Each of Portland, Maine’s beaches delivers a different experience of the area’s striking coastline. Depending on the shore you choose, you could spot lobster boats and ferries working the bay, walk to sandbars at low tide, view lighthouses, watch kiteboarders, saunter woodland paths or seashore trails, and even swim.
Like all of Maine’s seashore, Portland’s ocean and bays are refreshingly chilly. June water temperatures average 54℉, while in August, the summer’s warm water peak, temperatures average a bracing 64℉. The swimmers you see are likely Mainers acclimated to the nippy surf. Some don wetsuits to keep warm before venturing out.
People “from away”, as Maine locals call everyone else, tend to get knee-deep in the water before running back to the sand. But there’s more to beach life than swimming in this beautiful place, so just breathe in the sea air and enjoy the scenery.
Here are 10 of the best Portland, Maine beaches to explore.
Crescent Beach State Park
It’s well worth traveling eight miles south of Portland to Crescent Beach State Park in Cape Elizabeth. One of the best beaches near Portland, Crescent State Beach Park delivers a classic Maine day of sea, sand, and salty air.
Grass-covered dunes edge the beach, a mile-long swath of sand with relatively mild surf for swimmers. Waves break, seagulls fly overhead, and lifeguards patrol in season.
You might discover snails, crabs, and starfish in the rocky tidepools at one end of the beach. Just beyond the sand, nature trails lead through woods. In season, bathroom and shower facilities open, and there’s often, but not always, a food truck.
At nearby Kettle Cove Creamery and Café, choose your favorite ice cream from more than a score of flavors.
For more seaside scenery, drive two and a half miles from Crescent Beach State Park to Two Lights State Park.
From the rocky, 41-acre headland, savor breathtaking views of crashing surf and coastline. Rangers remind viewers to stand at least 20 feet back from the slippery rock ledges.
From Willard Beach on South Portland’s Simonton Cove, enjoy a classic Maine vista of a lighthouse, an island, and moored boats bobbing in a cove.
Although small, at four acres, this Portland beach offers typically calm waters and tidepools to explore. In season, changing rooms and bathrooms open and sometimes a concession stand sells snacks.
From the north end of Willard Beach, walk along Spring Point Shoreway trail. The path starts at the nearby campus of Southern Maine Community College and continues for one and a half miles to Bug Light Park.
Enjoy views of Fort Preble, built in 1808, as well as Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse, and Casco Bay along the scenic walkway. From Fisherman’s Point, at Willard’s south end, you can spot Portland Head Light.
Nearby, Willard Scoops’ cones and cups please local ice cream lovers with chocolate sea salt, mint leaf chip, peanut butter, and other imaginative flavors.
East End Beach
Come to East End Beach for a bit of sand and the bonus of one of Portland’s most popular walking trails. Overlooking Casco Bay on Portland’s East End, this beach is a modest swath of about 300 yards long, attracting swimmers and sunbathers. Off-season, watch happy dogs run freely.
From Memorial Day through Labor Day, the park maintains bathrooms and outdoor showers, and a food truck sells snacks in the Cutter Street parking lot. Near the beach, the Front Room Restaurant and Bar serves tasty brunches and lunch, as does the Blue Spoon.
A big draw is the nearby Eastern Promenade, one of Portland’s most popular seaside strolls.
Initially designed by the noted Olmsted Brothers, creators of New York’s Central Park, the two-mile waterfront trail cuts through a 68-acre park. From the trail, you see sailboats, ferries, and lobster boats cruising the bay.
Old Orchard Beach
Seven miles of white sand, a 500-foot pier, and an amusement park draw beach lovers and families to Old Orchard Beach, named for its town.
Located about 20 miles from Portland, Old Orchard Beach is one of the best beaches in the area, and one of the state’s most popular shore destinations.
Walk the long strand, splash in the ocean, and build sandcastles. On the pier, a local icon, listen to live music and get drinks and snacks from cafés.
At Palace Playland, billed as New England’s only oceanfront amusement park, you can crash bumper cars with your friends or teens, scream as you “fall” from a tower, and rocket down a 70-foot-high coaster at speeds up to 42 mph.
For more off-the-sand beach fun, consider driving four miles to Funtown Splashtown, a combination amusement and waterpark in Saco.
At Funtown, shriek your way through turns and drops on Excalibur Roller Coaster, a rockin’ wooden thrill ride, and at Splashtown, zip and swirl down twisting water slides. This is a great day out if you’re traveling with children.
Scarborough Beach State Park
Get your feet wet at Scarborough Beach State Park, one of the Portland area’s many fine beaches. Located 12 miles south of Portland, Scarborough Beach’s 2,500-foot-long shore draws strollers.
Swimmers should be careful, though. Although the water looks calm, be aware that there may be strong currents; only get in the water when lifeguards say conditions are safe.
If you’ve ever fancied learning how to hang ten, then sign up for private or group lessons at Surf Camp Maine in season. Be sure to book ahead.
Park facilities include restrooms and showers in season. For a nearby lunch, locals rate the juicy burgers at Mainely Burgers and the chowder and lobster at Barley’s Lobster Pound.
Popham Beach State Park
Popham Beach, about 50 miles northeast of Portland, is the jewel of Popham Beach State Park, Phippsburg, thanks to its vast stretches of sand and endless skies.
The broad, 2,500-foot-long strand borders the mouth of the Kennebec River and the Atlantic Ocean. The beach grows wider when the water recedes at low tide as sandbars and tidepools appear.
You can walk through the shallows to the small islets with their wrinkled sands and search for critters in the rocky tidepools on the main shore. Be sure to be back on the main beach before the high tides roll in.
Enjoy walking along the shore but not swimming. Authorities warn that the Atlantic surf has strong currents and rip tides.
Locals like The Ledges for its waterfront setting and fish sandwiches. Spinney’s Oceanfront Restaurant has water views and serves tasty ahi tuna and fish tacos.
Ferry Beach State Park
One of the best beaches near Portland, Maine, Ferry Beach, 21 miles south of the city, takes its name from the ferries that formerly carried people across the Saco River from Biddeford, where they would disembark for the beach at Saco.
The jewel of the 117-acre Ferry Beach State Park is the 2,800-foot long, dune-bordered beach near the mouth of the river. Ferry Beach, set in a cove, draws swimmers and beach lovers thanks to its generally calm waters and soft sands.
For different Maine views, walk some of the park’s shortish trails. Along the half-mile Tupelo Trail, stroll a raised boardwalk above a swamp with a stand of tupelo (black gum trees), rare for the area’s latitude.
Other trails lead through woods of red oaks, white oaks, and witch hazel trees. In summer, park rangers lead nature walks, which can be fun if you’re traveling with children. Ferry Beach State Park is open from April through September.
Fort Williams Park
At low tide, Ship Cove, a beach in Fort Williams Park, Cape Elizabeth, appears. From the sliver of pebble-lined sand, you can spot Ram Island Ledge Light in Casco.
Look for hermit crabs and sea stars in the rocky coves of one of New England’s best beaches.
The real attraction of Fort Williams Park, a 90-acre greenspace in Cape Elizabeth, is the park’s rock star neighbor, the Portland Head Light. Among the most famous lighthouses in the world, the Portland Head Light perches on a rocky point above crashing waves.
Stop for snacks at Cousins Maine Lobster, a food truck that’s part of the restaurant of the same name. The truck often pulls up to Fort William Park in season and is the perfect excuse to tuck into creamy chowder or a delicious lobster roll.
Pine Point Beach
One of the best Portland beaches to visit, Pine Point Beach, in Scarborough, sparkles with four miles of soft sands on Saco Bay.
More laid-back than neighbor Old Orchard Beach, with its lively amusement park, Pine Point is known for its wind and waves. Admire the kiteboarders skimming the water’s surface as they fly by, and watch local anglers shore fishing for yellow perch and smallmouth bass.
For good seafood that Maine is known for, go to The Clambake Seafood Restaurant. Choose from several chowders, including a lobster stew with sherry wine, as well as fresh clams, baked shrimp, lobster, and fried scallops.
Come to Higgins Beach, in Scarborough, for relatively calm surf for swimming and splashing. At low tide, the beach widens and tidepools pop into view, as does part of the hull of the Howard W. Middleton.
The schooner, carrying 894 tons of coal, was shipwrecked on a ledge off the beach in August 1897.
Grassy hills with purple lupines and pink beach roses border the beach. Nearby, Hank’s serves burritos, wraps, sandwiches, and blueberry scones (with Maine blueberries, of course) for breakfast and Thai peanut butter wraps, grilled cheese, cobb salad, and tuna salad for lunch.
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