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Maine is home to more miles of coastline than California, but since less than 2 percent of that shoreline is actually sandy beach, travelers may not think of Maine as the ideal destination for lounging by the sea. If you’re in this beautiful state, though, and you’re craving a day in the sun, you need only head to the south, as the majority of Maine’s beaches are located between the towns of Portland and Kittery. From busy boardwalks to quiet coves, this part of the state has myriad idyllic seaside options to swim, sunbathe, and even surfcast. Here are our picks for the best 11 beaches in Maine.
Related: The Best Times to Visit Maine for Lower Prices, Fewer Crowds, and the Best Lobster
Long Sands Beach, York
Incorporated in 1652, York is the second oldest town in Maine. Now a classic summer vacation destination, Long Sands Beach is a great option for travelers coming from the south, as the beach sits close to the New Hampshire border. York Beach Village is home to The Goldenrod, a classic soda fountain offering more than 100 flavors of ice cream and homemade candy, plus a number of hotels (including the newly opened York Beach Surf Club) and a seaside arcade. Long Sands Beach is one mile long and between York Harbor and York Beach. There’s a large parking lot with metered parking, as well as a public restroom facility.
Wells Beach, Wells
Wells Beach consists of more than a mile of sandy shore and sea dunes, and those are connected to the adjacent Crescent Beach and Wells Beach jetty; the latter is made up of nearly 20,000 pounds of granite and was built to protect the channels of Wells Harbor. There are actually four beaches here, but Wells Beach is the most popular. There are lifeguards on duty during peak season, and you can walk to nearby eateries if you work up an appetite. Wells is also located on the Amtrak Downeaster route from Boston, making it an ideal stop for northbound visitors.
Main Beach, Ogunquit
Home to a charming downtown — complete with the Ogunquit Playhouse, which was built in 1933 — Ogunquit boasts more than three miles of sandy shore. Just a 20-minute walk from town, Main Beach offers ample space for visitors to spread out and enjoy the sun and sea. Beach chair rentals are available, including adirondack chairs under an awning, if you’d like a shady retreat. There’s paid parking, plus lifeguards on duty during select hours and restrooms with outdoor showers.
Goose Rocks Beach, Kennebunkport
Kennebunkport is home to a number of sandy coastal stretches, and Goose Rocks Beach is a favorite. “We sit in a protected cove, so the waves and surf aren’t too strong, making it perfect for families and children,” says Jana Bissonnette, general manager of Kennebunk Resort Collection’s Hidden Pond, The Tides Beach Club, and Cape Arundel Inn & Resort. You’ll spot summer cottages, seaside restaurants, and two resorts nearby, including the newly opened Goose Rocks Beach Club and The Tides Beach Club, just steps from the beach. Parking permits or daily passes are required, with passes starting at $30 for non-residents. Keep in mind that this beach does not offer restrooms or lifeguards.
Biddeford Pool, Biddeford
Biddeford has three public beaches that span two miles, and while Fortunes Rocks Beach is popular for surfing, Biddeford Pool is good for picnicking, sunbathing, and simply playing on the sand. Home to the first recorded settlement in Maine, the pool is one of a few beaches in the state that allows fires on the shore, provided that you acquire the necessary permit. There’s also a public bathhouse (open for select hours during the day) and portable toilets. Goldwaithe’s Pool Lobster, located just around the corner from the parking lot, sells sundries, snacks, and a menu of beachside eats. Parking is available via seasonal permit for both residents and non-residents, or a $35 daily pass.
Old Orchard Beach
This seven-mile stretch of beach is perfect for visitors who want a heavy helping of nostalgia — and maybe some French fries — with their trip to the shore. The pier at Old Orchard Beach first opened in 1898, and while it was once home to concerts, dancing, and even a casino, today it’s occupied by several restaurants and bars. In the summer months, it’s the perfect place to view weekly fireworks. There are many parking lots nearby, both public and private, as well as dozens of motels. Palace Playland is also easily reached on foot and offers carnival-style rides and games, plus an arcade.
Crescent Beach State Park, Cape Elizabeth
Per its name, Crescent Beach is a mile-long, crescent-shaped sandy beach, and its less than 10 miles from Portland. There are kayak rentals, restrooms and showers, walking trails, grills, picnic tables, and even the occasional food or ice cream truck. Because it’s a state park, the hours of operation are more limited than other beaches, but the soft sand and calmer waves make up for it.
Higgins Beach, Scarborough
Nestled in a quiet coastal community, Higgins Beach is a favorite among locals, and popular for surfing, swimming, and fishing. The shore is lined with beach roses and lupines, and during low tide, you may just spot the remnants of an 1897 shipwreck. Amy Caramente, culture and communications officer of Big Tree Hospitality, says the destination is “majestic, has great waves, and feels like a small beach town on any given day.” Big Tree Hospitality recently acquired the nearby Higgins Beach Market, where you’ll find sandwiches, pizza slices, and soft serve from the James Beard Award-winning restaurant group. “There are multigenerational families that spend summers here, surfers, and lots of sweet dogs, when they are allowed,” Caramente says. Adjacent to the beach is the seasonal Higgins Beach Inn, should you want to stay the night close by.
Ferry Beach, Scarborough
Located just a stone’s throw away from Crescent Beach State Park, Ferry Beach is a sandy beach along the Scarborough River. The waves are generally calm, as the beach is protected by the jetty on the other side of the channel. Ferry Beach is the perfect place for just about everything, from lounging or fishing to digging for clams. There are no lifeguards on duty, but there is a public restroom with outdoor showers, as well as a boat launch.
Popham Beach State Park, Bath
This 605-acre park borders the south side of the Kennebec River and is located on a peninsula. Note that Popham Beach is Maine’s busiest state park beach, and parking frequently reaches capacity early in the day. Beach goers can walk across the sandbar to access nearby Fox Point during low tide and view multiple islands from the shore, including a lighthouse built in 1857 on Seguin Island. The beach offers picnic tables, grills, and public restrooms and showers.
Sand Beach, Acadia
One of just a few beaches in Acadia, the aptly named Sand Beach is a natural pocket beach about 300 yards wide. While half the beach is sand, the other half consists of mussel and crab shells, plus the remains of other various sea creatures. Sand Beach has long been a cinematic destination, with scenes of the beach appearing in films such as “The Cider House Rules.”