Let’s travel “beyond” South Florida much further north, to gorgeous coastal Maine. The state is nicknamed “Vacationland” for a reason — but only if you’re vacationing there during the summer months.
After three years of summer visits to this New England state, I have to say… I love Maine, and could not recommend it more for summer travels. If a coastal Maine summer vacation isn’t already on your bucket list, add it now, and save this blog to help with your planning when you do!
How To Get To Maine
If you live in the Palm Beach County area, you can easily find direct flights from Palm Beach International (PBI) to Boston Logan International (BOS). It’s not a bad flight at all — about 3 hours or so.
We like to fly to Boston first and spend a couple days there before driving north to Maine — it’s a little over 2 hours to Portland. If you have the time, definitely do that. Boston deserves its own blog post; there is so much to do and see, and eat and drink!
If you want to fly right into Maine, you have options depending where you want to go. If you’re staying South — Portland, Camden, Kennebunkport, etc. — you can use Portland International (PWM). But if Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park are on your itinerary, Bangor International (BGL) might be a better choice. All of these locations are drivable from one another as well, so airport preference is up to you.
Visit these Coastal Maine Towns
Once you have your flight plan figured out, now it’s time to decide where to go. We have spent the most time in Portland and Camden. We have also gone to Bar Harbor and Kennebunkport, and have made pit stops in various places, including Freeport, home to the L.L. Bean campus, and York. There is an incredible cliff walk at York Harbor Beach that is worth checking out. We started our walk across the street from the York Harbor Inn, which has a restaurant on the lower level called Ship’s Cellar Pub, that is made to look just like you are walking onto a ship. Stop in for a drink and some lunch after your mini hike along the cliffs.
This is definitely a food-centric city, with a lot of top-name restaurants like Fore Street and Central Provisions. You’ll most likely need to make a reservation at both of these restaurants if you actually want to sit down for dinner, but you can also wing it, like we did, and hope for the best at the bars. Fore Street also has couches that are first come, first serve.
Everyone will tell you that Eventide Oyster Co. has the best lobster roll — and they offer a gluten-free roll. I haven’t been there yet, but it is high on my list for next summer. J’s Oyster is also known for its lobster rolls and fresh coastal Maine seafood in general. They don’t have gluten-free bread, so I just get the lobster salad platter which comes with coleslaw and veggies.
J’s is a Portland staple. It’s even been endorsed by Anthony Bourdain, who said “If I lived in Portland, I would want to live above J’s.” If that’s not enough to convince you to go, I don’t know what is.
There is a great old-school diner called Becky’s, that we like to hit up for breakfast. There is pretty much always a wait, so be prepared. Another good spot for breakfast is The Porthole Restaurant and Pub, a wharf-side restaurant that opened in 1929 as the go-to early breakfast place for lobstermen to fuel up before heading out to sea. It’s open for lunch and dinner, and is also a great spot to just grab al fresco drinks on the huge outside waterfront deck.
Other notable spots in Portland include Fore Street’s sister restaurants, Scales and Standard Baking Co, Gritty McDuff’s if you like a good pub scene, and you should get the Belgian-style fries at Duck Fat at least once. Yes, they are fried (actually, twice-fried) in duck fat.
Camden is a little slice of heaven. Main Street is small, but mighty. Just a block from Camden Harbor with lots of restaurants and bars, shops and galleries, and a beautiful park overlooking the water. Seriously, coastal Maine is just gorgeous.
We’ve stayed at a few different places here, all with their own set of charming assets. My favorite was the Lord Camden Inn because it is perfectly centrally located right on Main Street and right across the street from our go-to breakfast spot, Marriner’s Restaurant. Bonus points: they have gluten-free toast!
The Lord Camden Inn has a sister hotel about a 5 minute walk away, 16 Bay View. There is a casual rooftop bar there, The View, and a more upscale cocktail lounge inside called the Vintage Room. Definitely check out both spots for drinks, and they each offer a menu of small plates.
Across the street from 16 Bay View is the local dive Cuzzy’s. If you’re looking for a late night spot, this is pretty much your only option. Great people-watching. We managed to catch a karaoke night too, so that was fun.
Another great place to stay is the Hartstone Inn & Hideaway, which is a beautiful bed and breakfast with a gourmet restaurant that offers various “epicurean experiences” for its guests. It is situated atop a small hill, so if you do stay here, keep in mind that you have that walk when you’re going to and from Main Street and the harbor.
There is no shortage of restaurants with a view. There’s always a crowd at Peter Ott’s and The Waterfront because of their prime locations, right on the harbor dock. The Waterfront makes one of the best bellini cocktails I’ve ever had. They use elderflower liqueur!
I also love going to Sea Dog Brewing Co. and sitting outside on the back patio that overlooks the harbor. My gluten-free friends will be excited to hear that YES, they offer gluten-free bread for the lobster roll! That is a must, gluten free or not. Even Roger said the lobster roll at Sea Dog was his favorite of the whole Maine trip.
A couple blocks away from the harbor, kind of hidden, is a gastropub-style restaurant 40 Paper. It’s very gluten free and vegan friendly, and known for its craft cocktails. The food and service here are fantastic. Don’t skip the gluten-free bread, even if you’re not gluten free. You can thank me later. This restaurant is actually right across the street from another hotel we stayed at, The Inn at Camden Place.
In addition to enjoying all the food and drinks that Camden has to offer, make sure to just walk around the harbor and take in the sights. Head over to Camden Hills State Park and go for a hike up the Mount Battie Trail, and you absolutely must book a sunset cruise with Schooner Appledore. You’ve never seen a sunset until you’ve seen it from aboard a schooner! The team is awesome, and they also operate their ship out of Key West. It does get chilly out there on the water. They offer blankets, but you should still dress warmly or bring a jacket.
No trip to Bar Harbor is complete without a hike in Acadia National Park. There is also a restaurant up in the mountains called Jordan Pond House that is especially known for its popovers.
As for hotels, The Central House is a historic inn that has been around since 1887. It’s centrally located to the downtown area, and just a short walk to the harbor. You could also stay at the Bar Harbor Inn, that is right on the water and in the heart of downtown, or the Atlantic Eyrie, which also has a beautiful view and is a bit more budget friendly.
Regardless of whether you stay at the Bar Harbor Inn or not, you should still stop by the restaurant for a sunset happy hour. When we went, there were no outside tables available, but there was an area with Adirondack chairs that were first come, first served. We probably ended up having a better view of the water and sunset here than we would have had at a table!
Notable places for food are Cafe This Way for breakfast, Cottage Pub for drinks, Finback Alehouse for lunch or dinner and drinks, and Stewman’s Lobster Pound for a true lobster experience, bibs and all!
We didn’t spend enough time in Kennebunkport, so I’m eager to get back there next summer. This town is so cute. The central downtown area is walkable — avoid driving through it at all costs if you can! During the season, parking is tough, and it’s a slow, one-lane road each way. If you don’t have a car or just don’t want to drive, there is a golf cart shuttle service that you can use to get around town called RideMaine.
If you don’t mind the splurge, make a dinner reservation at the AAA Five Diamond, Forbes Five-Star restaurant, White Barn. This old barn-turned-restaurant is filled with old rustic charm. This is a white tablecloth, fine dining experience with a coursed out menu, either the standard fine dining prix fixe or the chef’s lobster tasting. The prix fixe is 4 courses, with an amuse bouche to start. The menu is constantly changing, but there are a lot of really unique and creative dishes to choose from. You can add on wine pairings, or just order drinks as you please. The service was impeccable, and they were able to make all necessary accommodations for me without question. For a closer look, check out my White Barn Instagram reel!
The restaurant is part of the White Barn Inn & Spa, an Auberge Resort that has been a Kennebunkport staple for 150 years. You could stay here, but just note that it’s on its own big property with nothing else around, and a bit of a walk to downtown.
Another beautiful place to stay, but also not close to the downtown area either, is The Colony Hotel, which is actually the sister hotel to our very own Colony Delray Beach. The Kennebunkport location is every bit of New England style as you can imagine. Make sure to walk outside by the pool to catch the sunset.
Federal Jack’s is a go-to for good beer, pub food and harbor views. We didn’t have a chance to eat here — just stopped in for drinks — but they do have a gluten-free option for the lobster roll on the menu that I will absolutely try next summer!
There really is nothing quite like a summer vacation in coastal Maine, and now is the perfect time to start your planning for next year!