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12 Reasons to Retire in Maine

Why Maine is one of the best places to retire.

By Meadow Rue Merrill
Photograph by Brian Fitzgerald

12 Reasons to Retire in MaineI made my first trip to Maine as a toddler, visiting my grandparents who had retired to a home on winding Shore Road in York. They had followed the example of my great-grandparents, who had retired just around the point. Retiring to Maine is nothing new, but if my grandparents and great-grandparents had been born a few generations later, perhaps they would have had more of their peers for company. Data from the U.S. Census suggests the state is becoming an increasingly popular retirement destination, with more than 6,000 people aged 55 or older moving to Maine in 2013 alone. Here are 12 reasons why Maine is one of the best places to retire.


1 The cost of living is reasonable

While the Northeast as a whole is pricier than destinations with milder climates and denser populations, Maine boasts the lowest cost of living in New England. According to Sperling’s Best Places, an online data resource, the cost of housing, utilities, groceries, healthcare, and transportation in Maine in 2013 was just 5 percent more than the national average (Massachusetts, by comparison, was 30 percent more). That’s a modest extra expense if you value New England’s traditional charm. AARP thought so, recently ranking Portland as one of the top 10 affordable retirement cities in the nation, citing its well-preserved working waterfront, nationally recognized dining scene, and moderate housing prices.

2 Your housing money goes further

In 2013, Maine had the lowest average home sale price in New England — roughly $199,000, according to online real estate sites Trulia and Zillow. That’s just 10 percent more than Florida and a whopping 46 percent less than Massachusetts. Maine also offers plenty of housing options, from full-service, waterfront retirement communities to classy in-town condos to historic country homes. “Some people are coming here for a second home,” said Rick Bisson, owner of Bisson Real Estate in Woolwich. “They may have left Maine and they are coming back for the lifestyle.”

3 The opportunities for outdoor recreation are abundant

Consider the numbers: 3,478 miles of coastline. 3,400 lakes. 97 mountains over 3,000 feet. 17.5 million acres of forest. No matter where you choose to live in Maine, camping, boating, bicycling, hiking, skiing, and more are never more than a couple of hours away. Maine is also the least densely populated state east of the Mississippi River, which means you rarely have to fight the crowds to access your favorite lakes, beaches, or hiking trails. Best of all, Maine residents aged 65 and older qualify for free day passes to Maine state parks.

4 The cities and towns are safe

For more than a decade, Maine has been ranked as one of the most peaceful states in the country by the Institute for Economics and Peace in Washington, DC. IEP researchers regularly analyze data on homicide rates, violent crime, prison incarceration rates, numbers of police officers, and the availability of small arms. “We are typically in the bottom five in crime rates in the country,” says Maine public safety spokesperson Stephen McCausland. “I’ve been here 26 years, and we have always been in that category.” In 2013, overall crime in Maine dropped more than 9 percent, McCausland said, the largest one-year decline in two decades.

5 It’s easy to stay healthy

Maine routinely ranks as one of the healthiest states in the country — number 20 on America’s Health Rankings — thanks to our easy access to health care and low number of people without insurance. Maine has a strong network of hospitals and healthcare providers with an emphasis on both general and specialized care for senior citizens. U.S. News & World Report recently ranked Maine Medical Center, in Portland, as one of the top-performing hospitals in the country, citing in particular its high-performing practice in geriatrics. Five rural hospitals — Calais Regional Hospital, Inland Hospital in Waterville, Mount Desert Island Hospital Organization, Rumford Hospital, and Sebasticook Valley Health — were similarly recognized by another national group, Leapfrog, as among the best rural hospitals in the nation for their high quality of care. Leapfrog also placed Central Maine Medical Center, in Lewiston, and Pen Bay Medical Center, in Rockport, among the best urban hospitals.

6 You won’t have to beg family and friends to visit

With summer cruises, pristine beaches, big-name outlet stores, family-friendly amusement parks, and outdoor opportunities galore, Maine drew an astonishing 29 million out-of-state visitors in 2013, an increase of nearly 7 percent from the year before. So don’t be surprised if family and friends want to visit — and if they don’t want to leave. Just send them exploring with the latest edition of the Maine Tourism Association’s Maine Invites You guide to activities and places to visit.

7 The arts scene is flourishing

A much-loved destination for prominent painters for two centuries, Maine continues to draw artists and performers of all types. That means there’s plenty going on year-round, from citywide arts festivals to first-rate theater performances to open studios and community arts walks. The Portland Museum of Art, the Farnsworth Art Museum, the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, and the Colby College Museum of Art all have world-class collections and host public events and lectures.

8 The food is amazing

Portland’s dining scene has attracted quite a bit of attention from food and travel writers over the last five years. Among the most recent recognitions: The Portland-to-Auburn area was included on The Huffington Post’s list of “The Country’s Most Restaurant Crazy Cities” and The Food Network placed Portland among its top five “Most Delicious Destinations.” But the good food doesn’t stop at the Portland city line. Travel up the coast to enjoy a delicious meal created by James Beard Award–winning chef Melissa Kelly at Primo in Rockland. Or head south to York Beach’s The Goldenrod and sample homemade ice cream, pulled taffy, and great diner fare. Plus, there’s lobster and other fresh-off-the-boat seafood, cooked to order at scores of lobster shacks up and down the coast.

9 You’ll have plenty of company

Sometimes touted as the “oldest state in the country,” Maine doesn’t actually have the highest percentage of senior citizens — that would be Florida. Rather, it’s our median age of 43.5 years that wins us this title. Maine also has a greater percentage of baby boomers — people roughly aged 45 to 64 — than any other state except New Hampshire. As Maine’s population ages, a growing number of towns are working to help seniors thrive at home. Scattered around the state are five Area Agencies on Aging providing public programs, health insurance counseling, fitness classes, community cafes, and a family caregiver support program.

10 You can get there from here

Maine has a reputation for being remote, but the truth is, getting in, out, and around the state is a snap. Serving more than 1.6 million passengers annually, the Portland International Jetport offers flights to hundreds of popular destinations. According to Cheapflights.com, it also has the most affordable airfares in the region. Prefer a bus or train? Concord Coach Lines and Amtrak’s popular Downeaster passenger train link Mainers to Boston and the rest of the country. Headed to Canada? Drive aboard the Nova Star ferry, which last year began offering seasonal round-trip passage from Portland to Nova Scotia. Community airports, local ferries, and the Bangor International Airport also offer great travel options.

11 It’s easy being green

With a growing emphasis on sustainable living, local aqua- and agriculture, and protecting the state’s abundant natural resources, Maine appeals to people who want to live sustainably. Portland recently ranked among the top 10 “greenest cities” in the country, as voted by the readers of Travel + Leisure magazine, and the state has a rapidly growing number of small farms, not to mention more than 140 farmers markets offering fresh, locally grown food.

12 You can expand your horizons (and do good)

Want to put a lifetime of skills and knowledge to good use? Volunteer Maine (volunteermaine.org), a one-stop resource, makes it easy to find programs in need of help that match your interests. With an average of more than 40 hours of volunteer work per resident in 2012, Maine ranks among the top states for service hours donated annually. Roughly 30 percent of seniors regularly volunteer. Want to increase your skills and knowledge? The Maine Senior College Network, a consortium of 17 providers from York County to Fort Kent, provides ongoing classes in everything from wine-making to an environmental history of Maine rivers. Led by volunteers, it’s another way to get involved. Or feed your ongoing interests by attending free lectures at our top liberal arts colleges — Bowdoin, Bates, and Colby.

See more Maine retirement resources.

27 Comments

  1. I love Maine, and would really love to retire there. The rest of my family have retired to Florida, but I just can’t help looking northward.

  2. We were life-long Maine residents ( born here, worked here all our lives), but upon retirement, we kept our Maine lake house & quickly became Florida residents for tax purposes. Maine taxes seniors at very high rates, Florida no state income tax, but we happily return mid May- October for the best each state has to offer us.

  3. No better place to be no matter what age or lifestyle pursuit than Maine.

  4. Maine has had my heart since my first visit. Family history and family I have only met as an adult, pulls me like the moon draws the sea. And then there is the sea…..

  5. Have lived a few places… Louisville…Boston…San Francisco…New York…in the process of relocating one last time…back to the Northeast… specifically Maine…cannot be beat… can’t wait…

  6. I am considering retiring in Maine from Virginia. My primary want us a view! Rocky Shore and Trees. However everyone here keeps saying how long the winters are. Do people complain about the long winters up there? Maybe I’m being too idealistic.

    • Deborah Fleury

      I moved here from Georgia and the winters are long and very snowy and cold. I loved it when I was in my 40s but now that I’m in my 60s, the winters are not that much fun. But I have to say the South has nothing on the beauty of the north especially Maine.

  7. Amy Brewer

    We used to vacation Maine when I was a child. They are some of the happiest times in my life. Recently returned for vacation this month. How did I stay away for so long? I want to retire there. My old New England roots are calling.

  8. CAPT Gary Andres USN ret

    I first visited Maine in 1974 when stationed at Brunswick NAS as a young Navy P-3 aircrewman. Fell back in love every time I returned from a deployment. After college in New Mexico, returned to a 3 decade Navy career followed by two decades in federal law enforcement. Through all of it….Maine was our vacation destiny: rafting on the Kennebec, kids catching frogs in streams, lodges in the north country, hiking mountains in the fall, canoeing the Saco, kayaking saltwater coves, camping the mountains, exploring the coast. Now in my 60s, waiting for the wife to retire….I am looking to return for good! My only hesitation is how much Maine will take of my retirement savings! With that said: Maine’s siren still sings.

  9. We are considering retiring to Maine. Currently living in Washington state but ready to return to east coast. Looking for the right fit. We are foodies and coffee lovers. Any suggestions??

    • Hi Beth – Checkout more affordable towns like Topsham, Bath, Brunswick area – still easy access to Portland, but a ton of great restaurants and activities. Some of our faves in Brunswick are Gelato Fiasco, Wild Oats, The Great Impasta, Lemongrass, Little Dog Cafe (for coffee and breakfast treats), Blueberries (amazing breakfast), and the Broadway (amazing breakfast and fun staff). As mentioned in a few posts below we are moving due to a job change, but happy to answer any other questions you have. There is tons of great easy – hard hiking all over the coastal Brunswick area, theater, art galleries, an amazing indoor/outdoor farmers market, midcoast hospital is a great complete hospital system and much more!

      • Danica,
        Brunswick sounds great! We will definitely check it out. We are considering finding a place there now for vacations then moving when I either retire or change jobs. I’m currently the Controller for a small hospital on the Washington coast and love my job, but Maine is calling.

      • Love this comment about Brunswick area. Don’t laugh but, I live in Brunswick ! I’ve never been to “the Broadway” (walked by plenty of times) or Little Dog CafĂ©. I might add……the Downeaster comes to Brunswick also, offering fun trips to Boston and back. Thanks for the recommendations ! My next breakfast will be at the Broadway.

  10. I plan to retire from Atlanta, GA to Portland, ME in 2 1/2 years. I have never been to ME before; however, Portland metro area looks a city I would be happy to begin the 4th quarter of my life.
    Can you recommend other towns outside of Portland? I am interested in living in a condo or townhouse.

    • I too am thinking about moving to Portland Maine. I have researched it for a year and it seems like the right fit for me. My biggest concern is finding the right neighborhood to live in.

      • Checkout the greater Portland area as well. Portland itself is becoming very expensive to live in/around. Towns like Cumberland, Falmouth, Brunswick, Topsham and Bath are much more affordable and still between 20-40 min drive from Portland. But the best part is they are also foodie/fun towns, especially Brunswick. It’s a comfortable college town that has expanded it’s downtown a ton in the last 10 years. Lots of great restaurants and activities including theater, art galleries etc., plus it’s on the coast and has easy access to some of the best beaches and hiking in Maine – namely Popham Beach. Sadly we are moving due to a job change, but if you’re looking for a home ours is for sale in a great quiet neighborhood with lots of other retirees – checkout the homes on North Trail. Happy house-hunting!

  11. Hi,
    I too have never been to Maine, but what I’m learning is making me want to retire there as well.
    Being from MI (now living in Nashville, TN), I am somewhat used to the cold. So, I think I’ll be able to adjust. One of my questions though is about diversity. Are there many African Americans, etc, in Maine?

  12. We are looking at Maine to retire 2021. Wondering about the winters? Everyone says they ar dreadful. I am an Artist and My husband plans to write a few books. So I feel I wouldn’t mind them. Any information would be appreciated. I do have a daughter who is downsydrome. So I’m wondering if she could get around well in Maine. So many questions.

    • HI Kelly – We’ve lived here since ’06. It’s mostly that the cold just lasts longer than other parts of the country. The past few years the chilly 50s hung around through Spring until late May, but then mid-June through September were perfect Summers – usually averaging around 70s to low 80s, low humidity etc. The Fall is beautiful here as well. We’ve loved our time here, but now we’re moving back to New Jersey for a job change. We will miss it so!! If your daughter loves the outdoors and open space and great people, then I think she’d do great. Mainers are some of the most pleasant folks around and I’ve lived all over the country. Our house is for sale if you’re interested. Let me know!

  13. I’ve lived in various parts of the country and moved to Maine about year ago, after spending several months a year here (both winter and summer) for about 5 years. I love the beauty of the state and many of the other things mentioned in this article but the taxes are KILLING us – both the state income tax and the property taxes. Taxes are taking a giant bite out of our retirement savings and I don’t know that it’s sustainable for too many more years. We may need to look into moving to a state like Florida with no state income tax even if we love the state of Maine a heck of a lot more than Florida. (Are you listening #JanetMills?)

  14. Just bought a condo on a nice lake in Maine for our retirement years, the plan is to travel to warmer climates during January thru end of March, maybe look into one of those little van type campers .

  15. Sally Brown

    A) If you are concerned about winter don’t move here. It is less harsh on the coast than in the mountains but all areas are cold and snowy for weeks on end.
    B) Taxes are sonewhat higher for retirees but that is just the price of living in a beautiful area. Maine at it’s *most expensive* is 100% better than ugly, rudderless Florida.
    C) Really, we would rather you stayed home. Too many out of staters as it is.

    • John Aliberti

      So if there are homes for sale in Maine you would rather they stay vacant? Wouldn’t less people drive up the tax rate for those that remain? If church attendance is dwindling, should the place just close? Where will small business owners find customers? “Out of staters” are your brothers and sisters.

  16. CAPT G M Andres, USN (ret)

    I originally commented in August 2018……now over a year later…..my wife still enjoys her job (I miss the excitement of mine!)…..but our new plan? Likely retire to a retirement-savings safe state (NH…..even Taxachusetts super friendly to both my military and federal pension)…..buy an easy-care condo. THEN……looking now for a small chalet/ cabin/cottage in coastal Downeast (with rent potential). Yes….I will still pay property taxes in Maine……but my savings, investments, pension are protected from Maine’s unfriendly tax structure. While I will be forever more be identified as one of the “southern invaders” to all Maine has to offer (by the locals)…..let me tell you all now, if you were not born there, you’ll be identified that way regardless by the true natives anyway. Oh yeah…..my advice to any considering Maine for retirement……FWIW…..spend a full year up there. I spent the better part of the last decade of my career doing wildlife law enforcement in Maine, NH and Vermont……..Maine can be incredibly unforgiving in the months from mid-November through April and even early May. And as one who worked the woods, lakes and coast…..if you haven’t experienced black flies……please do avail yourself that “natural wonder” before buying a home / piece of land!!! My best wishes and luck to all……tough decisions in tough times!

  17. This article states that Portland had a moderate housing market back in 2013. My husband and I want to retire in Portland, Maine and are disappointed to discover how extremely expensive housing is in 2019. Six short years and the prices are anything but moderate. Now we are investigating other towns around the city that have downtown centers and more affordable housing. Any suggestions are appreciated. As for the attitude of telling people from out of state to stay away, that’s just close minded and to be ignored as far as I’m concerned.

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