The top 10 things to do on a Coastal Route road trip along U.S. Route 1 in Maine

Cars driving through Acadia National Park Acadia National Park.

Where U.S. Route 1 hugs the Gulf of Maine, road-trippers are treated to one of the great coastal drives in the country.

When they’re not on the road, they’ve got the opportunity to fuel up on New England classics like lobster rolls, fresh blueberries, and maybe a whoopie pie or two. We look at where to drive, what to see, where to stay, and what to eat on a road trip on this classic New England motorway.

A map of U.S. Route 1 in Maine

Our recommended route

First, the full context: Route 1 is a 3,400-mile highway that kicks off at the southern end in Key West, Florida, and runs north all the way to Fort Kent on the Maine-New Brunswick line. It includes an awful lot of great New England mileage, but it’s hard to top the “Coastal Route”—its roughly 290-mile-long stretch along Maine’s North Atlantic seashore—for scenic punch and cultural charm.

We suggest allowing at least two nights, preferably more, to cover the Coastal Route between Kittery at the New Hampshire border and the town of Perry on Passamaquoddy Bay, where Route 1 swings north along that international waterway and then inland for more than 200 more miles. The first leg of this trip edges the sandy beaches of Southern Maine, but the character of the oceanfront changes around Cape Elizabeth: the start of the magnificently rugged, rocky seacoast that accounts for most of Maine’s North Atlantic margin and stars in so many postcards.

When to drive it

The beauty of Maine’s Coastal Route is thoroughly year-round, but fall’s the most magical time to experience it: The coastal New England foliage is doing its epic autumn show, harvest festivals abound, and lobster season’s at its peak.

Things to see & do

1. Nubble Light

Just south of Ogunquit, take a gander at one of the best-loved of Maine’s many lighthouses: the Cape Neddick (or Nubble) Light, built in 1879. A small gift shop is open mid-April through mid-October, with sightseeing and recreation available year-round from the scenic headland. 

Homes and boats at Perkins Cove

Perkins Cove.


This celebrated Southern Maine resort town comes by its name—which means, in native Abenaki, “the Beautiful Place by the Sea”—honestly. Soak up that beauty on the town’s oceanfront path, the Marginal Way, which runs from the sandy splendor of Ogunquit Beach to picture-perfect Perkins Cove, or while taking a cruise on a lobster boat.

Exterior of the Portland Head Light lighthouse at sunset

The Portland Head Light.

3. Portland

This iconic Maine city is easy to fall in love with. From historical landmarks such as the Portland Head Light, the Victoria Mansion, and the Wadsworth-Longfellow House to cultural hubs such as the Portland Museum of Art and the Portland Symphony Orchestra—not to mention an awesome concentration of restaurants and breweries—it packs some major appeal.

4. Maine Maritime Museum

Pull off in Bath to soak up the state's rich nautical heritage at this long-standing museum, which includes a preserved boatshop and a shipyard housing a full-size sculpture of the Wyoming, the grandest wooden schooner in history (and built here in Bath in 1909).

5. Whaleback Shell Midden State Historic Site

Tap into the Maine coast’s deep past at this impressive pile of oyster shells along the Damariscotta River, accumulated some 1,000 to 2,200 years ago by native peoples.

An even larger shell midden, the Glidden Midden, can be seen across the Damariscotta River. Visitors can learn how the middens were once much larger, what happened to them, and how preservationists are working to hold on to this part of Maine's history today.

6Farnsworth Art Museum

This outstanding museum in Rockland houses a 15,000-piece strong collection focused on American art from the 1700s to the present, especially works by Maine-associated artists.

A view of the harbor at Camden from above

Camden as seen from the summit of Mount Battie.

7. Camden Hills State Park

Land some of the best views on the Maine coast from Camden Hills vantages such as Mount Battie, Mount Megunticook, and Bald Rock. Pick one to summit if you're short on time, or string them together to see which view is the best, plus Megunticook Lake on the mountains' other side.

8. Penobscot Narrows Bridge & Observatory

Another unforgettable prospect beckons from the observatory atop the Penobscot Narrows Bridge: one of only four bridge observatories in the world and, at 420 feet up, the tallest of them all. Here at the Penobscot Narrows you can also check out the marvelously well-preserved 19th-century Fort Knox. 

A path through autumn trees at Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park in fall.

9. Acadia National Park

From gorgeous coves and forested headlands to the famed sunrise vantage of Cadillac Mountain—the loftiest promontory directly on America’ Atlantic coast—Acadia National Park is justly considered one of New England’s crown jewels, and one of the country's loveliest National Parks

RELATED ARTICLE: The top 5 things to do at Acadia National Park

10. Festivals

From Ogunquitfest to the Portland Wine Festival to the Yarmouth Clam Festival, you’ll find no shortage of annual shindigs in the communities along the Coastal Route. If you’re taking our recommendation for a fall road trip, you may be able to hit up Portland’s Harvest on the Harbor, the Damariscotta Pumpkinfest & Regatta, or Acadia’s Oktoberfest.

Where to stay

  • Portland Harbor Hotel (468 Fore Street, Portland)
    This AAA Four Diamond waterfront hotel boasts an elegant, maritime ambience and offers free bikes for guests to use.
  • Rockland Harbor Hotel (520 Main Street, Rockland)
    Some rooms at this AAA Three Diamond hotel offer harbor views, and meanwhile you’ll find yourself just a hop, skip, and a jump from the Farnsworth Art Museum.

Where to eat

  • Five-O Shore Road (50 Shore Rd., Ogunquit)
    Enjoy seasonal Mediterranean-inspired fare with a farm-to-table approach at this eatery in downtown Ogunquit.
  • Delvino's Grill & Pasta House (52 Main Street, Belfast)
    Delvino’s offers delicious Italian dishes—fresh-made pasta, local seafood, pizzettes, and more—in downtown Belfast. Don’t miss the happy hour!
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