Thinking about moving to Maine? Here’s why you should
by Hollie McAfee, Assistant Marketing Director, F.A. Peabody Insurance
Maine has long been nicknamed “Vacationland,” and with good reason. There are 5,000 miles of coastline including rocky bays and sandy beaches, 4,000 lakes, and dozens of mountains. We have small cities with great restaurants and activities, gorgeous summer weather, breathtaking fall foliage, and top notch ski resorts. It’s no wonder that millions flock to visit our state every year.
So, when the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, many city-dwellers who have vacationed in Maine decided that our state was more attractive than ever. As an agency who sells homeowners insurance, we started seeing a sharp uptick in home sales to out-of-state folks. Drawn by our sparse population and low real estate prices, people began moving in.
When asked about his current trend, Sarah Carson, Buyer Agent, Re/Max By The Bay The David Banks Team, responded, “We have seen many examples of people relocating to Maine due to the pandemic. The personal reasons vary, but ultimately it is coming down to Maine’s lower population density, access to lifestyle and recreational activities, and the state’s effective response to the pandemic that has drawn people to Maine. With more and more people being able to work from anywhere, they are not tethered to their urban places of work, and can pursue their dream of moving to Maine more freely. We do expect this to continue over the next several months.”
If you are considering moving to Maine, welcome! We believe that you won’t find a better place to live. Yes, we know winter is long and grueling. That’s what makes us such a hardy people, and if you choose to live here, you are a hardy person as well. So, let’s talk about the benefits of moving to Maine, the highlights of different areas, and address some of the challenges.
In southern Maine you will find our largest city, Portland. The greater metro area is home to over 538,000 people. Downtown Portland, as stated in their website, is a “historic seacoast town with a funky vibe, working waterfront, loads of galleries, hundreds of one-of-a-kind shops, and award-winning restaurants serving everything from classic lobster rolls to exotic nouvelle cuisine.” Maine Medical Center is a state-of-the-art health care system that employs nearly 10,000 people. The area is home to several colleges, including the University of Southern Maine. Suburb towns, such as Westbrook, Scarborough, and Falmouth, boast beautiful homes and great schools. Old Orchard Beach and neighboring towns have a beautiful shoreline. Many residents commute to Boston, which is an hour drive away.
Challenges in Southern Maine depend on your perspective. If you are coming from a city, you won’t find the population density to be problematic. If you are wanting to be in a rural area, this is probably not the best choice in Maine. Cost of living tends to be higher in Southern Maine than in other parts of the state.
If you look on the map, you will notice that cities like Lewiston, Auburn, and Augusta are clearly in the southern half of Maine. To Mainers, anything from Portland to Bangor is considered “Central Maine.” That’s why the hospital in Lewiston is called Central Maine Medical Center and why Central Maine Community College is in Auburn. It’s just one of those Maine idiosyncrasies that you’ll get used to if you move here.
Lewiston/Auburn are “twin cities” on either side of the Androscoggin River and this area is the second most populated in the State. It is just an hour’s drive to the ocean to the East, and mountains to the West, so if you like to be slightly more remote than in Portland, but still close to amenities, this is your place. Augusta is the Maine State Capitol and is busy with policy-making, and also has a growing downtown scene as highlighted in a recent article in Down East Magazine.
The northernmost city in what we call “Central Maine” is Bangor, the home of the “marginally famous” Bangor Police Department, their unique Facebook page, and the world renowned Duck of Justice (oh, and Stephen King.) Near Bangor, in Orono, is the largest campus of the University of Maine with over 11,000 students. The further north you go, the less expensive homes are. The Bangor area is ideal for cost of living while still being close to education, health care, and shopping options.
Challenges in Central Maine are few, but would include remoteness from large cities, and a tendency to get more snow and blustery weather than in Southern Maine.
I was born, raised, and currently live in Aroostook County. In the years I did not live here, when people found out I was from Maine they asked “near Portland?” Or “near the ocean?” Well, no. I live five hours north of Portland and two hours from the nearest beach. “Well, what is up there?” “Canada, a whole lot of trees, and some of the most honest, hard-working people you’ll ever meet.”
So, if you are looking for a remote location, come to The County. With land area bigger than the states of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined, and a population of about 65,000, there is lots of elbow room. It’s true that many complain that there are no jobs in the area, but I disagree. My husband and I always told our children that if they were willing to work they would always have a job, and that has proven to be true for them (and for us.)
Also, Houlton is the first town in the state to have fiber broadband internet delivered to every household. So, if you can keep your current job and work remotely, you will have no problem with your internet in Houlton. Broadband development is moving at a fast pace throughout the state, so don’t discount the more rural areas if you work from home. (Disclaimer: F.A. Peabody owns Pioneer Broadband and is biased about how awesome their internet is. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s awesome.)
Other towns and cities in Northern Maine include Millinocket (home of Baxter State Park and Mt. Katahdin,) Lincoln, Presque Isle, Caribou, Fort Kent, and Madawaska. Presque Isle and Fort Kent both have campuses of the University of Maine System. Real estate prices are low.
Outdoor activities abound, with skiing at Big Rock in Mars Hill and hundreds of miles of well-groomed snowmobile and ATV/UTV trails. Cities in New Brunswick and Quebec are close enough for a day trip or a weekend getaway. And the potato farming and logging industries make use of our abundant natural resources.
The biggest challenge in Northern Maine is the travel distance to amenities that larger cities provide.
The term “Down East” in Maine refers to the most eastern coastal regions in Washington and Hancock Counties, and sometimes includes the mid-coast area of Camden and Belfast. The word “down” seems geographically counterintuitive for most of the state, until you research the origins of the name. “During the late 1700’s and throughout the 1800’s, sailors used their schooners to haul goods to and from the coast of New England. While moving in a northeasterly direction, especially during the warmer months, a strong wind would often be at their backs pushing them along. This was moving “downwind” in the direction that the prevailing wind was blowing. Since the sailors and their ships were also moving in an easterly direction, one can understand how the two terms “down” and “east” would have been combined or even merged together as an expression of a direction to be traveling in that was common,” according to the Acadia Magic website.
First, the most notable aspect of Down East is the abundance of the famous Maine lobster. The fishing industry has been strong in Maine throughout generations of hard-working families. It has faced its share of troubles in recent years, particularly during the shutdown of most restaurants in the country in the spring of 2020. But Maine lobster fishermen are not the type to give up.
Also, Down East also features the largest tourist attraction area in our State, Acadia State Park and the village of Bar Harbor. Every year, millions of tourists visit the area. Outdoor enthusiasts can easily fill a long vacation with new adventures each day. But you don’t have to love the outdoors to enjoy Bar Harbor. Beautiful hotels, shops, galleries, and restaurants abound.
Coastal properties can naturally be more expensive than inland homes. However, there is no shortage of affordable housing in the area if you want to live here year-round. The cities of Calais, Machias, and Ellsworth provide jobs, schools, and amenities while still enjoying the rural life.
A unique challenge in living in Down East Maine is both the remoteness and the busy traffic, depending on the season. With so many tourists, summertime can be very crowded. In the winter, things quiet down considerably. The further east you live, the longer the drive to Bangor and other cities.
So, if you are thinking about moving to Maine, there is no better time than now. Your new neighbors may make comments about you being “from away,” but don’t take it too seriously. We are just very proud of our state. We think you will be proud, too.