Memorial Day is the official start to summer in Maine. It’s the time of year when the snow has melted, the sun shines more frequently, and tours and attractions start up again. The end of May usually brings cool, yet pleasant weather in this New England state. Look forward to hiking, biking, and parade-viewing. Choose from plenty of cozy Maine vacation rentals nestled in the center of all the action. Whether your perfect Memorial Day weekend involves exploring Acadia National Park or honoring fallen soldiers in Portland, make the most of the experience by spending the holiday in Maine.

1. Portland

Enjoy a deep sense of history on Memorial Day in Portland, Maine’s largest city. Each holiday weekend, the city hosts a large parade to celebrate veterans and service members; look for downtown vacation rentals near Congress Street to be within walking distance of the festivities. After the parade, hang out to watch the ceremonies in Monument Square. Over the weekend, explore the historic buildings of the Old Port area, stroll the Eastern Promenade for a great view of the harbor, and check out the Portland Head lighthouse.

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2. Damariscotta

Enjoy the popular town of Damariscotta without the summer crowds on Memorial Day; the cooler temperatures keep the tourists at bay, so you can explore the charming village streets in peace. Damariscotta River Cruises offer the first boat rides of the season over the long weekend; hop aboard for gorgeous river scenery and a fascinating history lesson. If you’re an angler, bring your gear and fish for striped bass. Be sure to stop in to a local restaurant such as Damariscotta River Grill to try the legendary, locally harvested Damariscotta oysters.

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3. Acadia National Park

Enjoy the early summer weather with a Memorial Day weekend in Acadia National Park, one of Maine’s most beautiful spots. Climb the Cadillac Mountain South Ridge Trail before dawn to see the sun rise over the islands in the bay, or if you’re up for a challenge, tackle the giant stone stairs to the summit of Beehive Mountain. For a less difficult but equally beautiful option, walk to Bass Harbor Head Light to experience the wild Maine coast. Most of the park’s nature and welcome centers are open by the end of May; be sure to visit the Sieur de Monts Nature Center and the Hulls Cove Visitor Center.

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4. Popham Beach

If the Memorial Day weather cooperates, celebrate with a weekend trip to Popham Beach. Welcome summer with long, leisurely strolls along this remote peninsula’s white-sand beaches, and be sure to bring a bucket to collect sea shells. At low tide, you can walk across the sand to Fox Island or play on the sandbars near the water’s edge. If the surf is up, head to Popham Beach State Park to watch surfers fly across the waves. Nearby, beautiful Pond Island offers hiking and panoramic views of the local island; you might even catch a glimpse of the Seguin Island Ferry.

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5. Rockwood

Avoid the crowds on the coast with a Memorial Day getaway to peaceful Rockwood. The town itself is small and quiet, but the surrounding wilderness is the real star of the show. By late May the ice usually melts off of nearby Moosehead Lake. Enjoy fishing for trout, or take a boat from town into Moosehead Lake to reach Mt. Kineo, and hike Indian Trail to reach the summit of this rocky peak. At the top, climb the fire tower for 360-degree views of the lake and forests.

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6. Fryeburg

The return of summer brings the return of rock-climbing to Maine. Rediscover the thrill of scaling a rock face with a long weekend in Fryeburg. This cozy town is the gateway to Shagg Crag, one of the best granite cliffs in all of the Eastern seaboard. Spend a full weekend climbing the crag, which features 12 different routes for all levels. Don’t miss the fantastic Great Escape and Ginseng Route.

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7. Belgrade Lakes

Breathe in Maine’s fresh forest air while you hit the links in Belgrade Lakes. Tucked between two shimmering lakes in south central Maine, this quiet spot offers the best golfing in the state. As you play through 18 holes, you can stroll past dense forests, blooming wildflowers, and hidden water hazards. The challenging course, which was designed by Clive Clark, offers a challenge for golfers of all levels. After tee time, rent a boat from Belgrade Boat, Canoe, and Kayak Rental to explore the silent shores of Great Pond and Hatch Cove.

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8. Old Orchard Beach

Summer means theme parks and cotton candy – enjoy both at Palace Playland in Old Orchard Beach. This fun, retro-inspired amusement park opens for the season on Memorial Day weekend, bringing in families from around the state. There’s something for everyone, from the kid-friendly giant slide to the wild Riptide ride. Later, play a round at Pirates Cove Adventure Golf, take a family-friendly Fish Lips fishing charter, and indulge in a box of Pier Fries on the town pier.

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9. Camden

Get in the first sail of the season this Memorial Day in Camden; this lovely spot is the launch point for tours around the awe-inspiring Penobscot Bay. A sailing tour with Maine Schooners provides a close-up look at local islands, rare puffins, and historic lighthouses. After a day on the water, head to Camden Hills State Park to hike Mt. Battie and enjoy gorgeous views of Camden Harbor.

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