The inlets and peninsulas of the Maine coast make it impossible to plot a straight course. This trip takes you a little more than halfway up (really, across) the coast, allowing time for serendipitous detours. Tack on some extra time at the end to really explore Acadia National Park.
Day 1: York
Drive into Maine from the south on I-95, and head for York Village at exit 7. Spend time snooping around historic buildings preserved by the Old York Historical Society, and stretch your legs on a walk through town.
Drive north through York Beach, see Nubble Light, stock up on saltwater taffy at the Goldenrod, and spend the night near the beach.
Days 2 & 3: Portland
Using the right route, getting to Portland can be as fun as being there. You can hit the antiques shops along stretches of Rte. 1 as you drive north. If you’re in a hurry or traveling in summer, avoid the crowds on Rte. 1 by taking I-95.
In Portland by afternoon, take a trolley, duck boat, or fire engine tour of the city to get oriented. Plan to stay in the city; to shop for jewelry, souvenirs, or even kites in the Old Port; to taste-test chowder and microbrewed beer; and to soak up the salty air and atmosphere. Don’t forget a walk along the Eastern Promenade or a day cruise on a local ferry.
Day 4: Freeport, Brunswick & Bath
Head north early to beat the shopping crowds at the outlet haven of Freeport. You can’t leave too early for L.L.Bean—it never closes!
From Freeport, get off busy Route 1 to meander through charming towns like Bath or Wiscasset, the so-called “Prettiest Village in Maine.” Spend a relaxing night at a picturesque B&B in the Boothbay region.
Days 5 & 6: Camden & Penobscot Bay
Heading north from the Boothbay area, detour down to Pemaquid Point for a late picnic as you watch the surf roll in. Then head back to Rte. 1 and set your sights on the heart of Penobscot Bay.
Rockland, which you’ll reach first, is the arts-centric part of the equation. The musts here are the excellent museums, galleries, and restaurants. Nearby Rockport (p. ###) is a tiny town with harbor views and main street charms.
Finally, head a few miles north to wander around downtown Camden, poking into gift shops and boutiques. Hike up to one of the summits within Camden Hills State Park, hop a ferry to an island (North Haven and Islesboro are both great for biking), or sign up for a sightseeing sail on a windjammer. Getting ice cream and hot dogs down by the harbor is also sheer bliss.
Day 7: Blue Hill & Deer Isle
From Camden, drive up and around the head of Penobscot Bay and then down the bay’s eastern shore. The roads here are great for aimless drives, but head for Stonington, down at the tip of Deer Isle.
Next, head to scenic Blue Hill for dinner and lodging. You’ll love the views from here, and the combination of a Maine fishing town and new-blood book and wine shops and restaurants is quite appealing. Also take a spin around the peninsula to smaller towns such as Blue Hill Falls and Brooklin, where you’ll see boatyards, old-fashioned general stores, and scenes that have long inspired artists. This is the real Maine.
Days 8, 9, 10 & 11: Bar Harbor & Acadia National Park
Bar Harbor is the perfect base for exploring Mount Desert Island, which is well worth 4 (or more) days on a Maine itinerary. Stay at least 2 nights, especially if you have kids along. Bar Harbor offers comforts and services such as a movie theater, bike and kayak rentals, free shuttle buses, and numerous restaurants. Yes, it’s more developed than the rest of the island, but think of it as a supply depot.
Hike, bike, boat: There are so many ways to explore the island and Acadia National Park, one of America’s finest. Investigate at your own pace: Take a beginner’s kayak trip down the eastern shore, a hike out to Bar Island, or a horse-drawn wagon trip along the carriage roads built by the Rockefeller family. Only bicycles and horses are allowed on these roads, making them a tranquil respite from the island’s roadways, which—almost unbelievably—do get crowded in summer.
The scenic Park Loop Road is a great introduction to all Acadia offers (crashing waves, big mountains, drop-dead gorgeous views). Take your time: Your vehicle admission pass is valid for 7 days.
While exploring the rest of the island, be sure to hit some of the nonpark towns, too. Northeast Harbor and Southwest Harbor are fishing towns that tourism has partly transformed into tiny centers of art, music, and shopping. However, they still have small stores where fishermen shop for slickers and Wonder bread.
What about those things you wanted to do but didn’t have time for? Do them on your last day in Acadia: Watch a sunrise from the top of Cadillac Mountain; savor tea and popovers at Jordan Pond House; take a quick last hike up The Bubbles; or spread out a blanket on Sand Beach at night and stargaze.
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.