The Best USA Road Trip Routes

The Best Of Coastal Maine Route-1 Road Trip

The Best Of Coastal Maine Route-1 Road Trip
By Amy Balfour

This breezy road trip on US 1 brakes for lobsters, lighthouses and L.L. Bean, but it also stops for maritime history and coastal water sports.

Carriage trails, ladder trails and vanishing trails keep hikers happy at Acadia National Park at the end of the drive.

Coastal Maine Route-1 road trip

Approx. distance: 400 miles

Duration: one week

Suggested route: Boston, Portsmouth, Ogunquit, Fort Williams Park & Cape Elizabeth, Portland, Rockland, Camden Hills State Park, Bar Harbour, Acadia National Park, Boston.

Acadia National Park Maine USA

Winding coastal drives through Maine's Acadia National Park

The route

Pick up your rental car at Boston Logan International Airport then make the 70-mile drive north to Ogunquit. On the way, history buffs and seafood fans should make a pitstop in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, home of the Strawbery Banke living history village and a slew of downtown eateries specialising in fresh seafood. There are a variety of lodging options in Portsmouth although campgrounds and RV resorts become more prevalent after crossing into Maine.

Kick off your Maine immersion with a morning walk on the Marginal Way in Ogunquit. After your walk, continue driving north. In 25 miles you’ll reach Saco Bay, where you’ll find several campgrounds. Continue 20 miles north to Cape Elizabeth, exploring the coastal attractions before driving into Portland a few miles ahead. Plan to spend at least one night in Portland checking out the seafood restaurants, microbreweries and the historic downtown.

The next day, make the 90-minute drive north to Rockland, stopping to check out the outdoor apparel and gear at the L.L. Bean flagship store in Freeport. Look for the 16ft-tall duck boot beside the front door. For a lunchtime lobster roll, try Harraseeket Lunch & Lobster or drive north to join the line at Red’s Eats in tiny Wiscasset.

Spend the afternoon in Rockland, taking time to walk one mile across the stone breakwater to the Rockland Lighthouse. From Rockland, it’s a 10-mile drive to Camden, another great seafood town. Camden Hills State Park has a campground (mid-May-mid-Oct).

The last stop on this drive is the wonderful Acadia National Park 90 minutes north. There are two car friendly park campgrounds on Mount Desert Island and another on the Schoodic Peninsula one hour north. You’ll find B&Bs, hotels and motels in the town of Bar Harbour, which borders the park on Mount Desert Island.

The best time to drive this route is May through October. Many coastal tourist attractions close in winter.

What to see

Marginal Way

This paved seaside path in art-minded Ogunquit is a scenic sampler of what’s come on this maritime jaunt: rocky shores, an eye-catching lighthouse, coastal homes and windswept views of crashing waves. Numerous benches encourage moments of quiet contemplation.

Fort Williams Park & Cape Elizabeth

The picturesque Portland Head Light draws admirers to Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth, a rocky headland bordering Casco Bay south of Portland. First illuminated in 1791, it’s the oldest working lighthouse in Maine. Walk the cliff-top trail, check out the concrete battery, built in 1906, and look for other lighthouses along the coast. Another spot to soak up the wild beauty of the rocky shoreline is Two Lighthouses State Park, where you’ll find trails, picnic tables and a beloved lobster shack.

Portland

Spend two days exploring Portland, a small but vibrant city with several great museums and historic sites, all complemented by a booming dining and brewery scene. Start your explorations downtown in the cobblestoned streets of Old Port, wandering past the wharves and fish markets then turning inland to visit the galleries, indie shops and buzzy restaurants. In warmer months kayaks explore Casco Bay and its many islands. For easy cycling, try Peaks Island. Craft beer drinkers, take note. Breweries cluster downtown and along Industrial Way in Riverton, which is a short drive northwest of downtown.

Rockland

On a short trip, downtown Rockland makes a pleasant afternoon pitstop, with two art museums and a lighthouse museum. Northeast of downtown, adventurous families can rock-hop nearly one mile over the harbor on a granite breakwater that ends at Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse. But if you have more time, Rockland is a great launchpad for getting out on the Atlantic. The harbor caters to commercial fishermen and lobstermen, but it is also a launch point for a cruise on a multi-masted Windjammer. These gorgeous tall ships whisk passengers along the coast for day- or multi-day sailing excursions.

Camden & Camden Hills State Park

Windjammer cruises are also popular 15 minutes north in pretty Camden, where the walkable downtown is filled with restaurants, galleries, boutiques and antique shops. Don’t miss the half-mile hike to the top of 780ft-high Mt Battie in Camden Hills State Park. The lofty view of Camden, Camden Harbor and island-dotted Penobscot Bay is postcard-pretty. You can also drive to the summit. The campground has flush toilets, hot showers, and water and electric hookups.

Acadia National Park

Beauty, adventure and craftsmanship blend seamlessly in Acadia, where the roads were designed to provide an aesthetically pleasing driving experience. Hold tight as the 27-mile Park Loop Road unfurls along the rocky coast, dips into the woods, swoops past lakes then climbs Cadillac Mountain. The bulk of the park sprawls across rugged Mount Desert Island, a coastal headlands that’s home to shallow tidepools, well-groomed carriage trails and thick maritime forests. Steel rungs on the famous ladder trails help adventurous hikers scale rocky cliffs while the trail to Bar Island disappears daily when the tide comes in. Cycling and kayaking are popular in and around the park and in Bar Harbor. Don’t miss the stargazing ranger talks on Sand Beach.

The Best Of Coastal Maine Route-1 Road Trip

Amy Balfour

Amy has authored or co-authored 26 books on the USA for Lonely Planet. Her articles and essays have appeared in Backpacker, Every Day with Rachael Ray, Houston Chronicle, Redbook, Southern Living, Women’s Health, Vegetarian Times, the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post.

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