Maine is famous for its four seasons, with summer being most popular for sun and fun, fall foliage is peak too. Spring is a time of renewal and regrowth in Maine. But what about winter? Locals know that winter along the southern Maine coast is a hidden gem. Gone are the many visitors that flock to the coast for 4th of July and their peak summer week. What remains is an incredibly peaceful scene by the sea. You can still walk the beach, lobster is served in the rough at Maine lobster pounds or in more elegant settings with an ocean view in the best restaurants in York, Ogunquit, Kennebunkport and Portland. Best of all, lodging prices are lower in winter, making your getaway to the Southern Maine coast a real winner.
A little secret about winter by the sea… the ocean acts like a big temperature mediator – making winter on the coast a bit warmer than inland. The Southern Maine coast still gets snow, but the temperatures don’t get as cold as in the Maine mountains.
The town so Southern Maine celebrate winter right, starting with the best holidays festivals. York kicks off the winter season with the Lighting of the Nubble at Cape Neddick the weekend after Thanksgiving. Kennebunkport host Christmas Prelude the first two weeks of December with a dizzying display of holiday decor, caroling, tree lighting, parades of hats and dogs and fantastic holiday shopping and Maine craft fairs. Ogunquit’s Christmas by the sea is the second weekend of December, a beautiful celebration in this seaside town. The Southern Maine Christmas Parade is the 2nd Sunday of December, beautifully decorated floats fill Route 1 in Wells from the Wells Shopping Plaza, parading to the Wells Middle School complete with a Grand Marshal and many fun entertainers – now approaching three decades of tradition.
Portland Maine celebrates winter with wonderful food and wine at its collection of fine restaurants. Portland is home to some of the best chefs in the country – and it's easier to get a table in winter than prime summer. First Friday Art Walks continue in Portland all year round, with winter art openings offering warm toddies and a chance to sneak a peek at the latest artwork from talented local Maine artists. Casco Bay Ferries operate daily, all through the winter, as many Portlanders reside on the Casco Bay Island and commute, so you can dress warmly and enjoy a winter boat ride.
Freeport Maine is a winter hub for everyone’s favorite pastime, shopping. We all know LL Bean is open – always! The winter decorations at the Beaner, and throughout Freeport are fantastic. LL Bean also offers wonderful outdoor schools so you can try cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, GEO caching and so much more with a Maine guide or on your own.
Exploring southern Maine’s many walking paths in winter is a treat. Whether you strap on snowshoes or Nordic skis to glide across the snow or just go in warm waterproof boots, you will find beautiful serene settings as you wander. Harris Farm in Dayton and Smiling Hill Farm in Westbrook near Portland offer cross-country skiing on groomed tracked trails, with rentals equipment available.
As for the coastline and beaches of Southern Maine, the beaches of York, Ogunquit, Wells, Kennebunk and Old Orchard Beach are all easily accessed with ample parking so you can stroll the quiet calm beach in winter. No need to bring a beach towel or swimsuit, unless it is January 1 and you want to join in the fun of Polar Plunge – a New Year’s Day tradition in Maine.
With less visitors during the months of December through March, a winter vacation in Maine means no crowds, no lines or waiting for a table at the best lobster restaurants. Instead, you will find lodging deals, and happy hours, open houses at local shops, wineries and art boutiques. Make a plan to celebrate winter on the southern Maine Coast, come “sea” why we call it our secret season.