You can certainly see a place from the comfort of your passenger seat window. But to really get a feel for Maine – its craggy coastline and mountains, its forest and rivers, its small towns and bustling cities – you need to get out into it.
You can tour Maine lighthouses by bike or paddle to an island via kayak. You can walk the historic streets of a coastal town or hike your way up to a scenic summit that over looks more peaks and ponds. You can tackle whitewater or chill out with beach yoga. And all the while you’ll breathe in ocean air or the warm dirt smell of a trail. You’ll feel the cold splash of salt water on your bare legs and the steady incline of Maine’s rolling roads in your quads. You’ll see things and learn things and meet people – and make some brag-worthy memories along the way.
Whether you’re visiting Maine for a short time or you live here all year long, here are some active ways to see Maine – outdoor adventures that last a couple of hours to a entire week. May your explorations lead you to wonderful new-to-you places (and may your physical activity earn you the right to eat as much seafood, ice cream, and baked goods as your heart desires. Besides, you’re on vacation, you can eat whatever you want).
Active ways to see Maine:
Rafting & hiking with New England Outdoor Center
Whitewater rafting the Penobscot River
There will be time to look around and enjoy the scenery as you float down the Penobscot River. There will also be times when all you can think about is holding tight, paddling hard, and letting out a loud “Woohoo!” as your raft launches through the rapids. A full day trip with New England Outdoor Center covers 14 miles of river, including class I-V rapids and natural water slides and surfing. Riverside BBQ lunch included. Cost ranges from $89-104 Sunday through Friday and $109-$129 on Saturdays. There are also half-day and family trips. See them all: www.neoc.com/white-water-rafting-in-maine
Guided Hike (and canoe!): Debsconeag Ice Caves
Explore the Debsconeag Ice Caves near Millinocket with a Maine Guide. Get a ride to Omaha Beach on the Debsconeag Deadwater, then canoe approximately 1.5 miles to the entrance to First Debsconeag Lake. Go for a swim and have a snack on one of the pristine white sand beaches before heading to the ice caves.
It’s just one guided hike option from NEOC. See them all: www.neoc.com/hiking
New England Outdoor Center also does canoe and kayak trips, like a guided overnight on the East Branch of the Penobscot along the trail Thoreau took in 1857. See of their canoeing and kayaking adventures: www.neoc.com/canoeing-and-kayaking-adventures
Hike, Bike & Paddle with Maine Huts & Trails
A visit to one of Maine Huts & Trails four huts is always a fine idea (don’t let the word “hut” lead you astray – these are sharp-looking and sustainably built huts that are comfortable and cool, and during full season, they cook delicious meals and sell beer and wine. Off season, you bring your own). But a stay at the hut combined with more adventure? Even better!
Upper Dead River Paddle
You’ll canoe six easy-going miles of the Upper Dead River and spend two nights at Grand Falls Hut before canoeing back. In between you’ll eat well, explore the woods, visit a 40-foot waterfall, and just chill out. Two nights, three days total. For more information: mainehuts.org/trips/upper-dead-river-paddle
Guided Avery Hike
Hike in to Stratton Brook Hut just in time for dinner and relaxing, before waking up in the morning to hike with your guide along the Fire Warden’s Trail to Avery Peak, a 4,000-foot peak of the Bigelow Mountain Range. From low-lying vernal ponds to exposed glacial outcroppings, you’ll be in the heart of one of the most exciting and diverse landscapes in the world. Then it’s back to the hut for dinner and well-deserved rest. Two nights, three days total.
For more information: mainehuts.org/trips/guided-avery-hike-0
Maine Huts & Trails has trips for all seasons: mainehuts.org/plan/browse-all-trips
And hut-to-hut biking: mainehuts.org/discover/things-do/biking
Hike, Paddle, Camp, Bike with L.L.Bean Outdoor Discovery
Freeport & Newry
L.L.Bean in Freeport is a popular destination for outdoor gear and apparel (and for 2 a.m. visits just because you can, since they’re open 24 hours). But L.L.Bean’s Discovery Schools are a great way to try an outdoor sport or improve your skills. From paddleboarding and kayaking to hiking and biking, events range from a couple of hours to multi-day excursions. Discovery courses cost $25 (all equipment and guidance included), there are free clinics, and trips range from $100-$400.
See all the upcoming courses, clinics, and trips: www.llbean.com
L.L.Bean also leads summer activities at Sunday River in Newry: www.llbean.com
Penobscot River Canoeing Adventure with Northwoods Outfitters
Canoe the Penobscot River for 2-7 days. You’ll see some glorious sights along the river (and some wildlife, too, like moose, loons, deer, ducks, and eagles), but it won’t be paddle, paddle, paddle the entire time. You’ll have a chance to hike, fish, explore, and take photos. Camp each night on the river and have dinner next to the fire. And enjoy the view of Mt. Katahdin. Tours run May through October, and you have the option of having a guide or doing a self-guided tour (previous experience is required for a self-guided tour).
Northwoods Outfitters also has an Allagash River Canoe Trip, Overnight Canoe Camping on Moosehead Lake, and Indian Pond Overnight Canoe Trip. See them all: www.maineoutfitter.com/adventures/multitrips.html
Back Country Excursions
Head into the woods with your mountain bike (or rent one when you get there). Back Country Excursions in Parsonsfield offers “weekend tours” that include two days of guided riding, three meals, snacks, access to all facilities, and two nights accomodations at a campsite, yurt, or in the lodge. (It doesn’t have to be a weekend either. Pick a time that works for you and book it.) More about it: www.bikebackcountry.com/weekend-tours
Also, Back Country Excursions is hosting its 24th Mountain Biking Microbrew Festival August 9-12, 2018. Full pass includes six meals, 2.5 days of guided rides, three nights on premises, brews, live music and use of all facilities. Bike rentals included.
Guided tours with Kennebunkport Bicycle Co.
Ride the trails of Kennebunport! Enjoy flowing singletrack through wooded Maine forest with one of Kennebunkport Bicycle Company’s guides. Beginner-friendly and bikes, helmet, snacks, and water provided. $120 per person.
KBC offers trail running and cycling tours, too. See them all: kennebikeport.com/guided-tours/
Sometimes you just want a straight-up workout – an hour spent running up hills or doing squats and jumping jacks or yoga outside – so you can spend the rest of the day doing more stuff (like eating – Maine is good for that, too).
Old Port Historic Workouts
A Historic Workout offers physical activity AND local history. It’s an all-levels fitness class led by Leigh Rush Olson, who’ll guide you through a warm up and speed walking/jogging to area landmarks, and she’ll tell you all about Portland’s backstory while you exercise at each stop.
Meets Saturdays at 9 a.m. at 1 Monument Square in Portland, next to the “Our Lady of Victories” Monument. $25 per person: historicworkouts.com. There are walking tours at 11 a.m. as well.
More outdoor workouts
From boot camps and yoga to running groups that end with beer, find a an outdoor workout in the calendar: fitmaine.com/calendar/outdoorworkouts
Pedal the Maine BayCycle in Portland Harbor
Tour Portland Harbor aboard Maine BayCycle, where you can pedal to your heart’s content. (Be that the entire 90-minute cruise or for five minutes, after which you’ll be distracted by the waterfront views, the socializing, and the beers you brought on board.) It’s true, you can bring your own beverages on board Maine BayCycle, and you can also get away with not pedaling whatsoever. But the pedaling is half the fun!
Cruises daily at 11:00 (weekends only), 1 p.m., 3 p.m., 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. from Bell Buoy Park, located between Ri Ra Irish Pub and Casco Bay Lines on Commercial Street, Portland.
Single Seat: $35, charter: $450 (gather your friends!). Cruises have a maximum of 14 seats, must be booked in advance. For more info: www.mainebaycycle.com
Add some intrigue into your walk around the Old Port with Wicked Walking Tours and hear about pirates, witches, and Portland history. $19.99, veteran/military/senior $16.99, children 12 and under $13.99. Tours meet at Bell Buoy Park, right next to Ri Ra Irish Pub on Commercial Street in Portland. 8 p.m. various evenings (5:30 p.m. Saturdays in October). For more info: www.wickedwalkingtours.com
Hear the haunted tales and folklore of Maine’s coastal towns with a Red Cloak Haunted History Tour in Camden, Damariscotta, Wiscasset, Boothbay Harbor, Bath, Hallowell, Bar Harbor and Rockland. For more info: redcloakhauntedhistorytours.com
Go on a Beauty Walk with Renewal in the Wilderness at rotating locations around Portland and take the time to enjoy nature and thoughtful company. For more info: www.renewalinthewilderness.org
Jewell Island Overnight with Portland Paddle
Jewell Island in Casco Bay is right on the edge of where the bay meets the wide-open ocean, which means it feels wonderfully remote and “out there.” It’s a full-day paddle from East End beach, but you’ll have a knowledgeable Portland Paddle guide leading the way, and they’ll even prepare your meals on the island, too. Kayaks and gear included. 2018 Trips: June 9-10, June 21-22, July 8-9, July 20-21, August 5-6, August 18-19, September 1-2, September 8-9, and by request. $235 per person. For more information: portlandpaddle.net
Three-Day Casco Bay Traverse with Portland Paddle
Casco Bay, Portland to Phippsburg
Paddle Casco Bay from Portland to Phippsburg during this three-day traverse. You’ll do a “significant amount of paddling” during the trip, so sea kayaking experience is a must. Meals provided, along with a knowledgeable guide and a ride back to town when it’s all over. 2018 Trips: June 16-18, June 24-26, July 3-5, July 13-15, August 10-12, August 20-22, August 31- September 2 and by request. $420 per person. For more information: portlandpaddle.net
There’s also a Muscongus Bay three-day expedition and self-guided options for your getaway. Check out more trips with Portland Paddle: portlandpaddle.net
Or, if you just want a day trip, check out Portland Paddle’s guided paddles in Casco Bay, where you can venture out to Fort Gorges if the conditions are right.
Cape Porpoise Tour with Coastal Maine Kayak & Bike
Paddle the waters off scenic Cape Porpoise and take in the views of the islands (including Goat Island and its lighthouse). Goat Island Light remains an active aid to navigation and welcomes visitors to the island. $85 per person includes a kayak, paddle, PFD, transportation, snacks and drinks, and a registered Maine guide. For more info or more of Coastal Maine Kayak’s tours, like the Kennebunk River Tour or Mousam River Estuary Tour: www.coastalmainekayak.com
Sheepscot River Tour with Tidal Transit
Spend the day paddling through the islands of the Sheepscot River and explore part of the Maine Island Trail. Your guide will lead the way and find a perfect spot for a picnic lunch, where you can relax and watch the fishing boats go by before heading back into Boothbay Harbor. Tours start at 9 a.m., are 5-6 hours long and cost $90 (includes all equipment). For more information: www.kayakboothbay.com/full-day-tour.html
Tidal Transit also leads a full-day Outer Islands Tour, and half-day Lighthouse, Sunset, and Wildlife Tours. See them all: www.kayakboothbay.com
Paddleboard or kayak lessons and tours
There are outfitters around the state offering lessons and tours for kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding. Here are a few: Acadia Stand Up Paddle Boarding (Bar Harbor), Wheels N Waves (Wells), Maine Sport Outfitters (Camden & Rockport), Kayak Excursions (Kennebunkport), Fun and Sun Rentals (Scarborough), Captain Dingley’s (Naples), Maine Seashore Adventures (Biddeford), Liquid Dreams (York and Ogunquit), Explore Bangor (Bangor)
Never rocked climbed before? Here’s your chance. Beginners are absolutely welcome to learn to rock climb with Equiniox Guiding Services, which offers climbs in and around Camden Hills State Park.
Rates rage from $70-$160 per person for a half-day trip and $110-$265 per person for a full-day trip, depending on the size of the group.
For more information: camdenclimbing.biz
Acadia and Camden
Get to views you wouldn’t see if you kept your feet on the ground. You can rock climb in Acadia National Park or Camden Hills State Park. Acadia Mountain Guides offers guided climbs for beginners and more experienced climbers – family climbing, too. Rates range from $60 to $155 for a half-day, and $95 to $259 for a full day, based on the guide-to-climber ratio. For more information: www.acadiamountainguides.com
5 Lighthouse Bike Tour
Portland, South Portland & Cape Elizabeth
Let Summer Feet Cycling lead the way to five of greater Portland’s lighthouses. This day-trip is an easy-going ride along the coast (there are a few hills) and includes stops at Bug Light, Spring Point Ledge Light and the popular Portland Head Light. Lunch is included (can you say lobster roll?!) and there’s van support the whole way (along with some great local history). $99 per person includes bike, helmet, lunch, guide, and van support. For more info: www.summerfeet.net
Bikes & Brews Tour
Like beer? Check out the Bikes & Brews Tour in Portland. There’s more beering that bike riding on this evening tour, but you’ll get a nice view of parts of the city many tourists never see (like the Bayside neighborhood, where many newer breweries and distilleries have set up shop). $69 per person includes bike, helmet, beers, and guide. For more info: www.summerfeet.net
Sailboats and Summer Folk bike trip
Camden and Rockport
This three-day getaway takes you around the coastal town of Camden, with rides along a tree-lined ocean preserve, on an island is Penobscot Bay and to the nearby town of Rockland to see Owls Head light. You’ll enjoy a sunset cruise, to boot, and lots of great Maine food.
$875 per person includes two nights lodging, most meals, schooner sail, ferry transit, souvenirs and guide. 2018 dates: July 20-22, August 24-26, September 21-23. For more info:
Summer Feet also does week-long bike tours all over the state, including a Lobster Rolls and Locavores tour in Southern Maine, and a Pedal the Coast tour from Boothbay Harbor to Bar Harbor. See all the week-long tour options: www.summerfeet.net
Coast of Maine Bike Tour
Spend a week bike riding along Maine’s coast, around Southwest Harbor, Bar Harbor, Acadia National Park, and Swan’s Island. There’s good eatin’ along the way (including a Down East lobster feast), and other non-bike explorations, too, like a kayak along the quiet inlets of Pretty Marsh Harbor. Cost $2495 and tours run June through the first week of October. For more info: discoverybicycletours.com
More more more! Groups to explore with:
Also look into Maine Yoga Adventures (based out of Bangor, MYA offers one-day adventures that often combine yoga with other activities like hiking, paddleboarding, rock climbing, and beer!), Alpine Women Collective (women-only hikes around New England), Trail Dames of Portland, Maine (a Maine-based hiking club for curving women and brand-new hikers). More local clubs: fitmaine.com/category/clubs-groups
On your own:
You can go your own way! If you’d rather choose the day, time, and pace yourself, you can explore Maine any way you please. Here are a few ideas:
Mountain bike from hut to hut with Maine Huts & Trails.
Bike ride from brewery to brewery. Rent a bike from The Portland Encyclepedia and get a map that includes area breweries! (They also have non-brewery maps, if beer isn’t your thing.)
Find the perfect Maine bike ride with Explore Maine’s searchable bike tours
Go on a self-guided walking tour of Portland.
Find a Maine hike that’s just right for you. Maine Trail Finder is a great state-wide resource, and I’ve rounded up a few hiking favorites, too (including some easy-going trails for beginner hikers): fitmaine.com/category/hiking
Go hiking AND swimming. Choose one of these 20+ trail hikes that include a refreshing swimming hole dip
And, of course, you can always find active events in Maine by check the Fit Maine calendar!