With rocky coastlines studded with lighthouses, picturesque sandy beaches, and forested hiking trails, Maine lives up to its nickname as a true “Vacationland.” The comfortable climate during the summer season makes it a popular destination for visitors looking to escape sweltering temperatures. Although summer is the most popular season to visit Maine, the low and shoulder seasons both offer unique advantages and activities for visitors. Whether you’re planning a trip around lobster season or leaf peeping, there’s always a good time to visit Maine.
Maine's tourist seasons fall into three main categories:
- High Season: June to August
- Shoulder Seasons: May to June and September to October
- Low Season: November to April
Here are the best times to visit Maine for every type of traveler.
Related: T+L’s Guide to Maine
Best Times to Visit Maine for Smaller Crowds
Maine’s high season begins around Memorial Day and lasts through Labor Day. Within that time frame, June is a slower month as the weather is generally still mild but can be too cold or rainy to enjoy a beach day. Late August and September offer temperatures that are still warm enough to enjoy the coast without the peak summer crowds. “I find May, early June, and October are the best times to visit Maine. During these times, the weather remains splendid and the tourists are fewer, allowing travelers to get the full small-town allure that Maine has to offer,” Daniel Braun, manager of The White Barn Inn in Kennebunk, told Travel + Leisure.
September and October are relatively quiet in comparison to the bustling summer season. Autumn is perfect for drives to enjoy quintessential New England fall foliage and apple picking at local farms. “The pace slows down a notch, crowds thin a bit, the weather is crisp, dry, and beautiful, and my personal interests, fishing and foraging, are at their peak,” said Andrew Taylor, chef and co-owner of James Beard Award-winning restaurant Eventide Oyster Co.
Best Times to Visit Maine for Good Weather
The weather begins to warm up at the start of May, with average temperatures in the 60s. Even in the peak of summer, it’s rare to experience more than a handful of days reaching over 90 degrees. If you want to visit when the weather is warmest, July and August are the best, albeit busiest, times for a trip. However, September is not far behind and offers a balance of fantastic weather and fewer crowds. “There's really no bad time to come to Maine, but I think my favorite time is late September,” says Ben Conniff, co-founder of Luke’s Lobster. “It's still warm, some days as warm as summer. But the tourist traffic has slowed down so it's easier to get around and the parks, restaurants, and other attractions aren't so packed. It's basically summer vacation without the stress of dealing with everyone else who's on summer vacation.”
Braun echoes this sentiment for a September trip, saying, “In my opinion, September is the best time to visit Maine for the weather. Free from the heat and humidity of August, the days are pleasantly warm for outdoor activities, while the evenings bring refreshing crispness. The water temperature remains pleasant, allowing visitors to enjoy swimming in the ocean or lakes, and of course, with fewer crowds, September offers a tranquil environment to fully enjoy the many charms of Maine.”
Best Times to Visit Maine for Lower Prices
When the temperatures drop, so do the prices for accommodations. During the winter, resorts are often priced at just a fraction of what peak summer rates can reach. “For the most budget-friendly time to visit Maine, consider planning your trip between January and April when prices tend to be lower due to the colder weather,” says Braun. “Despite the chill, this period offers a unique and cozy experience that is well worth the journey. A quintessential part of a winter stay in Maine is the joy of snuggling up by the fireplace, with a comforting warm drink in hand, while the snow falls outside. It's a scene straight out of a storybook, creating a charming and magical atmosphere that encapsulates the essence of a winter getaway.”
There are plenty of opportunities for cold weather enthusiasts to explore the great outdoors by skiing, snowshoeing, and ice fishing during the winter months. While many resorts and restaurants close during the off-season, the properties that remain open occasionally have off-season specials, so travelers get to experience the quieter side of the Pine Tree State for less. Later in the season, Maine Maple Sunday is held on the fourth Sunday of March each year, and it’s the perfect way to welcome spring. During this beloved state tradition, maple syrup producers open their doors to the public and demonstrate how syrup is made, usually offering samples to visitors who stop by.
Best Times to Visit Maine for Lobster
While Maine is best known for its signature shellfish, the state offers more than just lobster. Bluefin tuna, halibut, and dayboat scallops are just a sampling of some of Maine’s best locally sourced seafood. “All seasons are pretty special, but I think fall and winter are the best,” says Taylor. “In the fall, the bluefin tuna is at its peak and oyster and mussel harvesters are in full swing. The waters are cooling, beautiful swordfish are coming out of the Gulf of Maine, and lobsters are cheap (relatively speaking) and abundant.”
For visitors looking to plan their trip around lobster season, Conniff echoes that fall is the time to arrive, saying “Late September is also a great time for seafood because it's the peak of the new-shell lobster season.”
And there’s another blossoming industry in Maine’s coastal waters. “Kelp from Maine is amazing as well, adding a great revenue stream for fishermen and shellfish farmers,” Conniff says. “I add it to basically every green dish or sauce I make, and it adds a nice umami and a ton of health benefits.” Companies like Atlantic Sea Farms are leading the way, having created the country’s first commercially viable seaweed farm in 2009. Their products — including kelp-based burgers and fresh kelp cubes — are available in retailers nationwide, and they’re on the menu at many Maine restaurants.
Worst Times to Visit Maine
Each season offers advantages and disadvantages, so figuring out the best and worst time to visit Maine really depends on what you want to see and do. The spring brings ample rain across the state, the summer is crowded with tourists and has the highest hotel prices, the fall is a bit chilly for outdoor activities, and winter means ice, snow, and storms.
Want to sit beachside during the warmest days and don’t mind traffic, busy restaurants, and booking your stay well in advance? July and August are the warmest (and busiest) months in Maine. Don’t mind bundling up a little in exchange for the tastiest lobster and fewer crowds? September and October are the months for you. Do you want to curl up by the fire, try your hand at some cold-weather activities, and take advantage of some of the lowest rates that hotels offer? A mid-winter escape during the first few months of the year is right for you.