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16 Wonderful Winter Things to Do on the Southern Maine Coast

To make the most of your winter getaway, put these winter things to do on the Southern Maine Coast on your itinerary!

Maine might be known for its fall foliage, but the most recent travel statistics show that winter gets 25% more visitors than its predecessor. For anyone who thinks Maine winters are too cold, you’re in for a milder surprise on the Southern Maine Coast.

Of course, the holiday season is charming and cheerful along the coast, with many activities planned from Kittery to Freeport. However, many big holiday events happen before the official start of winter.

Winter is also more of a state of mind (and state of temperatures) in Maine, as most people consider winter to end between late March and mid-May. The unique northern position of the state makes the mid-March seasonal switch a little irrelevant when it comes to a Southern Maine Coast winter.

So without further ado, check out these awesome winter things to do on the Southern Maine Coast!

LL Bean-Freeport
LL Bean Freeport | photo via jeffreysmith76

Celebrate the Winter Solstice

The shortest day of the year might bring groans in other states, but Maine makes the most of it with outdoor activities on the beach and preserved lands. The land trusts in York and Cumberland counties host a Winter Solstice Walk. Some are held by the light of day and others under the moonlight.

Sound too cold? Head indoors for special solstice celebrations and shows at the Southworth Planetarium in Portland.

Plan Around Carnaval Winter Festival in Portland

The cME Winter Festival is one event worth every base layer you can find. The ultimate celebration of winter takes over Portland’s Old Port, usually in early March.

Igloos and ice carving demos are super chill, while the party heats up with live performances and a smorgasbord of Maine’s epic culinary scene. Where else can you say you partied in a heated igloo??

Explore Shopping Options

The Southern Maine Coast is the ultimate shopping destination whether you’re looking for a great deal at one of two outlet malls or the shops of unique downtown corridors.

In Freeport, L.L. Bean is bigger than you can imagine with the flagship store and other niche offerings (hello, L.L. Bean Home Store!). An outlet store is across the way for even deeper discounts.

Kittery’s Outlet Mall offers another shopping haven with name brands at slashed prices.

Plus, tourism numbers show that the winter months are the most popular time for guests to shop at unique downtown stores. Try Portland’s Commercial Street, Kennebunkport’s Dock Square, and Ogunquit’s Main Street.

Go Cross Country Skiing

Summer sun seekers will never get to experience the winter wonderland of cross-country skiing on the Southern Maine Coast. One of the top spots is the Eastern Trail, which transitions from a walking/biking path into a snowshoe/cross-country skiing route running from Kittery to Portland.

Another snow adventure is waiting on the Sebago to the Sea Trail, which connects Casco Bay with Sebago Lake. You’ll get to experience some small-town charm in Windham, Gorham, and Westbrook.

Ride a Snowmobile

Snowmobiling is a way of life in Maine from the coast to the crown of the state. Throughout the Southern Maine Coast, some snowmobile clubs tend to the miles of trails and offer expert advice for your adventure.

Maine has more than 4,000 miles along the Interconnected Trail System, so you can go as far as you’d like or just take a nearby loop.

Take Many Beach Walks

Southern Maine is known for its beaches, and you can pretty much have one to yourself if you look hard enough. We like Ogunquit Beach, Old Orchard Beach, Kennebunk’s trio of beaches, and York Beach.

Marginal Way in Ogunquit is a rugged walk on the coastline. Just watch for icy patches because it’s open but not maintained during the winter season.

What’s more? This is the most dog-friendly time of the year on Maine’s beaches, with most allowing dogs on-leash or off-leash without restrictions.

Horseback Riding | photo via karl.ramsdell

Try a Winter Horseback Ride

Whether you’re bringing your own or need to find a local horse tour company, horseback rides or horse-drawn sleigh rides in the snow are a unique way to enjoy Southern Maine during winter. On top of that, most state park beaches only allow horseback rides on the beach between October and March.

Lose Yourself While Lighthouse Viewing

Winter brings a raw appeal to the Maine lighthouses that dot the coastline, including the famous Portland Head Light, the notoriously haunted Boon Island Lighthouse, and Cape Neddick’s coastal masterpiece.

Stop by Bug Light Park in South Portland to see two lighthouses and watch the boats enter and exit the harbor.

PHOTO TIP: When taking pictures of the Portland Head Light, try to arrive at low tide to get more of the rugged rocks in the photo. Fort Williams Park has several scenic viewpoints.

Soak in a Spa Day

A relaxing winter getaway might include a spa day to pamper yourself or bond with your buddies. Places like The Spa at Cliff House on Cape Neddick can be sold out for months during the high travel season, making winter another great reason to visit.

Consider being among the first to stay at Portland’s wellness-themed Longfellow Hotel with its Astraea spa, poised to redefine the art of “being present” and self-care.

TRAVEL TIP: If you’re a spa seeker, try to book a room at the hotel where the spa is located. Some locations will offer deep discounts in winter or free spa treatments with a fixed-night stay.

Take a Spin While Ice Skating

A benefit of visiting the Southern Maine Coast during the colder months in Maine is the abundance of ice skating options — from the big city to the backwoods.

Deering Oaks Pond near downtown Portland is the “go-to” spot for ice skating in the winter. Even Hollywood couldn’t resist this spot, as Whitney Houston and Denzel Washington skated here for a scene in “The Preacher’s Wife” (1996).

West Brook Skating Rink in Biddeford draws big crowds with regular updates on Facebook, so you know the ice is safe.

Explore Fat Tire Biking

One of the newest trends on any snow-covered slope is fat biking. These cycles are just like riding a bicycle except they have (wait for it) fat tires. The burly tires help you pedal through packed snow.

We recommend taking a fat tire bike ride along the Eastern Promenade of Portland or checking in with Maine Bike Works in Saco to see if any group rides are planned. The only caveat to fat biking is that you need a snow-packed, groomed trail — not fresh powder.

Don’t Miss the Boat (Rides)

Ferry services must run throughout the year since Portland has several offshore populated islands and many people commute. That opens the water to Peaks Island, Cliff Island, and Little Diamond Island. Even just riding the ferry gives you a less-expensive boat tour.

Eat Seafood. Repeat.

Don’t let the food myths of the world influence your decision to dine out in Maine style. Hard-shell lobster fans will particularly love the feast of winter — chowders can warm you up on the coldest day, and oysters are even said to have a richer, sweeter flavor when they come from cold water.

SWEET TOOTH? Maple Syrup Sunday is in late March (technically spring, but for Mainers, still winter), and that means an explosion of maple-laced products at restaurants along the coastline.

Ride Route 1

The first mile of Route 1 starts in Fort Kent in Aroostook County, but (arguably) the best section of this “Fort Kent to the Florida Keys” road goes right through the Southern Maine coastline.

Ditch I-95 to get a more intimate look at the coastal cities and towns and stop at your leisure. It will be nice to take a scenic route without the overwhelming summer traffic.

Antique shoppers will also adore the 30-mile length from Kittery to Arundel (just outside Kennebunkport), as more than four dozen antique locations line the way.

MORE: Read our full guide to Route 1 road trip stops for every interest.

Splurge at a Luxury Hotel

Southern Maine’s stunning coastal scenery includes some of the most luxurious resorts tucked into historic homes or developed on cliffsides with surreal amenities. We compared two days in February to two days in June at the most expensive hotels and found prices anywhere from 20% to 60% cheaper.

On top of that, most resorts will offer discounts to fill up rooms at the last minute, making a surprise escape easy to plan.

Build a Beach Bonfire

Several Southern Maine coastal communities allow bonfires on their beaches. Old Orchard Beach is one of our favorites, but a bonfire permit is required, like many communities. Bring some s’mores ingredients and enjoy a winter night at the beach. Goose Rocks Beach in Kennebunkport is another bonfire beauty.

NOTE: Fires are not allowed on Ogunquit Beach.

Ice Skating

Plan a Wonderful Itinerary of Winter Things to Do on the Southern Maine Coast

Even when the weather turns and snow starts to fall, most businesses along the Southern Maine Coast have window views of the water or popular snow sledding hills.

The best way to find specific, fun winter activities and locations is to ask a local — it’s more reliable and accurate than Google. Locals have that awesome accent too.

One local’s tip — if you can grant us that — is that you should NEVER complain to a Mainer about how cold it is during the winter season. Even if a Mainer hates cold weather, they will side with the beauty of the state and wonder, “Why the heck did you come here?”

Hopefully, we’ve helped eliminate that and provided some great ways to enjoy the growing popularity of winter in Southern Maine.

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