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  • Hiker taking in the view at Acadia National Park, Maine
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    Bar Harbor: Picturesque Gateway to Coastal Beauty

  • Kayakers enjoying Moosehead Lake in Maine
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    Moosehead Lake: Thrilling Boating and Land Excursions

  • Whitewater rafting in the Kennebec Valley, Maine
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    The Forks: Adrenaline on the Water

  • Beautiful waterfall in the Carrabassett Valley, Maine
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    Carrabassett Valley Trails: Top-Tier Biking Adventures

  • Surfer on beach in Biddeford, Maine
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    Kennebunkport and Biddeford: Gems of the Maine Coast

Travelers basking in the natural beauty of The Forks in Maine
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Maine Unplugged: An Epic Outdoor Adventure

By Kristin Trummer

  • Route distance:
    1,029 km
  • Suggested Time:
    6 days

Gorgeous, rugged and inviting landscapes await you in Maine, the northeastern point of the USA.

This Maine itinerary takes you from fresh and ocean waters to lush mountaintops, highlighting some of the unparalleled natural landscapes of this unique state. You’ll enjoy an unforgettable array of recreational activities including low-key nature walks, thrilling whitewater rafting and wildlife watching. If time and budget allow, stay an extra day in any of these nature lovers’ paradises. After arriving at a major U.S. airport, board your connecting flight to Bangor International Airport (BGR), rent a car and drive a little over an hour to start your journey.

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Hiker taking in the view at Acadia National Park, Maine
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Bar Harbor: Picturesque Gateway to Coastal Beauty

Nestled on Mt. Desert Island among Frenchman Bay’s pristine waters, Bar Harbor is the primary gateway to Acadia National Park, where the rugged coastline meets majestic mountains. With its jaw-dropping vistas and unrivaled tranquil beauty, it’s easy to see why Acadia is one of the USA’s most visited national parks. Hike or drive to the summit of Cadillac Mountain, where the panoramic view of lush forests, rocky shorelines and coastal waters dotted with tiny islands makes for a transcendent experience. Sunrise and sunset are the most popular times to visit, so if you plan to drive up, reserve your time slot well in advance. Prefer to explore on two wheels? Cycle more than 72 kilometers of bucolic carriage roads built by John D. Rockefeller to experience Acadia’s streams, waterfalls and cliffsides. These trails and carriage roads are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and shouldn’t be missed. From tidal pools teeming with starfish, crabs and urchins to whale, dolphin and seal spotting, Acadia’s waters are home to countless species of wildlife in all of their natural splendor.

Back in Bar Harbor, take a boat tour to learn more about Mt. Desert Island, the largest island off Maine’s coast, or go on a lobstering excursion. Learn from a local guide all about Maine’s beloved crustacean and how lobstering is an integral part of local culture. Dine alfresco at one of the many waterfront restaurants or grab a quick lobster roll on the docks, and watch the sailboats come and go. Stroll the compact, quaint streets to find Maine-made arts, crafts and delicacies (you’ve got to try the lobster ice cream!). Marvel at Gilded Age estates on West Street’s Millionaire’s Row. While there is no shortage of accommodations in Bar Harbor, known for its charming hotels, motels and bed & breakfasts, book in advance during the busier summer and fall months – you’ll want some great rest before driving inland to discover some of Maine’s hidden gems.

260 km
4 hours by car
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Kayakers enjoying Moosehead Lake in Maine
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Moosehead Lake: Thrilling Boating and Land Excursions

A journey of three hours northwest leads you to the shimmering and expansive waters of Moosehead Lake, the second-largest lake in New England and source of the Kennebec River. Its cold, deep waters make for excellent fishing, canoeing, kayaking and, on a warm summer day, swimming. Rent a pontoon boat from Captain Rogers Pontoon Rental in Rockwood and explore the lake at your own pace. For something unique and off the beaten path, take a guided moose-watching Jeep tour through the forest with the folks at The Birches Resort. In addition to moose spotting, they offer many engaging year-round activities to make the most of every season and trip. Whether an overnight hike or casual stroll is more your speed, an extensive trail system welcomes you to explore around the lake. Part of the Appalachian Trail’s historic 100 Mile Wilderness, the region boasts an arduous stretch of trails both challenging and rewarding. For an easier but no less impressive hike, head to Mount Kineo State Park in Greenville, where you can take in 360-degree views of the lake and surrounding cliffs from a historic fire watchtower. In colder months, go snowboarding or snowmobiling in freshly fallen snow, then gaze up at seemingly endless stars, made ever more visible on a cold winter’s night. Plan ahead to stay one of Moosehead Lake’s bed-and-breakfast inns, cabins, sporting camps or campground.

103 km
2.5 hours by car
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Whitewater rafting in the Kennebec Valley, Maine
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The Forks: Adrenaline on the Water

Hop back in the car for a scenic 2.5-hour drive southwest to The Forks, named for where two great whitewater rivers, the Kennebec and Dead, converge. Adrenaline junkies can get their fix on a rafting tour here; each river provides access to thrilling Class V rapids. To get out on the water, start at Northern Outdoors, a local adventure resort that’s your go-to spot for all things outdoors. From gear rentals to excursions and guides, they’ll hook you up with everything you need to get out on the river. If rushing rapids aren’t your thing, lower key activities include fishing, kayaking and tubing on calmer sections of the river. Fun on dry land includes hiking, mountain biking and ATVing in the warmer months and skiing and snowmobiling when fresh snow blankets the ground. If you’re lucky enough to visit The Forks in autumn, go on a “leaf-peeping” hike or drive to marvel at the vibrant hues of Maine’s famed fall foliage. Once you’ve had your fill of adventure, rent a room at the homey Inn by the River and relax on its expansive and welcoming front porch. Or stay in a cabin or the main lodge at Northern Outdoors, where you can also order a cold beer and hearty pub fare at the on-site Kennebec River Brewery.

101 km
1.5 hour by car
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Beautiful waterfall in the Carrabassett Valley, Maine
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Carrabassett Valley Trails: Top-Tier Biking Adventures

A scenic 1.5-hour drive brings you to the town of Carrabassett Valley, where you’ll immediately spot towering Sugarloaf Mountain, one of the highest peaks in Maine. It’s home to the impressive Mountain Bike Trail Network, featuring approximately 125 kilometers of trails on its interconnected system. Get sized for your perfect bike rental at nearby outfitter Carrabassett Valley Bike, then swing by the Sugarloaf Outdoor Center to pick up a trail map. Trails are ranked, so you can stick to the paths that fit your skill level: easy for beginners, moderate for intermediate riders and difficult for experts. Routes range from 20 minutes to several hours, depending on how long you want to ride. Expect gorgeous scenery along the way as your meander past winding rivers, across numerous switchbacks and through occasional tight turns. It’s all part of the Maine Huts and Trails mountain biking system. For wheel-free adventure, fishing and golfing are popular mild weather favorites. Enjoy skiing and snowshoeing in the winter time. Explore the sleepy towns of Carrabassett Valley and nearby Kingfield year-round. After a day full of adventure, pamper yourself at Sugarloaf Mountain Hotel, located in the heart of Sugarloaf Village. Picture a classic New England farmhouse meeting a rustic mountain lodge, and you’ll get an idea of what awaits you at this modern world-class resort, complete with dining options, a sports & fitness center, shopping and more.

220 km
3 hours by car
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Surfer on beach in Biddeford, Maine
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Kennebunkport and Biddeford: Gems of the Maine Coast

Wind your way back toward a different part of Maine’s stunning coastline on a three-hour drive south to Kennebunkport, a celebrated waterfront village and one of the oldest European-settled towns in the USA. Take in Atlantic Ocean views from Goose Rocks Beach, join a thrilling whale-watching boat tour or hire a captain to take you fishing or lobstering. Linger over a meal of freshly caught seafood while people watching at Dock Square, lined with cozy restaurants and local shops. About 20 minutes away, stroll through vibrant, revitalized Biddeford, where eating in Palace Diner’s vintage diner car is a must! Other local eateries that are creating a buzz include Elda, curating delicious menus based on seasonal ingredients, and Jackrabbit Café, serving tasty breads, pastries and cakes. Continue your outdoor explorations by canoeing the Saco River, traversing the tidal rocks at Biddeford Pool or lazing on the sandy stretch at Fortune Rocks Beach. The estuaries and salt marshes of Rachel Carson National Wildlife Preserve are a bird watcher’s paradise, home to plants and animals not found anywhere else in Maine. Plan for a restful sleep at one of the many resorts or charming inns in either town before beginning your journey home from the airport in either Bangor (about 2.5 hours by car) or Portland (40 minutes by car).

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California
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