Kid-friendly itineraries on a scenic stretch of coast.
Penobscot Bay: A Family Getaway in Maine
Credit: Courtesy of Samoset Resort

There are still parts of Maine that remain largely unexplored, and the Down East area—named for the winds that favored long-ago sailors heading in this direction—recalls what the state may have felt like decades ago. Thanks to museums, outdoor activities (sailing; hiking; walking), and fresh seafood, it delights parents and kids alike.

Cod End Cookhouse

Cod End consists of a cookhouse, fish market, and dock, all packaged into one locale. The outdoor deck is scattered with picnic tables, which is the preferred place to sit, weather permitting. Indoor seating and a to-go menu are also offered. Fresh-caught lobsters and other seafood sold in the market can be cooked to order at the restaurant. Everything from lobsters and crabmeat to scallops and oysters, even haddock and tuna, are served up in rolls, baskets, or an entree. For non-seafood diners, burgers, sandwiches, are available, as is a kids' menu.

Samoset Resort

This luxurious coastal resort south of Camden, ME, has had many names, owners, and incarnations since it first debuted in 1889, but that’s only resulted in smart renovations throughout its history. Now it comprises a mix of condo time-shares, private cottages, and 178 guest rooms and suites—each with a balcony or terrace overlooking the ocean. In recent years, the updates continued: the new, zero-entry pool is built into the hillside, with uninterrupted views of Penobscot Bay, and the just-opened Italian restaurant and spa lure prepsters from three new guest cottages. Many of the existing rooms were thoroughly freshened up, and the resort recently committed to staying open year-round. In the winter, expect festive seasonal offerings like an ice-skating rink and a bonfire with s’mores.

Farnsworth Museum

Rockland, Maine, may not be thought of as the art capital of the world, but this nationally recognized museum is certainly no slouch. The collection features more than 10,000 works, most by American artists with ties to the state of Maine. In addition to holding a vast collection of pieces by 19th century sculptor Louise Nevelson, the museum complex also includes the Wyeth Center, which showcases the talents of three generations of Wyeths—N.C., Andrew, and James—whose paintings were greatly influenced by the people and places they encountered in Maine.

The Owls Head Transportation Museum

Antique planes, trains, and automobiles are showcased at this family-friendly museum, located near the Knox County Airport. All of the 100-plus vehicles on permanent display are in working condition—even though some date back as far as the 1800s. Rotating exhibits also feature some reproductions and models. The cavernous space, which is reminiscent of an airplane hangar, is home to historic vehicles like a 1929 Phantom Rolls-Royce and a 1919 Harley Davidson. Aircraft exhibits include authentic World War I-era planes, and reproductions of even earlier gliders. Carriages, bicycles, and engines round out the collection.

Cappy's Chowder House

This family-friendly joint has famous thick chowder, plus burgers and lobster rolls.

Camden Hills State Park

Camden Hills State Park is open year-round, with a variety of activities available across its 5,500 acres, from relatively low-exertion (bird-watching, picnicking) to downright athletic (cross-country skiing, off-road biking). Designated campgrounds are equipped with basic amenities, but the rest is pure nature. Towering over the quaint town of Camden, the park has 30 miles of hiking trails. At the top of Mount Battie, there are unobstructed views of Penobscot Bay and the towns and islands below; on a clear day it is possible to see as far as Cadillac Mountain at Acadia National Park.

Breakwater Light

Located at the end of a 7/8-mile breakwater (essentially a man-made granite seawall stretching from the shore), this historic lighthouse is open to visitors only on weekends and holidays from Memorial Day weekend to Columbus Day. The last coast guard keeper vacated the lighthouse in the mid-1960's, but in recent years, a group of committed local residents undertook its restoration and preservation — an ongoing labor of love that relies exclusively on volunteers. Built in 1900, the 25-foot lighthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places.