I just made an RV trip to Maine for the umpteenth time. I’ve been visiting the state for over 40+ years. The reason – I grew up in the Pine Tree state, went to school in Maine, and used to own a home here. I also still have family in Maine, so it’s a place I frequent and am very familiar with.
Growing up in southern Maine and being a “Mainah”, I never thought of this area as an RV destination. I always went “away” to travel or see new things. But, southern Maine is a very popular destination with many attractions and some stunningly beautiful scenery.
I know first hand that Maine is a beautiful state with many unique and beautiful places. I’ve climbed it highest mountains, canoed its famous river, biked its roads, and sailed its coast line. With my family living in the greater Portland area, I tend to visit southern Maine a few times each year. Having seen all the big attractions over the years, I now just focus my visit time on family and my favorite places and things. So, in this post I’ll share some of my southern Maine favorites.
I grew up going to the beach and I’m still drawn to it. There are lots of choices for beaches in southern Maine. Old Orchard Beach is one of the most popular with vacationers. It’s very touristy with carnival rides and lots of fried food places. Kind of small Maine version of the Jersey shore. I like Old Orchard Beach. It’s over the top summery. Bathing suits and flip-flops are the standard attire. Parking is easy, its bike friendly, there’s lots of food choices, and people watching is a major attraction.
My other favorite beaches are a couple of remote ones. Scarborough Beach State Park has two miles flat sandy beach and not much else. It’s mostly a locals beach and parking is very limited. The only services are a small food shack and some vault toilets. This beach is popular because it has some of the best waves in southern Maine. It’s my favorite beach for body surfing and playing in the water.
My other favorite beach is even more remote. Long Island sits in Casco Bay just a few miles from Portland. It takes a ferry ride and then about a 2 mile walk to get to Andrews Beach on the ocean side of this small 2 mile long island – home to about 200 people. There’s no signs to the beach, no parking, just a bike rack and foot path to the beach. On a busy summer day I might find 20 people on this small white sand double crescent beach. At trip to Andrews Beach is a beach adventure because I have to take a back pack with a chair, towels, extra clothes, food, water and be able to handle the 4 mile round trip walk. But it’s all worth it to sit on this lovely hidden gem of a beach and enjoy the mesmerizing ocean.
Portland used to be a small drab city with a crumbling waterfront. Now, its been revived into a vibrant cruise ship destination with some of the best restaurants in New England, The Old Port waterfront section in Portland now rivals Boston’s North End. It’s a happening place and a nice area to stroll past shops and walk on cobble stone streets.
I’ve spent a lot of time in Portland and if you’ve never been, it’s worth a visit. But now I’m a low-budget old-fart type of guy. Portland has two attractions that I still like. There’s the ferry service out to the Casco Bay islands. The daily Mailboat ferry run, that delivers mail to the islands, is a fun way to spend a day on the water and see Casco Bay. At $10 for a ticket, it’s a four-hour trip with stops at five islands. I like to pack a lunch, take some drinks, and just soak up the views as the boat motors to the islands.
The other thing I like to do in Portland is to go see a baseball game. Portland has a minor league baseball team, the Portland Sea Dogs. They’re a AA affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. The ball field is a replica of Fenway Park complete with a green monster wall. While the stadium is small (seating for 7,300) it provides all the fun and entertainment that is typical of minor league baseball. For $9, I’ll get seat close the field, sip a local craft brew, and enjoy some major league hopefuls play their game. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon,
Before I got into RVing, I owned a waterfront condo in South Portland with beautiful views of Portland harbor. It was a great place to escape to while I was working my high stress job. One of the things I liked to do during these escapes was to go biking from my condo out to Cape Elizabeth and Scarborough. South Portland is the terminus of the Eastern Trail, a 65 mile bike trail that goes from Kittery to South Portland. One ride that I like is to ride the Eastern Trail from Bug Light Park out to Scarborough Marsh. It’s about a 14 mile out and back on a nice paved trail.
My other favorite bike ride is to follow the shore line and ride out the Black Point. I follow Shore Road out to Cape Elizabeth and then ride Rt 77 out to Rt 207 and Black Point. On this route there are stops at five beaches and two lighthouses to see. Its one of the prettiest rides in Maine.
Another option for biking is to take a bike on the Casco Bay Lines ferry out to Peaks or Long Island and spend a day biking an island.
I once read that living well is the best revenge for the bad stuff that life will throw at us. And for me, living well includes eating well. I’m not a fancy restaurant type of guy, but I enjoy good food. On my palate, a $15 meal tastes just as good as a $90 meal. Portland has an abundance of great restaurants. Here’s a list of my favorites
- The Front Room – A local neighborhood place with great meatloaf and Shepard’s pie
- Sebago Brewing – A brew pub that serves good food and the best tiramisu on the planet
- Joe’s Boat House – Just steps from my old condo. A casual place with great food and harbor views.
- Yosaku – The best Japanese sushi in Portland.
- Amatos – A local chain of sandwich shops famous for their Italian sandwiches. I get one each time I go to Maine
- Bayley’s Lobster Pound – A local lobster pound with fresh Main seafood cooked to order for takeout
- Scratch Baking Co – A local neighborhood artisan bakery. To die for brownies. Another must stop every time I go to Maine.
There’s a few good choices for camping in Southern Maine. Lakeside camping at Sebago Lake State Park is about as good as it gets. I’ve camped at Sebago for several years. It can be a bit crowded in the summer but It’s the nicest lake in the state. You can read a post I wrote about it here – Sebago Lake State Park – Lakeside Camping at Its Best.
My other favorite camping spot is Bayley’s Camping Resort. It’s less of a campground and more of a resort. The camping fees reflect that at $70+ per night during the peak summer months. But at Bayley’s it’s location, location, location and amenities, amenities, amenities. The campground is less than a mile from one of Maine’s best beaches and about 6 miles outside of Portland. It has restaurants, 4 pools, hot tubs, stores, and lot of activities. I stay at Bayley’s because it’s close to my family and I like that it’s a quick bike ride or shuttle ride to the beach.
Two other places I like visiting in Southern Maine are both in Cape Elizabeth. The first is Fort Williams Park. Fort Williams was built in 1899 as a coastal battery guarding the Portland harbor entrance. It was decommissioned in 1963. When I lived in Cape Elizabeth in the 1970’s, it was still an abandon fort with crumbling barrack buildings. The town took it over and turned it into a beautiful park. It also home to Portland Head Lighthouse. Fort Williams is a great place to sit, walk, and just enjoy spectacular views of Portland Harbor.
The other place in Cape Elizabeth that I like to hang out in Kettle Cove. Kettle Cove has a small beach, small parking lot, some benches, and a rocky boat ramp for fishermen to launch skiffs. It’s part of Crescent Beach State Park. In the summer forget trying to get a parking spot. But in the offseason, it’s a great place to park, gaze out over Seal Cove and Richmond Island, and enjoy a cup of coffee. It’s one of the best views on the coast of Maine.
These are some of my southern Maine favorites. During the summer, all of southern Maine is very crowded. It earns its name (Vacationland) well during the summer. I like to visit in the shoulder seasons during May and September. There’s good weather without the crowds.
Please let me know if you have any questions about southern Maine.