The Maine coast stretches 228 miles from Kittery to Eastport as the crow flies, but trace a sinuous line around every beach and cove, peninsula and headland, bay and island and you’ll measure an astounding 3,478 miles.
Amid this amazingly diverse geography are more than 100 comfy campgrounds close to a myriad of things to see and do in summertime, like forts and lighthouses, picturesque towns and villages, museums and historic sites, public and private lands with trails of every kind, plus lobster rolls and blueberry pies and so much more.
So grab your camping gear, load up the friends and family, and make the trip for a weekend or a week. Here are some recommendations for great camping fun.
At Cape Neddick Oceanside Campground on Cape Neddick Harbor in York, campers can pitch a tent or set up a tent camper on oceanfront sites and enjoy the salty air and sea view right from the camp chair.
Beachgoers can enjoy the sun and waves at nearby Short Sands and Long Sands beaches and the vibrant street scene in York Beach. Nubble Light has been helping to protect mariners since 1879; get a good view of it from Sothier Park. Drive the auto road to the top Mount Agamenticus for panoramic views or hike or mountain bike the extensive trail network.
More info: www.harbourview.com or 363-4366
Situated in the cool forests of Arundel, Hemlock Grove Campground aims to provide “a northern Maine atmosphere with southern Maine convenience” camping experience. Large sites among the tall trees accommodate everything from tents to RVs.
Four beaches are convenient to the campground, including Kennebunk, Parsons, Goose Rocks and Fortune Rocks.
In Kennebunkport, hikers and mountain bikers can walk and ride to their heart’s content in the 1,300-acre Edwin L. Smith Preserve. History buffs will like the Seashore Trolley Museum, the oldest and largest electric railway museum in the world, while shoppers can peruse the shops at Dock Square.
More info: hemlockgrovecampground.com or 985-0398
Bayleys Camping Resort in Scarborough is a camping paradise for families and kids of all ages, with three heated pools, four hot tubs, game room and arcade, three fishing ponds, three playgrounds, a cafe serving meals all day, two camp stores, a recreation center with regularly scheduled activities and nightly entertainment.
Bayley’s operates hourly shuttles to Pine Point Beach and Old Orchard Beach, the latter with its famous ocean pier. There are also twice daily shuttles to the amusement rides at Funtown Splashtown USA. Meander on foot or by bicycle along the Eastern Trail through the wildlife-rich Scarborough Marsh, or rent a canoe or kayak from the Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center for a fun paddle on the Dunstan River.
More info: www.bayleys-camping.com or 883-6043
Bradbury Mountain State Park is home to 35 quiet, wooded campsites on Route 9 in rural Pownal. Established in 1939, the park sports 20 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding.
Favored by hikers are the trails on the west side of Route 9, which reach the open summit ledges of Bradbury Mountain and fine ocean views. East of the road are miles of dedicated single track trails perfect for the fat tire enthusiast. The shopping mecca of Freeport is just a few miles away, anchored by the venerable L.L. Bean retail store.
More info: www.maine.gov/dacf/parks or 688-4712
Situated on 626 acres of farmland and forest with four miles of frontage on Casco Bay is Recompense Shore Campground in Freeport.
Operated as part of the nonprofit Wolfe’s Neck Farm, the campground boasts 130 oceanfront, wooded and field campsites plus three rustic camping cottages. Family-friendly amenities include bicycle, canoe and kayak rentals and hiking on three miles of trails. Hayrides and lobster and clam bakes are popular here in high summer. Close by is Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park, a 200-acre preserve with many more picnicking, hiking, paddling and bird-watching opportunities.
More info: freeportcamping.com or 865-9307
Not far from the southern tip of the Phippsburg Peninsula at Small Point is Hermit Island Campground. Separated from the mainland by a causeway and Head Beach, the campground features 299 campsites, many of which have bold ocean locations and far-reaching views. Amenities include the Kelp Shed with its fireplace, pool table, video games and picnic tables, plus the popular Snack Bar.
Explore the sandy stretches of Head, Sand Dune, West Dune and Lagoon beaches and the rocky headlands at Joe’s Point, Breakwater Point and Osprey Point, or tackle the color-coded trails that loop around the north end of Hermit Island. A few miles east is Popham Beach State Park, a great spot for a beachcombing saunter with camera and binoculars. Nearby, tour the grounds of Fort Popham, an old battlement constructed to defend the mouth of the Kennebec River.
More info: www.hermitisland.com or 443-2101
Tents, camper trailers and RVs are welcome at Lake Pemaquid Campground on the beautiful 7-mile long lake of the same name in Damariscotta, where 200 campsites as well as cabins and cottages await. Enjoy swimming at the sandy beach and boating and fishing on the lake, plus a swimming pool, sauna and hot tubs, store, snack bar and marina.
The Pemaquid Watershed Association maintains miles of hiking trails at La Verna and Crooked Farm preserves and several other locations on the Pemaquid Peninsula in Bristol. Trundle down to Pemaquid Point for a visit to the famous Pemaquid Lighthouse, then swing around Johns Bay to see Pemaquid Beach and take a stroll through the Colonial Pemaquid State Historic Site.
More info: www.lakepemaquid.com or 563-5202
Lobster Buoy Campsites occupies a scenic spot right on Waterman Beach in South Thomaston, where all 40 campsites have a grand view out to the Muscle Islands just offshore and beyond to Vinalhaven in the Gulf of Maine. Offering old-fashioned camping with simple amenities, this spot is popular with saltwater anglers, sea kayakers and bicyclists.
Launch your kayak for a paddling tour of the islands or pedal the byways down to Port Clyde and back. Visit the Owls Head Transportation Museum for a look at its amazing collection of antique automobiles, airplanes, bicycles, carriages, motorcycles and engines.
More info: www.facebook.com/LobsterBuoyCampsites or 594-7546
In Camden Hills State Park, more than 100 well-spaced campsites are available on the east side of the 6,200-acre preserve, complete with hot showers and a playground for kids.
Hike directly into the park from the campground, climbing to the summits of Mount Battie, Mount Megunticook and Bald Rock Mountain, where ocean views are the reward. Put your canoe or kayak in at Barrett’s Cove for a fine paddle around Megunticook Lake and a look up at the steep walls of Maiden’s Cliff. Sample the shops and eateries in the pretty harbor town of Camden.
More info: www.maine.gov/dacf/parks or 236-3109
A stay at Somes Sound View Campground in Hall Quarry puts you right in the heart of the recreation action on Mount Desert Island while offering breathtaking views of Sargent and Norumbega mountains in Acadia National Park. More than 50 sites cater to tents, campers and RVs. Canoe and kayak rentals are available as are paddle boats for putting around the old granite quarry. A heated pool and playground round out the amenities.
Fifty miles of bike-friendly carriage roads and 120 miles of hiking trails weave through the park amid some of the most spectacular natural scenery on the coast of Maine. Drive the Park Loop Road, visit a lighthouse, take a ferry ride to an island or shop till you drop in Bar Harbor.
More info: www.ssvc.info or 244-3890
Enjoy oceanfront camping with profile views of the peaks of Acadia at Flanders Bay Cabins and Mountain View Campground on the Schoodic Byway in East Sullivan. Take a walk on the beach, go kayaking, dig for clams or just relax and watch the lobster boats motor past.
The nearby Downeast Sunrise Trail offers great biking along its 85-mile route from Ellsworth to Calais, while plenty of hiking can be had on the trails and preserves of the Frenchman Bay Conservancy. Go for a drive around Schoodic Point or take a puffin cruise to Petit Manan Island.
More info: www.flandersbay.com or 422-6408
Head way Downeast to Cobscook Bay State Park in Edmunds to pitch your tent amid the fragrant spruces lining Whiting Bay and watch the amazing twice-daily ebb and flow of the 24-foot tides. Bird and animal life abounds in this rich environment as do opportunities for hiking, boating and biking right in the park.
Visit the pretty fishing town of Lubec and continue on into Canada to tour the Roosevelt-Campobello International Park. Hike the miles of Cobscook Trails scattered about the region or wander down to the candy-striped lighthouse at West Quoddy Head, the eastern most point in the U.S.
More info: www.maine.gov/dacf/parks or 726-4412
Published by the Maine Campground Owners Association, this state directory features locator maps and a complete list of amenities offered by each camping facility, plus season dates and contact information as well as suggested things to do in each region. For more info, visit www.campmaine.com or call 782-5874.
Note: This piece first appeared in the May 25, 2014 edition of Exploring Maine, a special section of the Portland Press Herald.