All-year-round, Maine has something to offer just about any type of traveler. Foodies will love the fresh seafood served along the coastline, adventure junkies will love the gargantuan forests, history buffs will love maritime roots, and families will love the kid-friendly resort towns found all throughout the state. Picture candy-cane striped lighthouses, the dense woods of the Appalachian Trail, whales swimming along a rocky shoreline, and nautical architecture.
Though you can see a lot of Maine’s special features via the big cities, the small towns are where the state’s mellow and humble personality truly shines. The seasonal activities like snowmobiling in the winter, fishing and boating during the summer, and watching wildlife watching in autumn make Maine a great destination no matter what time of the year you visit.
The best way to see Maine is on a slow-paced itinerary where you can really relax and enjoy your surroundings. From luxury travelers to those who can’t get enough of the outdoors, these small towns often have cozy bed and breakfasts, campgrounds, cottages, and wilderness lodges to stay in as a comfortable home base.
Pack your bags and get ready to explore the best small towns to visit in Maine:
1. Van Buren
Van Buren is a small town that gives tourists access to the beautiful St. John River Valley and an exclusive look at Acadian culture. The town retains its old, Acadian style by preserving old architecture and buildings like the blacksmith shop, wood and gristmills, a log chapel, and schoolhouse. New homes are restored or built in the same 1700s style, which is why the town is so pristine.
You can easily spend a day walking down the Bangor and Aroostook Trail that goes weaves through Van Buren and into dense forests. Outdoor lovers will enjoy all the local hiking, snowmobiling, fishing, boating, and horseback riding. There are also a variety of cultural events all year round centered around live music and locally sourced food.
2. Round Pond
This coastal village is renowned for its hospitality and seaside charm. Many of the inns still operate with gas lanterns and nobody will blame you for feeling as though you’ve stepped back in time. There are antique shops, plenty of seafood restaurants (you need to try the lobster), and the picturesque Marshall Point Lighthouse.
Nearby is the Round Pond Public Reserve, a serene lake surrounded by dense forest. The reserve attracts hikers, kayakers, fishermen, and other types of outdoorsmen. Walk along the Round Point Mountain Trail and keep your voice down for a chance at spotting local seabirds and other wildlife.
With less than 700 people and located on the Sebec Lake, this little town is unassuming yet looks like it belongs on a postcard. Tall trees reflect on the mirror-calm lake most days, and the lifestyle is slow-paced and simple. It originally started as an old mill town during the early 1800s, founded by retired soldiers from the Revolutionary War.
The best time to visit is just before autumn, when the leaves start changing to fire-toned hues yet the weather is still warm enough to enjoy exploring the nearby scenery. There’s not much to do in terms of shopping or dining, so it’s best to come when you simply want to enjoy free time.
Walk around Hartland, and you might just mistake being on a movie set – especially if you come across the quaint gazebo. Hartland is a small town with stunning architecture and endless nearby natural beauty.
Fishermen from all around the region often visit Hartland just for the fishing. At Great Moose Lake, you can expect to catch all types of fish including trout, bass, salmon, and brown bullhead. Once you’re done there, you can venture to Morrill Pond that has a small boat ramp and is stocked with trout, white perch, and chain pickerel. Of course, even if you’re not into fishing, you can enjoy boating on the calm water or exploring the woodlands surrounding the area.
No matter what time of the year you visit Maine, Kennebunkport is a small town you have to stop in – at least for the weekend. When it’s warm, visitors can go whale watching, visit caves, horseback ride, cycle around town, fish for lobster, and kayak to the local islands. Former president George H.W. Bush even had a summer home here!
When the weather cools down, you can go window shopping at Cape Porpoise, go on a guided tour, visit the Goat Island Lighthouse, and collect seashells. The town is used to hosting tourists – yet never gets too crowded. Skip out on Kennebunkport, and you’ll regret it.
Stonington is supported by the lobster and fishing industries, so you know there’s no better place to have New England seafood than here. Aside from the local fare, Stonington is a wonderful place to go boating, fishing, and is the best base for exploring Deer Isle, Isle de Haut, and the Wreck Island Preserve.
Interestingly, this small town also attracts creatives and artists of all types. The Haystack Mountain School of Crafts features native artwork, there are tens of local galleries around, and you can watch live performances of theatre, dancing, and singing at the Stonington Opera House. If you’re looking for a destination that can double as a muse in Maine, head to Stonington.
If you are interested in American history, then you’ll love Phippsburg. Near the town center is where the Popham Colony, the first English colony, settled in 1607 – one of the first American settlements. Though the settlement failed, there are still remnants of what life would have been like during those times. In another nod to history, visitors can stay in the 1774 Inn, a bed and breakfast that was built during 1774 and still has many of its original features.
Stop by Popham Beach, a three-mile-long stretch of sand for sunbathers during the warmer months. Phippsburg also makes a great base for exploring the nearby town of Bath, Morse Mountain, and the Kennebec River.
Rockport is no stranger to receiving accolades for its stunning small town appeal. This harbor town is serene, filled with historic sites, and is easy to get to. Boating enthusiasts can kayak, motorboat, or sail around the harbor or even go on a sunset dinner cruise around Penobscot Bay. The truly adventurous can even sail or drive to Thatcher Island for sights of the Rockport’s Twin Lights and the Halibut State Park. The Rockport Marine Park is also great for water-lovers who want to swim, fish, and play in the reserve.
After a day out on the water, check into one of Rockport’s beautiful accommodation options and grab a fine lobster dinner in town.
Brooklin, a town of just under 1000 residents, is famous around the world for its wooden boats. The boat builders of Brooklin create boats ranging from wooden dinghies to luxurious yachts, and their craft can be seen all around the harbor. Visitors can sign up to learn how to build a wooden boat themselves.
The town is also home to the great writer, E.B. White, where fans of his can see where he once lived and is now buried. There is also the Kneisel Hall for live music performances and the nearby Blue Hill Mountain area to explore and go berry picking.
Adventure and outdoor travelers need to visit Eustis when coming to Maine. This small town is nearby the Bigelow Preserve, a 36,000-acre park with mountains and perfect for camping, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. It’s also nearby Sugarloaf Mountain Resort, the state’s largest ski mountain.
Eustis is at the trailhead of two long-distance trails – the Northern Forest Canoe Trail that leads to Flagstaff lake and the Appalachian Trail that goes to the Bigelow Range. The town itself is family focused, safe, and friendly. For winter fun, come during the Polar Blast Festival that celebrates having fun in the snow.
Whereas many small towns are lacking in culture due to their size, this isn’t the case for Allagash. This small town was settled in the early 1800s by Acadian pioneers making a living through the logging industry and their descendants still live in the town today. The heritage is distinctly shown through community events, the architecture, and even the local museum.
Surrounded by woodlands, those who weren’t born in Allagash came here in search of tranquility. There are all types of artists including quiltmakers, sculptors, painters, musicians, and more creative types who feature their work all throughout the town – free for visitors to see. So if you love eclectic places with a lot of culture and natural beauty, Allagash is a must-see for you.
Geography buffs will get a kick out of visiting the most eastern point in all the United States of America. This small town has more character than its neighboring resort areas and has been experiencing somewhat of a renaissance over the past few years.
Visit Eastport to see a humble seaside town with a thriving cultural arts scene. Watch performances at the Eastport Arts Center and visit the Tides Institute and Museum of Art for displays of local artwork. The town is also uniquely positioned along the sea, where strong currents and tides create a hospitable climate for all types of fish. The fish lure all types of eagles and sea lions, making Eastport one of the best towns in Maine to go wildlife watching.
You could easily spend a few days in Fryeburg without getting bored. This small town has twelve public parks, hiking trails, and is on the shores of the peaceful Saco River. Outdoor enthusiasts can hike along the Jockey Cap Trail, go birdwatching, kayaking, swimming, fishing, and more. Architecture and history buffs will love walking across the Hemlock Bridge, built in 1857.
As far as accommodation options go, Fryeburg offers a variety that will suit every travel style and budget. Look into checking in at the Old Saco Inn on a 65-acre reserve, the Stone Mountain House built in the late 19th century, or at one of the eco-retreats.
Vinalhaven is Maine’s largest offshore island community that’s the perfect fit for those who can’t get enough time on the water. From here, you can go on all types of seaside excursions like kayaking, canoeing, birdwatching, swimming in the quarries, swimming in the sea, clamming, and more. The view of the town from the sea is one of the most beautiful sights in all of Maine, especially when the sun is low above the horizon.
Aside from seafaring, Vinalhaven is home to all types of art galleries and even features live theatre performances. There are tens of gift shops to peruse and a Saturday morning flea market that attracts nearly everyone in town.
This small town has a history of shipbuilding, lumbering, and fishing that can still be seen through the town’s culture and lifestyle today. Trenton is a town that is punctuated by the nature that surrounds it and is perfect for travelers searching for a place to get back to nature. There are plenty of campgrounds, hiking trails, and other outdoor service facilities. It’s also a great base for seeing the Acadia National Park, Thompson Island, and Mount Desert Island.
Best of all, visitors can root for their favorite wood chopper at the Great Maine Lumberjack Show, where lumberjacks compete in sawing, log rolling, and racing to chop wood. The region is also renowned for being home to – in addition to lumberjacks – all types of wildlife like caribou, moose, deer, and waterfowl.