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Maine Beaches

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Maine has dozens of wonderful beaches tucked away in the nooks and crannies of the coast. This handy guide makes 18 of the state's favorite beaches easy to find and includes loads of useful information so you can make the most of your time at the shore.

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1 Kittery

ePub

Off Route 103. Take Seapoint Road from Thaxter Road and look for the signs.

Latitude: 43.0879

Longitude: -70.6623

Kittery is known more for outlets than for the outdoors—among all the towns of southern Maine, it is probably the least associated with beaches. But it does indeed have several strands. The two that are arguably the most popular are Seapoint and Crescent, which flank Seapoint, a small peninsula between Gerrish Island and Brave Boat Harbor in Kittery Point. Both of them are pretty small compared to others up the road in York and Ogunquit and Wells—they’re in the 600-yard range—but they don’t tend to get as busy as the larger beaches do, either. You can usually find a place to spread out without too much difficulty.

What is hard, though, is parking. There’s a lot five minutes away, but it’s for town residents only and you have to have a Kittery solid waste sticker or face a $500 fine if you park there out of season. The lots are closed to non-residents from May 15 to September 30—basically prime beach season. The good news is that you can pose as a Kittery town resident by buying a sticker; the bad news is that there are only one hundred available each season, on a first-come basis, and they cost $125.

 

2 York

ePub

Route 1A, 207-363-1040

Latitude: 43.1329

Longitude: -70.6377

Harbor Beach is one of the more petite strands in southern Maine, and there’s something quite cute about it. A crescent smile of sand between a residential headland and the hulking Stage Neck Inn, the beach is a little stunner staring out into York Harbor. But its diminutive size makes it all the more difficult to get onto. Don’t expect to find any parking. You might want to rent a bike or take a cab—it’s that congested here. If you’re lucky you can find a spot on the street across from the York Harbor Inn, but in the summer these spaces are about as fleeting as an empty tollbooth on the turnpike the Friday before a holiday weekend.

With gentle surf and pebbly sands, this small cul-de-sac is a fine swimmers beach. At high tide there’s not much sand left between the water and the cobbles at the head of the beach, but when the tide is out there’s enough sand to get a quick jog in before you’re up to your knees. The waves are fairly gentle here, as the sands are gradual, and a light ripple is more common than any sort of breakers. Because of its small size, competition for places to put your umbrella or your towel is fairly vigorous.

 

3 Ogunquit

ePub

Beach Street, 207-646-2939

Latitude: 43.2554

Longitude: -70.5905

In 1888 some enterprising locals built a bridge across the Ogun-quit River—and that was it. Beachgoers have been swarming across to the beach on the far side for more than a century. In fact, people have been visiting this stretch of coast all along—the Abenaki term ogunquit means “beautiful place by the sea,” and they came here to frolic in the sand. On a hot summer day it seems the whole world is visiting these three miles of pristine white sand.

It’s easy to understand why.

Ogunquit is a beach-lover’s beach. Long and powdery, it has arguably the finest white sand in Maine—perhaps even in New England. There are hardly any rocks and little or no seaweed. The tidal wrack is minimal. There are just miles of soft sand, deep and wide.

This is an exceptional example of a barrier-spit beach, where a long arm of land sits between the open sea and a lagoon, and it is a breathtaking place. In this case, the Ogunquit River creates an estuary that naturally separates the village from the beach. Turn your back to the town, with its houses and hotels and commercial development, and face out to the Atlantic—all you can see are miles of beach, rolling breakers, and the open sea.

 

4 Wells

ePub

Webhannet Drive/Atlantic Avenue, 207-646-2451

Latitude: 43.3029

Longitude: -70.5659

Set between Ogunquit to its south and Kennebunk to its north, the town of Wells is, essentially, one long beach. From Moody Beach at the end of Ogunquit to the Webhannet River at the northern end of town, the community’s coastline is broken up into a bunch of strands—Moody, Drakes, Laudholm, and Crescent beaches—that stretch for more than five miles from one end of town to the other. And then there’s the namesake beach—by far the biggest and most popular, 4,000 feet of fine sand fronting the open sea, next stop France.

The town of Wells proper is separated from the Atlantic by Webhannet Marsh and the Webhannet River, which create a peninsula that stretches out as a protective barrier. On the sea side of this long, skinny finger is the beach, backed by a cement wall; on the other is a line of condos and cottages that look out across the street at the limitless blue expanse and pour people onto the sand all day long. There is public access on almost every block with little paths wandering out onto its warm sand. Good luck finding parking, though.

 

5 The Kennebunks

ePub

Beach Avenue, off Routes 9 and 35, Kennebunk, 207-967-0857

Latitude: 43.3444

Longitude: -70.5022

Kennebunk Beach isn’t really a beach. It’s a mile of sand divided into three distinct sections—Mother’s, Middle, and Gooch’s beaches—all set off Beach Avenue on the seaside of a busy, heavily developed residential area. These stretches of beach are connected by a sidewalk that runs along the road behind them—a stroll along this pedestrian highway is the highlight of many a vacation—and together they meld into one great beach that is among the treasures of southern Maine. (A fine place to be on the Fourth of July, too, when fireworks explode colorfully overhead.)

Curled up south of Lord’s Point is Mother’s Beach, the smallest of the Kennebunk beaches at about 750 feet long. As its name suggests, this short sandy strip has long been a favored destination of families. It’s tucked into a small, sheltered cove, which protects it from big swells, and the slope to the sea is gradual and easy for small feet. When the tide recedes it leaves behind many tide pools to explore. And right on the sand is a playground. Lifeguards maintain a daily vigil in summer, which should please any mother at Mother’s Beach. There are restrooms but no concessions or other facilities. For those you can walk the short distance up Beach Avenue to the Lower Village. Parking is by permit only.

 

6 Saco

ePub

95 Bayview Road, 207-283-0067

Latitude: 43.4768

Longitude: -70.3844

Ferry Beach State Park is not to be confused with Ferry Beach. The state park is the 1,700-yard white sand strand run by the State of Maine in Saco. The other is a small neighborhood crescent on a river in exclusive Prouts Neck. Same name—ferries must have been busy along the south coast at one time—but very different places.

Ferry Beach State Park sits between Camp Ellis to the south and Old Orchard to the north, on the site of the old ferry across the Saco River. And it’s something to behold. Maine owns 117 acres here, prime real estate, and you can almost forget you’re in heavily developed southern Maine when you wander through its woods on the 1.7-mile network of board-walked trails. Indeed, the park is full of natural wonders, not the least of which is a stand of tupelo trees, swamp-dwelling plants that are very rare at this northern latitude.

Of course, most people who visit this Saco staple come for the sand, and the beach here is beautiful. Wide, open, fine, and backed up by dunes, it is made for beach lovers. It tends to be much quieter and more private than the strands of Old Orchard, which sit just up Route 9.

 

7 Old Orchard

ePub

Beach Street, 207-934-2500

Latitude: 43.5165

Longitude: -70.3721

On a hot August day, Old Orchard Beach becomes the largest town in Maine. As many as 100,000 revelers might line up to enjoy its seven miles of sand—and all the raucous entertainments that spin and whirl around them. This is the beach of beaches in the state, the center of beach culture, the Coney Island, the Jersey Shore, the Ocean City. If you like your beaches backed up to arcades, fried-food stands, souvenir shops, pizza joints, and amusement park rides, this is the place for you.

The beach stretches all the way from Saco to Scarborough—it was created by the outpouring of sand from the Saco and Scarborough rivers. In the middle of everything—both literally and figuratively—is the Pier, a 500-foot-long jetty that houses restaurants, bars, and shops and serves as a focal point around which all the other establishments revolve. Need a painted-on or real tattoo, braided hair, or a souvenir t-shirt? This is where you would begin looking. Pier french fries are sublime. (Parking anywhere near here is expensive—a quarter for seven minutes at the meters.)

 

8 Scarborough

ePub

418 Black Point Road, 207-883-2416

Latitude: 43.5470

Longitude: -70.3053

Scarborough Beach is a curious thing. It’s a state park run by a private corporation; a full-service beach far from Route 1 and its boardwalks and t-shirt and snack shops; and a fantastic public place in the most exclusive of neighborhoods. There isn’t another beach quite like it in Maine.

Of course, what matters on a hot day are the sand and the surf, and this half-mile beach has some of the finest around. The sand is white and the breakers come in booming. The beach faces the open Atlantic from the east, or ocean, side of Prout’s Neck. (It used to be you wouldn’t venture here unless you had the correct last name or were visiting someone who did—and you wouldn’t even think about parking.) On the other side of this neck are Ferry and Western beaches, neighborhood strands you can walk to if you want a smaller, quieter experience.

Why bother, though, when you have all this in front of you? Scarborough Beach has everything a beachgoer could want, and then some. The sand is long with plenty of room to spread out and the water is remarkably warm—high 60s. The sand is comfortable enough for napping or jogging, and the surf is great for boogie-boarding and even surfing. (Boogie boards can be rented for $5; surfing requires a permit.) The “Shack” provides drinks and all kinds of light fare, from pizza to wraps, and even rents umbrellas and chairs. Lifeguards are on duty in the peak season (June 10–Labor Day). And there are changing rooms, too.

 

9 Cape Elizabeth

ePub

66 Two Lights Road, 207-799-5871

Latitude: 43.5648

Longitude: -70.2281

Along with Scarborough, Crescent Beach is a go-to beach in the Portland area. Anyone in the Forest City looking for sand, sea, and surf generally ends up at one or the other. This mile-long stretch of white sand is just fifteen minutes from downtown—eight miles as the gull flies—and its neighbor is Two Lights State Park. All of which means it’s a hopping spot.

Crescent Beach is a pocket beach in an inlet—Seal Cove—between two headlands, and its shape indeed matches its name. The southeastern part of Cape Elizabeth, where Two Lights is located, shelters the beach from the east, and Richmond Island has it covered from the south. So it isn’t exposed much to the open sea and the surf is usually on the gentle side.

A barrier of grassy dunes separates the sand from a pine forest and these sandy ridges are busy with plovers and bedecked in beach roses in the high season. Rocks at the Two Lights end of the beach are fun to explore when the tide recedes. And the woods have a small network of trails connecting with nearby Kettle Cove State Park. It’s all very pleasant.

 

10 Other Beaches in Southern Maine

ePub

Elphis Road, off Route 208, Biddeford, 207-284-9307

Latitude: 43.4428

Longitude: -70.3402

Nearly two miles long, on the ocean side of the lagoon known as Biddeford Pool, this beach is a wonder. The beach—and the Pool itself—were created by shifting sand flowing out of the Saco River. It’s not the best address for a cottage—erosion remains a major issue and storms threaten houses—but it is a fantastic spot for swimming, surfing, and playing in the waves.

This is also one of the best birding destinations along the south coast. The open ocean, the lagoon, the marshes, the dunes—they all add up to prime habitat for our avian friends. So keep a keen eye.

Run by the City of Biddeford, the beach features lifeguards, restrooms, and public parking.

Fortunes Rocks Road, Biddeford, 207-284-9307

Latitude: 43.4336

Longitude: -70.3712

Fortune’s Rocks Beach faces the open sea from the east side of the finger that creates Biddeford Pool. At 3,740 feet, it is long and slender, with nothing to protect it from the full force of the Atlantic. Which means it’s a great spot for surfers, boogie boarders, and anyone else who likes to play in the breakers.

 

11 Phippsburg

ePub

10 Perkins Farm Lane, 207-389-1335

Latitude: 43.7468

Longitude: -69.7792

Set between the Kennebec and Morse rivers, Popham is by far the longest of the beaches in the Midcoast. The fine sand sprawls for more than three miles, and at low tide the beach is hundreds of feet wide. Surrounded by rocky shore for miles on either side, this beach is a geologic anomaly—one of the most welcome in all of Maine. The beach here is extraordinarily popular—a Portland Press Herald reader’s poll had it ranked third in the entire state. Indeed, few other Maine beaches have all that it has to offer.

For years, Popham has led the line among Maine state parks—swapping the top spot back and forth with nearby Reid State Park—and often by a significant margin. As many as 180,000 people visit in a typical year, the vast majority in the eight or ten weeks of summer. On a hot day in August the cars fill the lots and spill out onto the road.

Popham hangs in the Atlantic at the end of the Phippsburg peninsula, a miniature cape jutting into the Kennebec River delta. At one end is that famous Maine waterway and at the other is the local Morse River. Between them is the long, shifting arc of sand. The length of the beach is one of its primary appeals—walk one direction and you can splash in deep channels cut by migrating water, walk the other and you can climb onto rocks and small isles. Unlike most beaches, which are just flat plains of sand, Popham is so complex there’s days’ worth of stuff to explore.

 

12 Georgetown

ePub

375 Seguinland Road, 207-371-2303

Latitude: 43.7901

Longitude: -69.7284

Every Maine beach has cold water, but Reid State Park has a reputation for being the coldest of all. We’re talking all-over-ice-cream-headache type freezing. But that doesn’t stop the crowds. This is one of the premier beaches on the Gulf of Maine and, like Popham, one of the rare stretches of fine sand in the midcoast. Which means it’s one of the most popular places to be in the entire state on a sunny summer day. If it weren’t for Reid, most visitors to Maine wouldn’t have a clue where Georgetown is.

It’s easy to understand the appeal. Reid is a beach-lover’s beach—and the last big beach before the rocks take over. The sand here is soft and warm and stretches for more than a mile and a half between the Little River and Todd’s Head. There are real breakers for bodysurfing—boogie boards, however, are not allowed. Plus, there’s a shallow lagoon with its own beach where the water is probably twenty degrees warmer.

 

13 Bristol

ePub

Snowball Hill Road, 207-677-2754

Latitude: 43.8712

Longitude: -69.5195

Sand gets increasingly rare the farther north and east you travel on the Maine coast. That’s no secret. And it makes Pemaquid Beach, on the Pemaquid peninsula south of Damariscotta, something of a unique treasure. It’s one of the last best places to find a long stretch of white sand in the midcoast; even so, it’s nowhere near as packed on a hot summer day as the area’s other rarified strands, Popham and Reid state parks. Another classic beach-lover’s beach, Pemaquid boasts 575 yards of arcing white sand with all the amenities: changing rooms, showers, and snack bar.

The beach here is short and skinny compared to its cousins in the Bath area, fronting John’s Bay and its picturesque islands. Because it faces west, it doesn’t get the open ocean pounding that Reid does, and feels more like a harbor. (Leave the boards at home.) But the sand is soft and the swimming is great if you are of the warm-blooded sort—water temperatures are typically between 58 and 65 in the summer.

 

14 Owls Head

ePub

South Shore Road, 207-941-4014

Latitude: 44.0409

Longitude: -69.0931

Lucia Beach used to be something of a secret known only to locals and the occasional lucky visitor to Owls Head—which is surprising because it’s a stretch of sand in the midcoast where such things are precious commodities. Tucked away on an anonymous side road, it was far enough from the main drag that most of the sweating masses on Route 1 never found it.

In 1999, this property was acquired by the State of Maine as part of the Land for Maine’s Future Program and transformed into Birch Point State Park. Up went the sign indicating its existence to the motoring public. Yet it’s remained surprisingly quiet.

When you pull up to the parking lot, and then walk the few feet onto the sand, it often seems there are more vehicles than people to drive them. That’s because a lot of the locals bring beach chairs and tuck them into the rocks and crags on the small headlands that wrap their arms around the pocket beach, preferring privacy to prime real estate. The sand is rather course anyway, but it’s comfortable enough for a towel or blanket. And often it’s all but yours.

 

15 Lincolnville

ePub

Route 1

Latitude: 44.2847

Longitude: -69.0075

Driving north on Route 1 after Camden, you can’t miss this little beach. About 850 yards of grainy, tidal-wracked sand, it sits hard by the road. Across the street are a few shops and the local post office. Hemming in the beach to the north is the Lobster Pound Restaurant, a midcoast seafood institution. And immediately to the south is the state ferry to Islesboro, with its huge pier forming a literal wall at the end of the beach.

Like the small community that shares its name, Lincolnville Beach is ever busy on a summer day. Tourists passing by on their way to Acadia will slam on the brakes and hit the sand. Locals and people from nearby summer homes come daily and even travelers waiting for the ferry will take a quick dip first—until this strand is hopping.

This is a swimmers’ and gawkers’ beach. There are no breakers big enough for surfing and the space constraints don’t allow for much in the way of playing ball or jogging. But there’s plenty to look at, from the faces of your fellow beachgoers to the faces in the windows of the Lobster Pound, and from the long, slender island of Islesboro that dominates the horizon to the state ferry loaded up with cars making its way there across Penobscot Bay.

 

16 Other Beaches in the Midcoast

ePub

Thomas Point Road, off Route 24, Cook’s Corner, Brunswick, 207-725-6009

Latitude: 43.8945

Longitude: -69.8912

A private beach park on Thomas Bay, an inlet of the tidal New Meadows River—Thomas Point is better known for all the events it’s hosted over the years. From the Maine Festival to its own bluegrass fest, the place has put on decades of shindigs and almost always has a full calendar.

And it has its own little beach. Two hundred ninety yards of sand, which grows increasingly rare as you head up the mid-coast. The action here is at the whim of the tides, however, so you want to check the calendar if you intend to swim. There are lifeguards and the sands slope pleasingly to meet the lapping water and you can take a hot shower when you’re done.

Otherwise, you can enjoy a host of activities, from simple picnics (choose from more than four hundred tables) to games in the pinball arcade. Kids love the big playground and the arcade, parents love the horseshoe pits and snack bar.

 

17 Ellsworth

ePub

Route 184, 207-667-2242

Latitude: 44.4515

Longitude: -68.2856

Many of Maine’s beaches have fine views—it comes with the territory. But few offer sights quite like those at Lamoine Beach. From its sand you look out at an astonishing panorama—the mountains of Acadia National Park, all soaring and green. Mount Desert Island is less than a mile away across Eastern Bay. It’s rather magnificent and, when you combine it with a rare beach in the Down East region, it makes for a very appealing stop.

A lot of people confuse this little gem with nearby Lamoine State Park. This beach is the centerpiece of the town-run Lamoine Beach Park. It sprawls for more than 2,740 yards—yes, more than a mile of sand. Sand such as it is. Like many of the beaches of the eastern half of Maine, it’s comprised of a small-grained, course gravel. It is fairly narrow, and the sand gets grittier the farther toward the water you go, but there’s quite enough shore to go around.

The swimming is cold, as you can imagine, and the only surfing you’ll do here is the wind kind. The facilities are limited to picnic tables and a boat ramp. It’s a great place to launch a kayak for an exploration of Eastern Bay, and the wide grassy lawns that back up to the beach make for nice picnicking.

 

18 Bar Harbor

ePub

Park Loop Road, Acadia National Park, 207-288-3338

Latitude: 44.3292

Longitude: -68.1817

Sand Beach is a rarity—and not just because it’s a beach of fine sand in the Down East province of rock. The sand here is composed of calcium carbonate—crushed shells. When you’re running barefoot down to the water’s edge, you’re jogging over a cemetery of mussels, periwinkles, and sea urchins. Every beach has a certain amount of shell matter, but Sand Beach has the highest concentration north of Georgia—it’s made up of almost 70 percent of the stuff. Makes the name of the beach a bit ironic.

A small pocket beach 290 yards long, Sand is not only one of the most popular in the entire state of Maine but also among the most picturesque. To the east is Great Head, at 145 feet, it’s one of the highest headlands on the Atlantic Seaboard; and to the west is the Beehive, a craggy cliff face soaring up 520 feet (look closely and you can see climbers hugging the walls like so many bees). Out beyond the breakers directly in front of the sand is Old Soaker, a neat rock formation sticking up out of the sea, which has scuttled more than a few ships. And behind the beach is a marsh that beavers like to play in.

 

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