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Long Sands Beach, York Beach, Maine
Long Sands Beach, York Beach, Maine

by Eric Hurwitz. Page updated on 11/07/16

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A Maine vacation will have you returning year after year. The rocky coastline, colorful and wholesome coastal towns, and Downeast flavor of lobster and blueberry pie have an undeniable charm that just is the beginning of a treasure trove of things to do in New England's seaside playground.

Of course, much of Maine is inland and with superb vacation destinations and tourist attractions (Sebago Lake, and the Rangeley and Moosehead Lakes regions, to name a few), but the coast gets much of the press; it's easy to understand once you are there.

There's indeed a 200 mile playground feel to the coastline, starting in charming Kittery Point and extending all the way to stunning Acadia National Park. There are fine beaches, outdoor seaside dining choices, cliff walks dotted with floral gardens (Marginal Way in Ogunquit is a great example), arcades, and places of solitude to bike, hike and forget about everyday stresses unlike any place you've ever visited.

Of course, the Maine coastline goes on a few hundred miles beyond Acadia. This is a different kind of coastal playground for those looking for less commercialism and more solitude.

Our top choice for a great Maine vacation is York, simply because there are things to do for everyone. York, Maine, is also living proof that you don't have to travel far up the Maine coast to get a true feel of the famed Downeast lifestyle.

Lobster dinners, rocky shoreline, expansive ocean beaches, ice cream stands, salt water taffy and refreshing salt air and countless other tourist attractons await you, just minutes north of the New Hampshire-Maine border. York has something fun for everyone: the quiet, antique-friendly York Harbor and York Village, the beaches, carousel and arcades at York Beach, and the rugged, rocky, more secluded environs of Cape Neddick.

When visiting York, you can see the joy and relaxation in peoples' faces as more smiling and "hellos" take place here than you can initially handle. The key is to adapt. When you do, the health benefits are greater than any wellness doctor could ever recommend.

Portland, Maine's largest city at 64,000, An interesting, revitalized city set on beautiful Casco Bay with old Victorian Homes, tree-lined streets and the great Old Port Exchange, an area with terrific restaurants and stores. Some say it is like a mini San Francisco, with its hills, charm and now a growing eclectism, with an art community, more diversity in its people, lots of culture, all residing by the sea. It is a great city for walking, having a big city feel in some neighborhoods, but ultimately a small-town personality in its people, architecture and retained history.

Then there's Acadia National Park, truly one of the most spectacular parks in the United States, with its beyond scenic rocky coast, and forested valleys, lakes and mountains, carved by glacial force. It cannot be fully described, only joyfully visited.Truly a visual treat, this 40,000 acre wonderland offers endless natural delights. Take, for example, the dramatic sunsets at 1,500 foot Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the U.S. Atlantic Coast. From Cadillac, one can see amazing views of Penobscot, Frenchman and Blue Hill Bays. From the top of Gorham Mountain, you get an incredible view of the glacial blue Atlantic Ocean. Then there is Thunder Hole, with its waves creating a sonic boom. For those in touch with more isolated nature, miles and miles of trails and bicycle paths will bring you in touch with beautiful wildflowers, a wonderful variety of trees and some great fresh and salt water swimming. The 27-mile loop at Mt. Desert Island offers endless ocean and mountain scenery, unlike anything you've seen before.Many choose the commercial center of Bar Harbor to launch their Acadia vacation. Bar Harbor is certainly pleasant enough with its tree-lined streets, fine captain's homes, harbor views, and refreshing breeze, but it can also be capable of traffic jams, unctuous souvenir shops, unkempt flower children and flavor-of-the-week restaurants, changing hands every few years. In a way, Bar Harbor is not compatible with the untouched scenic beauty of the region, and can often come across as a bit too hectic.We prefer Northeast Harbor, a splendid little village boasting the prettiest harbor you will ever see. Sunny even when it's cloudy, Northeast Harbor is quietly confident , as it never panders to the tourist. In the little village, you will find an old-time market, a bakery owned by "The Colonel" (a military-looking man with a crew cut), some antique stores and a few restaurants. One of them, the Docksider could be considered your classic Maine restaurant, with charming "Downeast" waitresses, lobster to die for, unbelievable clam chowder, and in the summer, salt air flavored outdoor dining on the doorstep of the Harbor.

The unexpected treasures are what make Maine so special. Everyone who has been to Maine has their own special discovery. There does, however, seem to be a pattern of people making special discoveries in small, unassuming picturesque seacoast communities like Camden (looks ready made for a postcard), Wiscassett (what people might envision a small Maine town to look like), Rockport (a great walking town) and more popular destinations like Kennebunkport, Ogunquit, Old Orchard Beach and Wells.

We encourage you to "travel Maine" through our Maine vacation and travel ideas library--at Visiting New England.com, native New Englanders bring you the best in New England vacation trip planning planning and travel information with detailed essays, reviews, tips and resources. We hope you enjoy browsing our Maine vacation and travel ideas library and hope to see you travel New England soon.

Find a hotel in Maine

Maine Travel and Vacation Articles from VisitingNewEngland and The Thrifty New England Traveler

Discover great Maine destinations in the Best New England towns and cities article

Experience Maine family fun things to do in the Best New England Attractions article

Find the best classic diners in Maine through the Best Diners in New England book

Maine seafood shacks mentioned in The Best and Biggest Lobster Rolls in New England article

Why you should visit Acadia National Park ASAP

Portland no longer has a long way to go

York Beach offers everything you could ever want in a Maine beach town

Marginal Way in Ogunquit offers one of New England's best ocean walks

Kennebunkport is a like a greatest hits collection of the best of coastal Maine

Why you will never want to leave Nubble Lighthouse in Cape Neddick

Northeast Harbor is an ideal destination for your Acadia National Park vacation

Bath features a tremendously appealing downtown

The Goldenrod in York Beach: a beloved summer friend since 1896

Belfast is a charming small arts town not to be missed

The Maine Whoopie Pie: an emerging legend

Kittery Trading Post: a must-see shopping destination

Be sure to put Maine of your fall foliage trip list

Discovering the best Maine wild blueberry jam

Clay Hill Farm Offers a Wonderful Dining Experience in Cape Neddick

Lobsters and an amazing salad bar highlight Warren's Lobster House in Kittery

A classic lobster shack: the Docksider in Northeast Harbor

Maine's best ocean beaches

Visiting Stonewall Kitchen in York

Summer fun at Old Orchard Beach and Palace Playland

Alisson's restaurant in Kennebunkport has something for everybody

H.B. Provisions serves great sandwiches in Kennebunkport

Marveling at the fjords near Acadia National Park

Where and when to view nesting bald eagles in Maine

There's something so special about Joan's Beach and Gift Shop in York Beach

A Maine lighthouse picnic is sure to please everyone

York Harbor Path Cliff lends commanding ocean views

Maine meets Gettysburg 150 years later

Amazing views from Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National park

Enjoying summer at Short Sands Beach

A wonderful perspective on Northeast Harbor

What it's like to be at the southern Maine seacoast

Sand Beach at Acadia National Park is a gem

Peace and quiet at Jordan Pond at Acadia National Park

Portland Head Light shines as one of Maine's most beautiful lighthouses

Book a Room in Maine


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