Maine’s sea-splashed rocky coasts are legendary, and the perfect spot for a family vacation that combines activity with culture and great food.
Explore Acadia National Park’s mountains by hiking and biking. Search for lighthouses and whales, kayak past harbor seals and porpoises, embark on a family lobster safari, and dip your toes in Acadia’s Sand Beach to find out just how cold the 54-degree Fahrenheit summer ocean feels.
Enjoy these 17 things to do in Maine with kids.
Feast on Lobster in Bar Harbor
In Bar Harbor, sailing vessels and yachts bob in the harbor, seagulls glide overhead, and the breeze tastes slightly of salt. You’ve come to Bar Harbor because it’s the gateway to Acadia National Park, but exploring the picturesque town is fun, too.
After your whale-watching, lighthouse cruise, or kayak outing, linger in Bar Harbor for another specialty that Maine is known for—lobster. There’s no shortage of fresh-off-the-boat seafood eateries in Bar Harbor. Try Beal’s Lobster Company or Stewman’s Lobster Pound for lobster rolls.
You can even taste lobster ice cream at Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium in downtown Bar Harbor, as well as fudge, buttercrunch, and, of course, chocolates. Afterward, take your stuffed teens to browse several of the Acadia Shops for a large selection of made-in-Maine soaps, pottery, maple syrup candy, and other products.
Hike in Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park, a spectacular mix of sea-splashed rocky coasts, granite cliffs, and spruce forests, consistently rates among the top ten most-visited U.S. national parks.
In the 47,000-acre park, walk along wind-blown sands, hike woods, drive and bike scenic roads, and explore offshore islands. Along the water, you’re likely to spot cormorants, gulls, ducks, rock crabs, and starfish.
Except for the Schoodic Peninsula on the mainland, Acadia occupies much of Mount Desert Island, as well as several other islands. Popular stops along the 27-mile Park Loop Road are Otter Point, Jordan Pond, Cadillac Mountain, and Sand Beach, one of the best beaches in New England.
With teens, consider hiking the two-mile coastal Ocean Path Trail or the Dorr Mountain South Ridge Loop, just over three miles including a steep ascent that rewards you with panoramic views.
Time for lunch? Try the Travelin Lobster, State Highway 102, for a heaping six-ounce roll, or the regular-sized four-ounce version.
Gaze at Schooner Head
Bordering Acadia National Park but not in it, Schooner Head, a rocky promontory, juts out into Frenchman’s Bay. You can see the private headland crowned with a large home from a shoreside overlook. A somewhat slippery trail leads down from the parking lot to the rocky coast.
At the turn of the 20th century, Joseph Pulitzer was one of the wealthy residents who summered in the area along Schooner Head Road. In 1894, he purchased the mansion, which was called Chatwold.
From the overlook’s parking lot, look across the Bay to Egg Rock Lighthouse, a short, squat building that some consider Maine’s ugliest light. It wasn’t the lighthouse’s architectural deficiencies that bothered Pulitzer, but its foghorn.
Legend has it that Pulitzer, sensitive to noise, attempted to silence the warning system, but even he could not persuade the government.
Watch the Spray at Thunder Hole
One of the most classic things to do in Maine with kids is to experience the extraordinary force of the sea at Acadia National Park’s Thunder Hole, a narrow, seaside inlet carved into the rocks.
As incoming surf rolls in, the wave fills a cavern in the rock base, forcing air out in a thunderous roar accompanied by spray that shoots up to 40 feet high. To hear the best booms, visit one to two hours before high tide. You reach Thunder Hole from the Ocean Path Trail.
Climb Cadillac Mountain
At 1,530 feet, Cadillac Mountain, the crown jewel of Acadia National Park, reigns as the highest point on the North Atlantic seaboard, with a panorama from the top of the Maine coast lit by sunlight glinting off the ocean.
With athletic teens, consider biking the three-and-a-half mile Cadillac Summit Road, a section off Park Loop Road.
You and your teens could hike to the summit, too. On the Cadillac North Ridge Trail (four and a half miles roundtrip), you trek up granite slopes with little shade but sweeping ocean views.
The longer Cadillac Mountain South Ridge Trail (seven miles roundtrip) adds sections of forest and meadow. However you choose to get to the top, reaching the pinnacle is one of the classic things to do in Maine with kids.
Afterward, if you have time for a sit-down lunch, go to Abel’s Lobster, outside the park for lobster rolls or their wood-fired steamed lobster cooked in seawater.
Admire the Blooms in Asticou Azalea Garden
Asticou Azalea Garden, in Northeast Harbor Village, adds a soothing backbeat to your Maine vacation. You and your family can’t help but feel mellow as you stroll the paths.
Each gifts you with differing views, colors, and textures, much like a Japanese “stroll garden”, although the plants, trees, rocks, and mosses represent coastal Maine.
Scores of azaleas and rhododendrons pop with pink, purple, and red blooms in late May through June. July’s delphiniums bloom blue and red.
The garden is a good place for teen photographers to practice their landscape shots. Located in Northeast Harbor on Mount Desert Island, the garden is open from early May through October.
Shop Northeast Harbor Village
Less-visited than better-known Bar Harbor, Northeast Harbor Village, situated on Mount Desert Island’s southern end, sports a protected harbor dotted with sailboats and yachts.
The village gained fame decades ago for the prominent and wealthy who summered here. Among the fortunate residents were socialite and philanthropist Brooke Astor, actress Barbara Bel Geddes (remember Miss Ellie Ewing?), and deep-pocketed industrialists.
Milk and Honey’s sandwiches range from brisket to egg salad, chicken schnitzel, and banh mi. Main 123 Street serves grab-and-go items. Try the blueberry muffins, lobster sandwich, as well as mac and cheese and, of course, fresh chowder.
Kids and teens can poke around Swallowfield for Maine-themed puzzles and prints, as well as jewelry and books, some about Maine or by Maine authors. Locals rave about the lobster rolls at Nor’Easter Pound & Market.
Walk the Shore Path
The Shore Path hugs the town of Bar Harbor’s waterfront for three-quarters of a mile. The scenic path begins at the Town Pier, winds past the landmark Bar Harbor Inn, built in 1887, and ends at Wayman Lane.
From the walkway or the lawn at adjacent Agamont Park, you see boats in the harbor as well as the contours of the Porcupine Islands, Balance Rock, and the Schoodic peninsula. Another plus: Agamont Park’s free Wi-Fi.
It’s a short walk from the Shore Path to Bar Harbor’s shops and restaurants, including Beal’s Lobster Company for delicious lobster rolls.
Go Whale Watching
Whale watching ranks high on the list of things to do in Maine with kids and there are plenty of options within easy reach of Bar Harbor. Hearing, “Thar she blows,” followed by the sight of a massive creature bursting from the sea and plunging back into the water is an experience you and your kids will likely remember forever.
Pilot whales and the larger minkes, humpbacks, and 80-foot-long finbacks frequent Maine’s feeding grounds from mid-April to October. You might also catch sight of the less common sei, orca, and right whales.
To find a whale that’s surfaced and then submerged, look for its “footprint”, the flat spot in the water where the whale went under, to estimate where it will shoot up again. Be sure to bring binoculars and dress warmly as it’s often several degrees cooler onboard than onshore.
Learn About Historic Lighthouses
A lighthouse cruise combines two classic Maine experiences—getting out on the water and viewing historic towers whose beacons guided ships to safety.
Lighthouses are meant to be seen from the sea, their stalwart silhouettes topping wave-splashed promontories, and a typical cruise takes you past five, with guides explaining what the lives of the lighthouse keepers were once like.
With the wind in your hair and gulls overhead, cruise the shores of Acadia National Park and Maine’s out islands to see the sentinels of the sea. Along the way, look for seals, eagles, porpoises, and the other common species—mansions of the rich and famous.
Kayak in Frenchman Bay
If getting out on the water in Maine is good, getting a few feet from the surface is even better. Kayaking Frenchman Bay puts you near eye level with harbor seals, porpoises, and black guillemots and close enough to many islands to spot cormorants. You might even see a bald eagle on the horizon.
A kayaking tip is to assign the strongest or most experienced paddler to the stern (rear), because that person steers. Once you get in rhythm, kayaking is a fun activity to do in Maine as a family.
Visit Portland Head Light
Come here for the windswept coast, breaking waves, and a shot of one of the most photographed lighthouses in America and Maine’s oldest light. George Washington ordered the Portland Head Light to be lit in 1791.
The 80-foot-high tower sits majestically on a promontory. Even though you cannot enter the light, you can learn about its history, see a Fresnel lens, and other artifacts at the museum in the former keeper’s cottage.
One of the best things to do in New England with kids is to spend time outdoors at the adjacent 90-acre green space, Fort Williams Park. The cliffside path delivers sparkling sea views. When Bite Into Maine, a food truck, parks onsite, don’t miss their lobster rolls, often rated among the best in Maine.
Browse the Shops in Old Port
Soak up the atmosphere in Portland’s Old Port, a lively historic district whose streets are paved with cobblestones and whose 19th-century brick buildings, former warehouses, now house restaurants and shops.
Check out Bliss, a Maine business that sells women’s everyday wear, specializing in upmarket denim shirts and pants. At Blanche and Mimi, peruse a mix of vintage and modern items from block-printed pillowcases to Japanese linen towels, scented candles, and leather bags.
For a lobster safari with your kids, consider three popular places. Portland Lobster Company’s lobster rolls make Portland’s best list, and Eventide Oyster Company draws devotees for its brown butter lobster rolls.
Highroller Lobster Company goes creative with its Lobby Pop (lobster bites on a stick), lobster wontons, and of course, its delicious lobster rolls. You can walk from Old Port to the adjacent Arts District.
Get a Creative Fix in the Arts District
The Portland Museum of Art anchors the city’s Arts District. Established in 1995 to foster contemporary art, the Arts District showcases galleries and performance venues, including the State Theatre, Portland Stage Company, and the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine.
Take your artsy teens to browse works at Greenhut Galleries, the Portland Art Gallery, the Fore River Gallery, and the Institute of Contemporary Art at the district’s Maine College of Art.
Admire Works in the Portland Museum of Art
You’ve witnessed the rocky coasts of Maine. At the Portland Museum of Art, see how Winslow Homer depicted the choppy sea in “Eight Bells” and “Weatherbeaten”. The celebrated artist painted many of his canvases at his studio in Prouts Neck, 13 miles south of Portland.
Peruse Maine-themed canvases by Edward Hopper, Andrew Wyeth, and others in the museum’s permanent collection, which also features work by Renoir, Degas, and contemporary artists such as Jasper Johns and Jamie Wyeth.
The facility’s Jubitz Center for Modern and Contemporary Art displays changing exhibits by contemporary artists. Don’t miss the Shaw Family Sculpture Park, a free, outdoor space laced with intriguing works.
You likely know Kennebunkport for Walker’s Point, the summer home of former President George Bush. Bush purchased the property in 1977, but the land, formerly known as Point Vesuvius, had been in the Bush family since the 1870s.
Kennebunkport’s history of fine mansions reaches back to the 18th and 19th centuries when wealthy sea captains and merchants built grand houses to showcase their status. Summer Street features 17 beauties.
The oldest dates to 1750. You can’t miss the most famous, the George W. Bourne, a.k.a, the Wedding Cake House, significant for its lavish Gothic style trim that gained the home its nickname.
Allow time to browse the bustling beach town’s galleries and boutiques and stop for snacks at Clam Shack, Alisson’s, or the Nonantum Resort, dating to 1884.
Bike and Hike
Teens crave activity. To enjoy sea views and salty breezes as you exercise, bike or walk Portland’s Eastern Promenade Trail (just over miles round trip), a primarily flat waterfront trail.
There are no vehicles to be wary of since the path is a former rail corridor. Pedal or walk off more pounds on the Mackworth Island Trail across the causeway. As you bike or hike the short loop trail that encircles the island, savor views of Casco Bay and listen and look for birds, since Mackworth Island serves as a bird sanctuary. A day of seaside biking and hiking is a fun thing to do in Maine with your kids.
Read: Experience Fall in Maine
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