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When planning a trip to the northeast, Maine is an absolute must-visit, and there is no better way to explore Maine than by car. Melissa from Navigation Junkie was kind enough to contribute this awesome coastal Maine road trip itinerary for your next trip!
Road trip duration: 7 days
Total distance traveled: 283 Miles, Approximately 5 hours and 45 minutes of driving time
Stop 1: Kittery
Kittery, Maine is one of the southernmost towns in Maine and a great destination for a quick stop. Fort Foster is a must when visiting Kittery.
As a state park offering three small beaches it is a great spot to cool off on a hot summer day, but it also offers the ruins of a historic fort to explore as well as great views of the Portsmouth Harbor, Whaleback Light, Portsmouth Harbor Light, and Fort Constitution.
If you are looking for more to do in Kittery, spend some time shopping at the Kittery Outlets or visit the Kittery Historical & Naval Museum, You can also take the short drive from Fort Foster to Fort McClary Historic Site for more fort ruins and another sandy beach.
Where to Stay in York:
Kittery to York: 7 miles (10 minute drive)
Stop 2: York
On your way to Kennebunkport, make a quick stop in York, Maine. Here you can visit Wiggly Bridge and explore the Steedman Woods. There is also a small area where you can enjoy some swimming.
After this, make the fifteen-minute drive to Nubble Light, one of Maine’s most well-known lighthouses. Sohier Park is located directly across from the lighthouse, which sits on a small island, with free parking. While you can’t visit the lighthouse, you can get some great views of it from the park and enjoy a climb out onto the large rocks surrounding the park.
From here, I would recommend making the drive to Kennebunkport and spending the overnight there before exploring the next day.
Where to Stay in Kennebunkport:
York to Kennebunkport: 21 miles (30 minute drive)
Stop 3: Kennebunkport
The next stop is Kennebunkport, Maine, known as one of Maine’s most prominent fishing towns.
While in Kennebunkport, visit the Seashore Trolley Museum where you can explore many public transit vehicles, drive along Ocean Avenue for views of the rocky Maine coast, drive by Walker’s Point, the summer home of George H.W. Bush, and visit the Goat Island Lighthouse (you can’t actually visit the island, but there is a parking area where you will be able to get some views of the lighthouse).
Kennebunkport is full of water sports and activities, including bike riding, fishing, boating, kayaking, surfing, paddleboarding, horseback riding, golfing, and seashell hunting. There are plenty of beach options and if you prefer, bring a towel or beach chair and spend the afternoon relaxing and listening to the waves crash against the shore.
After hitting the water, spend some time strolling the streets of Kennebunkport and Dock Square for its small boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants.
Where to stay overnight: The Boathouse Waterfront Hotel is a great option. The boathouse is just as it sounds, located on the waterfront. It is a small hotel with 25 rooms, all of which are modernized, featuring Apple TV, keurigs, and IPod docking stations. Many of the rooms also have private balconies overlooking the harbor.
Other Hotel Options in Cape Elizabeth:
Kennebunkport to Cape Elizabeth: 34 miles (50 minute drive)
Stop 4: Cape Elizabeth
Cape Elizabeth is the next stop. Stop at the Two Lights State Park, where you will find a small beach area, rocks to navigate on, picnicking areas, and views of the Twin Cape Elizabeth lighthouses. You can stop at the Lobster Shack for some delicious food with one-of-a-kind ocean and lighthouse views.
Be sure to visit Fort Williams Park, this is a must for any trip to Cape Elizabeth. Fort Williams Park is home to the Porthead Lighthouse, one of the most well-known and most photographed lighthouses in the country. There are walking trails along the coast and the park is home to some fort ruins.
You can also find a children’s garden, perfect if you are traveling with young kids. Throughout the park, you will find food trucks, including a gelato truck-the perfect treat for a hot day.
You will also find many other swimming areas around Cape Elizabeth, including the Great Pond Trail, Peak’s Island, Kettle Cove, and Richmond’s Island. If you enjoy looking at ruins, visit the Goddard Mansion.
From here, I would recommend driving to Portland and staying the night before exploring the city the next day.
Where to Stay in Portland:
Cape Elizabeth to Portland: 8 miles (20 minute drive)
Stop 5: Portland
Portland, Maine is the most populated city in Maine and is definitely worth the stop. While in Portland on the fourth day of your coastal Maine road trip itinerary, stroll through the Old Port for its historic streets and buildings, old fishing piers, shops, restaurants, and the clubs that are a great nightlife attraction.
If you are an art lover, be sure to check out the Portland Museum of Art, featuring a combination of American and European artwork. For shopping, visit Commercial Street near the waterfront.
Visit some of Maine’s most well-known lighthouses, including the Bug Light and Spring Point Light. Bug Light is located in Bug Light Park, where you will be able to walk to the base of the lighthouse, watch ships as they enter and leave the harbor, and stroll along the coast.
At Spring Point Light you can see the ruins of an old fort and climb the rocks along the breakwater to the base of the lighthouse.
Where to stay: Portland Harbor Hotel, located in Old Port and within close proximity of the Old Port’s many boutiques and restaurants. If you’re a coffee fan, you will be delighted with the daily free Starbucks coffee.
Portland to Acadia National Park: 170 miles (2 hours and 52 minute drive)
Stop 6: Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor
Acadia National Park is the highlight of this coastal Maine road trip itinerary. It is the only national park in the Northeast US and is full of small-town charm, outdoor fun, hiking, beachgoing, lighthouses, and plenty of lobster!
To begin your visit to Acadia National Park, drive the Park Loop Drive around Mount Desert Island. This drive will take you to many of the highlights within Acadia National Park, including Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, Jordan Pond, and the summit of Cadillac Mountain.
(Tip: Although you can drive parts of the drive without an entrance pass-Be sure to purchase it before heading to the top of Cadillac Mountain-you will need it to enter the parking area.)
If you want to spend some time hiking-and this is highly recommended-check out the many trails to the summit of Cadillac Mountain, the trails around Jordan Pond, or the Bubble Rock trail. For a different view of Acadia National Park, take a cruise from Bar Harbor.
There are plenty of options, but most will bring you past some great lighthouses and introduce you to many forms of wildlife, all while giving you stunning views of Acadia.
If you have the time, spend a couple of hours exploring Bar Harbor. Walk along the docks and get some views of the boats and harbor, grab a bite to eat (there are plenty of options for some great lobster), and stroll Main St. to find some unique souvenirs.
Where to Stay Overnight: The Acadia Inn is a great option for lodging near Acadia National Park. Acadia Inn is a waterfront hotel with access to the Acadia NP trails in its backyard. You will also find an outdoor pool and nightly campfire for s’mores making.
If you are traveling with kids, Acadia Inn’s Campout Package will make the stay even more magical! Have your room transformed into a campsite for your kiddo, complete with a tent and lantern!
Distance from Acadia National Park to Bangor: 43 miles (1 hour drive)
Stop 7: Bangor
While Bangor is a little inland from the coast, it makes for a great addition to the road trip. For any Stephen King fans, this is an absolute must. Bangor is the real-life inspiration for Derry, Maine, the main setting in King’s IT and featured in many of King’s other writings.
While in Bangor, SK Tours is a great way to get an overview of the area. It is the only Stephen King tour available and will take you to 20-30 locations throughout Bangor that were the inspiration for King’s writings or were related to King in some form.
After the tour, it is highly recommended that you do some exploring on your own. This will give you plenty of time to explore the sites and get some great photos!
Some must stop spots are the Barrens, which can be found along the Kenduskeag Stream off of Valley Avenue, Stephen King’s home with its spider and dragon-filled gates, the storm drain on Jackson and Union where the inspiration for IT came from, the Paul Bunyan Statue, and the Thomas Hill Standpipe.
Aside from the Stephen King locations in Maine, visit the Cole Land Transportation Museum to see decades of unique vehicles. Also take a relaxing stroll through the Bangor City Forest, picnic in Cascade Park, and walk along the Penobscot River Walkway.
Where to stay overnight: The Charles Inn, located in downtown Bangor, is home to two Stephen King rooms. Room 202 is the Stephen King room and room 209 is the IT-themed room.
But even if you are not able to stay in one of these rooms, you will be delighted with staying in the hotel that King used to house his out-of-town guests (before purchasing his guest home).
Now you know what to add to your coastal Maine road trip itinerary!