10 Best Small Towns in Maine, According to a Local

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Maine is brimming with small-town charm that is often overlooked when visitors flock to the southernmost parts of the state. As a Mainer, I always encourage tourists to save time for all the magic that lies north of Portland.


My advice often prompts the question, “Oh, you mean Acadia National Park?” While Acadia shouldn’t be missed, I’m talking about the towns in between – the places with convenience stores selling a hodgepodge of groceries, antiques and lawn ornaments; places where your server is probably also the owner, and where “ayuh” is used instead of “yes”.


Here are some of the best small towns in Maine.



Ellsworth

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Most know Ellsworth as a place to drive through en route to Acadia National Park and Mount Desert Island. But there are a few reasons why you should do more than stretch your legs here. To start, you can buy cheesecake on the honor system. Momo’s Cheesecakes offers its sweets from a garage that has been renovated to meet demand.


At the other end of the main street, 86 This! calls itself “a chic, punk-rock burrito shop”. A wide variety of creative packaging is perfect for your picnic basket. Meanwhile, yogis will revel in hot buddhathe offerings. And just past the Ellsworth line, there’s a Maine experience like no other: Timber Tina’s Great Maine Lumberjack Show. Watch the show or try your hand at log rolling.


Where to stay: Under Canvas Acadiaa luxury glamping experience, is a short distance away in Surry.



Greenville

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Moosehead Lake is Maine’s largest lake, but it’s not as crowded as its southern counterpart, Sebago Lake. Greenville is a scenic 1.5 hour drive from Bangor International Airport and Moosehead is certainly the focal point of the town. One way to take in the beauty of the lake is to book a seaplane ride, ideal for summer and fall.


Katahdin steamer has been around for 100 years and has survived what was once a competitive ship market. Visitors can also join a registered Maine guide for a unique experience moose safari. And day-trippers will love Lily Bay State Park for its sandy beach, campsites, playground and picnic areas.


Where to stay: Rent a campsite. “Camp” is a term Mainers use in place of lake house, cabin, cabin, etc.



Swan Island

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If you’ve dreamed of staying in a Maine town accessible only by a ferry service, Swan’s Island is the place to go for lazy days at the beach with endless views. Its charm lies in its simplicity: a store, a lighthouse, a museum and a library. While swimming is available at four public beaches, the “quarry pond” offers visitors the opportunity to bathe in fresh water. A variety of trails, boat charters, and eco-tours are also available for travelers looking to get active. If you’re already planning a trip to Acadia National Park, don’t miss this nearby treasure.


Where to stay: Vacation rentals may be your best bet here. Since the ferry departs from Bass Harbor, it’s often best to stay at the Claremont.



Orono

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When I was at the University of Maine, Orono looked like a college town. Now as a mother of two, Orono feels like a family destination. These seemingly contradictory vibes come down to the fact that no one is a stranger here. You will never feel like a tourist (unless you want to).


After having had a coffee and a bowl of acai from Nest, cross the street to the Stillwater River Trail, which is just under four miles round trip. For something more exterior, Maine Bound Adventure Center at the university offers kayak, canoe, and paddleboard rentals (as well as rooftop kits for transportation). Locals also like Pat’s Pizza (or the fish tacos at Woodman’s). And in true college town fashion, there are plenty of places to grab a drink, with Orono Brewery having the widest selection of craft beers.


Where to stay: Away from the city center, part of Orono is located on Lake Pushaw, where this quaint cottage is located.



Camden

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Maine’s mid-coast is lined with charming must-see towns, like Camden. While the town center is full of shops, restaurants and cafes, don’t forget to find some elevation by hiking or climbing Mount Battie at Camden Hills State Park. For a unique way to see the coast of Maine while capturing its beauty, experience a photography workshop excursion aboard the moon dog.


Where to stay: 16 Bay View overlooks the harbor and is centrally located to dozens of shops and restaurants.



Castine

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Home to the Maine Maritime Academy, Castine is one of the most overlooked destinations in the state and also one of the oldest, with over 100 historic markers throughout the city, landing it on the docket. National Historic Places. To get an idea of ​​its charm, join a walking tour or catch up with the local crowd at the newly renovated Dennett’s Wharf, which has been a community staple for 50 years.


Where to stay: Check in the Pentagoet Inn & Wine Bara historic Bed & Breakfast with an on-site pub and a picturesque woodland garden overlooking Penobscot Bay.



kingfield

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During the winter months, Kingfield comes alive as a kind of ski resort, located next to the famous Sugar Loaf Mountain. But to know Kingfield only as a place to rest between runs on the slopes would be to miss a different kind of beauty that flourishes during summer and early fall. Outdoor enthusiasts bring their bikes and hiking boots to hop on the 80-mile network of groomed trails known as the Maine huts and trails. If your goal is to cover as much of the Maine woods as possible, booking a “cabin” to sleep in between hikes is a great way to meet local adventurers.


Where to stay: Check out this adorable A-frame cabin at Airbnb.



stonington

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Located on Deer Isle, Stonington has everything a visitor would expect from a historic fishing village. A working waterfront gives tourists a taste of how their famous lobster dinner was made possible. The town is nestled on the hillside, with stunning views over the bay. You can get lost in nature, take care of the art galleries or catch a show at the Stonington Opera House. Of course, it wouldn’t be a trip to the island without stopping at Nellie’s Nervous Jams and Jellies. Eclectic sculptures and products made by Maine artisans accompany the treats.


Where to stay: Aragoste at Goose Cove not only offers dreamy beachfront accommodations in cottages and suites, but the gourmet restaurant serves creative culinary delights from a renowned chef who works directly with local fishermen and farmers to prepare the cuisine the fresher.



Bucksport

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A former mill town, Buckport sits on the banks of the Penobscot River and is home to a thriving waterfront with picturesque views of the Penobscot Narrows Bridge and Fort Knox. The cobbled walkway stretches nearly a mile, and visitors can find a bench and enjoy fried clams at nearby Crosby’s Drive-In. Friars’ Brewhouse Tap Room serves local beer and is a great place to stop between Main Street shops.


Where to stay: Discover this calm Airbnb waterfront.



Naples

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Maine’s Lakes and Mountains region in the western part of the state is home to several idyllic towns, including Naples, which is nestled between Sebago Lake and Long Lake (along with 50 other nearby lakes). Learn to water ski or wakeboard, or relax with a pontoon rental. Dining options are plentiful too, with plenty of eateries and waterfront eateries (think all the seafood and blueberry desserts you can eat).


Where to stay: Lake View Inn is a bed and breakfast where you can expect ukulele concerts and weekend barbecues.

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