THINGS TO DO IN SOUTHERN MAINE
The Southern region of Maine is known for its tourist attractions and as the commercial center of the state. It has 90 percent of Maine’s beach. The region is one of the richest areas of the United States. Being a coastal region, it is heavily dependent on ship building and trading business. Southern Maine Coast is home to York and Cumberland Counties. It includes cities like Kittery, York, Kennebunk, Scarborough, Portland etc. In Southern Maine, Portland has most tourist attractions as it is the largest city in the vacationland that is Maine.
Most of its cities are popular for their sandy beaches, delectable cuisine, fascinating history and rich culture. Every type of traveler and tourist will enjoy their time in Southern Maine.
From big adventures, to beautiful sightseeing, boating, golfing, biking, skiing, visiting lighthouses, antique shops, playhouses, museums and galleries, it has it all. You can enjoy Maine’s beautiful coast, mountains and lakes. Indulge in biking, hiking, kayaking or boating excursions. Or invest in enjoying the scenic beauty by a plane, and on skis, snowshoes and snowmobile in the winter. For nature lovers, Moose Safaris, bird watching, fishing etc are available.
Read ahead to know the list of the best attractions of Southern Maine that’ll make you book your tickets for here.
SPEND YOUR TIME AT MUSEUMS-
Here in Southern Maine you can visit many beautiful museums which are as follows-
PORTLAND MUSEUM OF ART-
It is one of the best highlights for art lovers visiting coastal Maine. Located in the downtown area of The Art District in Portland, Me, this is the largest and oldest art museum in Maine. Housed in the historic McLellan House, Portland Museum of Art boasts a wide and varied collection of art pieces from across the world. It has a tremendous collection of more than 22,000 artifacts including sculptures and paintings ranging from the 18th century to present.
The museum features various galleries and collections named after their curator. The museum complex has L.D.M. Sweat Galleries, Payson building (designed by IM Pei), Winslow Homer’s restored studio etc.
There are exhibits dedicated to artists from various periods and regions including European (largest collection in Maine), American, Asian etc. It has works of artists like Winslow Homer, Marsden Hartley, Joan Whitney Payson, Giambattista Pittoni, Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas, René Magritte, Claude Monet, Edvard Munch, Pablo Picasso, and Auguste Rodin.
Apart from its permanent collection, Portland Museum of Art also keeps hosting various rotating exhibitions, talks and other programs year round. Visitors can book a guided bus tour to Prouts Neck, ME to experience the inspiration of legendary Homer. Children under the age of six enjoy free admission here.
Make sure to check their annual calendar on the museum’s website before your visit.
BRICK STORE MUSEUM-
This museum was founded during the Great Depression in Kennebunk, Maine and is now a history and art center of Maine. The artifacts here date back to the 18th century and include ship building tools, clothes, paintings, etc. in Kennebunk Historic District. It aims at preserving and showcasing the historic and cultural significance of the town. It also shed light on various socio-cultural, economic, and geo-political themes of human settlements in the region.
Works of artists like Thomas Badger, John Brewster, Jr. etc. are also featured here. Visitors can also access the museum’s archive of letters, photographs, records etc.
MAINE MARITIME MUSEUM-
One of the top spots of marine history enthusiasts, this museum is located in Bath, ME. Maine Marine Museum has exhibits that feature various artifacts showcasing Maine’s marine history and its contribution in world’s marine history. It has over 20,000 artifacts in collections. There is a restored house of a shipyard owner called Donell house.
The Historic Boat collection has almost 140 Maine built different types of boats. The museum also has the US’ only surviving shipyard site, a working blacksmith shop, a replica of Cape Elizabeth’s Two Lights lighthouse, and infographics about lobstering in Maine.
In summer, Mary E, the oldest state built vessel, gets docked on port to provide day sails and tours of the harbor. It also offers various rotating exhibits and river and coastal cruises and lighthouse tours year round. While you’re here, make sure you enjoy the scenic waterfront of Kennebec River and numerous sculptures of the water vessels at the museum.
The Southern Maine coast is rich in history and culture and hence, it has a lot of popular museums in its top attractions. The museums like Seashore Trolley Museum, Sac Museum, Saco Museum, Children’s Museum of Maine etc. are ew places that you should see if you have enough time.
INDULGE IN WATER ACTIVITIES AT THE COAST-
Following are some places to visit while you are here-
Largest port in New England, Portland Harbor hosts a lot of water activities including cruise tours, ferry services, lobstering, sailing, kayaking etc. It lies within Casco Bay and features floating docks and wooden piers.
The Bay View Cruises offer rides on scheduled cruise ships. Coast Light Navigation provides daily cruises to Eagle Islands. Portland Paddle rents kayaks and paddleboards and provides guided tours through Casco Bay. Maine islands’ Kayak Co. at Peaks Island offers half day to & days long kayaking tours.
Casco Bay Lines at the Casco Bay Ferry Terminal provide year round daily ferry services to five Casco Bay Islands and mailboat runs. The company also provides various sunset and sunrise excursions, and musical cruise rides in which local musicians perform.
Visitors can also experience lobstering like fishermen here at the Harbor. Here at the Harbor, a lot of companies provide lobster catching experience to the visitors. You can catch your own lobsters after learning how to bait and haul traps. Lucky Catch Cruises is one such company. After this, you can visit the Portland Lobster Company across the street where top chefs will cook your catch for you.
Go through the websites of the above mentioned companies to book yourself a spot to enjoy their services. Or you can also just drop by the Harbor to see huge yachts, seabirds and fishing activities. After the sunset, the harbor provides a spectacular view of the busy but glittering coast.
This is a coastal town in Maine. This town has had historical importance as a ship building and fishing village for a century now. It is a popular tourist destination in summer because of the presence of sandy beaches like Goose Rocks and Arundel Beach. These beaches are ideal for sunbathing, people watching and having a laid back time with family.
Kennebunkport Marina and Chick Marina are the companies that provide boat launch and slip, and kayaking, canoeing and paddle boarding rentals here. Another full service rental kayak tour company here is Kayak Excursions. It provides guided tours on kayaks as well as rental kayaks at choice of your location.
There’s a Pineapple Ketch Sailing Excursion in Kennebunkport which includes a two hour long sailboat ride along the shores of the town from Nonantum Resort daily. Popular vessels like Schooner Eleanor, Whale Watch etc also function here. Rugosa boat tours provide a tour of the Kennebunk River across the Kennebunk Bridge in a New England built lobster boat while catching lobsters. On this tour, visitors can enjoy the sights and mansions along the shoreline, including the summer White House of George Bush.
Other attractions of this port town include Cape Porpoise, St. Ann’s Church, First Family exhibit at White Columns, Dock Square, etc. Dock Square is the shopping and eating district here. Visitors can also rent a bike here or take a walk along the shoreline.
SCARBOROUGH MARSH NATURE CENTER-
This is the place where you’ll get to explore Maine’s largest salt marsh by canoe or kayak. Various self guided and guided tours, bird walks, full moon and sunset canoe tours are available here.
During these tours, you’ll get to explore the wildlife like muskrat, deer, otters etc. in the habitat of the salt marsh of Dunstan River. It is one of the most unique things that you can do while kayaking or canoeing.
VISIT THE ICONIC LIGHTHOUSES-
Maine state has its fair shares of lighthouses in New England. Exploring the grounds of these lighthouses is one of the top things to do in Southern Maine.
CAPE ELIZABETH LIGHTS-
Also known as two lights, Cape Elizabeth lights are the most popular lighthouses in New England’s Cape Elizabeth. It is situated at the southwestern end of the Casco Bay. The Two Lights is made in a gothic revival architecture style. There are a lot of beautiful walking trails around Two Lights.
Apart from that, Two Lights State Park is a perfect recreational spot here at the rocky coast. Make a day of lounging at the picnic tables along the coastline in this park. Or walk around the coast and take photographs of gothic wonder that Cape Elizabeth Lights is.
GOAT ISLAND LIGHTHOUSE-
Built in 1835, this iconic lighthouse is located near Cape Porpoise in Kennebunkport. It has been guiding boaters ever since its establishment. The lighthouse can be seen from the shore of Cape Porpoise Harbor. But the island is currently closed to the public.
PORTLAND HEAD LIGHT AND MUSEUM, FORT WILLIAMS-
The world’s most photographed lighthouse, Portland Head Light is the most scenic and oldest lighthouse in the country. Situated next to Fort Williams in Cape Elizabeth.
There’s a museum in the keeper’s quarter that was built in 1891.
The visitors of Portland Head Light also spend their time exploring the historical sites in Fort Williams Park. The park’s attractions include a fort that was functional in world wars, Goddard Mansion etc. and admission here is free.
It also has recreational facilities like tennis courts, picnic tables and shelters, trails for jogging and walking etc. It also hosts a large running event called Beach to Beacon 10K every year.
WOOD ISLAND LIGHTHOUSE-
This is an active lighthouse on the eastern edge of Saco Bay in coastal Maine. It was constructed in 1808. The tours are provided here from Vines Landing in Biddeford Pool to the island itself. The visitors can explore the keeper’s house and the grounds, climb the towers, volunteer and obviously take photos.
ENJOY STATE PARKS AND NATURE WALK-
State parks list is as follows-
FERRY BEACH STATE PARK-
This 117 acre recreational park on Saco Bay is famous for its sandy Atlantic Ocean beach, hiking trails, and nature center. It has a distinct population of tupelo trees and pocket swamps.
Situated between Old Orchard Beach and Camp Ellis, the park provides facilities like picnic area, nature trails, fishing, swimming and guided nature walks.
Just five minutes away from Portland, Maine, Gilsland Farm in Falmouth is a natural sanctuary. The farms feature two miles of trails along with a pond, forest, meadow, salt marsh, apple orchard and peony garden. The visitors can observe wildlife from their observational blinds. It also hosts public awareness programs and educational events for the kids year round.
These farms also host a lot of private events including weddings and parties. They also have a visitor center and nature store. The Nature Store is a gift shop.
MARGINAL WAY-PERKINS COVE SCENIC WALK-
It is a cliff walk along the southern coastline in Ogunquit. The walk is over 2 km long and features brilliant coastal views, the Cliff House and a lighthouse. It starts from Shore Road between Spark Hawk and Anchorage and traverses through Perkins Road and ends at Perkins Cove.
The walk also features 39 coast facing benches where you can stop by and enjoy the coastal views more peacefully.
GET AMUSED AT THESE AMUSEMENT PARKS-
List of amusement parks are as follows-
This amusement park has been in operation since 1902. Located on Old Orchard Beach, it is a coastal amusement park that boasts New England’s largest pinball and video arcade. It is a recommended attraction for most travel guides as it’s the only beachfront amusement park in the South Coast.
The playland features kiddieland, arcades, roller coaster, rides, galaxy coaster, and many carousels. Visitors can also enjoy its firework hours every Thursday night.
It is functional in spring and summer seasons.
FUNTOWN SPLASHTOWN USA-
It is a family friendly amusement park in Saco. One of the cleanest American parks, Spalshtown has Maine’s only wooden roller coaster called Excalibur. It is ranked as one of the top 10 roller coasters in the world.
Other attractions include games, rides, arcades, gift shops, pools, slides, and eating facilities. It is open on the weekends of May and September.
Following are some entertainment places to visit-
This place is the largest theater company in Maine. The home theater of this company in Portland, Maine produces several annual shows and also hosts multiple experimental projects, talks and events for theater enthusiasts. Guide yourself to their website if you want to catch some top performance to spend your evening.
It is a summer regional performing arts theater. It is one of the last remaining summer theaters from Straw Hat Circuit. Open in Summer, it is known among theater goers as a place that produces top Broadway Musicals. They also host a lot of children centric shows that stars renowned artists.
TOUR HISTORICAL HOMES-
You must explore following places while you are here-
WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW HOUSE-
If you’re a literature buff, then the boyhood home of poet Wadsworth is a must visit for you. It is situated in Portland, Maine. This Federal style historic home and museum is open to the public from May to October. The house features Longfellow garden which is open to the public for free.
Tours with a guide and self guided tours both are available here.
Also known as Morse-Libby House, it is a famous Victorian style home that survived the Great Fire of 1866. The house has grand architecture of brownstone exterior, intricate interiors, detailed furnishing. Visit this most expensive house to see the glimpses of the lavish lifestyle of people in Portland, Maine in the 19th century.
It is also open to the public in the months of May to October.
TRY SOME GOLF-
Golf lovers must visit following places-
WONDER MOUNTAIN FUN PARK-
It has 2 18-hole golf courses and mazes with water showpieces. It also has an indoor arcade.
PIRATES COVE ADVENTURE GOLF-
This park features a 36-hole championship miniature golf course near the beach. There is also a picturesque trail that leads the visitors to the sea.
If you want a happy ending tour you must visit following places also-
THE OLD PORT-
The map of Opd Port in Portland is dotted with hundreds of shops and galleries. The picturesque cobbled street with a waterfront is lined with 19th century brick buildings and fishing piers. Situated in the Historical District of Portland, the Old Port has lots of old and new antique shops, boutiques, bars, pubs, cafe and restaurants. The restaurants here serve quality seafood.
Don’t miss out on visiting the stores at Old Port here where bags are made out of recycled sails, and other accessory stores.
Known as America’s Maine Street for Outlet Shopping is a place that’ll get you a shopping experience like no other. It is a chain of shopping malls that features a wide variety of band names and outlet stores including Aeropostale, Calvin Klein, Adidas, and Kittery Trading Post etc.
There are over 120 outlets covering this one mile stretch that provide 20-70% of discount. It’ll make the day of any shopping freak.
LL BEAN INC.-
This world renowned store is in Freeport, ME. It is open to the public 24 hours, seven days a week always. This is the place where you can fulfil your emergency shopping carvings.
ANTIQUE SHOPS AND AUCTION-
If you’re someone who is into old art decors, heirlooms, vintage clothing, antique jewelry etc., then there are a lot of places where you can get your hands on these.
Add a visit to Route 1 of cities Kennebunk, Wells, Ogunquit, York and Kittery to your activity list. There you’ll see a lot of antique stores and shops where they sell and auction old vintage stuff.
Food lovers must visit following places-
TWO LIGHTS LOBSTER SHACK-
There are a lot of restaurants serving lobster in Southern Maine, but according to locals, the Two Lights Lobster Shack is the best. Situated at the Atlantic waterfront near Two Lights lighthouse, this shack serves a juicy menu of fresh lobster meals prepared according to your choice.
The place has BYOB- bring your own booze policy. Check their menu on their website to get drooling before your visit.
MAINE FOODIE TOURS-
The most ideal way to explore the cuisine of a destination of your choice is to take a food tour. The Maine Foodie Tours in Portland will take you on a 3 hour long food tour during which you’ll get to sample most delicious treats of Maine. These treats range from chowder to chocolate truffles, to craft beer and Maine honey wine.
Please also read about things to do in Tigard.