We are here to help if you're planning a trip to Maine in the summer: we will confirm what you may have already suspected about this beautiful, northern state and share some vital information worth knowing from our firsthand experience.
Spoiler alert: visiting Maine for the first time in the summer was wonderful. It was everything we expected during a June getaway with few surprises (though there were some).
So what can you expect and prepare for when you're planning a summer trip to this very much northern USA state? Read on for the inside scoop!
Lobster Boats and Buoys are Everywhere
We expected there to be a lobster culture in Maine. But our first trip to Maine revealed way more, including how many lobster boats and buoys dot the water and harbors. They're everywhere. It's hard to find any expanse of the sea without colorful lobster buoys when you look out to the water.
Each lobsterman has their own buoy color and pattern unique to them and their license. For instance, one could be green with a maroon stripe. Another could be orange with a black strip. Or a third may be completely red. They're all different and registered with the state, which is how lobstermen (and women) can identify which traps are theirs.
Lobster catching is incredibly regulated in Maine (as it should be, for the survival of the species). We learned so much about lobstering in the state aboard the Lulu Boat Tour in Bar Harbor, which we highly recommend.
With lobster buoys and traps comes lobster boats! You'll see those everywhere too.
They're easy to identify for a couple of reasons: 1) one being the shape of the boats, another being they have their lobster buoy with their unique color combo and pattern on display at top of the ship, 2) they're regularly named after females in the lobsterman's life, like a boat called “Lisa Danielle” or “Stephanie Christina,” named after their wife and daughter, for instance.
Lobster Rolls Can be Really Expensive
The #1 meal to get in Maine (without us knowing any real, hard numbers) is a lobster roll. This is judging from the advertisements, menus and articles we have read about Maine. And because we were there and saw it firsthand.
We expected lobster rolls to be easy to find all over Maine. And they are, whether in the city centers or roadside lobster shacks.
But what we didn't expect was how expensive they are. We simply weren't prepared with this knowledge during our first trip to Maine. We heard that the time we visited was the highest price lobsters have been in a while. And the price of seafood does fluctuate, which we knew. But if you're planning a trip to Maine in the summer, which is peak time, you can expect lobster to be in high demand.
Conversely and very uniquely, friends of ours visited Maine in 2020 and said that there was a surplus of lobster during the pandemic, which meant that lobster rolls were at an incredibly low price.
But assuming it isn't 2020, expect to pay anywhere from $25 to $38 for one lobster roll. Yes – just ONE. (Dan and I could easily split one, they're often so stuffed with lobster!)
If it costs less: either question where the lobster is coming from (wink, wink) or consider yourselves lucky! Otherwise, go into your Maine summer vacation knowing the price of a lobster roll, and you won't be surprised like we were.
You Won't see Live Moose Everywhere, but You Will See Fake Ones
People associate moose with Maine. But we didn't see any live ones. We're not sure where you would be besides the woods. (Maybe swimming in the water, as we did in Norway during a Tromso Polar Fjord boating excursion.) But regardless, we never saw a live moose. (There is, however, a taxidermy moose (along with a lot of additional taxidermied animals) at the Portland, ME airport that you'll see nearly as soon as you arrive and head towards the airport exit.)
What we did see was a fake moose! In sculptures, works of art, plush toys, and souvenir shops. If you see a real moose in Maine during summer, let us know where you saw it! (We hear they're inland.)
You Need to Pack for ALL Weather, Even during Summer
There were days that it was 70 degrees and the sun was blazing. But then we'd go on a boat tour and the temperature dropped 20 degrees and was windy. We'd go from t-shirts to adding several layers of clothes within minutes (including jackets and scarves). No joke.
Even when we were only on land, we had to prepare for different kinds of weather. It could be sunny one day, then very rainy and foggy the next.
You need to pack for a Maine trip with layers in mind when you are planning a trip to Maine in the summer. And if you're going out on the water at all, pack more long-sleeved shirts than you think you need and maybe even chapstick. Don't forget the sunscreen during your summer trip to Maine – your lips need protection from the wind and sun too.
There are Islands (and Lighthouses) Everywhere
We thought we'd have to take a special trip or hike to see lighthouses in Maine. But they're everywhere on the coast.
There are over 60 along coastal Maine, which is a lot! Most lighthouses we saw were small – not like the incredibly tall, towering lighthouses we're used to seeing in the Outer Banks of North Carolina – but, like all lighthouses, they're there to serve a purpose no matter the height or daymark. (Much to my chagrin, they're not just there for pretty photos…ha!)
There are also hundreds of islands that decorate the coast. Some have houses and “cottages” on them (even if those cottages are mansions) and some just have wildlife hanging out, enjoying the views. We loved seeing the islands on the coast of Bar Harbor as we gazed out to the water from the view at Cadillac Summit one morning at Acadia National Park.
There is a Gulf of Maine
Were we the only ones who thought the Gulf of Mexico was the only “gulf” in the United States? Guess again! One of the things we learned as first-timers visiting Maine is that there's a Gulf of Maine! This means there are probably dozens of gulfs around the coastal United States, from Washington and California, over to Maine and Florida.
The Gulf of Maine extends from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to Nova Scotia, Canada. Sadly, it's been greatly affected by global warming. The temperature is rising at a rate faster than the rest of the planet (7 times faster). This is why we all need to do our part to help save the planet, no matter how big or small the gesture, no matter where you are!
The Lobster in Maine was the BEST We've Ever Had
We like lobster. But we don't really ever order it if we're at a restaurant that offers it. We're kind of “take it or leave it” kind of people when it comes to these crustaceans.
But we had the opportunity to have steamed lobsters on our Maine Windjammer cruise, and holy crap – they were amazing. It was the BEST lobster we've ever had. And we don't say that lightly! I had two lobsters plus another claw. Dan had two lobsters too!
I asked the captain why it was so good, and he said it's perhaps because they're so fresh in Maine that they're not at all stressed in shipping or waiting around in supermarket tanks for any length of time. The time our lobsters spent in a crate in the ocean once the captain bought them from a local lobsterman, to being cooked and on our plates was mere hours.
If you're planning a trip to Maine in the summer and like seafood, you must plan to order or steam some lobsters! There are also soft-shell lobsters and hardshell lobsters in Maine, which we didn't know about before we visited. We only knew about hardshell lobsters.) We explain more about that in our “Food Maine is Known For” post!
Blueberries are a “Thing” in Maine
We had no idea that blueberries are almost as big as lobster in Maine. They are everywhere, from pie to scented sachets for your bedroom drawers at home, to scented soap, to patterns on drink coasters and kitchen dish towels. They're everywhere.
The blueberries in Maine are smaller than you may see in grocery stores where you live. And they're less sweet,, which is perfect for people who don't love overly sweet berries in cooking or baking. We loved them and had superb blueberry muffins, pancakes, and pie while we were in Maine.
If you are planning a trip to Maine in the summer and want to go blueberry picking, aim for July or August; we were there in June, and the blueberries hadn't grown or ripened enough for picking. (But you can get it in prepared food year-round.)
Haddock is the Fish in Maine
Seafood is abundant in Maine. It's a fishermen state, and the main fish we repeatedly saw on menus was haddock, which is very similar to cod. It's actually a member of the cod family, but a tad sweeter. You'll find haddock sandwiches on menus nearly anywhere that serves seafood.
The Chowders in Maine are (Wicked) Awesome
We had several bowls of New England clam chowder and lobster bisque. Even though planning a trip to Maine in the summer doesn't immediately bring “soup” to the forefront of your mind, reframe that thinking!
It was always a bit chilly on the coast of Maine at night when we visited in June, and a bowl of soup was wonderful comfort food. We never once had a bad bowl, no matter what restaurant we ordered it from.
You'll Talk to People in Maine who have a Thick Accent, Similar to a Thick Massachusetts Accent
One of the things that surprised us during our first trip to Maine was the accents! Think about the accents Ben Affleck and Matt Damon had in Good Will Hunting as Massachusetts natives. It's like that!
You'll see the word “wicked” written a lot and also soft “r” sounds, like “Bah Habah” instead of Bar Harbor. They lean into it: you'll find it written that way on t-shirts sold in souvenir shops too! It's all a part of the fun and local culture of visiting Maine.
(We also learned that Maine was a colony of Massachusetts from the mid-seventeenth century to 1820.)
The Ocean Water is COLD!
If you are planning a trip to Maine in the summer, know that the water will still be cold, even in June, July, and August. Water temperatures just never get that warm there because it's so far north!
Maine locals (and a sign at Acadia National Park) told us that the water temperature, during summer, is only between 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. That is cold.
If we had to Describe the “Smells” of Maine, it Would be Pine, the Ocean and Fish
Nature abounds in Maine. And the smells of Maine, if we had to describe the scents of our first trip there, were most regularly pine from the evergreen trees, the smell of the ocean and fish (because of all the fisheries and fish markets). Mostly the smell of pine and the ocean, though. Fish was very location-specific!
You Won't Find Whales Hanging Out in the Harbor
We had to specifically take a tour to go whale watching.
While we were on our four-day Maine Windjammer cruise out of Rockland, Maine, on the American Eagle Schooner, a passenger asked a crew member if we'd see whales during our trip. He replied we wouldn't because the whales don't go into harbors and around the islands where we'd be. They like being far out in the sea.
This was confirmed by the onboard naturalist when we left our amazing Bar Harbor bed and breakfast to go on a whale-watching excursion with Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co. We had to go out several miles (more than 25 miles), which took over an hour simply in travel time, even to start to search for a whale. That search continued for many more miles and hours.
Luckily, five hours into the tour, we found a gorgeous Humpback whale who put on quite a show. It was worth the wait. But nature is unpredictable, even if you're that far out in the ocean with experts searching for a showing.
Again, we can't reiterate this enough: if you are planning a trip to Maine in the summer and plan on going on boating excursions, whale watching tours included, dress in layers! Many, many layers. We saw people who were unprepared in shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops during our excursion whose teeth were chattering, they were so cold.
We Never Saw a Real Puffin
Puffin souvenirs are in all the shops in Maine. (Or at least the shops we saw in Rockland, Bar Harbor, Boothbay Harbor and Portland.) But we never saw a real puffin. We were pretty bummed out about not seeing these cuties in real life.
We're not saying it's not possible, we're just saying we never saw one. We're simply setting expectations for you here for your summer trip to Maine!
Seals seem Somewhat Easy to Spot on Boating Excursions
If you're taking a boating excursion specifically to see seals (or it's advertised as part of a boating trip), we're sure you'll see them. We won't say “guaranteed” since nothing is 100% certain with nature, but the ship captains seem to know what islands to boat over to to find them.
They tend to hang out on their favorite rocks and the surrounding waters.
You'll Drive Route 1 Most if You're Taking a Road Trip Along the Coast
Route 1 runs along the coast of Maine. Our first trip on any stretch of US-1 in Maine was as we traveled from Portland to Rockland (where we flew into, to where our Maine Windjammer cruise started).
Then we went from Rockland north to Bar Harbor, then drove south along the coast to Boothbay Harbor, then back to Portland. And the entire time – no matter if we were driving north or south along the coast – we drove Route 1.
It is not a toll road so when we rented a car we didn't need an EZ-Pass.
You'll See French Written in Some Places, in Addition to English
It's easy to forget how close you are to the French-speaking province of Quebec when you're in Maine. But you are very close! It would be as close to a state if it was bordering the north side of Maine, but instead, it's Quebec, where Montreal and Quebec City are in Canada.
(Fun fact and side note: Toronto, Canada, and Boothbay Harbor, Maine, are nearly on the same latitude.)
Because many visitors from Canada's Quebec province cross over into Maine, some things are in French, like on the “museum tour” plaques around many cities in Maine. They have text in both English and French.
Also, some of the names of islands (namely Mound Desert, home to Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor, and Isle au Haut) were named by the explorer and discoverer Champlain. The same person who founded Quebec City! He also created a detailed map of the Gulf of Maine in the 17th century.
Lupine Flowers Cover Maine during Summer
Though the Lupines you see dotting the landscape in Maine today are not native to the state, we loved the pretty purple and pink flowers we saw as we drove along US-1 during our seven-day road trip along coastal Maine.
There was once a native version of the plant, but it's nearly extinct now; the current Lupines you'll see are from the western United States. This invasive plant may be a problem for butterflies, gardeners, homeowners, and parks, but it sure looks pretty! (We don't mean to make light of it – we know how important milkweed is for Monarch butterflies (something we learned during a trip to Shenandoah National Park) and Lupines killing native species of plants is a problem.)
The official flower of Maine is not this plant, though – it's actually a white pine.
There were a Ton of Ice Cream Shops and Dunkin' Donuts in Maine
You wouldn't necessarily expect coastal towns in Maine to have such an abundance of ice cream shops and Dunkin' Donuts. We actually thought there would be way more mom-and-pop coffee shops. Those exist too but man, there were a LOT of Dunkin' Donuts. And individually-owned ice cream shops too.
As we drove from the airport in Portland to our first destination in Maine, where our Maine Windjammer Cruise departed from in Rockland, something became very quickly apparent: there were a lot of Dunkin' Donuts shops. While we love to support local whenever possible, it was incredibly easy for me to simply stop at a Dunkin' Donuts on US-1 during our road trip to order an unsweetened iced tea I was craving. Who'd have guessed that Dunkin' Donuts iced tea would be so ingrained in my memories of our coastal Maine road trip?
The other thing there was a lot of was mom-and-pop ice cream shops! And for a state that's cold many months of the year, we were a little shocked by it. But for our summer trip – we were into it. The good news is, if you're craving ice cream when you visit Maine, you'll have plenty of options whether you're in Portland, Bar Harbor, or Boothbay Harbor.
Please note: We thank Visit Maine for generously hosting our trip. We also may make a small commission from affiliate links in this post but all opinions are ours and we bring you genuine content with real facts, photos, thoughts and recommendations. Always.
Heading to Maine? Also check out:
- Food Maine is Known For (Lobster and Beyond)
- Coastal Maine Windjammer Cruises: Overnight Schooner Sailing Vacations
- Best Bed and Breakfast in Bar Harbor: Atlantean Cottage (Our Favorite Accommodations in Maine)