This coastal road trip is the perfect way to explore the top sights and hidden coasts of Maine, aptly referred to as "Vacationland". The route is quite flexible: you'll follow the bend in the coast from Portland to Camden to Acadia, with opportunities to explore lesser-visited peninsulas along the way. You can stick to the better-known spots (Portland, Camden, Acadia) or spend some time off the beaten path with a kayak ride through a marsh south of Portland, a boat trip to Monhegan island, or a day hiking around Isle Au Haute, part of Acadia National Park.

Highlights

  • Explore Maine's coast from Portland to Acadia
  • Take a boat trip to Monhegan Island
  • Visit an island puffin colony
  • Savor your way through the best lobster shacks

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Boston to Portland Portland
Day 2 Scarborough Marsh Kayaking & Portland Head Light Portland
Day 3 Portland to Boothbay Harbor Boothbay Harbor
Day 4 monhegan Island Day Trip, night in Camden Camden
Day 5 Marshall Point Lighthouse & Puffin Tour Camden
Day 6 Camden Hills State Park & Blue Hill Peninsula Blue Hill Peninsula
Day 7 Stonington & Isle Au Haute Blue Hill Peninsula
Day 8 Acadia National Park Acadia National Park
Day 9 Drive Back to Boston  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Boston to Portland

Boats in Ogunquit Harbor
Boats in Ogunquit Harbor

Head north to Portland for the start of your coastal road trip in Maine, where you will explore charming small towns, craggy coastlines, mouth savoring lobster shacks, and more.

The drive from Boston to Portland is just under 2 hours with no traffic, with several opportunities to stop along the way (if you want to make a full day out of the drive).  Route 95 is the most direct route, but if you're in no rush, consider Route 1, 1A, or even Route 8 along the coast for some sections.

The following stops and detours are listed in the order you'll approach them on the drive. You can also save a few for the drive back or divert to them during the trip if you like.

Nubble Light
Roughly 20 minutes north of Portsmouth, you'll find a nice place to get out of the car as you drive along the coast. You can only see the Lighthouse from across the water (it's on a small island), but the area is quite scenic and a nice place to walk around.  Stay on the smaller Shore Rd. north to Ogunquit.

Ogunquit 
This small town is a nice stop to grab a snack, coffee, or even lunch. You can walk a bit around town, head to the beach, or walk along the coastline.

Kennebunkport
Grab a coffee or snack at Dock Square Coffee House, peruse the small stores, and enjoy the views over the harbor and marsh from the bridge in the middle of town.

Closer to Portland (these can also be done as a day trip from Portland):

Saco River & Scarborough Marsh
Saco River offers some nice river rafting options if you're looking for a bit more of an adrenaline rush. For a slower pace, head to Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center to rent kayaks and canoes to paddle through the tranquil marsh.

Portland Head Light
Here, a great spot for lunch, head to the Bite into Maine food truck for top quality lobster rolls. You can also check out the Portland Head Lighthouse in a picturesque location, head down to the beach, or explore the nearby Bunkers and Batteries, build to protect Portland Harbor during World War II.

Portland
Once in Portland, walk around the main downtown area, check out boutique stores and art galleries, or sample some of the great local restaurants and breweries.

A few places to try:

  • Duckfat, a European-influenced cafe known for its duck-fat Belgian fries & milkshakes
  • Eventide, with quintessential New England-style seafood and cocktails
  • Blue Rooster Food Co. for a sophisticated twist on hot dogs, tater tots and other comfort foods

Day 2: Scarborough Marsh Kayaking & Portland Head Light

Portland Head Lighthouse
Portland Head Lighthouse

Start this morning at the Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center, south of Portland off Route 9, where you can rent kayaks and paddle along the Nonesuch River to the coast. Check the tides to plan your departure (or head upstream instead). Enjoy the secluded nature as your paddle along the windy bends of the river. The river opens up as you near the coast. You can go as far as Pine Point Beach, or turn back whenever you like.

Once back on land, drive the coastal route 77 until Fort Williams Park and Portland Head Lighthouse. Enjoy a tasty lobster roll from the Bite into Maine food truck (one of Maine's best), and walk around the lighthouse on the point. Walk down to Ship Cove to dip your toes in the water, and explore the nearby Batteries and Bunkers on the cliffs.

On your drive back toward Portland, you can stop at Bug Light Park for another small lighthouse and a nice cityscape view over Portland, or walk along the Sprint Point breakwater to the Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse jutting out into the harbor.

Day 3: Portland to Boothbay Harbor

Sunrise in Boothbay Harbor
Sunrise in Boothbay Harbor

It's roughly 1 hour from Portland to Boothbay Harbor, so you can take your time today and add in a few stops along the way. Grab breakfast in Portland and walk around the downtown area a bit more before driving north.

Freeport is home to the flagship L.L. Bean store (and gigantic boot), and the small town of Brunswick deserves a quick break as well to walk through the beautiful campus of Bowdoin College. Bath is another great option for a stop.

The tiny town of Wiscasset claims itself as "the prettiest village in Maine", which may be hard to argue. It's also home to some of the best Lobster rolls at Red's Eats (be prepared for a line and large portions). Enjoy the views over the old harbor by the bridge, walk along the waterfront, and dip into some of the small stores before continuing down Route 27 towards Boothbay Harbor.

With more time, check out some of the other peninsulas in the area, you can't go wrong!

Start planning your trip
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 4: Monhegan Island Day Trip, night in Camden

Cliffs on Monheagan Island
Cliffs on Monhegan Island

Monhegan Island is a 12-mile boat trip away, and offers visitors in the know a perfect escape from the mainland. The island offers several hiking trails along sea cliffs and past wind-swept beaches. Enjoy a lobster roll from a shack near the water and wash it down with a cold beer brewed on the island.

Catch a morning boat (around 9:30) from Boothbay Harbor. The boat ride lasts 1-1.5 hours and offers great views of the Maine coastline. You'll see thousands of colorful markers in the water, each tied to a lobster trap below. Enjoy the fresh air, wind, and sun on the top deck, or grab a snack or drink inside the boat. Check the return ferry time (often around 2:45) to plan enough time to explore for the day.

To see it all, hike around the full island along the 4.5 mile Monhegan Island Cliff Trail. There are many trails that cut back through the island if you prefer not to hike the full route. You'll find stunning sea cliffs on the northern and eastern sides of the island, and sandier beaches along the south and southwestern sides. The interior is protected forest.

Five to ten minutes south of the ferry port, you'll find the Monhegan Brewing Company, where you can relax and enjoy a local beer. Back in "town", you'll find a few stores for food, such as The Novelty or the Fish House Fish Market.

You can learn more about the island's history, and take in sweeping views, from the Monhegan Lighthouse, up the hill from the ferry.

Catch the afternoon ferry back to Boothbay Harbor, where you will arrive around 4:15 in the afternoon. Walk around the harbor some more, check out some of the shops, treat yourself to an ice cream cone, and then hit the road further along the Maine coastline towards Camden, which sits on Penobscot Bay about an hour away.

Along the drive, consider a stop in Damariscotta, famous for its oysters.

Camden is one of the prettiest towns in coastal Maine, and you could make it a home base for a few nights to explore Marshall Point to the south and Camden Hills State Park just to the north.

Check out the famous Windjammer boats in the harbor (you can take a sailing tour on one tomorrow if you like), and enjoy the beautiful architecture and town setting. 

Camden offers several great options for dinner, such as international cuisine at Fresh and Co. Enjoy craft beers from Sea Dog Brewpub, or fancy cocktails from the Vintage Room at 16 Bay View (there is also a rooftop bar).

Day 5: Marshall Point Lighthouse & Puffin Tour

Marshall Point Light
Marshall Point Light

Today you'll meet some local puffins, off the coast from Marshall Point (45 minutes south of Camden). Start the day with breakfast at Rock City Café in Rockland, a 15 minute drive south along the coast.  

Head over to the Project Puffin Audubon Center where you can learn more about local seabird conservation initiatives, and about the efforts to bring back the puffin population to the nearby islands (which you will visit later today). If the weather isn't cooperating for a boat trip today, spend some time in the Farnsworth Art Museum.

If skies are clear and waters calm, continue south to Marshall Point and Port Clyde. Catch the boat from Port Clyde to Eastern Egg Rock, where you will see an Atlantic puffin nesting site and see firsthand the encouraging outcomes and continuing efforts of Audubon’s Project Puffin. The boats leave around 11:30 am each day, and the trip lasts about 2.5 hours (there are also evening trips in July and August).

Once back on land, head over to  Marshall Point Lighthouse, made famous in the movie Forrest Gump (the well known character, played by Tom Hanks, runs through here on one of his several cross country runs).

You can explore more of Rockland on your drive back to Camden. If you're a lighthouse fan,  stop by the Maine Lighthouse Museum for a quick history lesson and to see many varieties of mirrors and lights, and drive or walk along the breakwater to the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse (parking is a few minutes away from downtown). 

Closer to Camden, you can stretch your legs a bit on a short walk to Owls Head Light, with nice views over the harbor and coast. 

Spend the night in Camden.

Day 6: Camden Hills State Park & Blue Hill Peninsula

View over Penobscot Bay
View over Penobscot Bay

Grab breakfast and some sandwiches at Bagel Café before driving north to Camden Hills State Park. This park offers miles of great hiking trails and sweeping views of Penobscot Bay. If you're shorter on time, you can drive straight to the top of Mt. Battie for views back over Camden with tiny islands dotting the bay below.

With more time, hike up to Mount Megunticook or Adam's Lookout. Or, drive along Route 52 towards the Maiden Cliff Trailhead for a short but steep trail with incredible views over Megunticook Lake.

In the afternoon, make your way to the Blue Hill Peninsula (about 1 hour) for a quiet home base for the next few days to explore Deer Isle, Isle Au Haut, and Acadia National Park.

Buck's Restaurant on the western side of the peninsula is a great local spot for dinner.

Day 7: Stonington & Isle Au Haute

Duck Harbor, Isle Au Haute
Duck Harbor, Isle Au Haute

Drive south to Deer Isle to catch a ferry to Isle Au Haute. This small island is approximately six miles long and two miles wide, with only 65 year-round residents (more in the summer season). Half of the island is protected lands of Acadia National Park, but with none of the crowds.

Ferries leave Stonington at 8:45 and 10 am, and the ride is about 45 minutes to the Town Landing port, and another 30 minutes to Duck Harbor. 

Pick up food and lunch provisions in town at the small general store, and set out along the trails to the south (either by bike or foot). Be sure to check the return times for each port. You can hike to Duck Harbor and pick up the ferry from there, or complete a loop back to Town Landing. Take your time along the way, stopping at sandy beaches and rocky cliffs, and enjoying the view from some of the higher points.

Once back in Stonington, grab a bite to eat along the harbor, and explore this small lobster fishing town.

You'll find more nice hiking trails at the Edgar Tennis Preserve on the eastern side of Deer Island, and nearby you can stop at Nervous Nellie's Jams and Jellies to pick up some locally made preserves.

Day 8: Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park

Visitors flock to Bar Harbor in the summer. If you're looking for a quieter experience, stick to the center and Western side of Mount Desert Island.

Hike up Cadillac Mountains for expansive views of the surrounding area, or park near the Ocean Trail West Trailhead for a cliffside walk. 

Seal Harbor Beach is often a bit quieter than the popular beaches like Sand Beach. To really escape the crowds, head over to the western side of the island. Walk to Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse and enjoy some fresh seafood at Thurston's Lobster Pound.

After a full day, stay overnight to extend your time in the park, or drive back to the Blue Hill Peninsula to shorten your drive on the way home.

Day 9: Drive Back to Boston

Drive directly back along Route 1 and 95. It's roughly 3.5 hours to Boston from Camden, and about 4.5 hours from Acadia if you drive without stopping (and without traffic). Here are a few places to stop along the way (which you may have already visited on your drive up or during the trip):

Wiscasset
Named the prettiest village in Maine, also worth a stop (and the wait) at Red's Eats. 

Brunswick / Bowdoin College 
Walk around the campus to stretch the legs and break up the drive.

Freeport
Visit the flagship LL Bean store.

Portland
Grab a bite to eat, check out some of the breweries (or kombucha spots), or simply enjoy a stroll through the brick downtown area.

Kennebunkport
A nice stop to enjoy the scenery, small local shops, or grab a quick snack.

Ogunquit
Take a break on the beach or walk along the coast.

Portsmouth, NH
As you near the end of your trip, stop in Portsmouth for dinner, there are many great restaurants to choose from.