13 Charming Small Towns in Maine

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Nestled up in the northeastern-most corner of the country, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, New Hampshire and our Canadian neighbors, Maine is beloved for its beautiful coastline, crowd-free beaches, lighthouses, New England charm, maritime heritage and friendly communities. (OK, we get that was just a long—and somehow not even exhaustive—list. But the Pine Tree State has a lot going for it.) There’s also the majesty of Acadia National Park and Mount Katahdin, the fabled endpoint of the Appalachian Trail. The food? Fresh seafood is a delicious trademark of Maine.

At this point, you probably have a hankering for lobster rolls, secluded coves, thick forests where moose roam and enchanting small towns. Scroll on to satisfy your cravings for all the above in a way that’s pure Maine magic.


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1. Bar Harbor, Maine

The renowned gateway to Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor is a splendid seaside village with tons of outdoor adventure and gorgeous views at every turn. None more spectacular than the vistas from Cadillac Mountain over to the bay and the Cranberry Islands. (Pro tip: Hit the trails in the wee hours of the morning and reap the sunrise rewards.) Set aside some time for the scenic Shore Path, which starts at the town pier and runs along the eastern shore of Mount Desert Island.

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2. Kennebunkport, Maine

Of all the adorable and atmospheric towns in the Pine Tree State, Kennebunkport might be the one that gets the most press. And, honestly, it’s not a case of good PR but rather just an exceptional destination that very much deserves the praise that’s heaped atop of its award-winning restaurants, independently owned shops selling all sorts of local goodies, lively bars and quaint inns. The coastal walk to the Bush family compound and vacation home is quintessential Maine.

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3. Ogunquit, Maine

Lobster shacks and sandy beaches have come to define Ogunquit. Honestly, those are two pretty awesome (and accurate) drawcards. This picturesque little town on Maine’s southern coast also has a slew of terrific art galleries and an idyllic cliff walk called Marginal Way. Plus, the Ogunquit Playhouse stages theater productions in the summer months. Curious about public transport? It’s an old-fashioned trolley. Because Ogunquit is just that delightful.

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charming small towns in maine wells
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4. Wells, Maine

Wells may be the third oldest town in Maine (it was established back in 1641 and named after the city of Wells in Somerset, England) but we wouldn’t dare put it in the bronze position in any other category. This darling gem with a population of just over 9,000 friendly residents turns on the charm with its historic attractions such as Wells Reserve at Laudholm and barrier beaches. For even more natural beauty, head to the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge.

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5. Boothbay Harbor, Maine

When in Boothbay Harbor (for clarity, we mean both the classic Maine town and its namesake waterfront) it's a must to rent a kayak or book a sailing lesson. Prefer to stay on dry land? There are lots of specialty shops, bars and seafood eateries. And it’s not uncommon to lose track of time just meandering around and marveling at the traditional white clapboard houses. Obviously, you’ll want to cross the Boothbay Footbridge.

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charming small towns in maine camden
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6. Camden, Maine

You’ll often hear Camden described as the “Jewel of the Coast.” That’s certainly true. It could also be called Maine’s movie set on account of its popularity as a filming location. It’s easy to see why Hollywood loves this postcard-pretty seaport. Camden cuts quite the impression with its harbor full of sailboats, amphitheatre, public library and historic, ocean-view mansions. An abundance of outdoor activities—from hiking in Camden Hills State Park to winter sports—and festivals make it a great year-round destination.

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charming small towns in maine wiscasset
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7. Wiscasset, Maine

Seafood lovers rejoice! Every foodie knows the first stop in Wiscasset is always Red’s Eats, a family-run institution that consistently earns praise from chefs and hungry travelers alike for its award-winning lobster rolls. (Don’t sleep on the crab cakes either.) Besides great grub, Wiscasset has many historic landmarks such as the Federal-style Nickels-Sortwell House and Castle Tucker, a historic mansion that’s set on a hill overlooking the Sheepscot River. Wiscasset can brag about being home to the smallest church in the world.

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charming small towns in maine castine
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8. Castine, Maine

You don’t need to be a history buff to appreciate the heritage-rich town of Castine. One of the oldest settlements in North America, this long-standing community situated on a peninsula in Penobscot Bay is packed with tell-tale New England architecture (think: white clapboard houses with American flags that flap in the salty sea breeze), churches, antique shops and twee inns. Folks with an interest in the past, should def swing by the Castine Historical Society.

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9. York, Maine

With a prime perch beside the Atlantic Ocean on the Gulf of Maine, York—which, for anyone keeping score, is the second oldest town in the state—has long been a popular summer escape for travellers up and down the Eastern Seaboard. It boasts beautiful beaches, tons of family-friendly activities (what kid doesn’t like putt-putt?) and the endlessly photogenic Nubble Lighthouse. You can gobble up fried seafood, lobster rolls and clam chowder. While salt water taffy sweetens the deal.

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charming small towns in maine rockport
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10. Rockport, Maine

A longtime hidden gem turned popular tourist destination, the seaside village Rockport, which sits between Rockland and Camden, retains its low-key ambiance. There’s just way more fun stuff to do. Activities run the gamut from boating and exploring Beech Hill Preserve’s hiking trails to mini golf and gallery hopping. And who could possibly pass up the chance to moo it up with Belted Galloway cows at Aldermere Farms? Not us, that’s for sure.

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charming small towns in maine cape elizabeth
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11. Cape Elizabeth, Maine

Located five miles southeast of Portland, Cape Elizabeth really does tick all boxes of a great seaside getaway. With a mix of craggy coastline and sandy beaches, you get all the coastal Maine beauty you’d see on postcards in one fell swoop. Fort Williams Park is well known for its arboretum, cliffside loop and scenic picnic areas. Don’t miss the chance to visit Portland Head Light, the oldest lighthouse in the entire state.

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charming small towns in maine old orchard beach
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12. Old Orchard Beach, Maine

Seven miles of beach to spread out your towel and relax may be the main (or, shall we say, Maine) claim to fame of Old Orchard Beach but it’s far from the only selling point. Located right on Saco Bay, this lovely town deserves to be more than just a day trip from Portland. Savor fresh seafood, take a nostalgic ride on the Tilt-A-Whirl at Palace Playland Amusement Park, go kayaking and hit the links at Pirate’s Cove.

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13. Damariscotta, Maine

Damariscotta is a bit of an unsung hero on the Pine Tree State tourism circuit. For the life of us, we can’t figure out why. Our guess would be the location. It’s about 20 miles upriver from the open ocean. We certainly don’t mind having more room to peruse the excellent selection of titles at Maine Coast Book Shop and Cafe, gallery hopping sans hordes of art aficionados or the ease of nabbing tickets to the Lincoln County Community Theater.

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Freelance PureWow Editor

Lindsay Cohn is a travel writer and serial trip planner who has visited 46 countries across six continents (and counting). When not globetrotting, she’s most likely either doing...