This is the area where you will find the best nightlife.
Do a Foodie Tour
Portland is heaven for foodies. Besides the signature lobster roll, there are so many other good eats. What better way to try them all than going with a local expert? We joined Maine Foodie Tours for 3 hours of sampling delectables special to the region. From clam chowder to nutty smoothie to Maine’s Needhams chocolate, we had probably 8-9 courses. I was so stuffed after that I could barely walk. Be sure to come on an empty stomach.
Taste beer at a brewery
If you love beer, you will love the microbreweries in Portland. Don’t know which one to pick? Take the Maine Brew Bus tour! This boozy tour will show you around the local craft alcohol scene, with stops in breweries, distilleries, wineries, and bars. I dare you to walk in a straight line when it’s all over. 😉
Go to an Improv show
Fresnel Theater is Portland’s home for improv comedy. I checked out one of the live shows and it was so much fun. Similar to “Whose Line is it Anyways”, the show is a sports match featuring two teams of comedians, who compete in a series of games where they earn points for making the audience laugh. A referee is there to call foul and make things interesting. I was so impressed with how quick on their feet the players could think. They really got jokes for days. I laughed from beginning to end, until my cheeks hurt.
Catch some lobsters
From the first weekend of May to the last weekend of October, you can go on lobstering excursions with Lucky Catch Cruises in Casco Bay, Maine. Try your hands at pulling the lobster traps and learn about the lives of the fishermen (or lobster-men?). The lobsters caught on the tour can be purchased for a discounted price and brought to cook at the restaurant near the harbor. Talk about a real catch of the day.
Watch a sunrise
There is simply nothing like seeing a sunrise over the sea. Since much of Portland’s coast is facing the east side, it’s perfect for catching a sky show in the morning. You have got to be an early riser though. I was at the Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse at 5:30 am and was rewarded with a breath-taking view. I mean, just look at the picture above. Yes, I took this photo.
Day 1& 2 – Where to stay in Portland
Spring Point Inn at the McKernan Center
Spring Point Inn is located on the campus of Southern Maine Community College. It is a unique facility run by students in the Culinary and Hospitality Management program. Only a 7 minutes drive to downtown Portland, Spring Point Inn is an underrated accommodation spot that I don’t believe many tourists know about. I loved my stay here. The ocean was right outside my window and I was able to walk to the beach in 2 minutes.
Black Elephant Hostel
For those looking for a budget-friendly place to stay in downtown Portland, Black Elephant Hostel is very well reputed. Its decors are colorful and funky, giving a very welcoming vibe. The establishment has many shared rooms as well as some private rooms. I did not personally stay here but had heard many good things from friends who did.
Maine Road Trip Itinerary Day 3 – Harpswell to Boothbay Peninsula
Today is the day we get off the beaten path and start our road trip along Maine’s epic coastline. The MidCoast & Islands region is incredibly picturesque with its mountains, beaches, and forests. I got to go on a girls trip here recently and we had a blast discovering some of its hidden gems.
Things to Do Near Harpswell and Boothbay Peninsula
Hike the Giant’s Stairs Trail
The Giant’s Stairs Trail in Harpswell is about an one hour drive from Portland. The dramatic rock formations here are very interesting to see. The hike is short and mostly pretty easy, with some rugged parts. On a lucky day, you can spot harbor seals lounging in the sun. We sadly did not see any but we definitely enjoyed the sight, sound, and smell of Casco Bay.
Grab a lobster roll at Red’s Eats
One cannot visit Maine without eating a lobster roll, and you can find the best one in the whole state at Red’s Eats in Wiscasset. It’s a humble looking little restaurant on a street corner. But it has big fame. Even celebrity chef, Andrew Zimmern, has eaten here! In the summertime, the queue apparently goes on and on. We visited during May and did not have to wait for too long (See, it pays off to travel during the off-peak season!) The rolls we got came with huge generous chunks of fresh lobster on pillowy buns. It was as if Hallelujah started playing when I bit into the buttery juicy goodness. We also tried Red’s Eats fried zucchini, Green Bee Honey Sodas, and Round Top Ice Cream, which were all pretty good as well.
Frolic in Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens
This beautiful garden in Boothbay has something to offer for people of all ages and abilities. The land is nearly 300 acres with trails, lakes, gardens, greenhouses, and more. We got a tour of the grounds from Ellen, a kind volunteer. Some of my favorite features of the park space include:
Lerner Garden of the Five Senses A space where you can experience nature through touch, hearing, taste, smell, and sight. I appreciate that the garden is so thoughtful towards those who are differently-abled. There are even seasonal therapeutic horticulture events where people use plants and gardening to improve their mental and physical health.
Children’s Garden A slice of storybook magic for the little ones. This area is inspired by classic Maine children’s tales. The kids can play in the frog and fish-filled pond, veggie patch, and adorable wood houses. We learned that in the summer, the garden hosts Fairy Fridays, where kids come dressed up as fairies and do fairy-related arts and crafts. I guess I never grew up on the inside because I really want to join this cool party!
Native Butterfly House The butterfly house, opened seasonly, is where you can get up close to some adorable butterflies and moths and learn about their life cycles. Check out Black Swallowtails, Monarchs, Luna Moths, and more.
Join a Boothbay Haunted History Tour
Boothbay has so much history and a fun way to learn about it is by taking a walk with Red Cloak Tours. Sally, the owner and original guide, is so knowledgeable. She shared with us many mysterious stories about Maine’s ghosts and spirits, weaved together with captivating accounts of historical events. We had goosebumps. For those who are easily spooked, there are strictly historical tours as well. 😛
Day 3 – Where to stay in Boothbay Harbor
Topside Inn is an award winning property with titles including #1 Hotel in Maine and the #5 Most Romantic Hotel in the US. We felt really spoiled to stay here. First of all, the rooms are spectacular. You can see the water right outside the window and the interior decors are straight off Pinterest. I fell head over heels for the in-room bathtub in one of the suites. Can you say goals?
The Inn is managed by Buzz and Mark, a lovely couple who goes out of their way to make sure that everything is perfect. It’s clear that their hard work pays off as many guests have returned to Topside Inn again and again.
Lastly, the breakfast at Topside Inn is definitely something to write home about. During our stay, we were treated to a handsome presentation of homemade goodies like granola, fresh English muffin bread, all sorts of whipped butter and jams, cured salmon, and mushroom & gruyere deviled eggs. The highlight though had got to be the buttermilk waffles with cherry bourbon sauce, fresh whipped cream and country sausage. Oh.Em.Gee. I am drooling just reminiscing a