For sweeping views of Maine's most picturesque places it's hard to beat a plane. Nothing quite compares to soaring over the state's tallest mountains and spruce-topped islands, peering down into the woods and out across the sea, enjoying a prospect that only birds get to see. The epic and all-encompassing vistas available from the air truly show the grandeur of Maine, making it seem bigger and wilder than ever. A number of flight services are happy to take you up into the skies over the state, and they come in all shapes and sizes, from hot air balloons to helicopters, and from gliders to biplanes and bush planes.
Planes have always played a special role in Maine, connecting remote areas to the rest of the state. In the North Woods, bush planes are integral to a whole way of life, transporting freight and sportsmen into the state's wild interior – and looking for forest fires. On the coast, likewise, planes provide a lifeline to the islands.
Flight tour operators can be found all across Maine, from Kittery to the Katahdin area. And they offer a diverse array of services. Some in the North Woods have relatively inexpensive “fire watch” flights where you can help spot blazes – while enjoying a high-flying cruise. Others have quick twenty-minute hops up over the mountains or longer lighthouse tours along the coast. In Portland you can survey the scenery from the seat of a biplane – open cockpit and goggles and all. In southern Maine you can loft up in a silent balloon, drifting with the winds. And in some places you can find package tours, like the Wings and Water package in Bar Harbor, which combines a scenic flight with a ride aboard a tall ship. Private charters are also available.
The state's larger cities, resort areas, and upcountry hubs are the best places to find scenic flights. There are concentrations of planes in the Moosehead Lake area, in Bar Harbor and the Acadia region, in Portland, and in coastal communities like Rockland and Belfast. Check with chambers of commerce for more information.