5 Places to Awaken Your Senses in Maine
These are some of the best ways to see, hear, smell, taste, and touch Maine on your next adventure
The best travel experiences come to life through all five of your senses—moments of sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell that leave a lasting imprint. Opportunities for these moments are especially intense in Maine, where a feast for the senses unfolds in every corner of the state, from the rough-barked pine of the North Woods to the salty air of the coast. Let your senses guide you to your next Maine adventure.
Greenville | Mount Kineo
In Maine’s North Woods, the quality of the light defines the landscape. Winter sunsets and midsummer dawns are emotional events and topics of conversation in town. Seeing light and landscape interplay is a must-do.
For dramatic North Woods geology, few landmarks compare to the rhyolite cliffs of Mount Kineo, rising some 750 feet from the deep, clear waters of Moosehead Lake. Though technically connected to the eastern shore by a narrow causeway, Mount Kineo should be considered an island. Explore it via boat access from Rockwood on the lake’s western shore. Indian Trail snakes up along the cliff’s edge, topping out at the summit and fire tower that provide 360-degree views of summer sun glinting across the lake. Both descent options continue paying off: return via the easier Bridle Trail for a 3.5-mile loop, or follow the North Trail for a 5.5-mile loop along the peninsula’s shoreline.
The Forks | Kennebec Gorge Whitewater
The sound of falling water—in rapids, cataracts, and quickwater—is the music of the North Woods. Hear a tumbling torrent while whitewater rafting in the Kennebec Gorge with paddle in hand, or relax to the riffles of moderately technical rapids while canoeing and kayaking on the adjacent Dead River.
To experience the most popular stretches of whitewater in Maine, head to the Kennebec Gorge. Floating the whole gorge is a 12-mile endeavor that can be done in a single day, though you’ll recall it in stories for years to come. The journey begins with large, Class IV waves and the roar of the rapids, which becomes quieter as the pace mellows about halfway through. By the end, you’ll be cruising laidback flatwater, listening for wildlife on shore. Bonus: Several of the outfitters that run trips out of the Forks conclude their outings with a riverfront barbecue.
Millinocket | Katahdin Woods and Waters
Stepping out of your car in the North Woods hits you like a skidder load of memory and history—even if you’ve never been here before. Pick a crisp day and surprise yourself with the astringent aroma of endless conifer. Protected landscapes pack an even more verdant punch.
The Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument is one of the newest pieces of federally preserved land and is still relatively underdeveloped compared to many national parks and monuments. That means the former logging roads that crisscross the dense northern hardwood forests still feel wild and remote—and are also great for gravel cycling. Starting and ending at the Whetstone Falls Day Use Area, a lollipop around the main park loop clocks 25 miles and nearly 2,500 feet of climbing on some of Maine’s most scenic gravel roads—nearly every corner offers vistas of the towering Katahdin, marshy ponds where moose are common, or the eponymous woods. Breathe that forest air in deep to savor this rich boreal world that turns every shade of red and yellow come autumn.
Downtown Portland | Fore Street
Land in Portland and eat your way through town—Asian fusion, fresh seafood, traditional Yankee fare. This is the most accessible food destination in America. Bonus: lobster, anywhere.
Take your empty stomach to Fore Street, the street that runs a block off the waterfront in Portland’s Old Port District, as well as the decorated restaurant of the same name near the intersection with Franklin Street. Cruise the historic district for the best sampling of all tastes, ranging from fancy frills to pared-down pub fare. Or head right into Fore Street for the woodfire-cooked seafood, meats, game, and veggies that have made Maine’s farm-to-table originators a true foodie destination. Past the copper-topped tables, the open kitchen cranks out dishes like Maine rope-cultured mussels roasted in a brick-and-soapstone hearth. Surprise your tastebuds: the menu changes daily, depending on the catch.
Bar Harbor | Acadia Carriage Roads
The Maine coast is defined by the meeting of granite and sea, with these elements mixed in countless forms from York all the way down east. Nowhere is this contrast truer than on Mount Desert Island. The granite shore alternates rough and smooth—evidence of the power of the sea.
The stunning display is one primary reason that so many visitors flock here to experience Acadia National Park—especially in summer. With a gravel or mountain bike, however, you can enjoy the 45-mile carriage road system that traverses the park’s ridges and valleys. Built for horse-drawn carriages in the first half of the 20th century by philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, these crushed-stone roads are not technical, but they do require off-road tires. Connect with the paved Park Loop Road for the most dramatic views of the Atlantic Ocean crashing into the rocky coast. Or hike off the loop on the Great Head Trail and take the granite steps down the coastal headland to the beautiful Sand Beach. Once you’re done scampering barefoot on the cool stone and sand, leave the crowds and cross some of the carriage roads’ 16 stone bridges into the park’s deep interior, which still offers a quiet nature connection, even on busy weekends.
In summer, there’s no better place to be than in Maine. From the beaches to the mountains, there’s so much to explore, and enjoy, you might not know where to start. But you’ve come to the right place. Learn more at visitmaine.com.