I am not a born beach bum; I took convincing. When my wife first tried to woo me back to her home state of Maine with the promise of beach blankets and a golden sand shoreline, I yawned. Or maybe snorted. Why would someone want to sit in the sand all day, I asked? The ocean, she said. It’s a screen-saver, I replied. Fine then, Frisbee, she said, and also reading and sunbathing. All things I can do at home, I said. And so on.
But I’ve come around. I’m a convert. Maine’s beaches have won me over. What sets Maine’s beaches apart is that the water cold enough, even at the peak of summer, that one only wants to swim in it for so long. So it’s about sandcastles, beachcombing, skipping stones, and mucking about in tide pools. Things you can’t do at home. Every Mainer has his or her favorite, but these five are worth bringing the kids to.
The best time to visit Popham Beach south of Bath is at low tide, when beachgoers wander freely out to a winsome rocky mound called Fox Island. It’s fun to clamber on, and sea snails, periwinkles, and occasional starfish turn up in the tide pools. There’s a lifeguard on duty in summer, a picnic area, and a changing house with showers.
Short Sands Beach
Not the spot to head to for solitude, this York Beach is a beach-blanket party in the summer for families. Preening teens strut around the adjacent boardwalk or loiter in front of the retro arcade. Fun fact: Every few years, heavy storms drag enough sand off the beach to unearth an old Revolutionary War sloop that lies beneath.
Goose Rocks Beach
Three miles of soft, white sand look out on a cove protected by a rocky barrier reef. There are no lifeguards or facilities at Goose Rocks, and a dearth of parking keeps the crowds to a minimum. It’s a great beach for strolling, and a big intertidal zone means it’s happy hunting for sand dollars at low tide. Watch for harbor seals chilling on the rocks.
A sandy spit with a strip of beach grass between the ocean and the Ogunquit River, Ogunquit Beach is another big one, stretching for three-and-a-half miles. The northern third lacks a lifeguard on duty, but the crowds thin out up there. Folks gather on the south end, where there’s a long row of Adirondack chairs and a few resort shops selling coffee, snacks, and sundries.
This Instagram-friendly pocket beach is the only place to swim in the ocean at Acadia National Park. Sure, the water temperature is brisk this far north, but that doesn’t stop the heartiest visitors. Mostly the appeal is the air of romantic seclusion, a product of the gently sloping cliffs that enclose the beach on three sides.