When most people think of the Maine coast, they picture a rocky, rugged shore dotted with scenic white lighthouses. While this narrative is not completely false, Maine’s coastline is very diverse with a variety of terrain ranging from wildland preserves and meandering estuaries to expansive sandy beaches. Here at Outdoor Project, we have broken down the expansive 3,400-mile coastline into three regions: greater Portland and Maine beaches, the Midcoast, and Downeast and Acadia.
The greater Portland and Maine region spans from the New Hampshire border near York north to the town of Brunswick. This region hosts the majority of the sandy beaches in Maine. The Midcoast region stretches from Brunswick north to Bangor. Lastly, the Downeast and Acadia region includes Acadia National Park plus the coastline all the way to the Canadian border.
If you are planning to explore this diverse and beautiful coastline, there are a few things to consider:
Camping on or near the Maine coast is a bit of a challenge. Most of the camping opportunities are private, commercial, and don’t offer direct access to the ocean. Be sure to research the area you are planning to visit and make reservations early because campgrounds fill quickly, especially on weekends.
Camden Hills State Park is one exception. The state park has a large campground situated right off Highway 1. The campground is a perfect base camp to explore the large state park and the surrounding area.
Parking is a premium at every beach and shore access in Maine. Be ready to pay in order to park. Many of the southern sandy beaches have parking rates that run up to $20 a day. Be sure to get to the beach before 10 a.m. to snag a spot, especially on weekends.
Greater Portland and Maine beaches
- Fortune Rocks Beach: A popular 2-mile white sand beach for families and surfers.
- Old Orchard Beach: The classic southern Maine beach complete with sand, lots of people, an iconic pier, and amusement rides.
- Pine Point Beach: Three miles north of Old Orchard Beach on the same stretch of sand on the Saco Bay. Quieter and with less crowds than Old Orchard.
- Higgins Beach: A small community beach popular with surfers and dog walkers.
- Portland Head Lighthouse: One of Maine’s most iconic lighthouses. It is the focal point of the Fort Williams Park just south of Portland.
- Willard Beach: A small sandy beach in the city of Portland. Great for relaxing in the sand and watching the boat traffic.
- Spring Point Ledge Light: A “spark plug” lighthouse anchoring a 900-foot stone breakwater just north of Willard Beach. It can be accessed from the beach through the ruins of Fort Preble.
- Popham Beach State Park: This state park is situated at the mouth of the Kennebec River and offers a large white sand beach and rolling surf that is very popular with surfers. There’s an island that’s only accessible at low tide.
- Reid State Park: Maine’s first state-owned saltwater beach. This beautiful stretch of coastline consists of two sandy beaches separated by rocky points. Reid State Park also features large sand dunes which are very rare in Maine.
- Pemaquid Lighthouse: This is another iconic Maine lighthouse. Perched on top of dramatic rock formation. This lighthouse is actually featured on the back of the Maine commemorative quarter.
- Camden Hills State Park: This large state park spans from the shoreline of the Atlantic to the summit of Mount Megunticook at 1,365 feet. The park is open all year round and offers a diverse range of activities and terrain.
Downeast and Acadia
- Thunder Hole: Witness the ocean waves crash into a small rocky inlet. Large waves can produce a thunderous sound and visual spectacle. There is a well maintained pathway straight down to the exposed rock ledge.
- Sand Beach: Protected by cove, this large sandy beach offers visitors to Acadia a rare chance to place their toes in the sand and enjoy the surroundings.
- Cadillac Mountain: Cadilliac Mountain is the tallest in Acadia National Park. The panoramic views of the surrounding hills and shoreline from atop are worth the climb.