A Northeast Playground: Must-Try Things to Do in Maine with Kids

Terri Marshall Avatar

Bar harbor sunset over the ocean is a great option for weekend getaways in New England
Enjoy stunning sunsets and beautiful views at Bar Harbor, Maine. Photo Credit: Nasreen Stump

Welcome to Maine, the land of lighthouses, lobster, sailboats and scenic drives along rocky coastlines. Perched at the edge of the continent, this New England treasure exudes an artful vibe set within a tranquil landscape. And there are plenty of fun things to do in Maine with kids on a family vacation. Let’s take a look!

1. Explore Portland Area Highlights

Set on a peninsula extending into Casco Bay, Portland is Maine’s largest city and an ideal place to start your Maine explorations. Working fishing wharves and warehouses converted to restaurants and shops line the Old Port waterfront.

Portland’s iconic lighthouse – the Portland Head Light – sits atop Fort Williams Park on Cape Elizabeth. The oldest lighthouse in Maine and perhaps the most photographed in the USA, this must-see historical landmark is adjacent to Fort Williams Park with 90 acres of recreational space. Hike along the cliffside loop trail, explore the rocky beach or turn the kids loose on the playground as you take in the beauty of this coastal treasure.

Read More: When is the best time to visit Maine?

2. Venture into Casco Bay

For a jaunt into Casco Bay, consider a ferry ride. Casco Bay Lines operates ferries 365 days a year. There are several ferry runs including one to Peaks Island. This quiet island off the coast of Portland boasts both rocky and sandy beaches. It’s also an ideal place for kayaking as you take in the views of Portland from the water.

Lobster lovers of all ages will enjoy the Lucky Catch cruises operated on Casco Bay. This 80- to 90-minute cruise not only searches for lobster, it illustrates how the process of lobster catching works. The cruises are kid-friendly, and lobsters caught on the boat can be purchased at the wholesale rate.

3. The Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine in Portland

Rainy days call for some indoor explorations, and if your family includes younger kids, the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine in Portland is the place to go. Exhibits include a 25-foot fire truck, a car repair shop, a lobster boat, and the LL Bean-sponsored Discovery Woods. On the lower level, a theater offers regularly scheduled shows The museum also offers a theater on the lower level, with regularly scheduled family-friendly theater productions.

4. Experiences the Artful Community of Rockland

Situated along Maine’s central coast, the artful community of Rockland celebrates Maine’s role in American art at the Farnsworth Art Museum. With 20,000 square feet of gallery space and over 15,000 works in the collection, the museum is home to an extensive collection of works by the Wyeth family featuring works of Andrew, N.C. and Jamie Wyeth. It’s also home to one of the nation’s largest collections of works by sculptor Louise Nevelson.

Housed in a striking Toshiko Mori building with an iconic sawtooth roofline, the nearby Center for Maine Contemporary Art Experience displays works by contemporary artists. The CMCA complex includes an ArtLab classroom, gift shop and a courtyard that is open to the public.

Rockland Harbor Trail is a five-mile-long hiking trail along the city’s waterfront. A unique community asset, the trail showcases Rockland’s highlights including its cultural and arts, historic downtown and the Rockland Breakwater and lighthouse.

The Schooner Mary Day on a Maine Windjammer cruise.
The Schooner Mary Day anchored off the coast of a Maine island in a secret spot. Photo credit: Cindy Richards

5. Visit Camden – Maine’s Windjammer Cruise Capitol

If you love watching the majestic Windjammer sailing vessels, be sure to add Camden to your Maine adventures. You’ll find these beauties in the harbor most days during the sailing season. If you want to experience a Windjammer cruise, check the schedules for family-friendly sailings. Some vessels offer special themed weeks including a grandparent/grandkid cruise.

6. Camden Hills State Park

Camden Hills State Park is a great place to camp with your family. The views are incredible, and there is plenty to do in the area.

The park is located about 10 minutes north of Camden on US Route 1 and offers year-round trail activities and camping during the winter season. For families who like camping but don’t want to deal with tents and sleeping bags, check out Camden Hills State Park Campground, which has great prices and incredible views.

Megunticook Falls is a beautiful waterfall located in the middle of Camden overlooking the harbor. The waterfall is easily accessible and provides stunning views.

7. Boothbay Harbor Adventures

Considered one of the best kayaking spots in Maine, the waters at Boothbay Harbor range from open seas to calm protected rivers and inlets. The area offers an abundance of family-friendly kayaking suitable for all ages and skill levels.

The Maine State Aquarium, which is situated on West Boothbay Harbor’s shore, houses a collection of local fish and invertebrates in its main gallery’s granite-like cliffs. A visit to the Maine State Aquarium is a must for sea lovers, oceanographers and curious kids.

An expansive view from the summit of Cadillac Mountain at Acadia National Park. Photo credit: Terri Marshall

8. Visit Bar Harbor – The Gateway to Acadia National Park

Named for a sandbar that reveals itself at low tide, Bar Harbor serves as a gateway to Acadia National Park at the eastern edge of Maine. Put on some water sandals and explore the sandbar during low tide.

For a day of exploring the beauty of Coastal Maine, book a sightseeing and nature cruise with Acadia Boat Tours. Take in the sights and sounds of Frenchman Bay, Acadia National Park, and the Bar Harbor shoreline, as your guides fill you in on the area’s history.

Teaming with eateries serving outstanding lobster rolls and fresh blueberry pie, you’ll find plenty of family-friendly dining options in Bar Harbor.

9. Explore Acadia National Park

With 47,000 acres of coastal vistas, rocky shorelines, woodlands and a glacial mountain peak that sees the first sunrise over the USA, Acadia National Park is magical. The park skirts 60 miles of Maine’s Atlantic coastline. It includes Mount Desert Island, Schoodic Peninsula, and additional outer islands including the park’s most remote, Isle au Haut, accessible only by ferry. Within Acadia National Park you’ll find 33 miles of scenic motor roads, 45 miles of carriage roads and more than 150 miles of hiking trails. Favorite park pastimes include biking, hiking, horseback riding, kayaking and whale watching from the shoreline.

The east side of Mount Desert Island is the most visited area of Acadia. The 27-mile (43 km) Park Loop Road system offers outstanding views and access to popular spots.

10. Discover Kennebunkport in Southern Maine

A coastal town in southern Maine, Kennebunkport is best known for its beaches including long, sandy Goose Rocks Beach and smaller Arundel Beach. Off the beach, the Seashore Trolley Museum displays a huge collection of streetcars. Dating to 1887, St. Ann’s Episcopal Church is a rustic stone church on grassy grounds with ocean views. The 1833 Goat Island Lighthouse sits in the harbor of the quaint lobster-fishing village Cape Porpoise.

For an epic scenic road trip, travel along Route 1 northeast of Kennebunkport where breathtakingly beautiful vistas appear at every turn. The drive overlooks Penobscot Bay showcasing wetlands, beautiful homes and iconic Maine lighthouses.  

11. Go Inland to Visit Bangor

Conveniently located on Main Street in downtown Bangor the Maine Discovery Museum is designed as a place to learn through play. The whole family will find plenty of discoveries among the interactive exhibits and inspiring displays.

Among the most popular exhibits, Booktown encourages kids to experience stories through costumes, props, and interaction. Another hub of creativity, Artscape features an oversized light-bright that’s just as popular with parents for its nostalgic appeal. Other areas of the museum include a dinosaur fossil dig site, indoor nature trails, and an exploration of the universe.

Located at the edge of the Bangor City Forest, the bog walk offers a one-mile accessible boardwalk that loops through a serene wetland forest and the open spaces of peat moss at its center. Guided tours are available to provide a deeper understanding of the area’s ecology. More adventurous visitors can explore on their own, taking advantage of the educational stations along the way.

Bangor City Forest also features nini-plus miles of hiking trails. Open year-round, the trails are ideal for hiking, biking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

12. Saco

Up for some monkeying around? Make your way to Saco for an action-packed day at the Monkey Trunks Zipline Park. Immerse yourself in the forest of trees as you walk on ropes, jump over obstacles, climb ladders and zipline through the woods.

Family-owned Funtown Splashtown USA delivers fun in all shapes and sizes. From kiddie rides to thrill rides, there’s something for the whole family. The park features Maine’s only wooden roller coaster and lays claim to New England’s longest and tallest log flume, Thunder Falls. As one of Maine’s leading theme parks, Funtown Splashtown USA opened in the 1960s and continues to entertain kids of all ages. In addition to the rides, there’s a water park offering relaxing floats, pools and waterslides for making a big splash

Among Saco’s popular attractions is Ferry Beach State Park, which boasts 120 acres for abundant recreation. From hiking trails to a nature center to a stretch of sandy beach with views of the Atlantic Ocean, there’s plenty to keep the family entertained.

Another Saco treasure, Cascade Falls Trail leads to a beautiful cascading waterfall. In use since the 19th century, this historic hiking trail is well-maintained and an easy hike making it very family-friendly.

13. Visit Palace Playland at Old Orchard Beach

In Orchard Beach, Palace Playland is the only beachfront amusement park in New England. Open seasonally from mid-spring to early fall, the park features an arcade filled with family-friendly games. For roller coaster fans, buckle up for the Sea Viper, Wipeout and the Orient Express. There are plenty of other thrill rides, and of course, kiddie rides for the younger visitors.

Old Orchard Beach offers seven miles of beaches. That means you have plenty of room to spread out, sunbathe and swim.

14. Maine Wildlife Park in Gray, Maine

Nature-loving families and wildlife enthusiasts will enjoy a visit to Maine Wildlife Park. Home to over 30 species of Maine wildlife, the park rescues wildlife that cannot be returned to their natural habitats. Residents include moose, black bears, bald eagles and more.

15. Discover More Maine Lighthouses

Portland’s Head Light may be the oldest and most famous Maine lighthouse, but there are plenty of others to discover. Consider embarking on a lighthouse scavenger hunt as you road trip through Maine.

The Cape Elizabeth Lighthouse – sometimes called “Two Lights” – stands at the southwest end of Casco Bay. Both towers of this historic Maine lighthouse helped guide ships from 1828 to 1924, but the western tower is now privately owned. This 68-foot-high lighthouse was automated in the 1960s; its huge lens was placed in the Town Hall, before ending up in Maine Maritime Museum.

The Cape Neddick Nubble Lighthouse sits on top of a small rocky island in York. It is one of the most photographed lighthouses in the country and is visited by thousands of people each year. This lighthouse is worth a visit all year round and looks even more interesting when it’s decorated for Christmas.

The village of York Beach features the Long Sands and Short Sands beaches along the Atlantic Ocean coast. On the north shore of Cape Neddick, Short Sands Beach includes a promenade with souvenir shops, eateries, and a classic amusement arcade. Nearby York’s Wild Kingdom has a zoo and theme park.

Terri Marshall Avatar
Based in New York City, Terri Marshall is an award-winning writer covering cultural travel, multi-generational travel, road trips, soft-adventure, camping, cars and characters. From hanging out with penguins in Antarctica to fishing for piranhas in Peru to road-tripping through the jungles of Belize, Terri’s always up for an adventure. Drop her into a landscape filled with mountains, towering evergreens, waterfalls and a glacier or two and she’ll be in heaven. But what thrills her most of all is traveling with her teenage grandkids. Terri serves on the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility Committee for the North American Travel Journalist Association (NATJA). She also serves as the First Vice-Chair of the Eastern Chapter for the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW). In addition to writing for SheBuysTravel, Terri’s publication credits include AARP, Island Soul, Girl Camper Magazine, A Girls Guide to Cars, CHILLED, World Footprints, North Hills Monthly, Alaska Business Monthly, Alaska Contractor and more. Follow her on Instagram at TrippingWithTerri.
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