Top 10 Scenic Drives in Maine

In the furthest north portion of New England, Maine is almost like a world unto itself. Its residents have such a unique accent and friendly manner that it seems almost foreign to the uninitiated, and there are so many natural areas that are virtually untouched it’s hard to believe civilization as we know it is near.  From its craggy coastline to dense forests, it’s possible to take off in any direction and find a hidden picturesque treasure. For those who prefer a bit more structure to day or weekend trips, however, try one of these tried-and-true Maine scenic drives:

No. 10 – Saint John Valley

Saint John Valley, Maine
Flickr user: Christopher Ross

Starting Location: Dickey, ME
Ending Location: Fort Kent, ME
Length: 31 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer, and Fall
See this drive on Google Maps

This trip through Saint John Valley near the Canadian border affords visitors the opportunity to become acquainted with Maine’s culture and history. The Allagash Historical Society Museum in Dickey is a good place to start, with exhibits and photographs documenting how its people have lived throughout the decades. In Van Buren, don’t miss the living history museum of Acadian Village, where visitors can experience firsthand what the French Acadian settlement was like.

No. 9 – Grafton Notch

Grafton Notch, Maine
Flickr user: The B's

Starting Location: Newry, ME
Ending Location: Errol, ME
Length: 33 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer, and Fall
See this drive on Google Maps

Largely snaking along with the Bear River, this drive cuts through the mountains before arriving in rural farmlands and ultimately ending at Lake Umbagog. In Grafton Notch State Park, athletic types may enjoy the hiking trails, especially those leading to Screw Auger Falls and Mother Walker Falls. In Harrison, stop to see Deertrees Theater, a performing arts center founded by opera coach Enrica Clay Dillon in 1936.

No. 8 – Million Dollar View

Million Dollar View, Maine
Flickr user: nhoulihan

Starting Location: Danforth, ME
Ending Location: Van Buren, ME
Length: 115 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer, and Fall
See this drive on Google Maps

There’s more than one reason this portion of Route 1 through the state has been dubbed Million Dollar View. Along its way, travelers are treated to mountainous scenes, the Chiputneticook chain of lakes, and all manner of wildlife from bears to moose are likely to be seen. Stop in Weston to explore its historic buildings, such as the Weston Community Church, and Peekaboo Mountain is a great stop for photos.

No. 7 – Fish River Byway

Fish River Byway, Maine
Flickr user: Ryan Phelan

Starting Location: Houlton, ME
Ending Location: Fort Kent, ME
Length: 110 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer, and Fall
See this drive on Google Maps

With everything from rolling hills to forests to wildflower meadows in the spring, travelers along this way will never bore with the changing scenery. Aroostook State Park affords visitors with scores of recreational opportunities, including hiking, camping, and snowmobiling. Don’t miss the views from the state’s highest point on Mt. Katahdin before the route ends at historic Fort Kent, built in 1839 to lay claim to the northern woods.

No. 6 – Moosehead Lake Scenic Byway

Moosehead Lake Byway
Flickr user: Dana Moos

Starting Location: Greenville, ME
Ending Location: Jackman, ME
Length: 49 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer, and Fall
See this drive on Google Maps

This scenic drive begins by skirting the southern edge of Moosehead Lake – the largest body of fresh water in the United States –  before setting off for the Moosehead River, and the views on the way are nothing short of stunning. Stop in the village of Rockwood to stretch your legs and get close enough to drop a line or just admire the calm, mirror-like water. In Jackman, visit the Moose River Plantation, which wasn’t a plantation in the Southern sense but a stopover on the logging trails.

No. 5 – Schoodic Point

Schoodic Point, Maine
Flickr user: Kim Carpenter

Starting Location: Trenton, ME
Ending Location: Schoodic Point, ME
Length: 35 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer, and Fall
See this drive on Google Maps

Explore the shoreline filled with lobster boats and wooden piers as you pass through the only mainland portion of Acadia National Park to reach the ultra-beautiful Schoodic Point. Enjoy the quaint and somewhat rustic New England architecture in towns like Sullivan and Prospect Harbor. From Cadillac Mountain, enjoy the views of harbors and coves dotted with lighthouses.

No. 4 – Rangeley Lakes Region

Rangeley Lake Region, Maine
Flickr user: Doug Kerr

Starting Location: Rangeley, ME
Ending Location: Rangeley, ME
Length: 116 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer, and Fall
See this drive on Google Maps

When in doubt of how to choose a drive to appeal to every member of a group, it’s hard to err with this trip around the Rangeley Lakes State Park. Anglers will spring at the opportunity to drop a line in hopes of scoring the trout and salmon for which the region is known while moose wander idly by. Although there are hiking trails and other recreational opportunities at nearly every turn, the Height of Land is a must-see with its views of Mooselookmeguntic and Upper Richardson lakes.

No. 3 – Old Canada Road

Old Canada Road, Maine
Flickr user: Scott Kublin

Starting Location: Solon, ME
Ending Location: Jackman, ME
Length: 73 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer, and Fall
See this drive on Google Maps

This scenic drive along Route 201 may make travelers feel they have been transported back in time with its array of historic buildings and expanses of wilderness that seem to have never been touched by man. Don’t miss the Lakewood Theater in Madison, which is the oldest continuously operating music venue in the United States, and adventurous souls may enjoy whitewater rafting at The Forks, where the Kennebec and Dead Rivers converge.

No. 2 – Mount Desert Island

Mount Desert Island, Maine
Flickr user: Mr Seb

Starting Location: Bar Harbor, ME
Ending Location: Bar Harbor, ME
Length: 52 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer, and Fall
See this drive on Google Maps

Nature lovers will delight in this route shaped like a figure 8 around Mt Desert Island where seals and migratory birds often stop and the whales pass near to shore. Stop at the Mount Desert Oceanarium to see the wildlife up close and even seize the opportunity to touch a few creatures. For those more interested in the native flora and fauna, the Wild Gardens of Acacia showcase coastal plants in Sieur De Monts.

No. 1 – Maine’s Big Sur

Maine's Big Sur, Maine
Flickr user: Keith Carver

Starting Location: Brunswick, ME
Ending Location: Calais, ME
Length: 259 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer, and Fall
See this drive on Google Maps

This winding tour of the Maine coast is full of stunning seaside views shaped by the melting of glaciers in the last Ice Age. The fjord-like bays, steep rocky cliffs, and various islands claimed by sea lions and other wildlife set scenes so spectacular they can’t be forgotten. In Bath, stop at the Maine Maritime Museum to learn about the area’s shipbuilding heritage, and the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse in Damariscotta provides panoramic views photographers won’t want to miss.

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