As I drove by the sign that read Acadia National Park with an arrow pointing left, I did have a little pang of indecision for a moment. I knew Acadia is where everyone goes when they do a Maine Road Trip, but it was precisely that reason why I didn’t turn left.
I only had a limited amount of time, and my goal is to always seek out new places when I travel, even if it’s a popular tourist destination like Maine. I believe the best places to see in Maine have little hidden gems and secrets – and it’s my goal to find them.
This was my first trip to Maine, and a much anticipated one. I love lobster, blueberries, and Thoreau; I knew Maine and I would be a good match. When I worked out my itinerary, I made sure to include some really off the beaten track secret places and experiences, and some more traditional places. But in those traditional places, I also found unique things to do.
I drove myself on this 8-day solo road trip in a primarily circular route starting and ending in Portland. This ensured that I would experience the interior rural Maine along with the famous well-traveled coast and ultimately get to the best places to see in Maine. I stayed in small B&B’s and cottages along the way giving me the opportunity to meet a lot of locals. And I also made sure to try some new activities I’ve never done before, like fishing, along with some old favorites, like surfing. Come along with me to see all sides of this beautiful state on a Maine Road Trip!
Maine Road Trip Map to the Best Places to See
Go Deep Into the North Maine Woods
I arrived in Portland and drove north to Glenburn – where I immediately gave up the car and got in a floatplane to go deep into the woods. The North Maine Woods region covers more than 3.5 million acres of forestland bordered by Canada to the west and north. I landed on Millinocket Lake home of Libby Sporting Camps for 2 nights of remote wilderness!
Want to hear more, read my article on my stay at Libby Camps!
What to do: Fishing, hunting, hiking, paddling, biking, wildlife watching, clay shooting, and photography. Or just sit, relax in a hammock and read a book! It’s up to you!
What to eat: Libby’s cooks all the food and it’s eaten in the communal lodge. It’s delicious comfort food and you’ll be sure to get hearty breakfasts!
Lodging: Libby’s Sporting Camps
See the Other Part of Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park is no secret, however the Schoodic Peninsula in the National Park is a secret. It’s uncrowded and unspoiled and it’s not even connected to the rest of Acadia Park! Located in the Gouldsboro area, the Schoodic section of Acadia National Park covers over 2,000 acres of wild forest set along the crashing surf of Frenchman Bay. The National Park has spent a lot of time further developing the Schoodic Peninsula with a scenic drive around the perimeter, biking trails, new campgrounds, and numerous hiking trails.
I was pretty excited when I turned onto the peninsula and realized this was the lesser-known part of the park. In fact most people don’t even know it exists. I stopped at the Schoodic Institute and learned all about their citizen science programs. Schoodic Institute is the nonprofit partner of Acadia National Park and it’s the largest of all 18 learning institutes in the National Park System. The difference between learning institutes and regular parks is the science element.
Visitors can get involved in park studies such as migration counts, penology (the timing of when things happen in the seasons), tidal zone changes, and gathering data on when migrant birds arrive. The goal is to create a society where the visitors can be introduced to the science and be engaged by helping collect data. To get a complete listing of citizen science projects you can be a part of, check out their event listing here.
What to do: Visit the park! Take the one way scenic drive with numerous lookouts for photos, visit the Schoodic institute, hike the Blueberry trail (or many other trails!), or go biking around the various bikepaths!
What to eat: I had dinner at the Pickled Wrinkle – known for it’s pickled wrinkles. What is that? It’s large carnivorous sea snails, or whelks, which are pickled – an old Downeast Maine ‘delicacy’. Read reviews of the Pickled Wrinkle
Lodging: I stayed at Acadia’s Oceanside Meadows Inn. This Inn was a well-oiled hospitality machine! A beautiful setting with a beach and a number of great hiking trails around the property taking you deeper into the landscapes! Not to mention – the breakfast was foodie heaven!
Read Reviews of Acadia’s Oceanside Meadows Inn
Secret Coastal Communities and Maine State Parks
I asked the owner of the Oceanside Meadows Inn where I could get a great lobster roll nearby and he pointed in the direction of Corea (that’s with a C, not a K!). As I drove into the village I saw lobster traps and fishing boats everywhere, I knew I had received great advice. I parked and walked around the village a bit and then made my way to the Wharf Gallery and Grill. My lobster roll was perfection – lots of meat and light on the mayo. Plus, you can sit out on the deck and have an authentic Maine experience – a definite secret treasure away from the hustle and bustle of Bar Harbor!
Read reviews of the Wharf Gallery and Grill
After my belly was full of Maine lobster, I explored small coastal state parks I passed along my drive south towards Camden. Acadia National Park may get all of the attention, but Maine is also full of wonderful state parks that are often overlooked by tourists! I stopped at Moose Point State Park, and Camden Hills State Park. I even had time to do a bit of hiking in the latter. I loved these lesser-known parks with amazing views.
What to do: Walk around Corea fishing village, Take a hike at Camden Hills State Park and check out the great view from the top!
What to Eat: Eat outside on the dock at Corea lobster shack – Corea Wharf Gallery and Grill. You can’t miss it – it’s sort of the only thing in town!
Lodging: Inns at Blackberry Common. I loved this long time bed and breakfast. The owners were veterans in hospitality, and it showed in every way. They served up the best breakfasts on the coast! I loved sitting out on the patio soaking up the morning sun and devouring my delicious breakfasts!
Read reviews of Inns at Blackberry Common
Go Inland to and Get Rural at Union Fair
Check the Maine festival schedule as many small towns put on summer festivals that are a hoot to go see! Near Camden I decided to go inland to the secret lesser-traveled areas and see what the rural culture was like. I went to Union Fair for the Maine Wild Blueberry Festival and was enthralled with a whole local side of Maine that I had yet to experience. Union Fair is definitely off the tourist track!
What to do: The Maine Blueberry Festival takes place every August. Just drive aimlessly through the rolling hills, small towns and around the lakes. You’ll find an unexpected adventure no doubt.
What to Eat: Three letters…P-I-E! I ate all day at the blueberry festival and had my fair share of blueberry pie!
Lodging: Inns at Blackberry Common in Camden
This is a great area to try your hand at fishing and get out on the water! I hired a Maine Guide who took me out fishing all day around the area to his secret fishing spots. We did both saltwater and freshwater fishing. And the best part was that he provided all of the equipment…and some stellar weather!
Then I continued further South down the coast for my overnight in Freeport, home of L.L. Bean.
What to do: Hire a Maine Guide to take you out fishing, hiking, or kayaking and get you closer to nature! Or if shopping is more your interest, check out LL Bean headquarters and do a tour!
What to Eat: Try the Slipway Restaurant at St. George River for great lobster rolls. I finished my day at Broad Arrow Tavern with the lobster dinner there in this old little pub. Finger licking good! Read reviews of Broad Arrow Tavern
Lodging: Harraseeket Inn Freeport Maine
Read reviews of the Harraseeket Inn
Secrets South of Portland
Instead of going directly to Portland, why not find some real secret hidden gems around the Portland area. I headed to the water logged Scarborough area where water and land mix into a wetlands landscape. Here is where I found Nonesuch Oyster farm that runs daily tours from their dock out to their farm in the Nonesuch River. Owner, Abigail, runs the most informative, fun, hands on, and delicious oyster tour around! She’ll pull them right from the water and shuck them all while educating you about the farming techniques.
After a number of raw oysters from Nonesuch I kept going with the seafood and stopped at Bayley’s Lobster Pound for a lobster roll on the water. Then I ended my day with the ultimate Maine secret – surfing. Yes, you can surf in Maine! Black Point Surf Shop not only makes their own boards, but they also offer beginner surfing lessons at the nearby beach!
What to do: Nonesuch Oyster Farm Tour, Black Point Surf Lessons
What to eat: Bayley’s Lobster Pound
Lodging: I stayed in Portland for the night at Portland Harbor Hotel – a great location as you are central to everything!
Read Reviews of Portland Harbor Hotel
Portland Maine Secrets
Sure, you can do the typical stuff in Portland – see the Portland Head Lighthouse and eat at the Portland Lobster Company, but those aren’t secrets! Instead, I got up early in the morning and walked the Eastern Promenade Trail along the waterfront and watched the sun come up. It was a really peaceful time to get a feeling for the popular port city.
I took a Maine Foodie Tour learning about how Portland has become a popular foodie ‘capital’. I also got tips on the local places to eat, like the Holy Donut shop and the Porthole Restaurant for no frills and no touristy lobster! And I ended my time in Portland with a sunset kayak adventure that gave me a whole new perspective on the city.
Road Trip Gear
And it you are going on a road trip, don’t forget to bring these items to make life easier on the road!
Bring a phone holder for your rental car and use your phone for GPS instead of renting a GPS device! I love the phone holders that clip right onto the vent, as it’s small and easy to bring with me!
Hopefully you’ll enjoy this ‘secret’ Maine road trip yourself, and also find some new secrets along the way!