7 Winter Vacation Destinations in Maine For Adventure and Relaxation Seekers Alike
After the warm sunshine of July and the fiery foliage of October comes the serene, snow-blanketed landscapes of winter in Maine. And while Bostonians might be hunkering down, Maine comes alive this season. In mountain towns like Rangeley and Camden, skiers and snowboarders will be zipping through powdered forests and watching toboggans race down the slopes. In cities like Portland and Freeport, Mainers and visitors alike will take to museum exhibits, light shows, and high-end dining experiences. On the shores of Ogunquit, city escapees will nestle into the cozy corners of luxe year-round resorts.
Any of those people could be you—why not escape the throes of Boston winter and embrace the season instead of fighting it? A vacation to Maine could be just what the doctor ordered to cure your winter blues. Here are seven breathtaking Maine destinations to make your planning a bit easier.
Portland: The Cultural Epicenter
Portland, Maine has the cultural density that many tourists look for—with historical sites, famous landmarks, and even James Beard Award-winning restaurants, it’s the perfect place to spend a weekend or more exploring.
Art appreciators will love the Portland Museum of Art, which features over 18,000 works on display. February 3 through May 7, check out American Perspectives, the new exhibit telling the story of American self-taught art from the eighteenth century to present day. See works from the American Folk Art Museum’s collection—quilts, embroidery, pottery, paintings, sculpture, and more.
Portland is also the perfect place to take a winter lighthouse tour, as there are six lighthouses within just a 20-minute radius. You’ll get to see the iconic Portland Head Light, Two Lights State Park, and Portland Breakwater Light (and more) and you’ll walk away with unique, snow-dusted photos of the majestic structures.
Freeport: Calling all Shoppers and Foodies
Located on the Casco Bay, Freeport, Maine is commonly known for its shopping district that includes the Shopping Outlets and other boutiques. At the Outlets, you can shop iconic favorites like the L.L.Bean Flagship Store, J.Crew, Levi’s Outlet, and Banana Republic, as well as independent stores with one-of-a-kind treasures and high-end gifts for loved ones (or for yourself!).
As far as planning meals, foodies will be more than happy with Freeport’s lineup of eats. From Italian cuisine to fresh, local seafood at Freeport Oyster Bar, there are delicious options for everyone. Try Tuscan Brick Oven Bistro, the number one restaurant in Freeport, and Broad Arrow Tavern, which comes in at number two.
If you’re looking for something to do during the day, braving the cold will be well worth it at Wolfe’s Neck State Park, a picturesque walk along Casco Bay with stunning water and sunrise views, and the perfect option if you’re in Freeport looking for some fresh air and a dose of nature’s energy.
Cliff House Resort: For a Taste of the Serene Winter Beach Scene
Make your way to Ogunquit, one of Maine’s most beloved coastal towns, for a stay at Cliff House that you won’t soon forget. Cliff House welcomed its first guests in 1872, and today it boasts fantastic views, perfectly curated amenities, and an overall experience that is both stimulating and relaxing.
Stretching across 70 oceanfront acres atop Bald Head Cliff, Cliff House is captivating in its beauty, inside and out, all year round. It’s the perfect place to vacation if you’re looking for a cozy escape without the hustle and bustle of a ski lodge. The luxury spa and wellness center, oceanfront restaurants, and events like art shows offer the perfect collection of ways to unwind and experience the beauty of the area.
Cliff House guest rooms were recently redesigned, with 226 rooms total and over 40 suites to choose from. When you’re not nestled beneath the Cuddledown comforter in your Premium Oceanfront King, explore the resort’s grounds, use the 24-hour fitness center, and enjoy the indoor pool and indoor and outdoor hot tubs—both open year round.
Finally, if you have a wedding in your future, the unrivaled Cape Neddick setting, culinary expertise, and indoor and outdoor settings like the new Atlantic Ballroom (with panoramic ocean views) and North Point Lawn (with an ambience of crashing waves) would make for a dream wedding for anywhere from 75 to 150 guests—come visit this winter to start planning your coastal wedding.
Bethel: A Picturesque Retreat
Bethel is the perfect getaway destination in Maine for those who are looking for a taste of relaxation along with some winter sports action. Staying at Sunday River Ski Resort is the perfect place to do so. With eight peaks, 139 trails and glades, and a total of 53 miles of trails, Sunday River is a skier and snowboarder’s dream—especially with events like Indie Demo Day, where enthusiasts are invited to try high-end gear from unique craft ski and snowboard companies.
When you’re not on the slopes, escape to the Jordan Spa at the resort’s Jordan Hotel for massages, facials, body treatments, and shopping. The spa is open daily, by appointment only. They carry high-end beauty products, jewelry, athletic wear, and gift cards. If you book a spa treatment, you’ll also have access to the workout area, pool, hot tub, and locker rooms for that day.
While in Bethel, check out the Maine Mineral and Gem Museum, where you’ll get to see one of their most exciting exhibits to date called The Big Find, a 50-year commemoration of North America’s most notable discovery of gem-quality tourmaline crystals (more than a ton).
Camden and Rockland: For a Family-Friendly Vacation
All the snow-loving families will love Camden and Rockland for its never-ending schedule of things to do—if you’re looking to spend a week away from home packed with winter sports action, this is the place for you and your family.
The Camden Snow Bowl is a ski area and recreation park where you can hone your skiing and snowboarding skills and take in the impressive ocean views from the top of Ragged Mountain. You can also watch the Toboggan Nationals sled race, held every February when Toboggan teams compete for the national title.
At the end of the long day of exertion and cold wind in your face, try Fresh & Co. for a well-deserved dinner with the whole family. Guests rave about the lobster ravioli, scallops risotto, and pasta dishes. If you can escape for a date night, try Natalie’s at Camden Harbour Inn, where the atmosphere is warm yet sophisticated and romantic (and the establishment is, according to USA Today, one of the top 100 Best Hotel Restaurants).
Saddleback Mountain Resort: For Winter Adventure
Another iconic Maine resort, Saddleback Mountain is known for being a skiing and snowboarding destination with more than 600 acres of land to its name, including two terrain parks and 68 runs. But even if you’re not confident on skis, there are tons of winter activities to keep everyone entertained. Ice skating, snowmobiling, and snow biking are a few of the other activities you can try at Saddleback.
Make it a large group affair with rental accommodations for up to 10 people. The resort rentals are private properties in Rangeley, from cozy condos for couples to large cabins for your friend group to Saddleback lake cottages. The facilities and amenities at Saddleback are nothing short of the best, and the surrounding area offers activities you won’t want to pass up—like Saturday Night Wagon Rides, which run from January 1 to March 12 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Acadia National Park: For Relaxing Snow Sports
Acadia represents the perfect intersection between relaxation and thrill. It’s the ideal place to enjoy winter activities like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, winter hiking for those with experience, birding, and ice fishing.
Acadia is home to 45 miles of carriage roads and unplowed park roads for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, which are some of the best ways to take in the National Park’s scenery and let nature relax your mind and body. If you have trekking poles and traction footwear, you can even hike the trails of Acadia in the winter months.
Although counterintuitive, birding is also rewarding in Acadia in the winter, as species like black-capped chickadees, snowy owls, harlequin ducks, and more stay in the region year-round. Plus, with the trees having lost their leaves, visibility will be much higher for hopeful bird-spotters.
From January to March, ice fishermen tap into the large lakes and ponds to fish the cold waters of Acadia. In Eagle Lake, Echo Lake, Jordan Pond, and Upper Hadlock Pond, you can catch fish like landlocked salmon, brook trout, and lake trout.
To make your Maine winter vacation plans today, go to visitmaine.com/winter
This is a paid partnership between Maine Office of Tourism and Boston Magazine's City/Studio