What is there to do in Maine? When you think of Maine, you probably think of Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. Perhaps you think of Stephen King. Maybe you don’t really have any preconceived notions at all. Wherever you are in your knowledge of the Pine Tree State, this list will help you find some fun attractions near the prettiest coastal towns in Maine.
When we began to plan a road trip through the Northeastern States and Canada, we quickly realized that we’d spend a lot of time in Maine because it’s randomly big for a state that nobody talks about. Naturally, I searched for things to do throughout the state because I wanted to do more than look at Maine while we drove along Highway 1.
There are a ton of things to do if you like hanging out in nature. In addition to Acadia National Park, you can find several state parks and tons of opportunities for hiking. If you’re an outdoorsy person, you could easily spend nearly a month exploring the mountains! Check out these family-friendly hikes in Acadia that aren’t too difficult, as well as these amazing cities near Acadia for you to enjoy. Most of these treks will take you to a vantage point in the 3,000’-5,000’ range. Mount Katahdin is the highest at 5,267’.
What if you don’t have a month? Or what if you don’t really want to hike?
Good for you, there are even more options!
Keep reading for the five hidden treasures we discovered along the coast of Maine.
1. Reversing Falls in Pembroke, Maine
Starting from the Eastern tip of Maine (about as far north as you can go while remaining on the coastline and in the country), you will head south and find the town of Pembroke, Maine. This town barely counts as a town because it only has 800 people! While it lacks people, it does not lack beauty.
Pembroke is home to Reversing Falls Park.
When I first heard of Reversing Falls, I was intrigued. Initially, I imagined a waterfall with the water falling up, rather than down. Then I realized that probably wasn’t the case. I then lowered my expectations to some sort of phenomenon or optical illusion that wouldn’t actually defy gravity but would impress my meager brain.
We decided to check it out. It’s a few miles off the beaten path and the last mile was a gravel road that appeared to lead nowhere. Since we were on the motorcycle, we debated not even trying to go the rest of the way. But I’m glad we did.
Not only did we get up close and personal with some of the natural beauty Maine has to offer, but we also gained a big fish type story. Did I mention that it was pouring down rain so the gravel road was mostly mud and that we hit a moose? (Maybe the story hasn’t grown that much, but I know my imagination has stretched it beyond this simple gravel road along the water.)
Once we got there, we went on a little hike to view Cobscook Bay. By little, I mean maybe ten minutes round-trip. It doesn’t quite count as a hike, but the reward is great!
At first, it just looked like a river with a boulder in the middle of it.
Then, if you looked closely, you could see that the water was moving in two different directions. This is because of the tide. You can’t see the ocean from this point, but it isn’t very far away at all. The tide comes in and goes out and creates a phenomenon that looks like a river that can’t make up its mind which way to go.
According to the locals, you need to time your visit with the tides to make sure to get the most out of a visit! If you can stay long enough to view the changing of the tides, you will be able to see quite clearly why these falls got their name.
Supposedly, it’s also a great place to spot seals and the occasional porcupine. We weren’t lucky enough to see any wildlife, but if you bring a picnic and spend a while here, you might see a few different creatures pass by.
2. Bar Harbor, Maine
Bar Harbor is basically a typical northern beach town, but it’s one of the most beautiful coastal towns in Maine. It started out as “a playground for rich people” according to one of the shop owners we met. Many people had summer homes in Bar Harbor.
Then a wildfire burned down most of the town in 1947, forcing the town to rebuild itself. This is when it began to transition from a place for rich tourists to a place for not-so-rich tourists. However, the median household income is higher in the Northeastern states than in most other parts of the country. This results in coastal Maine being a bit more costly to visit than somewhere along the coast of Florida.
However, the higher cost also leads to higher quality tourist traps. Everything may be more expensive, but the village of Bar Harbor is a bit classier than Myrtle Beach.
You can watch boats in the harbor, take a boat out, go on a whale watching tour, and explore the shops, among other things. But the one thing you must do in Bar Harbor is eat a lobster.
Pro tip: eat lobster at a restaurant on the way to or from Bar Harbor, rather than once you arrive in the town. You’ll save a ton of money and the lobster will be just as good!
The reason why Bar Harbor is famous for its lobster is quite simple, really. It’s because their lobsters dab (see above picture). Just kidding.
Actually, it’s because the temperature of the water is just right to breed juicy lobsters. If you go much further north, the water will be so cold that the lobsters will not be as tender.
3. Bangor, Maine
Honestly, there’s nothing spectacular about this city. I wouldn’t ever say “You have to go to Bangor sometime!” But if you’re traveling along coastal Maine, I would say “Bangor is a great place to stay overnight.”
It’s far enough from the coast that hotels are cheaper. However, it’s not so far that you can’t jump right back on Highway 1 to enjoy the beautiful views as you continue south through Maine.
You can find Stephen King’s house on Google Maps. It’s not a museum or attraction, though. It’s literally a house that you can drive by. But if you love Stephen King, (or even if you don’t), it’s worth driving past.
And you can eat at Dysart’s Truck Stop. The food and experience was incredibly mediocre (and maybe even a little less than mediocre because it was so crowded), but they went viral when they filmed a commercial. Find out why from this news article.
4. The Desert of Maine
This is a stop perfect for a break from the car. They have tours every hour on the hour, or you can take a self-guided tour at your own pace and time. This, like the reversing falls, definitely intrigued me and I needed to know more!
When we got there, we learned that this place wasn’t technically a desert. A desert is determined by the amount of rainfall every year. The Desert of Maine receives as much rain as the rest of Maine.
Why do they call it a desert? Because it looks like a desert. Except for the part where it is surrounded by trees.
Why does it look like a desert? Once upon a time, there was a farmer who didn’t understand the importance of nurturing the soil. Eventually the soil began to lose its nutrients and turned to sand. Since it was no longer good for growing plants, the owner let his sheep graze in this area. Eventually, grass couldn’t even grow.
The wind continued to erode the ground and more and more sand formed throughout the years. The wind also pushed the sand around to create dunes. An entire house is actually covered because of this phenomenon. The story goes that the guy who lived there didn’t believe it when people warned him not to build a house there because it would disappear soon.
This is a great place to stretch your legs and take some selfies. That’s (almost) exactly what Henry Goldrup thought when he bought it for $300 a hundred years ago. He thought the location would be a great place for a tourist attraction since travel was becoming more popular at the time.
5. International Cryptozoology Museum
As you continue south, you will come to Portland. Portland is the largest city in Maine and has a lot to offer. Only an hour from the New Hampshire border, this will be one of the last opportunities to explore the state of Maine! While there are many options for the stir-crazy traveler, there’s one attraction you absolutely have to visit: the International Cryptozoology Museum.
What is cryptozoology? According to Merriam-Webster, it is “the study of and search for animals and especially legendary animals (such as Sasquatch) usually in order to evaluate the possibility of their existence.”
Think Loch Ness Monster, mermaids, Mothman, panda bears.
Panda bears? Yes, panda bears. The coolest thing I learned at this small museum is that the USA considered panda bears to be a cryptid until the 1930s (ish). People in the States had heard of pandas, but had never seen one. Therefore, Western science did not recognize the panda bear as a real animal until well into the 20th century.
When I first looked into this attraction, I almost got the vibe that it was a collection of memorabilia in a Bigfoot fanatic’s basement. Fortunately, it wasn’t. (That wouldn’t have stopped me, though.) Basically, it was some guy’s personal collection that he displayed in a public place for the world to see.
Although it was a small museum, it had a lot of information. First, you learn about animals, such as the panda, that used to be considered cryptids. Then you began to learn about more obscure cryptids, including the evidence for their existence. In addition to news articles and memorabilia, the displays also hold lifelike replicas of some intriguing animals.
Loren Coleman, the founder of this museum, is one of the big names in the cryptozoology world. He has spent decades searching for answers regarding some of these strange animals. However, he didn’t want to merely convince people that these animals do exist. He wanted us to leave thinking that maybe this stuff is real. But obviously some of it isn’t. But we’ve discovered new species in the past century so who’s to say we won’t discover more in the next?
Then you go on to learn about the more popular cryptics, such as Bigfoot and yetis. I’m not saying the displays convinced me, but they definitely opened my mind to the possibility of such animals existing. It was definitely a strangely educational and surprisingly enjoyable stop along the Atlantic border of Maine!
If you keep driving along Highway 1, you’ll hit New Hampshire in an hour, bringing an end to your journey through Maine. We quickly learned that New Hampshire is also an underrated state, along with that entire corner of the country. You should definitely plan a vacation in that part of the country if you haven’t been that way before!
In addition to Maine, you can find beauty throughout Vermont and New Hampshire. Rhode Island and Connecticut may be small in size, but they’re big in experiences! And let’s not forget Massachusetts, home to Boston, which in itself is chock full of history.
Have you been to the Northeastern states before? If so, tell us which one was your favorite! I’d also love to hear what you think is a “must-do” in that part of the country.