Everybody needs to see Maine's beautiful, rugged coastline at least once, and beginning your trip in Portland allows your family to enjoy the sights — lobster shacks, antique shops, lighthouses, and quaint small towns — along Route 1 at your own pace before arriving at Acadia, the state's crown jewel.
If you enjoy whale watching, bird watching, and boating, and are adventurous, just travel south to the mouth of the Massachusetts Bay and make your way to Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, a preserve managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. For more information on this destination, please visit www.stellwagen.noaa.gov.
While you're there
Start in family-friendly Portland by visiting Cape Elizabeth's 1791 Portland Head Light Museum, one of America's oldest (and most photographed) lighthouses, and the lush two-acre Children's Garden at the Coastal Maine Botanical Garden. Then drive three hours north on scenic Route 1 to Mount Desert Island, home to Acadia National Park. Take the kids up Cadillac Mountain (the highest peak on the Atlantic Coast) for amazing views of the Porcupine Islands; join a ranger-led boat cruise through Frenchman's Bay in search of seals, porpoises, and shorebirds; or bike along the park's 45 miles of historic stone carriage roads. For more information on Acadia National Park, click here.
If you’re driving all the way to or beyond the U.S. – Canada border, be sure to stop at Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge, which has year round visitor activities, the chance to see wonderful wildlife like Bald Eagles and otters from spring through fall, and 50 miles of hiking trails.
Where to stay
Book a campsite at one of two National Park Service campgrounds at Acadia National Park, including Seawall, a shady, waterfront oasis that's been called one of the coolest spots to camp in America (from $20). Or stay in nearby Bar Harbor at The Bayview (from $260 a night), a 26-room family-owned hotel where every room has a terrace overlooking beautiful Frenchman's Bay. Included: complimentary breakfast with a hot item like eggs Benedict, a daily paper, fresh-baked cookies every afternoon, and free shuttle service to downtown, located just five minutes away.
* All hotel prices are approximate.
Lolie Millspaugh, 9, of Portland, Maine, recommends the city's First Friday ArtWalk: "I love to go, especially when the circus group performs in Monument Square." And don't miss the historic Jordan Pond House at Acadia National Park, says Eliza Clark, 11. "Their lobster stew and popovers are awesome, and the lemonade is the best — you get to add your own sugar syrup!"
If you like this destination, and are interested in a variety of other travel spots, feel free to visit the following websites:
You will find travel information for a number of agencies including Bureau of Land Management, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Army Corps, U.S. Fish & Wildlife, National Park Service, and Bureau of Reclamation.