Cape Cod to Maine is one of the best small road trips as there are countless scenic itinerary options. If you enjoy lighthouses, untouched waters, and fresh seafood, Cape Cod to Maine is a dream. For the full coastal voyage start in Provincetown Massachusetts and make your way along the New England coast to Bar Harbor Maine (or vice versa!) Choose one or all of these scenic stops for your next summer adventure.
Driving from Cape Cod to Maine
If you want to drive the entire coast from Cape Cod to Maine it would take about 7 hours on 1-95 and Route 6-E from the tip of Cape Cod in Provincetown to Bar Harbor Maine. This road trip can easily be shortened if you don’t want to venture out to the outer cape or don’t want to drive all the way up to Bar Harbor.
To maximize your view of the entire New England coast, I’d recommend stretching the journey out over several days to enjoy multiple itinerary stops. However, if you just have a weekend or a day, I’d shorten the trip to Boston to Bar Harbor or Hyannis to Portland.
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Scenic stops on the way from Cape Cod to Maine
Wherever you choose to start or end on your Cape Cod to Maine road trip, you must incorporate these scenic coastal towns into your itinerary.
Outer Cape Cod
The Outer Cape jets out into the Atlantic Ocean about 60 miles offering stunning views of the ocean and opportunities for deep sea fishing and whale watching. In 1961 President John F. Kennedy created the Cape Cod National Seashore where he protected 40 miles of untouched beaches, salt marshes, and bogs along the Atlantic Ocean. Landmarks like historic lighthouses are also included in the designation.
Provincetown, Wellfleet, Truro, Eastham, Orleans, and Chatham are included in the designation and many of their beaches are undeveloped offering gorgeous non-commercialized views. Enjoy the biking trails and beautiful scenery. Two must-stops on the Outer Cape are Provincetown and Wellfleet.
Provincetown and Wellfleet, Massachusetts
Provincetown is a well-known art and boutique destination and is known for being LGBT-friendly. Go for its seasonal festivals and expect some of the best seafood you’ve had. There is so much to do in P-town, it’s well worth spending a few days here.
Wellfleet is a great stop for beaches. Its Cahoon Hollow Beach is considered one of the best Cape Cod beaches as it has a secluded view of the Atlantic Ocean next to massive 75-foot sand dunes. When you are finished enjoying the beach, climb back up the sand dunes and grab a drink at the classic restaurant Beachcombers.
Places to stay on the Outer Cape:
Mid Cape Cod
Continue down the Cape and enjoy the quaint towns and seaside views along the way. While every Cape Cod town arguably deserves its own stop, Hyannis is definitely worth it.
Hyannis is famous for being the home of John F. Kennedy and his descendants. Be sure to visit the John F. Kennedy Memorial to learn more about the former U.S. president. Stop by the Cape Cod Museum of Art and then stroll over to Kalmus Beach for a famous white-sand beach in Cape Cod.
Continue up to Massachusetts’ south shore and stop at historic Plymouth. Plymouth is a great road trip stop with history, ocean views, and great food. Visit the original “Plymouth rock”, the landing site of the pilgrims in 1620, and a full-sized replica of the Mayflower ship.
Finish off your stop with a trip to one of Plymouth’s restaurants, ripe with great seafood options. Choose a casual grab-and-go style restaurant, or go fancy with an oceanside view.
Best Places to Stay on the Mid Cape:
If you’ve been to Boston before, you might want to skip it for this scenic small-town road trip. But if you haven’t been before, absolutely take a day or so to explore Bean Town and all it has to offer. (You could easily spend up to a week in Boston alone).
Cheer on the RedSox at Fenway, or take a guided tour of the Freedom Trail and learn about Boston’s role in the Revolutionary War. There are countless parks, historic neighborhoods, and great restaurants to go to. I hope you aren’t sick of seafood yet because Boston is full of fresh lobster, and oysters.
Heading north from Boston, I’d make a stop by Salem for its historical and spooky significance. In 1692 25 people were killed for accusations of witchcraft in Salem. Explore the history of the 1692 Witch Trials at the Salem Witch Trial Memorial as well as the Old Burying Point Cemetary where some of the victims are buried. Walking tours are bookable here.
Head down the main walking street Essex and peek around in some of the interesting shops focused on magic, witches, and monsters. The influence of the witch trials is everywhere here! For more pop-culture, light-hearted activities check out some of the Hocus Pocus film locations or take a ghost tour! Salem will fill up with tourists around the Halloween season so beware of crowds.
If you aren’t interested in witches or magic, stop by the Peabody Essex museum for a day of art including a real ancient Chinese house reconstructed inside the museum.
For a quick stop wander around Newburyport. It is a cute town with many delicious restaurants and cute shops.
If you plan to stop for a few hours, check out the Parker River Natural Wildlife Refuge for beach access, wildlife trails, and birdwatching on Plum Island on over 3000 acres of protected marshland.
I highly recommend renting a bike to enjoy Plum Island’s nature but also recommend checking out some of the boardwalk trails. The Hellcat Interpretative Trail would be a quick and easy walk for those wanting to check out the dunes and marshlands.
An interesting feature of Plum Island is the “Pink House”, a run-down house constructed as an outcome of a bad divorce around 1920. The former wife wanted to continue living in a similar looking home to her marital home. Her ex-husband agreed to give her a new home but with a catch- he built it in the middle of the marshes out of animosity!
Hampton Beach & Portsmouth, NH
Known for its outdoor activities and fall foliage, New Hampshire also has a short yet beautiful coastline. There are 30 miles of New Hampshire beach between Massachusetts and Maine that has charming small towns and thriving beach communities.
For your first stop in New Hampshire, visit Hampton Beach State Park. While it’s popular and busy during high season, it’s a sought-after great beach for families. Enjoy kid-friendly activities such as dance contests, live music, fireworks, and talent shows. Enjoy an afternoon relaxing on the expansive beach or stay in the on-site RV park. Make a reservation in advance.
Continue up to Portsmouth New Hampshire for another worthy stop on your trip. Portsmouth is a quaint sea town with plenty of unique shops and delicious restaurants. Stop for some lunch before continuing up to Maine.
Ogunquit Maine could easily be your last stop if you wanted to shorten the road trip. The small 4-mile town offers classic New England charm and gorgeous ocean views.
If you are only planning to stop for an hour or two I’d recommend walking the Marginal Way to Perkins Cove route which is a mile (each direction) pathway along the ocean. For a longer stay consider checking out outdoor activities such as boating, swimming, or fishing.
Swing by the town center and see the Ogunquit Museum of American Art as well as several art galleries and boutiques.
The next destination on your Cape Cod to Maine road trip is Kennebunkport, one of the first founded towns in the U.S. in the early 1600s. Sit along the Kennebunk Port, and enjoy the small-town fishing atmosphere.
Colony Beach is a nice place to sit and watch the boats arriving in the harbor. Kennebunkport has numerous beaches including the long sandy beach Goose Rocks Beach. Afterward, check out the many art and shopping destinations around the town center. Finish off your stop with some fresh seafood harvested right off-shore.
Kennebunkport has additional things to do such as boating, or whale watching if you want to spend more time in the quaint town.
Old Orchard Beach
Travel another 30 minutes north and visit Old Orchard Beach. The old-fashioned carnival-like pier sells fried dough and cotton candy reminiscent of the early 1900s. Check out the beach below the pier for some nice shots of the food stands along the pier.
The town has additional shopping and restaurants as well as mini-golf and kid rides near downtown.
Cape Elizabeth Maine is a great destination to see some classic New England lighthouses at the southern end of Portland. There are three main lighthouses- Portland Head Light, Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse, and Bug Light. The lighthouses aren’t too far apart and visitors should be able to see all three within an hour or so. If you are condensing your trip and only have time for one stop, visit the Portland Head Light, one of the most recognizable landscapes in all of Maine.
Continuing up through Maine, Portland should definitely be on your list. The downtown is walkable, and there is a lot to explore.
Known as a foodie haven, check out the local breweries (try famous local beer company Allagash) or see the coast by hopping on a ferry to Peaks Island. Portland is a hip and dynamic city.
Explore greater Portland and check out Scarborough’s highly renowned surfing beaches or head to the L.L. Bean flagship store in Freeport.
Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park
Bar Harbor is known for its stunning access to nature, neighboring islands, and Acadia National Park. Enjoy the village in downtown Bar Harbor by visiting the restaurants and shops, and then spend a day or two hiking in Acadia. Acadia is New England’s only national park.
There are countless hikes around this area, but Bar Harbor gives you the best of both worlds with access to both harbor life and mountains.
Cape Cod To Maine Map
Cape Cod to Maine Without a Car: By Ferry and Train
There isn’t a direct option to get to Maine from Cape Cod without a car. However, Cape Air does have flights into select locations on the Cape including Provincetown. From Provincetown, you could take a 4-hour ferry with the Bay State Cruise Company to Boston, and then take a 2-hour train from Boston’s North Station to Portland.
The Bay State Cruises depart 3 times a day from Provincetown to Boston and one way costs $75. It isn’t the cheapest option to get to Boston but it is one of the fastest direct options. There are no direct ferries from Cape Cod to Maine. The Amtrak Downeaster takes 5 daily roundtrips from Boston’s North Station to Brunswick, Maine. The trip via Amtrak takes about 2.5 hours with several stops along the way. Tickets cost anything from $3-30 depending on the level of the ticket.
There is no ferry from Boston to Portland. But once in Portland, there are ferry options to Bar Harbor, ME or Canada.
Cape Cod Vs. Maine: Which Is Better?
There is no better option as Maine and Cape Cod both offer gorgeous beaches and quaint villages. Maine has more options for hiking than the Cape and some well-known surfing locations.
There is plenty to do along both the Massachusetts and Maine coasts from white sand beaches to deep sea fishing, kayaking, and historic lighthouses. Go boutique shopping in quaint towns and enjoy the charming coastal atmosphere. And enjoy freshly caught lobster and seafood. You can’t go wrong with either Cape Cod or Maine for your next vacation.
FAQs: Cape Cod & Maine
Cape Cod and Maine are beautiful locations no matter the season. Crowds flock to coastal towns in the summer so expect busy traffic during the high season.
If you are seeking some quiet off-season, spring or fall would be a beautiful time to stroll through quaint towns or along the ocean. The beaches also tend to be dog friendly in the off-season.
What is Cape Cod famous for?
Cape Cod is famous for its laid-back atmosphere, stunning beaches, natural beauty, fresh seafood, and thriving art communities. Known for being LGBT-friendly, the Cape is also known for its connection to the Kennedy family, and for being the site of the 1975 movie “Jaws”.
Is Cape Cod in New England?
Yes, Cape Cod is the coastal region in eastern Massachusetts, one of New England’s 6 states. New England consists of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.
How far is Cape Cod from Martha’s Vinyard?
Cape Cod is only 3 nautical miles from Martha’s Vinyard and is easily accessible via a 45-minute ferry ride from Falmouth or Hyannis. Some of the ferries are passenger only but some allow cars on board.
The Wrap-Up: Cape Cod To Maine Road Trip
Cape Cod to Maine can a perfect road trip for your next vacation. I’d recommend setting aside a week to explore the entire route. Boston to Portland, however, could easily be done in a weekend or even a long day if you are short on time. For the ideal road trip start in Provincetown MA, and drive through the Cape, up past Boston and continue along the coast of Maine.
There is plenty to do along the New England coast from visiting picturesque beaches, deep sea fishing, kayaking, and seeing historic lighthouses. Visit the shops in charming towns and enjoy the quaint sealife atmosphere. And prepare yourself for some of the freshest seafood you’ve ever had. The lobster is an absolute must as it’s harvested right offshore!