Maine : Safety by City
- Bar Harbor
- Carrabassett Valley
- Presque Isle/Caribou
- South Portland
The twin cities of Presque Isle and Caribou sit just 20 miles west of the Canadian border in the far northern part of Maine.
They hold the record of being the most northeastern in the nation.
Aroostook County (aka “The County”) surrounds this region, and the Aroostook River weaves between the two cities.
The county is massive, so don’t assume an attraction is close because it shares the county name.
Travel can be up to 600 miles from one attraction to the other if you’re just searching by county.
Fort Fairfield is the city on the American side of the border, while Carlingford is on the New Brunswick side.
Maine is a four-season destination, but southern and mid-coast Maine are well-known for summer adventures.
In Aroostook County, winter is the best season and training grounds for elite winter sports athletes.
Golfers can also get a unique experience with a course that’s half in America and half in Canada.
Anglers will love the hundreds of miles of fishing options.
Summer is still active here, with rafting, canoeing, hiking, and wildlife viewing prime activities, and there’s space for everyone to find their own nook in the great outdoors.
Staying in this wilderness is the true definition of “roughing it.”
Warnings & Dangers in Presque Isle/Caribou
OVERALL RISK: LOW
Both cities have an extremely low crime risk, but if you have to know which one is safer - statistically, it's Caribou. However, you should have no concerns about either one. You have to truly be looking to get away from it all to enjoy your time here.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
You'll need a car, which should be a four-wheel drive vehicle. You can take flights into Presque Isle from Newark only. There is no bus system, but charter buses are available throughout Maine. Road risks of snow, ice, and mud exist from fall through spring.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
There is a low risk with neither city seeing a pickpocket in 2021. Standard personal safety steps apply, so don't let your guard down. You'll likely be carrying more items since this is a wilderness area, and you need to have supplies with you, so don't let a bag out of your sight.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
Winter weather, like blizzards, ice storms, and large snowfalls, are the main risks, with spring and summer bringing the potential for thunderstorms with the occasional tornado. Flooding is possible from heavy rain or snow runoff. Early spring brings "mud season," with some roads impassible and trails closed due to mud pits.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
Between the two cities, there have been seven robberies since 2017, so the risk is once again low for a tourist to be mugged. Crime rates can change quickly, but the historical data shows that low risk has been ongoing for at least five years.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
This is another low-risk area of concern since it's a small remote area. The bigger concern would be terrorists or drug dealers crossing the border, which likely wouldn't impact tourists.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
The most recent scams in both cities have been phone calls with callers posing as fake law enforcement officers demanding money. It shouldn't be a concern for your trip, but never trust someone pressuring you to pay money or buy gift cards to avoid punishment. Use extreme caution and verification services when renting a home in this region.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
As long as women understand this region's rugged and remote nature, there's no reason to have a higher risk than men. The few crimes that do happen here are rarely against strangers.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
The 2021 Water Quality Report showed two reporting violations but overall compliance with all standards. Concern about levels of lead in the water is added on top of private well users who are responsible for testing their own water. You should ask your hotel or rental company about the water quality testing at the location where you'll be staying.
Safest Places to Visit in Presque Isle/Caribou
VisitMaine.com is the official tourism site for the state, and you’ll look for the Aroostook County section to find more information about things to see and do here.
Presque Isle and Caribou each have their own section to explore as well.
You can also download a free Travel Guide with nearly 200 pages of information.
You can also check out visitaroostook.com.
A free guide book called “The County” is available.
Did you know that Maine is so “out of this world” that you can explore the solar system?
The Maine Solar System is the brainchild of the University of Maine at Presque Isle.
This 3D model of the solar system spans 100 miles along U.S. Route 1 with six locations in Presque Isle.
Learn more at MaineSolarSystem.com.
A great Instagram moment is the Double Eagle II at 130 Spragueville Road, which was the launch site of the first manned hot-air balloon transatlantic flight in 1978.
A replica of the balloon stands in this one-acre park.
The Aroostook National Wildlife Refuge is the closest outdoor haven, just 12 miles from Caribou.
It’s on the site where Loring Air Force Base used to be.
It holds nearly 5,000 acres of outdoor fun, with incredible fall foliage, snowshoeing in the winter, and hiking in the mud.
Oh, and mud in the spring.
Aroostook State Park is in Presque Isle and includes Echo Lake.
Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, and ice skating area available with winter camping options as long as you make a reservation.
A warming hut is available to escape the cold by the fire.
Hot air balloons are available seasonally here and the Aroostook County Balloon Festival is held in late August each year.
Another unique experience in northern Maine is seeing the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis).
Sightings can happen in winter, with lesser potential in fall and spring.
Check out the Space Weather Predication Center through the National Weather Service for the “Aurora Forecast.”
Places to Avoid in Presque Isle/Caribou
You won’t need to worry about dangerous neighborhoods or parts of town, as they are small cities with low crime rates.
You should truly understand the remote nature of this region in any season, and be fully educated on winter weather survival skills.
With so many outdoor spaces, it’s easy to think you can just hike or ski anywhere, but don’t ignore No Trespassing signs.
Parts of the parks are sectioned off for safety, wildlife protection, or personal property lines.
As for October 2022, anyone wishing to play golf at the international golf course will need to cross into Canada and go through the typical international travel requirements.
Is it worth the hassle?
If you think hitting a ball across the country border is worth it, then absolutely!
Safety Tips for Traveling to Presque Isle/Caribou
- The website for the local police departments aren’t very robust, but both Presque Isle and Caribou are on Facebook. You can also email each them at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com to ask specific safety questions.
- A shocking photo from Caribou Police shows just how dangerous snow and ice can be when it falls off moving vehicles. A piece of ice flew right into the windshield of another car and shattered the glass. Remove all ice and snow from your entire vehicle, not just the windshield and windows. Pay special attention to the top of your vehicle and trunk. Even the hood of the car can see snow fly into your own windshield, leaving you blinded.
- Winter parking bans mean you can’t park overnight on streets or city lots. Violations will be towed at their own expense. Try to use your hotel’s parking lot as its on private property and follow all parking ban rules.
- New England 511 is the road condition program for this region, and you can’t afford to be without it since accidents, weather dangers, and construction can quickly lead to dangerous conditions.
- Looking at the social media sites for these cities, there are many dogs that get lost and taken to the police department. Use extra caution when you’re on the roadways to avoid hitting a lost dog and call the police if you see one wandering around.
- You should also be on the lookout for moose, and if you hit one of those suckers, you’re more likely to be the most injured party. Moose are docile for the most part, but can quickly charge when agitated, so never attempt to feed or lure a moose. If you want to see them at a safe distance, the drive from Caribou to either Fort Kent or Van Buren is almost a guaranteed moose sighting roadway.
- Bears are most populous in Aroostook County, so you might come across a few of those too. The general rules is “If it’s brown, lie down. If it’s black, fight back.” Northern Maine has black bears, meaning they might be interested in you from a distance, but they won’t come after you unless provoked. If they do, make a lot of noise and slowly back away. Don’t climb a tree because these guys are great climbers – and that’s their hiding spot from you.
- This isn’t a sponsorship or paid business plug, but I see the Sled Shop in Presque Isle getting a lot of referrals and expertise comments. You can rent snowmobiles here and get all kinds of great outdoor advice for your first adventure to Northern Maine. The phone number is (207)764-2900.
- Your GPS might be quite useless outside of Caribou and Presque Isle. Even if it was on track, there are few road names and businesses along the way to check for directions if you get turned around. If you come across a dirt road that isn’t in a park, it’s likely a logging road, and you could come face to face with a fast semi-truck that absolutely has the right of way. Even if you pull over, you could end up in sharp rocks that slash tires.
- Check with emergency management organizations to find out what emergency supply kits you’ll need in the wild. Double up on supplies if this is your first time. You’ll need to know how to change a tire, get out of a snowbank or mud, and stay warm for extended periods of time while you wait for help. Always, ALWAYS let someone know when you are going and when you plan to be back, so they can call for help if you don’t show up.
So... How Safe Is Presque Isle/Caribou Really?
Crime rates are low in Maine, as it’s the second-safest state in the country, and in Aroostook County there are far bigger things to worry about than the low risk of a violent crime.
Experienced outdoor adventurers seek out places like this to get lost in the wild, but even they can be caught off guard by the sheer rugged and unforgiving nature of the land.
Snow can fall by the feet in winter, and even paved roads can quickly become impassible with the risk of a Moose running out at any point.
There aren’t a lot of places to pull over.
Snow squalls are powerful burst of snow within a storm that leave visibility near zero.
Spring brings snowmelt which can leave some roads as mud pits or some outdoor hiking trails feet deep in thick mud.
If you try to walk through the mud, you’ll likely have your shoes sucked right off your feet.
Most communities will have some kind of survival skills training sessions or offer webinars, so you can learn about enjoying this rugged terrain.
You should learn how to start your own fire and how to clean water in the wild.
If you’ve taken all the proper safety steps, you are in for quite and adventure in nature.
Seeing the Northern Lights can be a groundbreaking personal experience, so don’t miss the chance because it’s too cold or too late (prime viewing is from midnight to 3 am).
Just dress appropriately and take a nap the day before.
How Does Presque Isle/Caribou Compare?
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To get into the U.S., you'll need a visa issued by the U.S. State Department. For a Canadian visa, you'll need to go through the Government of Canada website and follow instructions, but you start the process online. Be sure you know the exact rules as an international traveler if you are coming to America then crossing into Canada and back. The rules can be different when crossing into Canada vs crossing into America.
You should have currency for each country, Americans use the U.S. Dollar while New Brunswick uses the Canadian Dollar. Never assume a business on the border will take another country's currency. Since this is a border city, you'll find plenty of places to exchange currency. That said, exchanging it at home gives a better value and lower fees.
Summers can be quite warm here, with average highs in the upper 70s (F). Lows will get into the 50s (F). Temperature near or below freezing overnight are common from October through May. You should take a training class at an outdoor shop about how to layer up in the wild while bringing as little as possible and as much as you can carry. Snow boots, hiking boots, insulated accessories, and face masks are mandatory in winter.
Presque Isle International Airport has flights only to Newark, with two arrivals and departures each day. The next closest U.S. airport is in Bangor, which is 2.5 hours on the road - but much longer, if not impossible, during winter weather.
You should get the most robust travel insurance you can here, especially focused on outdoor wilderness emergency needs.
Presque Isle/Caribou Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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Maine - Safety by City