A family can easily spend a pleasant week or so exploring the beaches, boats, cobblestones, shops, museums, and attractions of coastal Maine and New Hampshire.
Days 1 & 2: Portland
Portland is a joy for families. The Children's Museum of Maine is almost exactly in the center of town, making it a good jumping-off point for a city tour. The excellent Portland Museum of Art, right next door, provides teens and college-age family members with something different to do.
In the historic Old Port, Exchange Street is the key shopping address. Kids will enjoy the ice cream shops, boats, and quirky gift stores. The city tourist office is on Commercial Street.
The Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Co. & Museum combines a short train ride to the foot of the cliffs framing Portland's east end with a museum.
Another great experience is a cruise on the Casco Bay Ferry lines. You can take anything from a 20-minute run to a half-day "mail boat" cruise. Two good destinations are Peaks Island -- a favorite among parents pushing strollers, with easy-to-cruise streets and Portland views -- and Long Island, which has an excellent beach.
For baseball fans, an outing to Hadlock Field to watch the Portland Sea Dogs can't be beat; it's one of our favorite minor-league parks.
Finally, young and old alike enjoy the sunrises, sunsets, picnics, sailboat views, and swing sets of the park along the Eastern Promenade.
Day 3: Cape Elizabeth
Plan to spend at least one afternoon hitting the string of beaches and lighthouses off Route 77 in the quiet town of Cape Elizabeth and surroundings, just 15 minutes from Portland.
Kids will especially enjoy the Portland Head Light and romping around in the sand and surf on Crescent, Scarborough, and Willard beaches.
Day 4: Old Orchard Beach
Drive 20 minutes south of Portland and you come to Old Orchard Beach. This place may strike you as corny at first, but it rarely fails to entertain. On the pier out over the water, you can find cotton candy, french fries, and arcade games. There's also a long beach to stroll along.
Day 5: Ogunquit
About 40 minutes south of Old Orchard is Ogunquit, which offers enough distractions for a few days. In addition to a main street full of shops, restaurants, and cafes, it has a main beach that's a vast stretch of powdery sand at low tide and has some of Maine's warmest ocean water (which isn't saying much!). Perkins Cove has sea views, ice cream and candy shops, an excellent small bookstore, and lots of souvenirs for sale.
Day 6: York and Kittery
Only a 10-minute drive south, these twin towns offer a lot for families. York has a dynamite lighthouse (with homemade ice cream nearby), an amusement arcade, several excellent beaches, and the Goldenrod, a candy store where kids can watch taffy being pulled. You can buy boxes to take home -- half the fun is deciding which candies to buy. Kittery is more for adults, but its extensive set of outlet stores also appeals to teen shopaholics.
Day 7: Portsmouth
Portsmouth is a good base for exploring local parks and beaches. Be sure to visit New Castle Island for its historic streets; the outstanding collection of oceanside state parks lining Route 1A in Rye; and Strawbery Banke by the downtown Portsmouth waterfront, with its historic buildings and restorations. Nearby is the lively Children's Museum of Portsmouth, with hands-on exhibits of arts and science. In town, there are plenty of shops and restaurants.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.