The beautiful state of Maine is one of the best places to explore the natural beauty of the United States by car.

We recommend taking a road trip to see the best of the state because it doesn't have a robust public transportation system. Unless you want fresh powder to shred in the mountains, you don't need four-wheel drive to get to most places in Maine.

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Many of the country's most famous scenic highways originate in the Pine Tree State of Maine. It's easy to start your road trip from Portland, Boston or even Canada.

From rocky coastlines to granite mountain peaks, Maine has something for everyone. Mainers joke, "You can't get here from there, so be patient and don't be afraid to get lost." You never know when you will see a moose, a lobster roll or a natural vista.

Coastal Route 1 Maine

Best road trip for Maine coastline views

The distance from Kittery toCalais is 273 miles.

US Route 1 runs from Fort Kent, Maine to Key West Florida, covering 2390 miles. The Atlantic Highway ran from Maine to Miami in the early 20th century.

One of Maine's most scenic drives can be found on Route 1. The two-lane highway goes from Kittery up to the coastline and then up to the Canadian border. Route 1 goes from Kittery up to Ellsworth and then to the national park.

Most people prefer to take a leisurely weekend to enjoy the area's many traditional coastal towns, beaches, seafood joints and family attractions.

Portland is a great place to spend a night. If you drive north through the Midcoast, you can stop to purchase some flannel and duck boots at a store. You can eat lunch by the water.

You can take a detour to see the amazing Acadia National Park for a couple of days. One of the prettiest parts of the state is the Bold Coast. Downeastern Maine is known as "real Maine," with its small towns and working waterfront. You can stop at Quoddy Head State Park in Lubec.

You can either drive up to Fort Kent and cross the border to Canada or return to the south.

You can explore the many islands off the coast of Rockland if you have more time.

A car drives down a rural road surrounded by colorful fall foliage in Maine
Fryeburg and the White Mountain National Forest offer glorious fall foliage for road trippers © SNEHIT / Shutterstock

Maine's Route 302 

Best road trip for fall foliage

51 miles from Portland to Fryeburg.

During the fall season, the drive from Portland to Fryeburg on Route 302 is especially beautiful.

Breakfast is available in Portland. One of the few places in the country where you can still see catches of lobster and fish being hauled in is in Portland. If you prefer a sit-down breakfast, the Old Port district is full of great places to eat.

Take Route 302 west after you've been in Portland for a few hours. There are more pine trees in the Lake Region area than people.

If you want to take a dip in Maine's second largest lake, you can stop at one of the few public beaches along the road.

You can cross the Causeway in Naples. You can take a tour of Long Lake aboard the Songo River Queen II, a replica Mississippi River paddlewheeler, or you can eat lunch at Rick's Cafe.

Go north towards Bridgton. During the winter months, Pleasant Mountain is open for both skiing and hiking. The town of Fryeburg is less than 45 minutes away.

If you want to make a weekend out of it, you can take a short drive from Fryeburg.

Colorful wooden store fronts with lobster signs in Bar Harbor, Maine
Before you hit the road, grab some fresh lobster in Bar Harbor, Maine © Pete Unger / Getty Images

Route 2 in Maine

Best road trip for farmland and mountains

Bar Harbor and Gilead are 192 miles apart.

Route 2 goes across the border into Canada from Washington to Maine. Route 2 provides a lot of scenic views as you travel through farmland, small towns and mountains.

You can easily explore Mount Desert Island and the National Park in Bar Harbor. The hometown of world-famous writer Stephen King is located inland in Maine. You can take a selfies at King's house and in front of the Paul Bunyan statue.

Continue your journey through the western mountains of Maine by stopping in the college town of Farmington. All of the New England towns have forested granite peaks in the background. During the summer and fall months, there are many hiking trails in and around the White Mountains.

Schoodic National Scenic Byway

Best road trip for uncrowded coastal views

Birch Harbor is more than 300 miles away.

A lot of people don't know that the park is more than just Mount Desert Island. There is a small part of the park on the mainland. Uncrowded nature can be found on the peninsula. If you want to escape the crowds on Cadillac Mountain or in the village of Bar Harbor, you can take the Schoodic National Scenic Byway.

You can take a right turn onto Route 186 if you want to go through the small fishing villages of Winter Harbor and Birch Harbor.

There are 7 miles of hiking trails in the Schoodic District of the national park. The peninsula is home to many hiking and walking trails. The peninsula and surrounding islands are great for kayaking or canoeing.

Before you head onward, make sure to grab a fresh lobster roll.

Sunset at Portland Head Lighthouse on Cape Elizabeth, Maine
Take in one of the USA’s most beautiful coastlines on a “road trip” by boat along the Maine Island Trail © Shobeir Ansari / Getty Images

Maine Island Trail

Best “road” trip ... by boat

The distance from Kittery to Eastport is Resolved.

Road trips in Maine are more than just cars. For an only-in-Maine experience, buy or rent a boat and follow the recreational waterway trail from York County to Washington County.

More than 200 wild islands are connected by the Maine Island Trail. Thousands of volunteers help maintain the trail and many of the islands.

Many of the islands in Casco Bay are accessible by sea kayak, making it a perfect weekend destination. Maine's open water can be dangerous if you're not a skilled mariner. Guided trips are offered from Portland during the summer.

In about 7 hours, this article was updated.