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Top Things to Do on the Southern Maine Coast

If Maine is the way life should be, you should be here… we think the best of Maine is the southern Maine coast. Its easiest to reach, has the most sandy beach, plenty of lighthouses and lobster, everything iconic Maine, without the long drive upta Bar Harbor and beyond….

  1. Lobster – get ya lobstah just ovah the bordah… (Maine slang) you can stop in York, Kittery, or carry on further “down east” to satisfy your crustacean craving. We love the lobster at York Harbor Inn or Dockside, both have a water view, for a lobster roll, baked stuffed lobster, steamed and more. See How to eat a Maine lobster
  2. Lighthouses – Southern Maine has a dozen lighthouses, including two of the world’s most majestic and most photographed- Cape Neddick’s Nubble Light, and Portland Headlight – Maine’s oldest – 1791. See this Guide to Maine Lighthouses on the southern Maine coast.
  3. Beaches – our coast is loaded with lovely sand beaches, from York’s Long Sand and Short Sands Beach to Ogunquit Beach, Wells Beach, several beaches in Kennebunk and Kennebunkport and Goose Rocks, to Old Orchard Beach and near Portland Ferry Beach, Scarborough and Higgins beach. Sand, surf, salt air and sea views…. Here are Maine’s best beaches on the south coast.
  4. Boating – the best way to see the Maine coast is by sea. Charter a sailboat cruise, hop on a lobster boat tour to pull some traps, take a Whale Watch to the outer banks, a Ferry around Casco Bay, or just kayak the harbors and along the coast. See our guide to Boating, Sailing and Fishing Charters.
  5. Bike around the beautiful country roads and scenic ocean side drives in southern Maine. To rally appreciate the serenity and scenery of Maine, take the road less traveled and pedal, along Ocean Ave in Kennebunkport, or the Eastern trail, or the more adventurous mountain bike paths of Mt Agamenticus.
  6. Shop the treasure of southern Maine. Whether its that weathered antique you seek from a Wells boutique- the antique shoppers capital of Maine, or a cool Maine made craft from Perkins Cove in Ogunguit, to the bargain hunters haven of Mardens  and Reny’s in Biddeford. Last but not least is Kittery – the outlet capital of Maine, and Freeport – home to LL Bean, open 24/7/365.
  7. Explore the seaside towns – many of New England’s best towns are in the southernmost part of Maine. Kennebunkport has its cute shops, galleries and restaurants, while Portland’s Old Port is packed with cool boutiques and bars. Ogunquit is an art community with flair, while Freeport has a beautiful hidden waterfront – on the Harasseeket – most don’t see when they beeline to the outlets on Main Street..
  8. Eat Maine – its not just lobstah and buttah. Maine has a real up and coming foodie scene. Top Chefs are coming to Maine and the cuisine is up and coming because of it. Portland has amazing restaurants, James Beard award winning chefs, and Maine is home to some hot food and wine festivals like Harvest on the Harbor and The Kennebunkport Festival – fun food and wine infused celebrations on the cusp of going big.
  9. Stay for a day, a night or two. Since southern Maine is so easy to get to, just over an hour from Boston, you can come for just an overnight or two, play all day – hit the beach, the boutiques, have that bite of lobster, go for a boat ride, and book a beautiful room at The Boathouse Waterfront Hotel, a waterfront resort like The Cliff House or Stage Neck Inn, or a cozy BnB like Captain Lord Mansion or an inn like Breakwater Inn and Spa in Kennebunkport or The Seaside right on Kennebunk Beach.
  10. Leave only your footprints on the beach, but take lots of photos. Maine is a most photonic place, so you’ll want to snap lots of picks to post on facebook and insta #visitmaine #vacationland#Sea you soon on the southern Maine Coast!
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The changing coastline of Maine

pineapple-ketchThe Maine coast has been a retreat for city folks for over a century – people continue to love to escape for a summer by the sea. There is something so relaxing and restorative  about the cool ocean breeze and the quiet natural setting of Maine.

At the turn of the century and even into the 1920s, people from away, Boston and New York,  would come to southern Maine and stay for weeks, even months or the entire “season” by the sea, staying in a summer cottage or one of the grand oceanfront resorts in York, Ogunquit, Kennebunk Beach and Kennebunkport, Old Orchard Beach and Portland. shawmut-kennebunkportThere were large hotels on the water, with grand porches, pools and beaches.

Today, many of those historic seaside hotels have closed, converted to condos like the Narragansett on Kennebunk Beach, or were torn down and replaced with massive private mansions like the Shawmut Inn (pictured here courtesy of Kennebunkport Conservation Trust) formerly located off Ocean Ave in Kennebunkport, now a private residence.

pineapple-ketch-nonantumBut a few gracious and grand hotels remain on the coast, from the Wentworth in Newcastle New Hampshire, to the York Harbor Inn in York, The Cliff House in Ogunquit, the Colony Hotel, Breakwater Inn and Nonantum Resort in Kennebunkport, and the Seaside Inn on Kennebunk Beach.

Guests can no longer afford to stay for a month or the summer season, time and stripers-fishing-boatmoney constraints in our fast-paced lives don’t allow for such long lavish getaways, but a few days at these top seaside hotels can feel like a grand getaway even if its just for a few days.

Sipping a cocktail on The Colony porch’s gazebo overlooking the Atlantic, or watching the sunset over the Kennebunk River from an Adirondack chair at the Breakwater Inn is rejuvenating…and reflective of the good ole’ days on coast in the summer.

colony-kennebunkport-festival-aspenConsider a summer escape to the southern Maine coast… the way life should be, by the sea.

See our southern Maine lodging guide, and things to do on the southern Maine coast from boating, the best beaches, shopping and dining.

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Photos and Copyright, property of Southern Maine Coast.com, IMS-21,  2015

Annual Events on the Southern Maine Coast

Jan 1 The Polar Plunge | Portland, Kennebunk, and Old Orchard Beach – swimmers start the New Year with a cold dip in the Atlantic at Maine beaches January 1 for a good cause benefiting various charities. Old Orchard Beach has a Lobster Dip.

Lobster Trap Christmas TreeFebruary is for Lovers | Kennebunkport -The seaside town of Kennebunkport will “Paint the Town Red.” Red tag sales in boutiques, red plates at the best restaurants, a red light ceremony, and carriage rides are highlights. Kennebunk-Kennebunkport offers the perfect winter destination, romantic lodging with ocean views, jacuzzis, and fires. Getaway packages include dining at cozy intimate restaurants, even spa treatments in a picturesque village setting.

Maine Maple Sunday – the third weekend in March Maine Sugar Shacks demonstrate syrup making and give maple candies and maple syrup samples.

Kennebunk May Day Parade and Festival – 1st weekend in May downtown Kennebunk hosts a hometown parade, live music, craft fair and farmers market and family fun.

Memorial Day Weekend Parade Kennebunkport and Kennebunk

wine_glass_corkJune 8-13, 2015: Kennebunkport Festival | Kennebunkport – a fine food, art and wine festival celebrates Kennebunkport’s artists, galleries, top chefs and fine restaurants. Award-winning chefs prepare extraordinary dinners paired with wine and art. Before and After parties, concerts, boat parties, Pop The Kennebunks, Grand Tastings, Brews and tunes, and  Grand Finale comprise this annual waterfront festival in Kennebunkport and Kennebunk. Kennebunkport Festival lodging packages are available at Kennebunkport historic bed and breakfast, inns, resorts and oceanfront hotels.

June 22-23, 2015: George H W Bush Celebrity Golf Classic  | Kennebunkport – A Cape Arundel Golf Club golf tournament with past presidents, pros and celebrities is followed by an evening gala at The Colony Hotel in a fundraiser for Gary’s House.

Tour de Cure | Wells Reserve, Wells –   June bicycle ride to benefit the American Diabetes Association offers one of five routes, 5K, 25K, 50K, 100K, or 100 Mile on Maine’s scenic coastline of Southern Maine with the start and finish at Wells Reserve in Wells.
Portland Headlight
Old Port Festival | Portland – A mid June-tradition for 40 years, Portland’s annual Old Port Festival is Maine’s largest one-day event with bands, a parade,  artists and craft fairs.

June 28 Paddle Battle at Nonantum Resort l Kennebunkport – Annual race of canoes, paddleboards and kayaks on the Kennebunk River.

Southern Maine Fireworks DisplayJuly 4  Fireworks | Maine Beach Towns including York, Ogunquit, Wells, Kennebunk Old Orchard Beach, Portland

Aug 29, 2015: Wells Annual Chilifest | Wells – Wells Harbor becomes a Mexican fiesta as Wells best restaurants compete for the best chili title, last weekend in August.

Laudholm Summer Solstice Nature Crafts Festival | Wells – 1st Weekend after Labor Day 100 artisans, jewelers,  and crafts people display at Laudholm Farm.

Lobsterman Triathlon | South Freeport – the most popular triathlons of lobstermen that swim across Casco bay, bike and run  in Freeport mid September.

Maine Open Lighthouse Day – September weekendMaine’s lighthouses are open to the public and free of charge

Wells Beach signOct 17, 2015: York Harvestfest | York Beach – York’s annual celebration of Maine food and culture, music and crafts on York Beach, Maine.

October 2015: OgunquitFest | Ogunquit – last weekend of October is filled with fall fun, pumpkin decorating, costume parade, classic car show, craft show,  high heel race, bed race, wagon rides, and a scarecrow contest.

Oct 2015: Harvest on the Harbor | Portland Maine’s top chefs serve local food and wines on Portland’s waterfront for the title Maine Lobster Chef of the year

October 30, 2015 Nonantum Phantom l Kennebunkport annual Halloween Bash for adults with costumes and live music at this historic, haunted Kennebunkport inn.

Oct 31 “Trick or Treat” Halloween Night in the Kennebunks | the Kennebunks’ local merchants hand out goodies to costumed kids in the late afternoon.

Nov 28, 2015 Festival of Lights | Kennebunk –  the largest Christmas Tree in downtown Kennebunk is lit up the weekend following Thanksgiving! Caroling, horse-drawn carriage rides, and ice skating at Kennebunk’s Waterhouse Pavilion.

nubble-light-southern-maine-coast.jpgNov 28, 2015: Lighting of the Nubble | Sohier Park, York – In Sohier Park, the Nubble Lighthouse is illuminated and Santa makes an appearance.

Dec 3 – 13, 2015: Kennebunkport Christmas Prelude | Kennebunkport – seasonal seaside celebration with  tree lighting , shopping, craft fairs, caroling, and Santa in a lobster boat! Kennebunkport Christmas Prelude is the first two weeks in December.

Freeport Sparkle Weekend | Freeport – 1st weekend of Dec. Freeport  has a Parade of Lights down Main Street, Holiday Movie Marathon, Tuba Christmas Concert, Visits with Santa, Horse Drawn Wagons, Musical Holiday Light Shows, Holiday crafts, Complimentary Gift Wrapping and more!

Dec  5, 2015: Festival of Lights | York – Christmas fun includes the Polar Express, Breakfast with Santa, Festival of Ginger-bread Houses, Festival of Trees, the Lighting of York Village, and a Festival of Lights Parade.

Snow TreesDec  11-13, 2015: Christmas By the Sea Ogunquit | Christmas celebration with a parade, holiday decorations, caroling, Ogunquit shopping, and craft fairs.

2nd Saturday of Dec: Christmas Boat Parade of Lights | Portland Harbor –  Casco Bay Lines Boat Parade of Lights fills Portland harbor with decorated lighted boats and fireworks.

Dec 13, 2015: Southern Maine Christmas Parade | Wells – an annual holiday parade of floats, decorated vehicles, mascots and marching bands Wells Plaza at 2pm to the Wells Junior High School.

For lodging on the Southern Maine Coast during any of these fun annual events, see our Maine Lodging Guide and we hope to “sea” you soon!

Things to do in Southern Maine: Winter Events

Winter in Maine brings snow and a sparkling blue color on the ocean. The best way to enjoy Maine winters is to get outdoors – snowshoeing, skiing, snowmobiling, etc. Southern Maine hosts a profusion of winter recreation and events from holiday festivals and shopping to sleigh rides, skating and cross country skiing. The Southern Maine  region embraces the spirit of the holidays in the winter months, but you can still walk the beach all year round. Continue reading Things to do in Southern Maine: Winter Events