Maine's spectacular coastline spans 3,478 miles along the Atlantic Ocean, longer than the entire coastline of the state of California. Portland offers convenient access to a number of public beaches. For beachgoers looking for a more undeveloped beachfront experience, Crescent Beach State Park extends for more than a mile along Cape Elizabeth, while Popham Beach State Park serves as a prime spot for swimming, surfing, and shell collecting. Certain attractions may be temporarily closed or require advance reservations. Some restaurants are currently offering pickup only. Hours/availability may have changed.
2.Crescent Beach State Park
3.Scarborough Beach State Park
5.Pine Point Beach
6.Old Orchard Beach
7.Popham Beach State Park
7 Best Beaches Near Portland, Maine
- Willard Beach, Photo: Kristina/stock.adobe.com
- Crescent Beach State Park, Photo: Alexander Ozerov/stock.adobe.com
- Scarborough Beach State Park, Photo: Eric BVD/stock.adobe.com
- Ferry Beach, Photo: TSL Photography/stock.adobe.com
- Pine Point Beach, Photo: Kristina/stock.adobe.com
- Old Orchard Beach, Photo: ROBERT/stock.adobe.com
- Popham Beach State Park, Photo: jpeacockcad/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: jonbilous/stock.adobe.com
More Ideas: Mount Desert Island
Located in Hancock County, Maine, Mount Desert Island is the largest island along the Maine coastline and the sixth-largest contiguous island in the United States, second on the American East Coast only to New York’s Long Island.
The land that now encompasses Mount Desert Island was formed approximately 550 million years ago as the result of seafloor mud deposits that created the Ellsworth Schist Formation, which was thrust upward above the ocean during the Ordovician Period collision of the Acadian orogeny. During the Pleistocene epoch, the recession of the Laurentide Ice Sheet caused a number of glacially-carved moraines, valleys, and other natural features. Human occupation of the island dates back at least 6,000 years ago, with Wabanaki indigenous people referring to the island as Pemetic, or “the sloping land,” and using its terrain for hunting, fishing, and gathering purposes. In 1604, the island was discovered by French navigator Samuel de Champlain, who named it L'île des Monts Déserts, or “Island of Lonely Mountains.”
Saint Sauveur Mission, the first French mission in America, was established in 1613 by French Jesuits on Fernald Point near the entrance to Somes Sound. Two months after its establishment, the mission was burned to the ground by Colony of Virginia Captain Samuel Argall. Following the raid, the island became a point of boundary contention between French and British colonies until 1759, when British troops took control of the Acadia region. During the 19th century, the island saw a boom in farming and lumbering industry work and became a popular hub for artists with the opening of the Hudson River School. In the late 19th century, island tourism increased as the rusticator movement made the Maine coastline a popular tourist destination for Gilded Age New Englanders, though many tourist attractions were destroyed as part of a 1947 island-wide fire. In 1919, Lafayette National Park, which was renamed Acadia National Park in 1929, was established to preserve much of the island’s land as a natural refuge. In 1969, the College of the Atlantic was established as the island’s first and only institute of higher education.
Today, Mount Desert Island is recognized as the second-largest island on the American East Coast, second only to New York’s Long Island. The island has a year-round population of more than 10,000 and welcomes at least 2.5 million annual tourists to its attractions. It is home to four main town areas, including Bar Harbor, Mount Desert, Southwest Harbor, and Tremont, which all offer a variety of tourist attractions and overnight accommodations.
Bar Harbor, which was first settled in 1763 and originally named Eden, is home to a population of more than 5,000 today and has served as a popular tourist destination since the late 19th century. The town is the home of the largest portion of Acadia National Park, which spans more than 47,000 acres of land throughout the Schoodic Peninsula and Isle au Haut region. The park is operated year-round and showcases a visitor center with historical exhibits, a 50-mile carriage trail network, 158 miles of hiking trails, and three overnight campsites. An official park restaurant, the Jordan Pond House Restaurant, is operated mid-May through late October and serves lunch, dinner, and tea fare.
Mount Desert, which was incorporated in 1789 and is home to a population of more than 2,000, spans the villages of Hall Quarry, Northeast Harbor, Otter Creek, Pretty Marsh, Seal Harbor, and Somesville. A United States Coast Guard facility is maintained in Southwest Harbor, which is also home to the headquarters of Hinckley Yachts and Ellis Boat Company. The town of Tremont, located on the island’s southwestern side, is also referred to as “the backside” and is home to Bass Harbor, which serves as the terminus for several island ferry lines.
A wide variety of natural activities are offered throughout the area, including a two-mile hiking trail on Bar Island, an island attached to mainland Bar Harbor via a sandbar land bridge exposed during low tide conditions. Mountain climbing opportunities are offered around nearby Cadillac Mountain, the highest peak on the Eastern seaboard. More than 20 cruise ships service the town’s harbor throughout the summer and fall seasons, offering a variety of excursion and nature-viewing cruise opportunities throughout the Maine coastal region. Area attractions include the George B. Dorr Museum of Natural History, the Mount Desert Oceanarium, and the Abbe Museum, which celebrates the indigenous cultures of the Wabanaki Confederacy. A variety of dining and shopping options are also offered within Bar Harbor’s historic downtown district, and a number of hotel, motel, bed and breakfast, and campground accommodations are offered throughout the island.
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More Ideas: Peaks Island
Located within Casco Bay off the eastern coast of the United States, Peaks Island is incorporated as part of the city of Portland and is best known for its historic designation as “Maine’s Coney Island,” though the island’s amusement attractions are no longer standing.
Peaks Island has been known by several names throughout its recorded history, including Pond, Michael’s, Munjoy’s, and Palmer’s Island. Following the island’s resettlement in 1716, the island began to be referred to by its modern name of Peaks Island, assumed to refer to Captain Joseph Peake. As the largest island within Casco Bay, the island measures 1 ½-miles long and ¼-mile wide. For much of its history, the island’s economy was dominated by farming and fishing, but during the late 19th century, the island gained national notoriety as a popular summer tourist destination for Gilded Age rusticators from New York City and New England. During this period, the island was home to several prominent theaters and amusement attractions, including the Greenwood Gardens Amusement Park, which offered an open-air roller rink, a Ferris wheel, a carousel, a dance hall and bandstand, a beerhaus, an observation tower, a shooting gallery, a bowling alley, and the Greenwood Garden Playhouse, which served as a popular touring site for theatrical productions aiming to head to Broadway. The success of Greenwood Gardens throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries earned the island the nickname “the Coney Island of Maine.” Other prominent structures on the island included the Gem Theater, the Pavilion, and the Union House Hotel.
Tourism to the island began to decline in the 1920s, and a series of fires on the island throughout the early 20th century resulted in the destruction of a number of attractions, including a 1936 fire that destroyed 17 structures, including the Union House Hotel. Only the Avenue House Hotel and several structures from the Greenwood Gardens complex remain standing on the island today. During World War II, the island was home to several military structures, including Battery Steele, which held two 16-inch guns. Throughout the 20th century, the island regained its historic quaint atmosphere and became a popular summer destination for artists and retirees.
Today, Peaks Island is the most populous island within the Casco Bay and is located approximately three miles from downtown Portland, Maine. Though the island has attempted to secede as an independent town, all efforts have failed and the island remains incorporated as part of the city of Portland. The island’s year-round population hovers just under 1,000, though summer tourism substantially increases population numbers. In recent years, the island has attempted to distance itself from its Gilded Age amusement heritage and regain a small-town, family-friendly atmosphere.
Peaks Island is accessible from the mainland via the Casco Bay Lines passenger transit service, which transports more than one million annual travelers to eight islands within Casco Bay and provides mail service and education transportation for island residents. The service, which began year-round transit in 1878 as the Casco Bay Steamboat Company, was rebranded as Casco Bay Lines in 1919 and taken over by the nonprofit Casco Bay Island Transit District corporation in 1981. Daily ferry service is provided from Portland and nearby Bailey, Chebeague, Great and Little Diamond, Long, and Cliff Islands and Diamond Cove. A variety of scenic tours and special excursion cruises are also offered, including music cruises featuring local musicians and special event cruises in correlation with major holidays.
All Casco Bay Lines ferries dock at the island’s Forest City Landing, which has been the island’s docking site since the 1880s. Most island travel is accomplished on foot or by bicycle, with golf cart rentals available from Island Tours or Mike’s Carts during the tourist season. Visitors wishing to explore the island via golf cart are advised to book in advance, as rentals book early during the tourist season. Bicycles and kayaks may also be rented at Brad and Wyatt’s Bike Shop.
Island attractions include the Fifth Maine Museum, which honors the Fifth Maine Regiment of the American Civil War, the Eighth Maine Regiment Memorial, which preserves a living history museum lodge, and the Umbrella Cover Museum. Natural attractions include the Backshore, Sandy Beach, Centennial Beach, and Cairn Beach. The island’s business district is located along Island Avenue, offering a variety of shops and galleries, including Take a Peak, the Richard Boyd Art Gallery, Peaks Beads, and Peg’s Pots, Etc. Restaurants on the island include the Cockeyed Gull, and the restaurant of the Inn on Peaks. Pastries such as cinnamon buns are offered at the Peaks Cafe, while freshly-roasted coffee is served at Peaks Island Coffee Roasters. The island is also noted for its Down Front ice cream parlor, which serves 21 flavors of premium ice cream and soft serve. Overnight accommodations are available at the Inn on Peaks, the Eighth Maine Oceanfront Lodge, and through weekly private cottage rentals. Annual special events include the Peaks Island Music Association’s summer concert series and holiday concert and the annual PeaksFest community festival, held in June.
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More Ideas: Hermit Island
Located in Small Point, Maine, Hermit Island is the site of a popular family-friendly seasonal campground, offering rustic campground sites, eight private beaches, hiking and boating experiences, and a snack bar and camp store.
Hermit Island’s name was coined by Small Point resident Sumner Sewall, who visited the island as a child and encountered an isolated cabin belonging to an old man who lived a hermit lifestyle. Following a career as an airline executive and a term as the state’s governor from 1941-1945, Sewall returned to the Small Point region. In 1948, he and his two sons purchased the island’s land for the purposes of starting a lobster trapping and selling business. As a result of falling revenue and increasing taxes, Sewall laid out 14 campground sites along the island’s shore and began a campsite rental business in 1952. Throughout the late 20th century, the campsite grew to become one of the largest campgrounds in the region.
Attractions and Campsites
Today, Hermit Island Campground offers 271 campsites in a historic, family-friendly campground setting. The campground is open for reservations on Memorial Day through Columbus Day, with limited operations between Memorial Day and mid-June and between Labor Day and Columbus Day. It is accessible via a sand causeway from mainland Small Point and remains rustic in nature, offering no electricity or running water at campsites. Campsites accommodate tents, trucks, and pop-up trailers up to 25 feet in size. All campsites offer picnic tables, fire pits, and parking for one car, with free bathrooms and hot showers offered at a central site.
Visitor check-in is handled at the campground’s Kelp Shed, which also serves as an information desk and posts notices about guided nature walks offered throughout the season. A sand volleyball court, outdoor ping-pong tables, a pool table, and video games are offered at the Shed for visitor entertainment. Behind the Shed, a Snack Bar offers picnic table and deck seating and serves standard American fare such as hamburgers and grilled cheese sandwiches at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Ice cream from local chain Gifford’s is also available. A Camp Store sells groceries and sundries, including clams and lobsters for campfire cooking, and a Gift Shop sells souvenirs such as t-shirts, jewelry, and books. Two docking facilities are offered for visitors with boats under 20 feet long, with reservations required for extended boat docking.
Swimming and bathing opportunities are offered at a variety of sites throughout the island, including the Bath Tub. Eight white sand beaches are located throughout the island, with most accessible only to Hermit Island Campground campers. Head Beach, which is located near the campground’s entrance, is the only public-access beach on the island, offering ample visitor parking and public restroom facilities. Sand Dune and West Dune Beaches are located within the campground facility and are directly accessible via footpath from several campsites. Nearby, Lagoon Beach offers sunset-viewing opportunities over the Sunset Lagoon region of the island, and Spring Beach offers a hidden getaway along the shores of a forested area. The unmarked Bounty Cove Beach serves as a popular sunbathing spot, while Sailboat Beach offers tide pooling experiences and Sand Dollar Beach offers opportunities to collect sand dollars that have washed ashore. Most beaches are only accessible via hiking trail, and visitors are advised to exercise caution due to terrain and water conditions.
A number of hiking trails are offered on the island, including the Red and Blue Trails, which travel along the island’s coastline and provide ocean views. The Orange Trail travels along the island’s forested interior and provides access to several of the island’s beaches. Spring Beach Trail follows the path of an old wagon route, while the three-trail White Trail system leads to the island’s northern coast. Wildlife watching opportunities are provided along most trails, including opportunities to see bird and deer species. Biking opportunities are also offered for island visitors, though bikes are not allowed on hiking trails.
Kayak and canoe rentals are offered by Seaspray Kayaks, located within Sand Dune Beach. Fishing is allowed along the island’s waters, and guided fishing trips are offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Guided tours by the island’s staff biologist are offered periodically, including tide pooling, wildlife watching, and hiking trips. A variety of narrated boating excursions are also offered aboard the island’s official Yankee vessel, including nature excursions and sunset tours. Visitors wishing to register for Yankee tours during their stay should book tour slots early, as tours fill up quickly during the campground’s peak season. The full seasonal Yankee tour schedule can be found on the campground’s website.
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