Maine is like much of the rest of America: A set of small cities and suburbs, strung together by transportation corridors, with a whole bunch of small towns and rural areas filling in the rest of the map. Bus, train, and regional plane services are sporadic at best. This all means you will almost certainly need to travel by car (yours, or one you have rented) if you really want to see the coast of Maine in any detail.
Mark my words: You'll need a car. Portland's airport has plenty of rental options, from all the multi-national rental agencies.
Traffic in Maine is generally light compared with that in urban and suburban areas of the East Coast, but the Maine Turnpike and U.S. Route 1 can get heavily congested, especially when entering Maine on a summer Friday evening or departing it on a Sunday night. Expect delays at peak times, and try to travel off-peak if possible.
North-south travel is fairly straightforward in Maine, thanks to I-95 and Route 1. Don't underestimate the length of the Maine coast, though—from Kittery to Eastport (the easternmost city in the United States) is 293 miles, much of it winding slowly through coastal villages or sitting at stoplights. Driving times can be longer than you'd expect due to narrow roads and zigzagging peninsulas.
Here are some representative distances between points:
NEW YORK CITY TO
Bar Harbor, Maine: 493 miles
Portland, Maine: 319 miles
PORTLAND, MAINE, TO
Eastport, Maine: 250 miles
Bar Harbor, Maine: 174 miles
Camden, Maine: 85 miles
York, Maine: 45 miles
Kennebunk, Maine: 27 miles
As I have already mentioned, express bus service into the region is pretty good, but there is really no non-car means of traveling within. Quirky schedules and routes may send you well out of your way, and what may seem like a simple trip could take hours. Traveling north-south between towns along a single bus route (for example, Portland to Bangor) is feasible, but east-west travel across Maine is, by and large, impractical. For information on bus travel within Maine, contact either Greyhound or Concord Coach Lines.
Service between airports in Maine is sketchy at best. You can find limited direct flights between some cities (such as Portland to Bangor), but for the most part, you'll have to backtrack to Boston and fly out again to your final destination. Convenient, it's not.
Amtrak (www.amtrak.com; tel. 800/872-7245) provides limited rail travel on the southernmost coast of Maine. There is talk here and there of expanding passenger rail lines west to Lewiston and beyond, to Montreal, but I wouldn’t start planning a trip around it anytime soon.
BEWARE: MOOSE CROSSING
Driving across the northern tier of Maine, you’ll often see MOOSE CROSSING signs, complete with silhouettes of the gangly herbivores. These are not placed here to amuse the tourists. In Maine, the state with the most moose (an estimated 30,000, at last count), crashes between moose and cars are increasingly common.
These encounters are usually more dramatic than deer-car collisions. For starters, the large eyes of moose don’t reflect in headlights like those of deer, so you often come upon them with less warning when driving late at night. Also, moose can weigh up to 1,000 pounds, with almost all of that weight placed high atop spindly legs—when a car strikes a moose broadside in the road, it usually knocks the legs out and sends a half-ton of hapless beast right through the windshield. Need we dwell on the results of such an encounter? I thought not. In 1998 alone, the state of Maine recorded 859 crashes involving moose, with 247 injuries and five fatalities. When in moose country, drive slowly and carefully.
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.