Exploring Coastal Maine

Roll down the windows, breathe in that salty ocean air and get ready to discover why Maine is called “Vacationland.”

Maine is a road-tripper’s paradise. The Pine Tree State’s rugged coastline is home to what are arguably some of the most scenic spots in all of New England. The craggy shoreline is dotted with more than 60 lighthouses that have guided mariners home for hundreds of years. Combine them with charming seaside villages and iconic lobster shacks to make this region of the Eastern Seaboard picture-postcard-perfect.

From land to sea, Maine has it all. Natural beauty abounds, and the possibilities for outdoor adventures are endless. There are coastal walking paths, miles of hiking and biking trails and so much more. At the same time, ocean lovers can go deep-sea fishing, join a working lobster-boat crew for the day, kayak, paddleboard or sail on a vintage tall ship. If active exploration isn’t your thing, Maine’s cities and towns are rich in arts and culture, where you will find plenty of museums, galleries and exhibitions to check out. 

Late summer or early fall is an ideal time to visit. The days are still warm enough to spend ample time outside, while the nights have just begun to cool down. Many of the prettiest coastal towns are located on the stretch of Route 1 between Portland and Bar Harbor. While you won’t see the entire coast in one trip, base yourself at any of the following seaside properties to cover as much of it as possible. They all offer picturesque shoreline views and warm New England hospitality, yet they have distinctive personalities and charm that set them apart from one another.

a modern room with a classic view at 250 main hotel

250 Main Hotel – Rockland

An Artfully Inspired Boutique Hotel

Maine has been a magnet for prominent artists who’ve flocked to the state for hundreds of years. Among the most well known are Andrew Wyeth and Winslow Homer, whose most famous works were inspired by Maine’s majestic seaside. The small coastal city of Rockland, commonly referred to as Maine’s Arts Capital, is the epicenter of it all. Hugging the shoreline of Penobscot Bay, Rockland has become a vibrant destination for arts and culture, boasting several museums, art galleries and a historic theater.

art abounds at 250 Main Hotel, where four-legged friends are welcome.

Centrally located, 250 Main Hotel is the perfect home base for exploring the town on foot. Locally produced, museum-worthy pieces hang throughout the property, giving this small boutique hotel the feel of an art gallery. With a maritime theme, its modern rooms and spaces feature vintage decor and unique, reclaimed items. While many of the 26 rooms have water views, take a glass of wine to the rooftop deck for stunning panoramic views of the entire harbor.

What to Do

Just a short walk from the property, it’s easy to explore Rockland’s cultural treasures, including the Center for Maine Contemporary Art (CMCA) and the Farnsworth Art Museum. Both have year-round programs with changing exhibitions that showcase works of budding and prominent artists with ties to Maine. Visit the nearby Olson House, the inspiration and subject for Andrew Wyeth’s famous portrait Christina’s World. See what is playing at the historic Strand Theater while you’re in town.

The historic Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse sits at the end of a nearly mile-long, walkable granite breakwater that protects Rockland Harbor and is worth a visit.

Where to Eat

overstuffed lobster rolls from claws

Whether you crave fresh local seafood or homemade pasta and pizza, you’ll be pleased with the exceptional choice of restaurants in this small town. On Main Street, in the historic Custom House Block, In Good Company serves stellar, locally sourced American cuisine accompanied by a fabulous wine list. For authentic Italian dishes, try Ada’s Kitchen. Exemplifying Maine’s sea-to-table culinary philosophy is 18 Central Oyster Bar & Grill in neighboring Rockport, where a dinner reservation is a must. Watch as the chef prepares beautifully plated dishes in their open-air kitchen. 

Lobster Shack: For traditional lobster rolls with an oceanfront view, try Archer’s on the Pier or feast on overstuffed rolls at Claws, an unpretentious spot at the far end of town.

The classic style of the black point inn

The Black Point Inn – Scarborough

Quintessential Oceanfront Hotel

With an emphasis on old-world charm and tradition, The Black Point Inn is the grand dame of Maine beachfront hotels. Built in 1878, this quintessential seaside resort is perfectly perched upon the hillside of Prouts Neck Point. Surrounded by the ocean on three sides, most of the inn’s 25 guest rooms have ocean or bay views.

The Black point inn welcomes visitors in its cozy spaces, and most rooms offer ocean views.

The spectacular setting of this hotel offers so much for guests to enjoy. Stretch your legs with a hike along the Cliff Walk, a private path circling the rocky peninsula, which gives way to the most extraordinary views of the Atlantic on one side and million-dollar oceanfront homes on the other. You’ll even pass by the studio of the famous American painter Winslow Homer, whose family owned a cottage just steps from the Inn. Looking for a faster way to explore? Grab a complimentary beach cruiser from the portico and go for a spin around the area. 

There are several spots around the property to relax and unwind. Stroll along miles of sandy beaches or take a dip in the geothermally heated saltwater pool, which is kept comfortably warm at 80 degrees. Cozy up with a book by the roaring fire in the lobby or play a family game of Scrabble in the sunroom. The historic Black Point Inn is the type of luxury property that generations of families return to year after year for a relaxing summer holiday.

What to Do

Flora and fauna at the coastal maine botanical gardens

As a guest of the Black Point Inn, you’ll be able to take advantage of their abundant amenities. If you wish to play tennis, the concierge can reserve one of the 14 clay courts at the club across the street. Bring your tennis whites, though, as they are required to play a match.

The most extensive botanical garden in New England is located halfway between Rockland and Portland. You don’t have to be a horticulturist to appreciate the impressive grounds at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. Well-marked wooded paths wind over the property’s 300 acres past waterfalls, sculptures and fountains showcasing Maine’s flowers and plants — something is always in bloom. Open seasonally from May through mid-October. 

Where to Eat

buttery lobster rolls from the lobster shack at two lights

In the evening, gather for sunset cocktails overlooking the bayside beach from the Adirondack chairs on the front lawn of the Inn. Enjoy upscale seasonal pub fare on the veranda or in The Chart Room dining room or bar. Grab a beer and a dozen oysters at Shade, located just down the road in their sister hotel, the Higgins Beach Inn. The Black Point’s close proximity to Portland makes it easy to zip up to the city for dinner at acclaimed eateries like Union at the Press Hotel or Scales.

Lobster Shack: The classic rolls from The Lobster Shack at Two Lights in Cape Elizabeth are totally worth the wait. Devour them while sitting at the bright-red picnic tables or upon the rocks right at the ocean’s edge.

The Inn at Ocean's Edge offers unparalleled ocean views.

Inn At Oceans’ Edge – Lincolnville

Elegantly Modern Luxury Hotel

The Inn at Ocean’s Edge is a luxurious retreat perfect for exploring the northern part of Maine’s mid-coast. Just minutes from Camden’s historic center, the inn will make couples appreciate this sophisticated oceanfront property. There are 32 tranquil rooms spread out between three buildings. For privacy, pampering and the best views, book a Poolhouse Studio Suite. Closest to the ocean, these rooms have a kitchenette and gas fireplace, plus a private balcony and a jacuzzi tub for two with elevated water views. 

A sumptuous hot tub and sophisticated rooms make the inn at ocean's edge a perfect place for couples.

A gourmet breakfast is included with your stay and served in the Main Inn. Get there early to grab a seat on the veranda so you can enjoy your meal with views of the property’s beautifully landscaped gardens and the bay. Just a few steps from the rocky beach, spend your days lounging by the heated infinity pool that overlooks the ocean. Warm up with a soak in the hot tub or decompress in the wood-burning sauna. In the evening, several outdoor fireplaces provide a cozy spot to gather.

What to Do

visit Cellardoor Winery for small pours paired with appetizers.

Go wine tasting at Cellardoor Winery, a 5-and-a-half-acre estate vineyard located right in Lincolnville. At this destination wine experience, try a flight of small pours paired with a charcuterie board or cheese plate in the tasting room of their 200-year-old renovated barn. Enjoying a glass of their award-winning small-batch wines while sitting in the rocking chairs on the patio overlooking the vineyard’s rolling hills. Don’t leave without pursuing their carefully curated gift shop with unique houseware and home goods, many of which are locally made.

Just down the road in Camden, you’ll find the Schooner Surprise, a 102-year-old vintage sailing yacht docked at the Public Landing. Join them for a two-hour day or a sunset sail around Penobscot Bay. Keep an eye out for the adorable orange and yellow beaked Atlantic puffins that come to nest on Maine islands each summer. Camden is also filled with boutiques and specialty shops like Sea Bags and Swans Island, where you can pick up unique items as souvenirs from your trip to Maine.

take a sunset sail on the Schooner Surprise.

Stretch your legs at Camden Hills State Park, where there are more than 30 miles of trails to choose from. The short-but-steep, half-mile hike to the top of Mount Battie rewards you with spectacular views of Penobscot Bay and Camden Harbor. If you are not up for walking, you can drive up the auto toll road to the top.

Where to Eat

Natalie’s Restaurant offers fine dining, maine-style.

For a special night out, book a table at Natalie’s Restaurant at the Camden Harbor Inn. A member of Relais and Châteaux, this AAA Four-Diamond restaurant embodies the essence of fine dining. Have your meal on their partially covered, heated front porch or in the Parisian-style dining room. Executive Chef Chris Long creates culinary excellence using fresh local ingredients, many of which come from the Inn’s gardens. For lobster lovers, Natalie’s menu includes an epicurean five-course lobster tasting menu. Other great choices for a casual dinner in Camden include Fresh & Co. and Peter Otts’s down by the harbor.

Lobster Shack: Since 1956, four generations of the McLaughlin family have been dishing up fresh seafood from the counter at their seaside location. Feast on lobster rolls and local ales at McLaughlin’s oceanside picnic tables.

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