Do you know of a place where you can spot a moose in the wild while you’re drinking Moxie soda? A home state that inspired both poets Longfellow and E.B White? Where you can find almost all of the nation’s blueberries and most of the nation’s lobster? As one of the state slogans suggests: It must be Maine.
Basically, Maine is great. Which places in the Pine Tree State are really the ones to pine for, though?
Here at Movoto Real Estate, we’ve been busy as the state insect—the honeybee—trying to figure out which locations in the state are simply the best. We collected the numbers, analyzed the data, drooled over pictures of lobstah, and found the 10 top places in Maine. Drumroll, please… that list of places is:
1. City of South Portland
2. Town of Scarborough
3. Town of Brunswick
4. Town of Cumberland
5. Town of Topsham
6. Town of Freeport
7. City of Portland
8. Town of Hampden
9. Town of Kennebunk
10. City of Westbrook
Now, hold your horses (or maybe moose… mooses?) before getting upset that your hometown isn’t on the list. It still could have scored very well, and you can find out by looking at the table at the bottom of this post. First, though, lets talk about how exactly we got this rating.
Figuring Out The Maine Event (How We Got Our Results)
So, how did we manage to figure all this out? Well, it’s not like a little birdy told us. Even the state bird, the Chickadee. It’s all about the numbers for us. As with past lists, like Oklahoma and Missouri, we collected a list of the biggest places in Maine with over 5,000 population, which was 51 places. We then looked at seven specific criteria in different categories. These were:
- Total amenities
- Quality of life (cost of living, median home price, median rent, median household income, and student-to-teacher ratio)
- Total crimes
- Tax rates (sales tax and income tax)
- Commute time
- Weather (temperature and air quality)
We took those numbers, ranked them from 1 to 51 for each category with 1 being the best possible score, and then combined them to get an overall Big Deal Score for every place. After all that, we found that South Portland was simply the highest ranked across the board and was thus No. 1. Let’s take a look at it as well as the other fantastic cities that make up the best of Maine.
1. South Portland
First up on our list is the city of South Portland. The city is neighbor to—but not actually a part of—Portland, ME, and in this case edges out its neighboring city with slightly better stats. The quality of life here is grand for its 25,002 residents, and comes in at No. 4 on our list for that criteria. Employment is also fourth for its category, with merely 5.4 percent of residents being jobless.
People definitely want to live here, with both average rent and housing costs scoring within the top 10 for their rankings. Plus, with its ninth place amenities and plenty of exciting local activities and attractions, it’s no wonder. Not to mention, the city is home to some amazing and highly in-demand bagels at Scratch Baking Company. Get there early, because they sell out regularly.
Residents who want to be in the hub of shopping can easily make a trip to the Maine Mall, which is the largest and busiest mall in the state. With all this to do, good jobs, and high quality of life, South Portland takes the cake (or bagel, as the case may be).
Managing a sweet No. 2 spot is the town of Scarborough, once called the “land of many grasses” by Native Americans. The grass certainly is greener in this place, with 18,919 residents pulling in a median household income of $64,504 per year and enjoying a No 10. ranked quality of life. With those perks, it makes sense that it’s expensive to rent or buy houses here, but worth it.
The amenities here are certainly a factor as well, and ranked No. 8 for that criteria. The town boasts numerous beaches, a wildlife sanctuary, a motor speedway, and some seriously amazing restaurants for locals to enjoy.
Speaking of great restaurants, if you’re visiting or even just passing through, stop at Scarborough Fish & Lobster to try what is regularly called one of the best lobstah rolls in Maine. (Seriously, our mouths were watering just looking at these things.)
Another town on our list, Brunswick’s self-defined “beautifully balanced” populace of 20,278 sits at third for best places in the state. The residents enjoy a low unemployment rate of only 5.4 percent and 10th place ranked weather that hits an average of 64 degrees in the summer.
Besides enjoying a pretty great place to live, locals have the opportunity to indulge in No. 6 ranked amenities, including a historic district, and several history and art museums. For a sweeter deal, locals can go on the hunt for their new favorite gelato flavor, among many, at The Gelato Fiasco.
The smallest place in our top 10, Cumberland is a farmer’s haven, with some nature-related stats to match.The weather here ranks seventh best on our list, with fourth ranked air quality. The crime is the second-lowest on our entire list, and the quality of life is a comfortable No. 6 for its category. It’s the perfect place for a yearly farmer’s fair, which is probably why the town holds one every September.
One place where this little town really shines is employment. A measly four percent of the population is unemployed here, which makes it No. 1 on our overall list for that criterion.
However, being a little place means fewer amenities, and Cumberland’s No. 50 ranking for that area drags the town down to No. 4 on our best places list. If you’re afraid of finding something to do, however, fear not. A few working farms are around that you can visit , including Sweetser’s Apple Barrel and Orchards.
Pronounced “Top-suhm,” this small town gives its 8,784 residents something to brag about. The weather here is ranked No. 10 on our list, thanks to a decent temperature ranking and air quality rank. Above that, the quality of life ranking is a surprising No. 2 overall and the student-teacher ratio is in the top 10, keeping residents here well-read and comfortable.
The isn’t exactly a young town, either. This year, it celebrated its 250th birthday (congratulations, by the way) with a firework-filled celebration. Residents don’t just get treated to celebrations once every 250 years. Each August, Topsham holds a large faire that offers games, animal exhibits, competitions, food, and more.
No. 6 Freeport maybe a little town, but it comes up big in a surprising number of ways. Its 7,879 locals enjoy the absolute best quality of life and lowest crime rate anywhere on our list, not to mention some pretty good employment numbers. The unemployment rate here is only 5.4 percent, after all. That translates to the price tag on homes being high, ranking No. 1 on our list for that ranking with the median cost being $319,000.
So, with all this great stuff going for it, we know you’re dying to visit. That’s just fine, as the top-rated James Place Inn will welcome you with homemade Maine blueberry pancakes. You’ll feel right at home in no time, we’re sure.
There was one area in which little Freeport didn’t do so well. The many employed folk in the town may have great jobs, but it takes a while to get to them. The average commute time is 24 minutes, which puts the town at 38th for that criteria and drags down their ranking some.
The biggest city in our top 10—and in Maine—Portland is home to 66,194 people. The locals are entertained by the most amenities on our list, not to mention several theater companies, museums, and historic landmarks. Foodies best beware of eating too much here too, as the restaurant’s, food festivals, and Maine delicacies are abundant and proud. Combine that with the fifth best quality of life ranking, and you’ve got one awesome place to live.
The place isn’t too shabby for students either. The student teacher ratio is a low 12 to 1, which scores the city sixth on our list for that criterion.
The reason this big fish in a little pond didn’t rank higher on the list has to do with its crime rank. At No. 41, there are a shocking 4,274 crimes per 100,000 people every year. But that sort of minus tends to happen with larger cities, so that’s at least a little understandable.
Right below the biggest place on our list, we have one of the smallest. With a population of only 7,257, you might think that Hampden doesn’t have a lot to offer. In this case, however, smaller is better. The place boasts the second lowest crime rate on our list and the sixth best weather, as well as the sixth best quality of life and fourth ranked air quality. Not to mention, McLaughlin Seafood at the Marina apparently has some killer lobster to try for any budding foodies. It just goes to show that you can’t judge a place on size alone.
The people here aren’t too bad off financially either. The median household income ranking was No. 1 on our list at $86,964 per year, which mean that residents are living high on the hog. What drags the ranking down a little is the unemployment in this location. Hampden shows 6.8 percent of residents are unemployed, which sits at 33rd for that criteria on our list.
Ninth place Kennebunk is outstanding in its field… blueberry field, that is. The town is home to nature conservancy Blueberry Barrens, also called Blueberry plains, which offers 1,500 acres of trails and berries. Besides that, the place has a fair number of amenities and historical landmarks for its 10,798 residents to enjoy. With decent weather and a No. 5 ranked crime rate, the town is a pretty relaxed place to live.
Unfortunately, there is a downside. Like higher-ranked Freeport, it’s not so easy to get around this place. With its 47th ranked commute time of 26 minutes, Kennebunk slides down the list a little but still manages to stay in our top 10.
Wrapping it all up is Westbrook and its 17,494 locals. The city doesn’t particularly have one specific area in which it shines. Rather, it has many solid areas. The unemployment great is great and tied for No.4 on our list, there are plenty of amenities, a decent quality of life, and even decent air quality. In general, this place is a fun, easy going, river-filled hiker’s paradise.
If you’re an ice cream person besides being a river-loving hiker, this is a must-stop for you on your next vacation. The perfectly Yelp-rated (yes, we said perfectly) Catbird Creamery allows visitors to sample classic and rather zany flavors, all made in-house daily. How could you ever pass up flavors like brown sugar vanilla or “Furious George?”
The crime here is pretty high though, and is 33rd on out list for that area with 3,813 crimes per 100,000 people. That and a lower-ranked cost of living at No. 38 for that ranking pulls down the city’s overall score and keeps it at No. 10 on our list.
The Apple (Blueberry?) Of Maine’s Eye
There you have it: the absolute best places in this great state. From the rivers and parks to the amazing food and shops, Maine is a fascinating place to discover. With its scores never turning south, South Portland tops the lists as the place that should make the state most proud.
While some of these cities were certainly bright spots on our list, we also found some pretty dim ones too. Berwick in particular stood out. The weather was second worst for that criteria, the air quality was low, and the commute time was a downright awful 27 minutes. There were also few amenities and a poor cost of living ranking, which put the place at last on our list over all. Fairfield and Sanford also made a poor showing, with poor employment rates and terrible student-teacher ratio respectively. Besides those bottom three, however, Maine came out looking like an amazing place to visit or settle down.
Think that state capital Augusta should have made the top of the list? Think some of the best ranked places should have ranked lower? Let us know in the comments, just make sure you keep your thoughts Maine-ly polite.