Maine is known for many things, from its startlingly beautiful coastlines and national parks to its variety of historic sites. From luxurious mansions to picture-perfect lighthouses, there are all sorts of places to see here that have stories to tell.
Many travelers associate dining in Maine exclusively with lobster. While it is absolutely true that you should try this delicacy, there are so many other delicious things to sample here.
With its top-tier produce and seafood, not to mention a cadre of young, ambitious chefs looking to take advantage of them, Maine has a dining scene that is the envy of the nation. Here are just a few of the things that Maine is famous for.
Maine is known for its craft beer scene. There may be more than 10,000 craft breweries across the U.S., but Maine still has a special place in the hearts of beer lovers.
Rod Ted founded Allagash Brewing Company in Portland in 1995, back when mega breweries and their mass-produced lagers dominated the American market.
Today, that former microbrewery is now a nationally recognized powerhouse—but that doesn’t make it any less fun to visit.
Even die-hard craft beer nerds are likely to learn a thing or two on one of the brewery tours here, all of which are led by highly knowledgeable guides who will enthusiastically dive deep into the science of fermentation.
Allagash’s commercial success has also paved the way for a whole host of outstanding breweries in and around Portland. The majority of these are all clustered together next to Allagash in an area known as Industrial Way.
On warm afternoons, particularly on weekends, the adjacent parking lots fill up with food trucks selling everything from lobster rolls to sushi. As families with children and dogs fill up the picnic benches, the area takes on a convivial atmosphere.
Along with Allagash, a few of the standout breweries to visit in Portland are Bissell Brothers Brewing Company, which also serves excellent locally sourced cheeses and charcuterie, Austin Street Brewery, Lone Pine Brewing Company, and Oxbow Brewing Company.
The latter has its primary brewing facility in a more rural part of Maine, but has its blending, bottling, and barrel-aging space right in downtown Portland.
If you asked most people to close their eyes and picture Maine, the chances are high that the image that would flash through their mind would include a lighthouse.
For centuries, these picturesque towers have kept watch over the state’s coastal areas, protecting ships from jagged rocks and shallows in times of poor visibility.
While today’s vessels come equipped with much better navigation systems, a number of historic lighthouses are kept in pristine condition and open to the public.
One of the most famous lighthouses by far is the Portland Head Light, located in Fort Williams State Park. An easy 15-minute drive outside of downtown Portland, this 90-acre oasis is perfect for strolling on a sunny afternoon.
The lighthouse itself is the most photographed in the country, with good reason. Both the setting and the historic structure make for excellent postcards.
Over in Rockland, you’ll find another of the most beautiful lighthouses in the United States. The Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse lies at the end of a granite breakwater at the end of a hiking path.
Visiting the lighthouse is one of the best things to do in Rockland, with its setting surrounded by the slate-gray waves of the Atlantic Ocean that makes it especially striking. Although there has been a light of some sort to guide ships at this point since 1827, the current iteration dates back to 1902.
On your way to view the actual lighthouse, be sure to visit the Maine Lighthouse Museum, which features highly educational exhibits on the history of lighthouses throughout the state. It’s perfect for families with children of all ages.
Since 1996, when the James Beard darling Fore Street Restaurant opened its doors, Portland has risen to become one of the most sought-after dining destinations in the United States.
Today, it would be difficult to find a place that packs in more phenomenal dishes per capita. The diversity of restaurants here is astonishing, but almost all opt to showcase stellar Maine ingredients in innovative ways. The best way to visit is to come hungry and prepared to try as many things as possible.
Start your culinary crawl with a visit to Standard Baking Co., Fore Street’s bakery, for decadent morning buns or impeccable croissants, then head to Holy Donut, a local institution with multiple branches around town, for ethereal doughnuts made with mashed Maine potatoes.
From there on, the options are seemingly endless. For an outstanding lunch featuring the freshest sushi and sashimi, head either to Pai Men Miyake or Mr. Tuna. The latter is the brick-and-mortar offshoot of one of Portland’s most popular food trucks.
Should you have a craving for an Italian-accented brunch or luxurious pastas in the late afternoon, Via Vecchia is an upscale Italian eatery in an exposed-brick, vine-strewn space. For early tapas, Chaval, a Spanish- and French-inspired number, is both inventive and thoroughly compelling.
For a truly indulgent treat, Duckfat is an absolute must. The restaurant specializes in double-fried Belgian frites. Its namesake fat makes for especially crispy, flavorful fries, which pair perfectly with sauces like truffle ketchup or horseradish mayo.
For the full experience, order the poutine, which comes with locally sourced cheese curds and duck gravy. Sandwiches like the Duckfat Banh Mi, which comes with duck confit and pate, or the house-smoked pulled pork Cubano with mustard pickles, are equally terrific.
When it comes to charm, it’s hard to beat Maine’s coastal towns in the summer and fall months.
Meander along the streets of Kennebunkport and you’ll spy the grand, Gilded Age mansions of wealthy ship captains and vacationing New Englanders, all set against the backdrop of sailboats bobbing in the harbor.
Rockport is home to a wide array of cafés, boutique shops, and small eateries that are a pleasure to explore.
Bar Harbor, meanwhile, has ambiance to spare, not to mention a host of shops and restaurants along Main Street that have remained unchanged for decades.
Exploring the town on foot is one of the best things to do in Bar Harbor, browsing the paperbacks at Sherman’s Maine Coast Book Shop, the oldest bookstore in the state, or grabbing some homemade fudge or ice cream at Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium.
Especially in high season, the town green here is a hub of activity, as families and couples gather to admire the view of Frenchman’s Bay in the backdrop.
Let’s face it: the state may have an incredibly wide variety of excellent food, but really, what is Maine famous for? Lobster, of course. Maine lobster is one of the world’s most prized delicacies, and with good reason.
While various species of lobsters can be found in many different regions, the crustaceans that live here in the cold waters of the Atlantic have particularly sweet meat and generously proportioned claws.
Maine fishermen ship their live catch all over the world, but there’s still absolutely no better place to try it than right here at the source.
Maine’s lobster fishing industry also happens to be something of a rare success story in terms of sustainability. Centuries ago, these creatures were so abundant in these waters that they were rather famously fed to prisoners.
As word got around that these “bugs” were delicious, demand soared and populations began to plummet. Luckily, the authorities intervened. Today, thanks to strict regulations and responsible policies, Maine’s lobsters are thriving.
For traveling gourmands, there’s no shortage of ways to sample this specialty. Rockland, which is home to the world’s most famous lobster festival each summer, has superb seafood options year-round.
Over in Portland, James Beard Award-winning chefs love to get creative with their lobster preparations. At Eventide Oyster Co., the warm lobster roll dressed with brown butter is nothing short of legendary.
Meanwhile, visitors to Acadia National Park will find all sorts of superb lobster dishes in downtown Bar Harbor. For the absolutely classic lobster dinner, head to Stewman’s Lobster Pound on the harbor.
The “Down East Lobster Experience” consists of a whole steamed lobster with corn on the cob, potatoes, Maine-caught mussels, New England-style clam chowder, and a slice of wild blueberry pie.
If the thought of cracking through all that lobster shell to get to the good stuff feels like too much effort, there are plenty of easier options.
Galyn’s, a popular family-run institution that’s been a fixture in Bar Harbor since 1986, serves up a terrific “lazy lobster” dinner, which consists of the tail and claw meat of a whole lobster gently sauteed in butter with a splash of sherry.
Meanwhile, for a truly unforgettable lobster roll, hop in a car to the Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound, located just on the edge of town. Since 1956, this unpretentious spot has been cooking freshly caught lobsters in giant kettles of seawater.
Order either the Maine-style lobster roll, which comes cold and lightly dressed with mayonnaise and crunchy celery, or the Connecticut-style lobster roll, which is served warm drenched in drawn butter.
Nature lovers are really spoiled for choice in Maine, which features trekking options for every experience and stamina level.
Visitors to Portland may want to take an easy detour to Fort Williams State Park, one of the best places to visit in New England.
It features ample hiking trails, or a short boat ride to Mackworth Island, where you can hike while admiring gorgeous views of Casco Bay. The Eastern Promenade Trail is another excellent option with coastal views for essentially the entirety of the route.
Meanwhile, Acadia National Park is an absolute dream for anyone looking to stretch their legs and soak in some scenery. It’s home to some of the best hikes in New England, and many of the park’s most famous hikes are easily doable in a couple of hours.
For a relatively relaxed hike suitable for all levels, head up to Bubble Rock, North Bubble, and South Bubble—a series of glacial boulders conveniently perched at a perfect viewpoint.
More advanced hikers may wish to tackle Beehive or the Precipice Trail, both of which feature some steep sections with iron rungs.
For a flat, but still scenic hike, head to Eagle Lake near Jordan Pond House. A well-maintained path with raised wooden walkways goes around the length of the lake. Keep an eye out for loons, the state bird of Maine, which have been known to nest around the area.
Maine is a place of remarkable natural beauty all year long but it really shines during the fall months.
During this time, the leaves on the maple trees burst into shades of scarlet and crimson, while the birch tree leaves turn a stunningly vibrant golden hue. During this season, leaf-peepers journey from all over the country to admire the seasonal splendor.
Because much of Maine is so sparsely populated and densely forested, there’s no shortage of places to admire the fall foliage.
Nevertheless, even with so many incredible options, Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island still manages to really stand out. The entire national park is nothing short of breathtaking, no matter where you choose to go.
Since fall in Maine marks the tail end of the busy season, many of the crowds have already dissipated from Bar Harbor by the time the leaves begin to change. And while the evenings tend to get a bit chilly, the weather is still perfectly pleasant. In other words, it’s a lovely time to visit.
It’s also one of the best times to visit Maine to drive or ride the park shuttle to the top of Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the eastern seaboard. From this vantage point, you can survey all that autumnal glory.
From fine dining to unspoiled nature, Maine really has it all. Since most of the sights are clustered along the coastal areas, one of the best ways to discover it all is on a luxury cruise. Browse our cruises to Maine and book your East Coast getaway today.