Study: Best Cities to Live in Maine

Whether you're moving to Maine for the first time or relocating from one area of the state to another, the hardest part is deciding which of its great cities to call home. Before you pack your bags, take a look at the CreditDonkey team's list of the 10 best places to live in Maine.

Nicknamed "The Pine Tree State" for its millions of acres of dense evergreen forests, Maine is one of the country's most stunning and geographically varied states. To the east stretches roughly 5,000 miles of coastline, dotted with quiet seaside towns, larger port cities and, of course, plenty of majestic lighthouses. In the Uplands region lies the fertile farmland of Aroostook County, the heart of Maine's agricultural economy. Scattered throughout the state are thousands of lakes that serve as ideal spots for fishing, boating and taking a dip.

People of all ages are drawn to Maine because of its natural beauty, safe communities and low cost of living. Small rural towns are mixed with larger commercial centers, making it easy to find a place that offers the pace and lifestyle you're looking for.

10 Best Cities to Live in Maine

Study Methodology

Each city's rank was based in part on the following:

  1. Crime Rate
  2. Commute Time
  3. Income
  4. Education
  5. Restaurants Per Capita

One of the most appealing things about Maine is the fact that crime rates here tend to be low, for the most part. Each of the cities in our study is ranked based on the odds of being the victim of a violent act, and several of them are among the safest in the state.

Navigating traffic in a new town can be frustrating, especially when you're trying to make it to work on time or get home at the end of a long day. We considered the average commute time for each of our 10 cities to find those where the daily drive is the shortest.

Finding a job that pays well is no easy feat, but tailoring your job search to cities that offer higher wages can increase the odds of success. For each city in our study, we considered the median household income to determine which areas offer the best salaries.

Maine scores top marks when it comes to education. There are several major colleges and universities located here, including the University of Maine, Bowdoin College and the University of New England. We considered each city's overall educational attainment, based on the percentage of residents who've earned a bachelor's degree or higher.

While lobster rolls and clam chowder are staples of any native Mainer's diet, they're far from the only things on the menu. Maine is renowned as a food lover's paradise, with Portland named America's Foodiest Small Town by Bon Appetit magazine in 2009. We've ranked each city based on the number of restaurants per capita and profiled a few of the best local spots to dig in.

10. Bangor

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 434.7
  • Commute Time: 15.4 minutes
  • Income: $36,246
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 28%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 273 inhabitants

Part of the Highlands region, Bangor was once regarded as the lumber capital of the world. Today, it remains an important commercial and transportation center for northern, central and eastern Maine. The home campus of the University of Maine is located just a few miles away in Orono and many of Bangor's residents are employed in the education sector. Tourism is also a major contributor to the local economy, thanks to attractions like the Bangor City Forest.

Did You Know: One of Bangor's most recognizable landmarks is a 31-foot statue of lumberjack Paul Bunyan, a legend who was reputedly born here.

9. Presque Isle

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 877.1
  • Commute Time: 12.4 minutes
  • Income: $37,630
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 20%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 367 inhabitants

Tucked away in northeastern Maine, Presque Isle is the largest city in Aroostook County. Like Bangor, education is an important source of jobs thanks to the presence of a satellite campus of the University of Maine. The town also sees its fair share of visitors as they travel to and from nearby Canada. Although it's one of Maine's smaller towns, with less than 10,000 residents, Presque Isle rates highly in terms of its overall safety and brief average commute.

Did You Know: Presque Isle served as the departure point for the Double Eagle II, the first hot air balloon ever to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

8. Saco

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 774.8
  • Commute Time: 23.4 minutes
  • Income: $55,873
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 30%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 347 inhabitants

One of the first things you need to know about living in Saco is that it's actually pronounced "Sock-o" not "Say-ko." Once you've got the pronunciation down, you can focus on what makes Saco a great place to live, such as its overall safety and higher median incomes. While the city is relatively small, at just over 18,000 residents, the summer months bring a swell of tourists who are drawn to local attractions like Funtown Splashtown USA and Old Orchard Beach.

Did You Know: Up until 1805, Saco was known by the lengthier name of Pepperrellborough.

7. Caribou

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 1,630
  • Commute Time: 14.3 minutes
  • Income: $42,359
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 23.6%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 537 inhabitants

Less than 15 miles north of Presque Isle, Caribou is another one of Maine's smaller rural towns. This tight-knit community of just over 8,000 people is one of the state's safest spots, which may be attributed to the strong sense of tradition and family values shared by its residents. The city's economy is as diverse as its people, with health care, education and agriculture playing significant roles. If you don't mind rubbing elbows with the person at the next table, Frederick's Restaurant is a favorite among Caribou locals.

Did You Know: Potatoes and broccoli lead the way as Caribou's top locally produced crops.

6. Rockland

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 729.7
  • Commute Time: 14.5 minutes
  • Income: $35,500
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 22.9%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 164 inhabitants

The smallest city in our rankings, Rockland sits in Maine's midcoastal region, adjacent to Rockland Harbor. Beyond the rocky shoreline, the harbor serves as a prime boating spot and it's here that residents can board the ferry to travel to the islands of Penobscot Bay. Historic downtown Main Street is where the city's top retail stores and boutiques are concentrated, along with some of its best restaurants. This picture perfect coastal town has seen an increase in tourism in recent years but it remains a haven for those seeking a quiet place to settle down.

Did You Know: Rockland hosts the annual Maine Lobster Festival, a four-day event that features entertainment, arts and crafts and plenty of Maine lobster served up every way you can imagine.

5. Ellsworth

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 1,110
  • Commute Time: 22.7 minutes
  • Income: $47,799
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 30.4%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 252 inhabitants

Further up the coast in Maine's Downeast region sits the quaint little village of Ellsworth. Although it's one of Maine's smaller towns, there's been a growth spurt in recent years as the health care and tourism industries continue to create new job opportunities. Violent crime is a rarity and median incomes are above $47,000, making it an attractive location for families and working professionals. The Union River Lobster Pot is the place to go for a traditional lobster dinner, while Cleonice offers a taste of upscale Mediterranean fare.

Did You Know: Its close proximity to the Gulf of Maine allowed Ellsworth to develop as a port city, with shipbuilding the primary industry up until the mid 1800s.

4. Portland

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 383.9
  • Commute Time: 17.7 minutes
  • Income: $44,487
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 44.6%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 250 inhabitants

Portland is Maine's largest city, with more than 66,000 residents. Despite its larger size, Portland manages to capture the charm of a smaller town without sacrificing any of the amenities you're looking for. The historic downtown area is packed with an eclectic mix of shops, art galleries and restaurants, but you'll also find parks and museums to explore along the waterfront. Maine Medical Center and Mercy Hospital are the city's top employers, although the fishing and tourism industries also account for a substantial share of the local economy.

Did You Know: Commissioned by George Washington, the Portland Head Light is the oldest lighthouse in Maine.

3. Bath

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 849.9
  • Commute Time: 17.6 minutes
  • Income: $44,410
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 30.2%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 336 inhabitants

Bath is a small port city located on the Kennebec River, less than 40 miles from both Portland and the capital city of Augusta. Shipbuilding, the city's oldest industry dating back to the 1760s, continues to be a prominent feature of the local economy. The Bath Iron Works shipyard is the area's top employer and residents earn a median income of just over $44,000. Like many of Maine's coastal towns, Bath is a popular tourist destination due its close proximity to beaches, shopping and dining.

Did You Know: The Maine Maritime Museum located in Bath features a 120-foot tall steel sculpture of the schooner Wyoming, which was the largest wooden sailing ship ever built in the U.S.

2. Brewer

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 1,580.2
  • Commute Time: 18.2 minutes
  • Income: $47,940
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 28.6%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 336 inhabitants

Considered the gateway to the Downeast region, Brewer sits just across the Penobscot River from Bangor. Some of the things that make Brewer attractive to new residents are its excellent violent crime rate, higher median incomes and affordable housing. The drive to work takes an average of just over 18 minutes, although you may be fighting heavier traffic if you're traveling into Bangor. The restaurant scene is an interesting mix of pubs, bistros and more upscale choices, like the locally renowned Thistles Restaurant.

Did You Know: One of Brewer's most famous residents was Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, who was given the honor of receiving the confederate surrender of arms at Appomattox.

1. South Portland

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 512
  • Commute Time: 19.5 minutes
  • Income: $53,394
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 38.2%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 222 inhabitants

South Portland sits just across the harbor from Portland proper; despite a similar name, it's considered an independent city in its own right. Once a primarily agricultural community, South Portland's economy is one of the most diverse in the state, with the transportation, manufacturing and retail industries providing a significant share of jobs. Home prices tend to be slightly lower than neighboring Portland while median incomes are roughly 10% higher. Add in an active nightlife scene, the state's largest shopping mall and more than 100 restaurants and you've got an all-around great place to call home.

Did You Know: South Portland feature the largest full service marina in Maine.

Maine's climate, landscape and welcoming people are just a few of the things that make it one of the most desirable places to live in the northeast. While there are many more cities and towns to explore, we believe that the 10 spots we've profiled represent the most well-rounded choices overall.

Data Sources:

  • U.S. Census Bureau, Population Estimates
  • FBI, Uniform Crime Reports
  • U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey
  • U.S. Census Bureau, Economic Census

The Top 10 Cities to Live in Maine

RankCityViolent Crime OddsAverage Commute TimeMedian Household Income% Bachelor's Degree or HigherPeople per Restaurants and Bars
1South Portland1 in 512.019.5$53,39438.2%222.0
2Brewer1 in 1,580.218.2$47,94028.6%335.7
3Bath1 in 849.917.6$44,41030.2%336.3
4Portland1 in 383.917.7$44,48744.6%249.9
5Ellsworth1 in 1,110.022.7$47,79930.4%252.4
6Rockland1 in 729.714.5$35,50022.9%164.2
7Caribou1 in 1,630.014.3$42,35923.6%536.7
8Saco1 in 774.823.4$55,87330.0%347.4
9Presque Isle1 in 877.112.4$37,63020.0%366.5
10Bangor1 in 434.715.4$36,24628.0%273.5

Rebecca Lake is a journalist at CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison and reviews website. Write to Rebecca Lake at Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts.

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