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Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth

Maine, Massachusetts

What to See on Your Coastal Road Trip in Maine

By: Miriam B. Weiner

Kim Seng
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  • States:
    Maine
    Massachusetts

Whether it’s draped in spring wildflowers or fall foliage, Maine’s rocky coastline is beautiful no matter the season.

Peppered with dozens of tiny islands and lined with a handful of quaint seaside towns, the Atlantic shores of this northeastern state have plenty to offer. Exploring coastal Maine is easy: All you need is a car, a week and an adventurous spirit.

Starting Point: Boston, Massachusetts

BostonMassachusetts, makes a great starting point for a drive along Maine’s coast: Flying into Boston’s Logan International Airport will grant you easy access to a variety of rental-car agencies, not to mention all that the city has to offer. Before hitting the road, spend a day or two discovering Boston’s historic sites; follow the Freedom Trail to learn more about the city’s significant role in the American War of Independence (which took place in the late 1700s). To get a feel for modern-day Boston, spend some time perusing the shops along Newbury Street or indulging in the city’s exceptional cuisine.

Start your trip in Boston, Massachusetts, where you can enjoy a bounty of historic sites, shops and restaurants before hitting the open road.

Start your trip in Boston, Massachusetts, where you can enjoy a bounty of historic sites, shops and restaurants before hitting the open road.
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Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism

Day 1: Boston to Kennebunkport

When you’re ready to hit the road, opt for the scenic route. Traveling north of Boston on U.S. Route 1 rather than Interstate 95 will lead you through numerous charming New England towns right along the coast. Follow Route 1 roughly 145 kilometers northeast of Boston and you’ll find yourself in Kennebunkport, Maine, a popular vacation spot for some of the USA’s most influential politicians.

Stately mansions perch on jagged cliffs overlooking the ocean, and the adjacent beaches make for scenic strolls year-round (come prepared with a jacket to ward off chilly sea breezes). After you’ve had your fill of fresh air, sit down to dinner at one of many the charming restaurants in the area, such as Stripers Waterside Restaurant (featuring local seafood, with beautiful views of the water) or Mabel’s Lobster Claw (famous for its lobster rolls, a Maine specialty). When it comes to accommodations, hang your hat in one of Kennebunkport’s charming bed-and-breakfasts.

The gorgeous mansions in Kennebunkport, Maine, overlook the Atlantic Ocean.

The gorgeous mansions in Kennebunkport, Maine, overlook the Atlantic Ocean.
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Amy Meredith

Days 2-3: Kennebunkport to Portland

Get up early and head for breakfast at Kennebunkport’s Dock Square, where the historic warehouses now comprise a variety of art galleries, boutiques and local cafes. Then, pack up the car and head 46 kilometers northeast on Route 1, to Portland, Maine. This thriving city bustles with activity. As Maine’s largest urban area, Portland boasts a variety of things to do, from shopping and dining to hiking and biking.

Take in Portland’s scenery while following the Eastern Promenade; running roughly 3 kilometers along the harbor, this paved path is a great place for a bike ride or a leisurely stroll. The harbor is also the place to go if you’re interested in taking to the water: A variety of charter and tour companies offer sailing excursions on the Atlantic. However, the true highlight of your stay in Portland will be a visit to the iconic Portland Head Light. Perched on a rocky seaside cliff, this historic lighthouse in nearby Fort Williams Park has guarded the entrance to Casco Bay since 1791. When you’re ready to call it a day, downtown Portland offers plenty of dining and lodging options to choose from.  

Maine’s largest city, Portland, boasts an eclectic dining scene, plenty of shopping and a beautiful historic lighthouse.

Maine’s largest city, Portland, boasts an eclectic dining scene, plenty of shopping and a beautiful historic lighthouse.
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Day 4: Portland to Acadia National Park

The nearly 250-kilometer drive northeast on Route 1 from Portland to Maine’s beloved Acadia National Park is nothing short of enjoyable. Out the window, you’ll see the state’s jagged coastline, the rocky beaches lapped by rhythmic waves of the Atlantic.

About halfway between Portland and Acadia, stop for a short break in Camden, Maine, a charming harbor town that’s home to a handful of local restaurants and boutiques and plenty of scenic views. While here, pay a visit to the Curtis Island Light, a historic lighthouse at the entrance to Penobscot Bay. Afterward, hop back in the car and drive the last 115 or so kilometers to Acadia, where you can settle into one of the cute inns in nearby Bar Harbor (or set up camp in one of the park’s campgrounds) and prepare for a few days of outdoor adventure.

On your way from Portland to Acadia National Park, make a pit stop in Camden to admire the lovely harbor views.

On your way from Portland to Acadia National Park, make a pit stop in Camden to admire the lovely harbor views.
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Days 5–7: Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor

We recommend spending at least two days in Acadia National Park. Acadia’s numerous trails can accommodate hikers, bikers and horseback riders, while the dozens of lakes and streams are ideal for those who enjoy fishing, canoeing and kayaking. For something a little more adventurous, try your hand at rock climbing, or follow the steep trails to the top of Dorr Mountain (a roughly 5-kilometer hike to the summit and back) where you’ll find excellent views of the park.

Although you’ll find plenty to do in Acadia National Park, devote some time to exploring the small town of Bar Harbor, which sits northeast of the park, on Frenchman Bay. This striking resort town is home to a number of boutiques, art galleries, local seafood restaurants and historic mansions. For excellent views of the town and the park, hop aboard one of Downeast Windjammer Cruises’ historic schooners for a scenic turn on the water.

Devote several days to discovering Acadia National Park’s wooded trails, mountain summits and rocky shores.

Devote several days to discovering Acadia National Park’s wooded trails, mountain summits and rocky shores.
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Greg Sager
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