Maine is an adventure playground at any time of year. But during the hot Maine summer, “Vacationland” truly shines, with enough thrills to keep you busy all season long. Ready to get inspired? Read on.
Nothing introduces a visitor to the rugged beauty of Maine’s coastal scenery like a windjammer cruise. From May through October, these multiday sailing trips bring visitors to areas impossible to get to or even see from the confines of a car. Participants can beachcomb along the shore of a sparsely populated island and get up close with whales, eagles, and other coastal wildlife. The Maine Windjammer Association is the nation’s largest fleet of these historic ships; another popular option is Maine Windjammer Cruises, in Camden.
Maine is home to some of the East Coast’s most famous fly-fishing waters, especially in and around Rangeley. Pioneering angler Carrie Stevens created several of the world’s most recognized fly ties in Rangeley, and in June 1955 President Eisenhower fished the town’s namesake lake for three days. The waters have continued to be a draw for anglers from all over the country. Plus, the Outdoor Heritage Museum in Oquossoc ranks among New England’s top sporting museums.
Experienced surfers have long made a point of catching the breaks along the state’s southern coast well beyond the Maine summer. The surfing scene runs year-round, and at Scarborough’s Higgins Beach, the swells can reach 15 feet. Farther south, Liquid Dreams in Ogunquit and York is Maine’s biggest surf shop.
A visit to Acadia National Park is a Maine summer essential. Along with an abundance of natural beauty, it’s also home to the best coastal cycling in New England. It offers 57 miles of car-free carriage roads, 45 of which run through the heart of the park. There are other cycling routes, too, including Summit Road, a challenging climb to the top of Cadillac Mountain.
Owned and managed by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, Scarborough Marsh is a 3,100-acre estuary and the largest salt marsh in the state. The area is especially rich in birds and other wildlife. From the Audubon center, visitors can choose from a variety of naturalist-guided kayak tours or explore on their own.
The birth of whitewater rafting in the Northeast essentially happened here. The Kennebec River is located in the heart of Maine’s whitewater country and includes 12 miles of fast, deep water. This is also home to Suzie Hockmeyer, a legend in the industry and co-founder of Northern Outdoors, where she has been leading trips since 1980.
There may be no bigger Maine summer bucket-list item for hikers in the Northeast than Mount Katahdin and its Knife Edge Trail. The mountain is located in one of the country’s best state parks and is the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.
There are some 6,000 miles of ATV trails across Maine, but no region has embraced the hobby and its accompanying economy like Aroostook County. It boasts more than a thousand miles of marked trails, from wooded groves and open fields to packed dirt and slippery mud. The Aroostook Valley Trail — a 28-miler that connects Presque Isle, Caribou, Washburn, Woodland, and New Sweden — is one of the most popular.
This post was first published in 2020 and has been updated.