States – Maine


With its snowy winters and craggy coastlines, Maine may not be everyone’s idea of a top retirement destination. But the Pine Tree State actually has a lot to offer, particularly for those who enjoy outdoor recreation.

Maine has a range of environments, from rocky coasts, to dense forests to snow-capped mountains. So outdoor options include sailing, boating, swimming, skiing, snowmobiling, hiking, and camping, to name just a few. 

There are hundreds of miles of ocean coastline and beaches, cross-country skiing paths, and the Katahdin Mountain for hiking, and forests lined with streams for fishing. Maine is a great place to live when you want to get away from it all.The panoramic scenery and the smell of the fir trees and ocean air compel many to plant roots here. Fresh foods like brook trout, wild berries, and lobster are some other benefits of living in this part of the country.

But the amenities of the big city are never far away. New York and Boston are a short bus or train ride for shows, shopping, and fine dining. Within the state, Portland offers major live performances and has many restaurants, with more opening regularly. There are also museums, art galleries, and stores.

Yes, parts of Maine are expensive – in Kennebunkport, where the Bushes and other super-rich families live and vacation in the summers, the cost of living is 50% higher than the national average and the median home price in 2013 was over $450,000. But the overall cost of living is just 0.5% above the national average.

If you’re looking for a retirement destination, here are several places you might consider.


For a relatively small city (population 62,000) Portland has a lot of amenities. The Wall Street Journal chose Portland in 2012 as one of the top retirement destinations in the country.  The WSJ cited Portland’s attractive waterfront, with its shops and views of nearby islands, and the city’s music, art, and educational offerings.

The waterfront, with its abundance of bird watching and fishing, are attractive to many. The waterfront is also home to the bustling Portland harbor, with vessels from fishing boats and sailboats to oil tankers coming and going. The city underwent a revival after World War II and the historic area still has a collection of restored 19th Century brick buildings. The Maine College of Art moved into an old department store, and now there are art galleries, coffee shops, restaurants, and pubs downtown.

Today, residents can watch major shows at the Portland Museum of Art or visit one of the many comedy clubs in town. For beer-lovers, there are many artisan beer breweries. There are also over 350 restaurants, many award winners, in a variety of cuisines.

Although the ocean moderates the temperatures, the winter weather is still cold, especially with the wind coming in. Portland has a wide range of housing including apartments, condominiums, and single-family houses. Prices range from $200,000 for a condo to $1 million or more for a large house, depending on the neighborhood.

Those who are looking for part-time work or a new career can take advantage of the town’s low unemployment rate (6.5%). L.L. Bean and the Main Medical Center, along with many small businesses provide work opportunities.


If you love the great outdoors, Bethel is a place to take a close look at. Bethel’s motto is “Maine’s Most Beautiful Mountain Village.” The town is located on the west side of the state, in the Oxford Hills.

With just 2,700 people, Bethel offers many opportunities to enjoy nature and also has many regular events. There are two local golf courses, driving tours available at nearby Grafton Notch State Park, and hiking, biking, and boating on area lakes and rivers. The Sunday River ski area has 128 trails and is popular in the winter.

Annual events include the Bethel Maine Moose Festival, a three-day summertime event that includes fishing and hunting dog demonstrations; two triathlons; the Bethel Area Golf Classic; MolyOckett Day, a one day festival that includes an art fair and parade, live entertainment and contests, food, fireworks, and a 5-mile run; HarvestFest, which marks the beginning of fall foliage season with arts, crafts, music, a farmers market, and chowder and apple pie cookoffs;  and an arts and crafts fair the day after Thanksgiving that features wares by local artists.

A downside of living in Bethel is the town is tiny, with just one traffic light, and two chain stores. The nearest Walmart is 35 miles away and the nearest major airport is 50 miles away in Augusta.


Forbes magazine ranked Bangor as one of the 25 best places in the country to retire, and for good reason. It has relatively low cost of living and median home prices, little crime, a large number of doctors per capita, and good air quality. The town also has appeared on other lists of best places to live.

There are many cultural attractions for a town of 33,000. The University of Maine is located just outside of town and contributes largely to the cultural scene. The University of Maine Museum of Art, located downtown, has a permanent collection of 6,500 items. There is also the Cole Land Transportation Museum and the Maine Discovery Museum, a children’s museum.

The town hosts several performance groups. The Bangor Symphony Orchestra is the oldest continually operating symphony orchestra in the U.S. Th Bangor Band, continually operating since 1859, gives weekly concerts in the park. The Penobscot Theatre Company, founded in 1973, is a professional theater company housed in the historic Bangor Opera House. The Collins Center for the Arts hosts a wide variety of touring performing artists and events. Meanwhile, River City Cinema hosts a free outdoor summer film festival in downtown Bangor

The town also has many opportunities for seniors to get involved in their community. The Hammond Street Senior Center, whose 2,000 members provide activities and promote quality of life for seniors in the Bangor area. In addition to bingo and table games, the center offers classes in computer literacy, art, yoga, jewelry making, and physical fitness. The University of Maine Center on Aging, the only such institution in the state, is dedicated to studying the process of aging and growing older.


Located on the southern coast, Rockland is a popular tourist destination for people around New England. Known for its mountainous and rocky shore with hundreds of harbors and inlets, Rockland is great for those who like boating, sailing, and water sports. Penobscot Bay, which Rockland borders, is known internationally as one of the world’s best recreational sailing areas. The city’s breakwater, built in the 19th century, is also a tourist attraction.

Each August, Rockland is hosts the Maine Lobster Festival, a celebration of the town’s primary product. This five-day celebration attracts thousands of people come from all over the world. Rockland also is home to the Farnsworth Art Museum, a world famous art gallery containing paintings by Andrew Wyeth and other well-known New England artists. Downtown, Rockland’s main street features numerous small shops, restaurants, and coffee shops.


Camden is a popular vacation spot for Northeasterners, and is becoming a popular retirement spot as well. Local incomes and education levels are high and the crime rate is low. It’s a classic seaside community along the middle coast of Maine that attracts many boaters in the summertime. Its picturesque harbor is dotted with historic windjammers in summer and fall. Located at the foot of the Camden Hills, it also has its own ski mountain.

The downtown has many locally owned stores and restaurants. The downtown area is highly walkable, performance centers and museums are nearby, and residents are active, both physically with biking and boating, and in volunteerism. There is a hospital located nearby, and there’s intercity bus service for when they want to go to Portland, Boston, or New York.

For more information about retirement in Maine:

State overview in facts and figures

State taxes

State services for senior residents

Profiles of major cities

Retirement communities

Best regions for retirement