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The best places to see the Northern Lights in Maine

Updated: Feb 28

Have you heard the news reports this past week? Of course, they have changed and seeing the Aurora Borealis in the United States will not be as easy to spot as first predicted.  But still, it's possible.  And with so many of us on the east coast, it's easier to go north, than northwest due to plane ticket prices.  So here are the top 6 best spots to see the Northern Lights in Maine. Granted, you can never predict these things as well as you hope.  But staying at these 6 places give you the best chance, on the east coast of the United States.


Northern Lights
Northern Lights

There are many things I can talk about involving the Northern Lights which are a natural phenomenon occurring in the northern hemisphere due to the earth's magnetic field. The southern hemisphere has a version of this too called Aurora Australis.

  • #1 Wherever you are in the world, things you need are clear skies, weather systems, rain or even clouds can prevent your chances of seeing the northern lights. This makes it hard to prepare for a trip. If you book a trip early, you have no idea what the weather will really be doing when you visit. Always book a trip for several nights, so that way you increase the chances of having at least 1 clear night during your visit.

  • #2 Light pollution is also a huge issue, so staying in large cities with lots of light at night prevents having the best views of the northern lights. That is why the places on my list are away from large cities with tons of light pollution. Stay in a small town, where you can get away from the city lights easily. City lights are detrimental to seeing the northern lights. Even though this blog is about Maine, the best places to see the Northern Lights are close to the North Pole, so If you can go further north do it. In Maine you need a good view of the night sky that is also facing north. So being at the top of mountains or hills where you can face north are perfect. Sometimes facing north with a large lake in front of you offer great views,

Northern Lights
Northern Lights
  • #3 Along with being in the best area at the best time is most helpful. Never plan on seeing lights in summer. It's not to say that it can’t be done, because it can, just not as likely due to the sun being out longer and shorter nights due to the sun being out the longest during the summer. This is a common thought especially in places north of Maine but still it is something to be aware of.  Also due to coronal mass ejection certain months are better than others for seeing the lights. This is due to the flairs. The 2 best months are September and March, but all winter months will give you a good chance.

  • #4 Always look at the Space Weather prediction center website. (NOAA Space Weather prediction center) This is very helpful for planning and watching for solar storms or looking at the solar cycle. KP index and solar flares are terms you should be aware of if you are trying to see the northern lights and you can learn a lot from the NOAA.

  • #5 Have a good camera, but if you just have your cell phone it will work, especially if it is a new cell phone that has a great camera included. If the lights are moving slowly in the sky, set the shutter speed to 10 to 20 seconds.


If you can get these ideal conditions mentioned above, you will have the best chance of catching a glimpse during the northern lights season.




Aroostook National Wildlife Refuge:

Aroura picture from northern Maine
Aroura picture from northern Maine

This location is a great place and frequently mentioned as one of the top spots for viewing the Northern Lights in Maine. It's located in the Canada-adjacent Aroostook County, known for its endless rural landscapes and dark skies.

The Aroostook National Wildlife Refuge is a spectacular wildlife refuge. With an area of 5,578 acres, the refuge provides a habitat for a variety of wildlife including moose, black bears, bald eagles, and various species of ducks and birds.


Attractions Nearby:

  1. Allagash Wilderness Waterway: This is a stunning 92-mile-long river and lake system. Canoeing, fishing, and wildlife watching are popular activities here.

  2. Presque Isle Light: A historic lighthouse offering a picturesque view of the surrounding area.

  3. The Nordic Heritage Center: A world-class cross-country skiing and biathlon facility that offers trails for all skill levels.

Food Options:

There are several great dining options near the Aroostook National Wildlife Refuge:

  1. Cafe Sorpreso: Offers a delightful menu of modern American cuisine.

  2. Rosella's Pizzeria: A local favorite for Italian food.

  3. The Whole Potato Cafe & Commons: Known for its farm-to-table approach and organic dishes.

Accommodations:

If you plan to stay overnight in the area, there are several accommodation options:

  1. Presque Isle Inn & Convention Center: A comfortable hotel with modern amenities.

  2. Hampton Inn Presque Isle: Offers clean rooms and a complimentary breakfast.

  3. Northeastland Hotel: A historic hotel located in downtown Presque Isle.


Schoodic Lake

Schoodic Lake Maine
Schoodic Lake Maine

Schoodic Lake is a beautiful body of water located in Piscataquis County, Maine. The lake is known for its crystal-clear waters that offer excellent opportunities for fishing, boating, and swimming. It's surrounded by dense forests, making it a perfect spot for nature enthusiasts. This is another spot that is known for its potential to offer a great view of the Northern Lights.


Attractions Nearby:

  1. Mount Katahdin: The highest mountain in Maine and the end of the Appalachian Trail. It's a popular spot for hiking and camping.

  2. North Maine Woods: A vast expanse of forestland offering outdoor activities like hunting, fishing, and bird watching.

  3. Seboeis Lake Public Reserved Land: It offers ample opportunities for camping, fishing, and boating.

Food Options:

  1. Pat's Pizza: Located in nearby Dover-Foxcroft, this local chain offers delicious pizza, sandwiches, and more.

  2. Bear's Den: A family-friendly restaurant serving American comfort food.

  3. Anglers Restaurant: Located in Newport, it's known for seafood and local dishes.

Accommodations:

  1. Wildwoods Trailside Cabins & Lodge: Offers cozy cabins and lodge rooms right near the lake.

  2. Peaks Kenny Lodge: A budget-friendly option with basic amenities.

  3. Baxter Park Inn: Located in Millinocket, it offers comfortable rooms and an indoor pool.


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Moosehead Lake

Moosehead Lake Maine
Moosehead Lake Maine

Moosehead Lake is the largest lake in Maine, located in the Longfellow Mountains in the Maine Highlands Region. It spans over 75,000 acres and is surrounded by vast forests, making it a perfect destination for nature lovers. These mountains offer good vantage points for viewing the lights.


Attractions Nearby:

  1. Mount Kineo: An impressive mountain that rises dramatically from the center of Moosehead Lake. It offers hiking trails and stunning views.

  2. Katahdin Cruises and Moosehead Marine Museum: Offers daily cruises on the historic steamship Katahdin, providing a unique way to explore the lake.

  3. North Maine Woods: A vast wilderness area ideal for outdoor activities like hunting, fishing, and bird watching.

Food Options:

  1. Kelly's Landing: Offers great food with a beautiful view of the lake.

  2. The Stress Free Moose Pub & Cafe: A friendly local pub serving a variety of dishes.

  3. Flatlanders Smokehouse: Known for its delicious BBQ and smoked meats.

Accommodations:

  1. The Lodge at Moosehead Lake: A luxurious lodge offering elegant rooms and cabins with lake views.

  2. Moosehead Hills Cabins: Offers cozy, self-catering cabins close to the lake.

  3. Greenville Inn: A historic inn offering comfortable rooms and gourmet breakfast.


New England Outdoor Center

New England Outdoor Center
New England Outdoor Center

New England Outdoor Center (NEOC) is a premier outdoor adventure resort located on Millinocket Lake in Maine. It offers a range of activities including whitewater rafting, snowmobiling, hiking, and wildlife tours. This is also a wonderful place to potentially see the northern lights.


Attractions Nearby:

  1. Mount Katahdin: The highest peak in Maine, offering challenging hikes and beautiful views.

  2. Baxter State Park: A large wilderness area with opportunities for hiking, camping, and wildlife viewing.

  3. Penobscot River: Perfect for whitewater rafting and fishing.

Food Options:

The NEOC houses the River Driver's Restaurant, which offers fine dining with a focus on local ingredients. It offers splendid views of Mount Katahdin and Millinocket Lake.

Nearby in the town of Millinocket, you'll find additional options:

  1. Scootic In Restaurant: Serving hearty American fare, from breakfast to dinner.

  2. The Blue Ox Saloon: Known for its burgers and relaxed atmosphere.

Accommodations:

  1. Cabins: They offer lakeside and mountainside cabins that can accommodate groups of various sizes. The cabins come equipped with full kitchens, comfortable living areas, and outdoor fire pits.

  2. Guest Houses: For larger groups or families, NEOC offers several guesthouses that can accommodate up to 14 people.

  3. The Coveside Bed & Breakfast: A charming option located nearby on the shores of Millinocket Lake.


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Caribou-Speckled Mountain Wilderness

Caribou-Speckled Mountain Wilderness
Caribou-Speckled Mountain Wilderness

Caribou-Speckled Mountain Wilderness is a federally designated wilderness area in the state of Maine. It's a part of the White Mountain National Forest and covers over 14,000 acres of land. The area is known for its rugged terrain, dense forests, and beautiful views. If you're lucky, you might witness the unforgettable light display at this location managed by White Mountain National Forest.


Attractions Nearby:

  1. Speckled Mountain and Caribou Mountain: These are the two main peaks in the wilderness area. Both offer challenging hikes and stunning views.

  2. White Mountain National Forest: Offers a wide range of outdoor activities including hiking, camping, fishing, and wildlife viewing.

  3. Grafton Notch State Park: Located nearby, this park offers scenic vistas, waterfalls, and hiking trails.

Food Options:

The area around Caribou-Speckled Mountain Wilderness is quite rural, but there are some dining options in the nearby towns:

  1. The Good Food Store: Located in Bethel, they offer sandwiches, salads, and homemade baked goods.

  2. Sunday River Brewing Company: A popular spot for craft beer and hearty meals.

  3. Rooster's Roadhouse: Offers a variety of dishes from steak to seafood.

Accommodations:

  1. Bethel Inn Resort: Offers comfortable rooms, a golf course, and a health club.

  2. River View Resort: Provides spacious suites and an indoor pool.

  3. The Perennial Inn: A charming bed and breakfast located in the countryside.

Remember to respect the local wildlife and adhere to any guidelines provided by the U.S. Forest Service to ensure a safe and enjoyable visit to the Caribou-Speckled Mountain Wilderness.


Jordan Pond

Jordan Pond Maine
Jordan Pond Maine

Jordan Pond is a beautiful, clear glacier-formed lake located in Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island in Maine. It's known for its serene beauty, the surrounding mountains, and the iconic Jordan Pond House.


Attractions Nearby:

  1. Acadia National Park: Offers a vast expanse of wilderness, hiking trails, and stunning views.

  2. Bubble Mountains: Two peaks that provide a short, but steep hike with panoramic views of Jordan Pond.

  3. Cadillac Mountain: The highest point on Mount Desert Island, perfect for catching the sunrise or sunset.

  4. Bar Harbor: A charming coastal town nearby with shops, galleries, and boat tours.

Food Options:

The iconic Jordan Pond House Restaurant is located near the pond itself. It's known for its traditional afternoon tea and popovers.

In Bar Harbor, you'll find additional options:

  1. Geddy's: Known for its seafood, pizza, and lively atmosphere.

  2. Side Street Café: Offers local cuisine with a twist.

  3. Café This Way: A cozy spot for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Accommodations:

  1. Asticou Inn: Overlooking Northeast Harbor, this historic inn offers comfortable rooms and a restaurant.

  2. Bar Harbor Inn & Spa: A luxury option with harbor views, a spa, and fine dining.

  3. Atlantic Oceanside Hotel & Conference Center: Offers oceanfront rooms and is conveniently located near Acadia National Park.

Remember that seeing the Northern Lights is never guaranteed and depends on many factors including solar activity, weather conditions, and time of year. If you are feeling lucky though, give it a try and check out the best places in Maine for the Northern Lights. I wish you luck out there and hope my blog has helped you decide where to go to try to catch a glimpse of these truly magical lights. Even if you don't see the Northern Lights as you can tell by my pictures in the blog you will have a great time exploring the outdoors.


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