Ask the average person what comes to mind when they think of Maine, and they might say moose, blueberries, and lobster. While Maine does lead the nation in both lobster and blueberry production, it has so much more to offer. For instance, with all its bays, coves, inlets, and other indentations, Maine has 3,500 miles of coastline. That’s more than California! And the rocky shores are just the beginning. The Pine Tree State is aptly named for its 17 million acres of forests. Don’t forget the beautiful rivers and lakes dotted throughout the state.
Maine’s communities boast some impressive attributes as well. They are considered some of the safest in the United States and have pretty good schools, despite not being particularly well-known for education. The New England area generally tends to be a pretty desirable place to live. Still, Maine’s cost of living is relatively affordable for the region, despite being a bit higher than the national average.
With such a diverse landscape and so many beautiful towns to settle down, Maine is a terrific place for families looking to put down roots. We looked at multiple factors, including safety, education, things to do, and cost of living. We put together this list of the ten best places to live in Maine for families.
Here are the top 10 best places to live in Maine.
Table of Contents:
- 1. Bar Harbor – Hancock County
- 2. Camden – Knox County
- 3. Yarmouth – Cumberland County
- 4. Winthrop- Kennebec County
- 5. Gorham – Cumberland County
- 6. Hampden – Penobscot County
- 7. Fort Kent – Aroostook County
- 8. Topsham – Sagadahoc County
- 9. Orono – Penobscot County
- 10. Cumberland – Cumberland County
1. Bar Harbor – Hancock County
Bar Harbor is located along the scenic Frenchmen Bay, a seven-by-14-mile body of water with almost 40 islands and thriving commercial and recreational boating industries. Bar Harbor is home to just 5,594 people, so the coastal community feels tight-knit. Safety is critical here, as crime rates are 54% lower than in the rest of Maine.
Bar Harbor schools are considered exceptional. The students’ performance is significantly better than the national average. There’s plenty of access to medical services and many opportunities with low unemployment and several industries taking root here.
The biggest knock on Bar Harbor is the cost of living. It’s higher than most other places on this list. It’s the same story for the home costs. The median average home will go for about $433,000.
Still, the town is stunning in the summer and offers some of the best amenities in all of Maine. Acadia National Park is nearby and attracts thousands of visitors yearly. The community looks out for itself and offers tours of the downtown area that are both adult-themed and kid-friendly. There are beaches, restaurants, theaters, and plenty of other things you might expect from a larger city.
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2. Camden – Knox County
Camden is another small town with a population of just 4,806. Along with nearby Rockport, it’s an excellent choice for families who may want the diversity of being between the mountains and the sea. The locals know Camden as “where the world comes to find Maine,” The slogan rings true with a robust tourism industry.
Crime is virtually nonexistent in Camden, with an 80% lower crime rate than in Maine. The schools capitalize on the community’s safety with a solid rating.
The one thing about Camden that some may see as a downside is an influx of tourists coming here each summer. Families who dislike seeing their community grow so drastically may want to look elsewhere. Still, on the other hand, it also says positive things about the community.
Things to do here range from the natural splendor of the ski season and Camden State Park to enjoyable ocean events like sailing, boating, and fishing. Camden is even home to Maine’s most famous opera house.
3. Yarmouth – Cumberland County
Yarmouth is a harbor town just miles away from the Atlantic Ocean. As far as quality of life goes, it is exceptional. With a 46% lower crime rate than the rest of the state and terrific amenities, families could do much worse than settle down in this town of 8,602 people.
The schools in Yarmouth earn an A for education. They consistently rank among the top districts in the state. Housing, however, may be out of reach for some folks. With a median home value of $605,500, living here certainly isn’t cheap. Those who can afford it will reap multiple benefits.
Yarmouth has plenty of parks and open spaces, including conserved land for anyone who loves the outdoors. The proximity to Portland makes it easy to enjoy day trips and city nightlife. One of Yarmouth’s biggest draws is unique: The annual Clam Festival typically attracts somewhere in the area of 120,000 people per year over a three-day weekend. That more than quadruples the permanent population of the town!
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4. Winthrop- Kennebec County
Winthrop, located just west of the state capital of Augusta, fashions itself as a “forward-thinking community” that values its history and prides itself on being an excellent place for families to put down roots. The numbers back it up, too. It’s a safe small town, with just 6,029 people and a 15% lower crime rate than the rest of the state.
Real estate is relatively affordable here; the median home costs $275,900. It’s even easier to rent a home, as Winthrop has one of the cheapest average rents in the entire state. Unemployment is very low in the area too, so there are opportunities for working families to maintain a good income.
Winthrop schools have recently been recognized for their investment in their students. They are consistently considered in the top 10 districts in the state when it comes to student performance and satisfaction. Kids here tend to enjoy themselves as they grow and form their sense of community.
Winthrop has lots of outdoor appeal. They have well-maintained public parks, a locally-famous library, and plenty of community events, such as outdoor theater. Winthrop’s Cobbossee Lake is one of the best lakes for fishing in the United States!
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5. Gorham – Cumberland County
Gorham is located closer to the southern part of the state, where many of Maine’s communities are concentrated. The population is 17,962, making it one of the larger towns on our list. It’s an incredibly safe community; crime rates are 63% lower overall than in the rest of the state, which makes crime very rare here.
Families looking to buy a home won’t find the cheapest houses in Gorham, but they won’t break the bank either. The median home value is about $398,600, a little higher than average for the rest of the state. The cost of living is also slightly higher here than in other communities. Still, residents get a return on that cost through other perks.
The school system is highly rated, and Gorham’s proximity to the city of Portland and the highly-popular Old Orchard Beach ensures plenty in the area to keep people busy. Portland offers the excitement of a larger city for nightlife, culture, and attractions.
With an urban-style downtown area known as “the village” and plenty of beautiful natural scenery to explore, families will find no shortage of things to do in Gorham. Most famously, it is the home to one of the oldest covered bridges in New England. While the original structure did burn down in 1973, it was restored and rebuilt as part of Gorham’s historical heritage.
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6. Hampden – Penobscot County
You’d be hard-pressed to find a list of family-friendly Maine communities that omitted Hampden. The town of 7,257 not only has crime rates 52% lower than Maine’s average, but the cost of living here is also very agreeable. It’s 82% lower than the average for all of the U.S.
Students in Hampden consistently outrank the national average on standardized tests, making parents very happy with the school system. They’re pleased with the home prices too. With a median home cost of $257,800, Hampden residents are paying slightly higher than the Maine average but much less than that in nearby desirable urban centers.
Hampden is just a few miles from Bangor, which means residents have easy access to the amenities there, including the highly-regarded medical centers and the popular shopping districts. Residents can also find lots of fun on the water: Hampden is situated directly on the Penobscot River and just a short drive away from some beautiful rocky Maine beaches.
7. Fort Kent – Aroostook County
Fort Kent is here to represent the far north part of Maine. It’s located on the border of Canada, so only families who don’t mind a harsh winter and a rural lifestyle may find the appeal. Still, the small town of just 3,805 packs a punch much more significant than its population would suggest.
The biggest benefit of Fort Kent is the cost of living. It’s a whopping 21.8% lower than the rest of the United States. The median home value is set at just $139,400. And if you think there may be a catch, consider that crime rates are 38% lower than the rest of the state, making Fort Kent a wonderfully safe community.
While the schools are not quite as highly rated as the other places on the list, most students here earn a high school diploma and go on to get a college degree. Healthcare is easily accessible here, too, highlighted by the Northern Maine Medical Center, known for its quality of patient care.
It’s no surprise that the culture of Fort Kent is dripping in Canadian influence. It hosts an annual ploye festival, multiple international biathlon events, and the Can-Am Crown International, a winter dog sled race that finishes right in the center of town. Fort Kent can appeal if you don’t mind the town’s remoteness.
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8. Topsham – Sagadahoc County
Topsham has undergone some impressive growth over the past few years. Its geographic location lends itself well to commuters and local business growth. The population of Topsham is 8,942 and getting larger.
Families may want to take a look at Topsham while it remains affordable. The median home price here is $297,500. Of course, crime is also low, at 33% lower than Maine’s average. While unemployment remains low, the growing economy of Topsham ensures there will be opportunities for new residents. Schools in Topsham are not at the top of the state but still perform better than average when it comes to the entirety of the region and higher than the U.S. average as well.
Topsham hosts an annual fair each autumn, one of the community’s joys. The city of Brunswick is just a short drive away, with lots of family-friendly attractions, such as historic bridges, cinemas, dining, and the beautiful rocky coastline.
9. Orono – Penobscot County
The University of Maine’s campus is in Orono, which thrives on the college town atmosphere. The permanent population of 10,636 enjoys those perks, with the cost of living 12.7% lower than the rest of the U.S. Crime rates are lower, too. They average 34% less than Maine.
Homes are affordable here, especially for a college community, with the median home price at $229,300. There’s low unemployment, and the University keeps the town’s economy moving. The public schools are strong, although not at the very top of the state, but satisfactory for any family who values education.
With its popular area brewing company and a trendy farmers market, Orono has community roots working alongside the college feel, keeping families happy. The proximity to Bangor makes it possible to go and explore all the charm there too.
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10. Cumberland – Cumberland County
Rounding out the list is the town of Cumberland, with a population of 8,473. The agricultural town is a beautiful place for families to plant roots, with a whopping 84% lower crime rate than the rest of Maine.
Cumberland schools are considered exceptional. They consistently rank at the very top of all of Maine’s districts. The students have access to ample extracurricular opportunities and high-quality teaching in the classroom.
The cost of living here is a bit higher. The median home will cost an average of $549,000, which will be a significant investment. Regardless, there is plenty of job opportunities, and the unemployment rate is extremely low.
While there isn’t a great deal of activities in Cumberland itself, there are a few. Sweetser’s Barrell and Apple Orchards and Spring Brook Farms are two of the agricultural attractions of the town, and Portland is close by to satisfy that social and nightlife itch. Cumberland is great for a small-town family.
Families who choose Maine will find themselves living in a scenic New England setting with easy access to the natural beauty of forests, oceans, and rivers. The small towns seem built specifically for peaceful family living, making it easy to build a strong connection with the community. As the classic humorist, Will Rogers once mused: “did you ever see a place that’s built to enjoy? Well, the whole state of Maine looks this way.”