Sand Beach in Acadia National ParkPhoto Credit : Dobbs Productions/Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce
Beaches make up just an estimated 2 percent of Maine’s tidal shoreline — which winds through countless inlets and bays as it spans 3,500 miles from Kittery to Calais — but what they lack in area, they more than make up for in appeal. Southern Maine is marked by stretches of soft, white sand; farther north, the beaches turn more ruggedly scenic. Surfers, swimmers, strollers, and beachcombers can be found in happy abundance on these shores — and each will tell you their favorite sandy haunt is the best. The following roundup of best beaches in Maine is drawn from Yankee’s travel writings, places that our editors have returned to again and again over the years. Do you have a beach you’d like to add to the list? Tell us about it in the comments below!
Crescent Beach State Park | Cape Elizabeth
This sandy break in Maine’s famous “rockbound coast” is a mile-long gem just south of Portland. Sheltered from the open Atlantic by Cape Elizabeth (that’s the cape’s famous Two Lights to the east), the surf here is gentle and warmer than most Maine ocean waters, making Crescent Beach attractive to swimmers and sea kayakers. Add in picnic tables, grills, and a playground, and you’ve got a popular family beach, too.
Ferry Beach State Park | Saco
Only two miles from the heart of bustling Old Orchard Beach lies a 117-acre beach park ideal for families. Along with picnicking beneath a covered shelter and swimming off the white sand beach (accessible through an underpass from the picnic spot), the park is notable for its inviting walking paths, nearly two miles of trails that cut through forest, and a rare tupelo swamp over a raised boardwalk.
Footbridge Beach | Ogunquit
Ogunquit’s clifftop Marginal Way gets most of the attention, but just to the north, the barrier sands of Footbridge Beach are right on the water. Accessible by a footbridge from town, the beach lies at the quiet northern end of a three-mile swatch of sand. Facilities include a snack stand and restrooms; for restaurants and chair rentals, stroll south to Ogunquit Beach (below).
Old Orchard Beach |Old Orchard Beach
Known as a resort destination since the mid-19th century, Old Orchard Beach holds its place as Maine’s liveliest seaside draw. Its seven-mile strand, embracing Saco Bay just south of Portland (and accessible via Amtrak’s Downeaster), fronts a busy mélange of motels, restaurants, snack bars, shops, and the Palace Playland amusement park with its recently built roller coaster and Ferris wheel; a 500-foot pier carries the fun out to sea.
Ogunquit Beach | Ogunquit
“Beautiful place by the sea,” or ogunquit, is how the Algonquin Indians described this 3.5-mile stretch of flat sand along the southern Maine coast. Add the Marginal Way, a paved footpath that leads from Main Beach up the rugged shores to the picturesque fishing harbor and seafood restaurants of Oarweed and Perkins Coves, and you have one of the most popular summer destinations in New England.
Popham Beach State Park | Phippsburg
There’s nothing manicured about this rare spit of sand sandwiched between rocky shores. Pieces of driftwood lie on the beach, backed by dwarf pines and uprooted trees. When the water rolls in, kids swim in the warm (yes, warm) waters of the tidal pool as parents take long beach walks, watching three-masted schooners and lobstermen cruise past pine-studded islands and lighthouses. Let the cool breeze blow through your hair and breathe in the salty air. This is the raw, genuine Maine coast you’ve yearned for.
Reid State Park | Georgetown
Reid State Park is a natural wonder unto itself, containing not only wide sand beaches, dunes, and salt marshes, but also a tidal lagoon where the waters tend to be at least 10 to 15 degrees warmer than the open ocean. Folks who turn blue after 10 minutes in the beach surf can float and soak and paddle in the lagoon all day. Don’t miss Griffith Head, a rocky outcrop overlooking the park and an ideal vantage point for viewing nearby lighthouses and islands.
Roque Bluffs State Park | Roque Bluffs
Few coastal parks offer as much variety of terrain as Roque Bluffs — and hardly any give visitors a choice of salt- or fresh-water beaches. The pebbly shore along Englishman Bay is the place for a typically bracing Maine dip, while shallow Simpson Pond is a hot tub by comparison. On dry land, enjoy six miles of trails that weave through nearly 300 acres of woodland and meadows and along the rocky bluffs.
Sand Beach | Acadia National Park
Sand is in short supply along Acadia’s rocky shores, but this 300-yard beach on Mount Desert Island’s east side has its share, largely composed of pulverized shells. It’s a great spot for an invigorating swim and the starting place of scenic trails, but beach glass collectors come here for the translucent jewels (even pink shows up on occasion) tossed and polished over decades in the ocean.
Short Sands Beach | York
The appeal of Short Sands Beach lies in the nostalgic beach-town pleasures just a short stroll away: playing Skee-Ball at the Fun-O-Rama arcade, shopping for souvenirs, queuing up for kiddie rides, and visiting the animals at York’s Wild Kingdom. When hunger strikes, grab lunch at the Goldenrod, where antique machines pull, cut, and wrap the saltwater taffy that’s been made here using the same recipe since 1896. Bonus: There’s another mile-plus of beach to explore one mile south, at Long Sands Beach, where sharp-eyed kids can find lucky sand dollars.