48 things to do in MidCoast Maine: outdoors, history, lobster, ice cream
The Coastal Maine area may be only a tiny slice of a small state but the things to do in MidCoast Maine could fill a book. From getting outdoors to eating lobster or slurping ice cream, and visiting historic lighthouses, all the typical Maine activities await you.
Maine seems like a small enough state. So picking the top things to do couldn’t be that hard, right? That’s what I thought. Then I started driving and found coastal hamlets, historic cemeteries, picture-perfect lighthouses, American history, nature, and all kinds of art. Picking the best things to do in MidCoast Maine isn’t easy, so let me help.
I will never claim this list, below, includes everything since that is simply not possible. Once you’ve planned your trip, let me help you get started knowing what to see with this list of 48 sights, eats, and typical Maine experiences.
Lighthouses are one of top things to do in MidCoast Maine
What’s a trip to Maine without lighthouses when the coast is dotted with 65, many stewarded by the non-profit American Lighthouse Foundation. In the MidCoast area, try:
- Pemaquid in Bristol (most accessible, but pay an entrance fee during the day or walk over if you stay at The Bradley Inn)
- Marshall Point in Port Clyde (easy access without fees unless you visit the museum, which you should)
- Owl’s Head in Owl’s Head (the park where it is closes at sunset)
- Rockland Breakwater in, yes, Rockland (maneuver about a mile of huge square rocks along the breakwater and try not to fall into the sometimes huge gaps between them)
Consider viewing smaller ones from afar:
- Ram Island off Boothbay
- Hendricks Head off Southport
- Cuckold off Newagen
Outdoors, nature and a garden
If there is one thing Maine has no shortage of, it is nature preserves and green spaces. And conservancies working hard to create and protect more. Just go to the Maine Land Trust Network to find ones in the MidCoast area, then go to those sites to find preserves for hiking, birdwatching, and more.
I can recommend a few top nature preserves and parks in the MidCoast area:
- Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in Wells with tidal pools
- LaVerna Preserve near Round Pound for a lush hike to a rocky coast
- Whaleback Shell Midden State Historic Site in Damariscotta offers easy walks with views of the Native American piles of oyster shells (beware of monster mosquitoes in the summer).
- Dodge Point Preserve in Newcastle on the Damariscotta River
- Clark island Preserve in St. George with a small loop around a former quarry that is a popular swimming hole today
- Camden Hills State Park in Camden with the popular Mount Battie Trail (780 feet), but go higher to the Ridge trail for even more sweeping views from the Ocean Lookout at 1,300 feet.
- Ocean Point Road drive near Boothbay Harbor offers an off-the-beaten path drive out to and along the water. Stop and check out the rock Wilson Memorial Chapel.
- Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens snugs into the coastline near Boothbay Harbor on 148 acres of rocky coastline. Peruse groomed areas or head out on wooded trails.
Other outdoor areas and activities to consider:
- Pemaquid Beach Park in Bristol with beautiful white sand to access the water or relax.
- Hardy Boat Puffin Watch cruise from late May to late August, from New Harbor for a short 20 minutes to Easter Egg Rock, in partnership with the National Audubon Society and Puffin Watch.
- The Swimming Hole at Bristol Dam is a true community gathering place for a dip on a hot day.
Communities and historic sites
Considering the first English settlers came to Maine in 1607, you can count on the history of the founding fathers to pop up in all kinds of places. And quaint burgs dotted here and there won’t disappoint. Don’t hesitate to get out of the car and go for a walk to discover your own list of the best things to do in MidCoast Maine since the tiny towns can be uber-cute. Here are a few I found to be super appealing, but don’t stop with these!
- Port Clyde at the tip of St. George and around the corner from the Marshall Point Lighthouse. Boats to Monhegan Island leave from here, too.
- St George just nine miles up the peninsula from St. George (and around the corner from Craignair Inn’s lawn overlooking Clark Island with homemade ice cream)
- Thomaston, right along Highway 1 at the top of the St. George area peninsula.
- Back Cove area of New Harbor in Bristol was honestly one of my favorite scenic places. Super local, super cute, not a lot there, but take a walk out the little bridge at the end of the road for a peaceful setting.
- South Bristol where you can get fresh seafood from the Fisherman’s Co-op and walk over the South Bristol drawbridge (or drive around Christmas Cove’s lux homes across the bridge).
- Boothbay Harbor which does get busy in the summer but a great base camp for surrounding areas, especially with a stay at the popular Topside Inn.
Locally made and shopping
Maine is home to a lot of artists and artisans. If you are looking for a true souvenir or gift, check out Made in Maine products to support the local economy and bring home a truly special product. Here is just a selection:
- Project Puffin Visitor Center in Rockland teaches about the puffins and offers puffin souvenirs.
- Maine State Prison Showroom attracts gift-seekers from far and wide for unique items made by inmates. The industrial arts program there began in – get this – 1825. This is destination shopping from all over the East Coast!
- North Coast Wind Bells in Round Pound makes chimes that imitate the sounds of a variety of buoys. Now run by the second generation and manufactured on site.
- Granite Hall Store in Round Pound, built in 1873, for candy, souvenirs, toys, history and more.
- Reny’s is more than a general store. I was told “Reny’s has everything,” and it does seem to, from soup to nuts, as they say, with socks, fishing gear, candy, and you name it.
Colonial and Maine history
You can’t come to Maine without tripping over Colonial and American history around every corner. Just a taste of a few historic things to do:
- Maine State Prison site behind the prison store is now a park with historical signage.
- Colonial Pemaquid State Historic Site in New Harbor where you can watch restoration work done in period costume by volunteers using period tools on summer weekends.
- Old Rock Schoolhouse in Bristol built in 1835.
Breweries and other beverages
Maine is serious about its breweries, ranking second in the United States in numbers per capita. That means there are 12.7 breweries for every 100,000 adult 21 or older, per the national Brewers Association. Today, add in craft distilleries, which are popping up, as well as meaderies (fermented beverages with honey). Since my visit was during 2020, most were closed or only offering take-out, but we managed to visit a couple in MidCoast Maine … of the 133 in the state at last count!
- Waterman’s Beach Brewery in South Thomaston is a former lobster shack being transformed by a new generation into a laidback beachside brewery
- Odd Alewives Farm Brewery in Waldoboro takes the farm part of its name seriously, infusing herbs and flowers into various brews with a casual backyard for seating.
- Fat Friar’s Meadery in Newcastle offers homespun mead brewed in the passionate owner’s basement.
With the first settlers arriving more than 400 years ago, there are a lot of cemeteries. If you are a fan of old cemeteries, like I am, you may find yourself stopping at every turn. Some are postage stamp-sized historic plots, others may be sweeping waterfront expanses of lawns covered with headstones. Head to the Maine Old Cemetery Association to find them all along the way! Two examples:
- Sheepscot Cemetery in Newcastle along the Sheepscot River
- Harrington Colonial Meetinghouse and cemetery between Bristol and Pemaquid dates back to about 1775. Graves nestle behind it and also across the road down to the Johns River.
During my 2020 visit, museums everywhere in Maine remained mostly closed to the public due to COVID, although a few come highly recommended. I did happen upon one fascinating gem on my list below:
- Farnsworth Art Museum of American art in Rockland
- Maine Lighthouse Museum, also in Rockland, home to the largest collection of lighthouse and Coast Guard artifacts founded by a former Coast Guard officer
- Owls Head Transportation Museum in Owls Head for the lovers of all things that transport people from before 1940, from historic to funky
- Thompson Ice House Harvesting Museum in South Bristol, which was open since it is outdoors, is a small town affair with the goal of preserving the tradition of harvesting ice and storing it for use in warmer months. Volunteers still do this each year in the same way it has been done since the early 1800s. Take a look at the old sheds and tools.
Food and treats
When it comes to the top things to do in MidCoast Maine, food doesn’t venture far from the list, right? Lobstah, lobstah, lobstah is a must. And don’t get a Mainer started on his or her favorite lobster roll since you will find 10 opinions if you have 10 people. Lobster rolls, well, anywhere and everywhere should be enjoyed as much as possible (despite prices that may make you flinch) and every single one is different with some very hard and fast opinions about which is best, which you should avoid, and how it should be made. With a lobster shack or restaurant on every corner (or so it seems), you may as while shoot for as many as possible.
- Just the mention of Red’s Eats in Wiscasset at the western foot of U.S. Route 1 over the Sheepscot River may result in fire and damnation from the locals. But I had to try it and found it dang good with — cross my fingers and hope to die — more lobster meat on it than I thought humanly possible.
- McLoon’s Lobster Shack in South Thomaston wins points for the most amazing setting right on the water at the end of a cul-de-sac.
- The Contented Sole in New Harbor sits on the Colonial Pemaquid Historic Site with its own wharf. Watch the water, eat and enjoy the Maine life.
- Craignair Inn in Spruce Head has an expansive lawn that drops down to the water and causeway leading to the Clark Island Preserve. During the summer season, you can grab drinks and homemade ice cream from the Clark Bar and sit and enjoy the view.
- Round Top Ice Cream in Damariscotta gathers a crowd on hot summer days with its dozens of unique flavors, and seriously good ice cream.
Don’t miss …
Now that you’ve been running around seeing and doing, time to NOT do. When it comes to things to do, enjoying the coastal life is tops.
- Sit and just look at the water since the beautiful coastal views can’t be beat … especially from a traditional Adirondack chair. While you’re at it, enjoy watching the lobster boats putter between buoys pulling up their catch or checking the traps.
- Enjoy enough lobster to last you for the year. When I was ihere, Michael kept telling me I was going to turn into a lobster. But you have to take advantage of this true Maine treat. And I didn’t turn into a lobster. Not yet. But I will keep trying.
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