Posted: June 13, 2017
Beach like a local at Maine’s lesser-known spots
Written by: Ray Routhier
Up Next: Tour the Portland Observatory for free on Flag Day
Do you want to beach like a Mainer? Do you want to be able to get around crowded lots, avoid entrance fees and sunbathe in the shadow of lobster boats? Well, you can, if you know where to go. While the traditional, touristy thing to do is pack up the SUV and head to a big public beach with a big pay parking lot, crafty Mainers have other ways to enjoy more secluded, quiet or slightly out-of-the-way coastal retreats. Sometimes it’s just knowing the right time to go, or the right place to park. Sometimes it means looking a little harder for a tucked-away strand you probably drive by 10 times a week. On Father’s Day, the state allows free admission for Maine residents to many, but not all, of its state parks. Among the popular beach state parks that will be free are Crescent Beach State Park in Cape Elizabeth, Ferry Beach State Park in Saco and Popham Beach State Park in Phippsburg. Go here for a list of state parks with free admission Sunday, and see below for tips on how — no matter where in or outside the state you live — to beach like a local.
Staff photo by Gregory Rec
CLIFF HOUSE BEACH Sea View Avenue, Cape Elizabeth
Off busy Shore Road is the small town-owned Cliff House Beach. You could drive by Sea View Avenue 100 times and never see it, because the street is all residential and there's no outward signs of a beach. To find it, you walk or bike to the end of Sea View, which takes only a few minutes. There's a bench, a grassy hill and a steep stairway, with a railing, leading down to the beach. Depending on the tides, there can be quite a bit of sand. The place has beautiful views of Casco Bay and a secluded feel since it's far below homes built on the surrounding cliffs. So next time you're walking down Shore Road, after picking up some donuts at the Cookie Jar bakery, impress your friends by taking them to this almost-secret beach.
Staff photo by Logan Werlinger
MACKEREL COVE25 Abner Point Road, Bailey Island, Harpswell
The town of Harpswell maintains this little pebbly beach with a small parking area and grassy field. It's secluded because Bailey Island is not on the way to anywhere and not known for public beach access. But locals know that Mackerel Cove is one of the most picturesque spots in southern Maine, with a fleet of lobster boats, old wharves and views of quaint cottages. You can swim there, and it's a great place for finding hermit crabs. There's usually a picnic table or two, and an old rope swing. While at Mackerel Cove, it's easy to walk further down Route 24 to the Giant's Stairs trail. Not a beach, but a vista of some of the most dramatic rocky shore and crashing surf in Maine.
Staff photo by Ben McCanna
KETTLE COVEKettle Cove Road, Cape Elizabeth
Kettle Cove is the smaller, but incredibly beautiful, beach and woodland area that is an extension of Crescent Beach State Park. If you can't find parking at Crescent Beach, you can often park at Kettle Cove and walk over. There is a fee, but serve-yourself pay boxes instead of manned ticket booths. So the turnover is often quick, and if you drive a couple loops around the parking lot, you can usually find a spot. Plus, the state fee is only $3, compared to $6 at Crescent. And Kettle Cove also has walking trails through woods that lead to yet another beach besides the one you can see from the parking area. There's also a grassy area, perfect for picnicing, that juts out into the water, high above the waves.
Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette
FERRY BEACH STATE PARK95 Bayview Road, Saco
Not a secret to anyone, but this beach is worth checking out at least once, like Sunday when it's going to be free. The whole state park is about 100 acres, so besides the wind-swept, white sand beach there are trails through wooded wetlands. From the beach you can see, and walk, miles of sand that stretch along Saco Bay north to Pine Point in Scarborough. Admission is normally $5 for adults, so bring a group Sunday to enjoy the beach.
Photo courtesy of Head Beach Campground & Cottages
HEAD BEACH545 Small Point Road, Phippsburg
Most people who go to the beach in Phippsburg go to Popham Beach State Park, and for good reason. It's Maine's most popular beach because it's beautiful, sandy and expansive. But Head Beach in nearby Small Point offers a 1,000-foot beach near the tip of the peninsula, which looks out across Casco Bay. It's a good spot for swimming and sunbathing, with smaller crowds and more privacy than Popham. Head Beach is part of the family-owned Head Beach Campground and Cottages. Non-registered campground guests pay a $5 parking fee. No pets.
Photo by Holli Allaire
EAST POINT SANCTUARYFletcher Neck, Biddeford Pool
The bird sanctuary in Biddeford is not a sandy beach and perhaps not the best place to swim. But it's ideal for picnics and exploring. Located among private residences and a golf course, East Point Sanctuary includes a short trail along the perimeter of the point that provides public access to this stretch of the southern Maine coast. The walk offers nice views of Wood Island's lighthouse. Bring binoculars to look for water and shore birds. There are a few parking spots at the end of Lester B. Orcutt Blvd., as well as room on the shoulder for a few more cars. The entrance is marked. There's a short right-of-way trail among private residences that leads to the main sanctuary trail.
Photo by Kim Lincoln
GOODIE'S BEACH111 Pascal Ave., Rockport
You could easily visit the Rockport Marine Park and never know there was a beach right there. Next to the harbor master's office, out of view from the parking lot, is a small strip of sand where you can sunbathe then go for a swim right into the same harbor where the famous trick-performing seal Andre made his home. While you're there, you can visit the statue of Andre in the park and admire the pleasure boats in the harbor. There's not a lot of information out there about Goodie's Beach, aside from some less-than-perfect pollution reports, but maybe that's what help keeps it from getting overcrowded.
Staff writers Bob Keyes and Leslie Bridgers contributed to this report.