Travelers have been checking out Maine since settlers were looking to establish a life there in 1607. While that first colony may have failed due to harsh weather, that didn’t stop people from trying to find a way to make it work.
Today, over a million people call the northernmost US tip home.
Thanks to 32 state and 5 national parks, there are plenty of natural reasons to visit. Each year, 22 million people head out to the Pine Tree State to enjoy the outdoors, lobster, or one of the other famous landmarks in Maine.
Now, we’re going to take you across 33,000 square miles so you can learn about them, too.
Famous Landmarks in Maine
1. Portland Head Light
The oldest lighthouse in Maine was up and running by 1791. Unlike other lighthouses, Portland Head Light contributed to the war effort. The Revolutionary War effort, to be exact. In 1776, the keeper at Cape Elizabeth had a double purpose.
Not only was he letting ships know where the coast was, but soldiers were also watching for British ships.
As a way to distance themselves from the country they had just left, the city of Falmouth became Portland. During this time, the city had the sixth busiest port in newly founded America.
Get a deeper look at how much technology has changed over the last two centuries daily at the Head Light museum. Climbing up means ascending the 85 steps. Visiting the lighthouse comes with scenic coastal views as well as perspective.
2. Acadia National Park
Along the coast is a 49,000-acre stretch of protected land called Acadia National Park. Notable spots in the park include Mount Desert Island, Park Loop Road, Jordan Pond House, and the highest point on the east coast, Cadillac Mountain.
Also Read: Famous Landmarks in New Hampshire
Bring binoculars and check out the water. It’s not uncommon to see seabirds and whales out in the distance. When on a hike, be sure to stay exactly on the path. This area is home to big animals that will likely have a variety of reactions to seeing you, such as bears and moose.
Campgrounds are closed for the winter, but if you love the snow and winter sports, there’s no reason not to come to Acadia for the day. This is also the best time of year to see the Northern Lights.
3. Victoria Mansion
This isn’t just a fun thing to do in Portland. Victoria Mansion is a National Historic Landmark partly because of how well-kept the property has been.
Built in 1860, the home is renowned for its exquisite attention to detail and immaculate period architecture. The mansion is considered, with only a handful of other homes of the period, to be the best example from the Victorian era.
The home, also known as Morse-Libby House, was the summer getaway for Ruggles Sylvester Morse and his family. Portland was quite a haul from their permanent residence in New Orleans. So, it was important to Morse that the house made it worth his while. Everything was luxury living.
After 33 happy years there, Morse passed away. His widow sold the entire estate as it was to J.R. Libby. The merchant made a decision to leave the home as he found it. Thanks to him, a moment in time was preserved.
The outside remains as it once was and so does the inside. To see a living time capsule, tours are available daily except on Mondays.
4. Nubble Lighthouse
The still active lighthouse on Cape Neddick has been in service since 1879. Only 100 yards off the coast on a ‘nub’ of an island is Nubble Lighthouse. At 88 feet above sea level, Nubble is referred to as the most photographed lighthouse in the world.
In 1874, it was clear to those who depended on shipments that a lighthouse had to be put into place. The rocky coastline needed some safety measures.
President Hays approved $15,000 for the project. After a century of caretakers, Nubble Lighthouse became automated in the late 1980s.
Visitors are welcome to the surrounding area but not to the lighthouse itself. When the weather is nice, Nubble is a popular place to say, “I do!”
5. Portland Museum of Art
Open for art lovers since 1882, the Portland Museum of Art is the most expansive and oldest art institution in the state. PMA is also among the top museums in the US with 112,000 square feet full of exhibits.
Fittingly, the property sits in the Arts District of downtown Portland. Before the current location, PMA would make use of random available spaces throughout the city.
Thanks to art lover Margaret Jane Mussey Sweat, the museum found a home. The McLellan House was used for the next 65 years to display art for the community.
By 1976, the Portland Museum of Art had more than outgrown its location. A wealthy Maine native donated millions to construct the current building PMA thrives from.
Most of what you’ll see as a visitor is the official collection of the museum, but new pieces regularly travel through.
6. Maine Historical Society and the Wadsworth-Longfellow House
The Wadsworth-Longfellow house is as interesting for its architecture as it is for its cultural significance. To start, a Revolutionary War hero, Peleg Wadsworth, had the home constructed. By 1786, the general was ready to raise his 10 children within its walls.
After two decades, Wadsworth retired and moved. This made the home available for his newlywed daughter to take over the estate. The couple’s son enjoyed an inspiring childhood here. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow grew up to be a celebrated poet.
Wadsworth-Longfellow House stayed in the family for another century. Anne Longfellow Pierce left the home to the Maine Historical Society when she passed in 1901. This was significant since there was only one other author’s home being preserved at the time.
Throughout the house’s time as a private residence, much of the interior was kept the same. Touring is a good way to get a glimpse at what once was.
7. Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens
Bringing people closer to nature since 2007, Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens has been voted one of the top attractions in the state with 200,000 annual visitors.
It’s also the largest botanical garden in all of New England. This wasn’t an overnight success, however. The botanical gardens were planned over the course of 16 years.
A visit to the gardens includes a mile of rocky shoreline, 300 acres to explore, and even an art gallery. The CMBG regularly hosts a variety of events. Those interested should bookmark the garden’s online calendar and check back regularly.
Don’t forget to look out for trolls!
8. Shaker Village
To understand Shaker Village, one must first understand the Shaker. First organized in 1747, the Shakers are a millenarian restorationist branch of Christianity from England.
The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing is the official name the Shakers went by when they crossed the Atlantic with their beliefs. You might be more familiar with the group they came from, the Quakers.
Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village is the only Shaker group still marching to the beat of their own drum. If you have questions about the religion or history, these are the only people on earth who can explain it through experience.
The village has a museum that is open from the end of May through early October. Interested parties are welcome to attend Sunday service any week.
9. Olson House
If this Colonial farmhouse looks familiar, there’s a good reason. Known widely in the art world, Olson House became the 1939 equivalent of viral thanks to a painting by Andrew Wyeth. Christina’s World was a relatable, if not haunting, depiction of a desperate woman reaching out to Olson House.
As often as this work has been referenced, it wasn’t the only time Olson House was a focal point of Wyeth’s work. It continued showing up for 30 years.
The artist was actually close friends with the brother and sister who lived there. He was given carte blanche access to the home and frequently painted from one of the rooms.
Olson House is now part of the Farnsworth Museum.
10. Baxter State Park
Over 30 years, Percival P. Baxter donated almost 30 parcels of land. By 1962, the 200,000 acres were cultivated into a park. The reason is one of politics, but basically, the area failed to make it to national park status.
The new governor was passionate about protecting these lands. So, he decided to do something about it. His plan was a park all along.
Not part of the state park system, an independently funded authority in the park’s name has been tasked with the upkeep. If you plan a trip to Baxter State Park, feel free to include activities such as hiking, canoeing, fishing, and camping.