Posted: June 27, 2017
9 Maine beaches for each activity
Written by: Katy Kelleher
Up Next: Maine Mini Adventure: Swan Island for nature, Richmond for eats
We don’t normally advocate bad-mouthing our neighbor states, but did you know that Maine has over 17 times more coastline than New Hampshire? They’ve got a paltry 13 miles, while we boast a whopping 228. (Don’t even get me started on Vermont.) Plus, if you count all the islands and inlets, the sheltered coves and toe-shaped protrusions that make up the coast, you’ll get over 5,000 miles of ocean-adjacent land. But, you might be thinking, with that many miles to choose from, how do I decide where to park my beach towel? Since summer isn’t summer without a neoprene wedgie, salt-caked skin and at least one beach beer, here are nine fantastic beaches for a variety of seasonally appropriate adventures.
Staff photo by Whitney Hayward
Ride the waves
Higgins Beach, Scarborough
Craving the cowabunga lifestyle? You don't have to go to the left coast to catch a wave. Scarborough's Higgins Beach is popular amongst the surfing crowd, but since it's also beloved by many locals, we suggest getting there at the crack of dawn (or at dusk) for an unhurried "hang 10" experience.
Staff photo by Jill Brady
Bring your dog
Willard Beach, South Portland
With pretty trails, a cute li'l lighthouse view, a nice snack bar and showers, Willard might be Maine's best urban beach. Although it's located smack dab in South Portland, this pint-sized (4-acre) destination feels serene and secluded – except, that is, during peak dog hours. Before 9 a.m. and after 7 p.m., Willard Beach allows pups, and Mainers come out in droves to enjoy this unusual freedom. Aside from all the barking, it's actually quite nice to see dozens of animals frolicking in the surf.
Staff photo by Lianne Milton
Long walks on the beach
Popham Beach, Phippsburg
For a long, barefoot walk with your partner, taking breaks from gazing into each other's eyes to look at the rolling dunes, feel the fine sand and watch the sunset (and when the tide is low, walk out to Fox Island), this is your spot. Not the romantic type? You can also do the regular beach-friendly things at this sprawling state park, like collect shells, drink sodas from your cooler and bury your friends in the sand. But be warned: There's a strong surf at Popham and swimmers have been dragged by the occasional riptide, so stay in sight of the lifeguards.
Staff photo by Tim Greenway
Old Orchard Beach
Did you watch all six seasons of MTV’s Jersey Shore? If not, here’s the gist: Given the right company and an ample amount of hair gel, a trashy beach party can be crazy fun. The boardwalk at Old Orchard Beach is a tamer version of New Jersey’s iconic seaside amusement parks. And if you venture away from the delightfully tacky neon lights of Palace Playland (“Maine’s only beachfront amusement park”) and the outdoor bars, you will find that OOB is still classic Maine.
Staff photo by Ben McCanna
Worship the sun
Crescent Beach, Cape Elizabeth
Slather on the SPF 50; you'll want to stay all day at this picturesque Cape Elizabeth beach. You can lounge on the soft white sand for hours before dipping your toes into the chilly waters of the cove. When your beach read starts to get boring, mix it up by talking a stroll over to Kettle Cove, where you can find sea critters hiding in tidal pools among the jagged rock formations.
Staff photo by Ben McCanna
Laudholm Beach, Wells
If you're interested in ornithology, you'll enjoy the long walk to Laudholm Beach through the Wells Reserve. Seven miles of glorious trails (easy to moderate difficulty) take visitors through salt marshes to mud flats to boggy green woods. If you take a direct route, the walk to the beach will take less than an hour. On the beach, keep your eyes peeled for terns, piping plovers and sunbathing seals.
Staff Photo by Gregory Rec
Get down with SUP
Ferry Beach, Saco
Standup paddle boarding is all the rage, and for good reason. The sport is easy-breezy for beginners to pick up, particularly if you've got a sheltered stretch of water. Ferry Beach State Park in Saco fits the bill perfectly. The popular park also boasts picnic tables, changing rooms, a nature center and a rare stand of tupelo trees. (Also known as black gum trees, this species seldom grows so far north.)
Photo courtesy of Maine Office of Tourism
Birch Point, Owls Head
Despite its scenic views, Birch Point State Park in Owls Head remains an under-the-radar gem. Located 15 minutes from Rockland on a small peninsula on the western side of Penobscot Bay, this crescent-shaped beach is good for swimming, picnicking and other leisurely activities. Bring tools to make sandcastles and plenty of sandwiches; there's no lifeguard stand or snack bar.
Photo by Collin Blunk
For the anti-social
Cutler Coast, Cutler
Even in the depths of summer, you'll see few other hikers at Culter Coast Public Reserve Land. Located way, way Down East on the dramatic Bold Coast, this park has over 10 miles of hiking trials that wind along cliff edges and down to pebbly beaches. Backpack into one of the barebones tent sites (there's no bathrooms or running water this far in the woods, so plan accordingly) and spend a weekend exploring the pine forests and seaweed-covered shores.