As winter is winding down, we’re already looking forward to the warm summer months and to heading to the beach. There’s something to be said for letting kiddos splash around in the waves while parents sit back, relax, and breathe in the warm salty air. Before you grab your towels and head towards the ocean, there are some things you’ll need to know first about Maine beaches.
Maine is known for it’s rocky coast, and it’s one of the reasons we fell in love with this picturesque state. But that doesn’t mean Nature hasn’t given us some fabulous sandy shorelines on which to park our towels, beach chairs and umbrellas. Unfortunately, that means everyone wanting to play in the sand is heading to the same spots. Our guide below will steer you to our favorite beaches and help you avoid the crowds!
Back when we lived in the NY/NJ area we’d head “down the shore” in New Jersey to hit the waves as early as the end of June. Not so in Maine, dear reader. This is practically the North Atlantic. Hit the water in June and you’ll swear there should be ice bergs floating by. [Note: kids under 10 could care less… they’ll go into the water without hesitation in both June and September if you allow it!]
Our tip for an all around win: wait till August!
Maybe it was a more gradual slope of the shoreline in NJ, but we never really noticed the tides. Sure, at low tide you’d be able to walk out to some sand bars, but I can’t recall ever needing to move our towels because the tide was coming in.
Maine, on the other hand, must have a steeper slope. Tides play a very important factor in when you should head to the beach; by our second summer in Maine we’d became avid readers of the tide charts, planning our trips to the beach accordingly. At low tide you might have 50 yards of shoreline. At high tide, 10 yards or less. Why does this matter to you? Three things: First, if you get to the beach at low tide and park your towels and chairs near the water’s edge (so you can keep an eye on the kiddos splashing around), you can expect to constantly retreat backward as the tide comes in. Second, if you get there at high tide and sit with your toes touching the water, in a few hours you’ll need binoculars to see the crashing waves past the dozens of people that now sit between you and the surf. And lastly, with 50 yards of shoreline at low tide, everyone can spread out. With 10 yards at high tide everyone is smooshed together like sardines.
Our tip: since you’re probably going to be moving your chairs because of the tides, aim to hit the beaches after lunch when all of the early birds have had their fill. At least when you need to move your towels and chairs you’ll have room to move them. Also, some beaches have features that are only visible or accessible at low tide, such as an island that is accessible by sandbar at low tide.
The following are the beaches we’ve visited. There are many, many more in the state; and as we try them out we’ll add them to the list. These are also beaches for setting up in the sand. In a future post we’ll give you some beaches we head to for walking or collecting sea glass.
Browse to any Maine tourism website and they’ll direct you to Old Orchard Beach (OOB) for fun in the sun. Sure, it’s the only beach that has a “boardwalk” with amusement rides and food, but every tourist in the state is either already there or heading there because they read about it on the same tourism websites. Unless you’re looking for Maine’s version of the “Jersey Shore”, we suggest you avoid it and head to a less crowded beach.
Our tip: Worth the trip for the amusements and the Pier Fries… but check out another beach for surf and sand.
Providing you can find parking, this is a hidden gem that borders the much larger Crescent Beach State Park. There’s even a boat ramp to watch the commercial fisherman loading lobster pots onto their boats. Another plus, it’s just down the road from the Lobster Shack at Two Lights and the Kettle Cove Dairy Bar!
This is the one we head to the most! Plenty of sand. A concession stand for food. Showers and changing booths. It can get a little crowded, but we’ve never had too much trouble mid-afternoon.
This is another favorite, definitely less crowded than others. At low tide, you can walk to an island and see the sandbar that brings you there clearly. The shallow, gradual slope of the cape makes it fabulous for kids to play in the sand/water with greater safety than many other beaches. At high tide, the beach can be less than 50 feet wide!
Our tip: go at lower tide which allows you one of the longest beaches in Maine. At high tide the beach is VERY short.
This was a new find late last year. Just north of Old Orchard Beach, this beach has limited parking compared to other beaches. Private parking lot is nice, but fills quickly and will cost you. We first went in September so we haven’t seen it during peak season so we cannot comment on how crowded it can be apart from what we’ve been told.
OK, not an ocean beach, but there is a beach nonetheless. It also doesn’t have crashing waves or an undertow! This means you can actually sit in the water on the sandy bottom and play with the kiddos. They even have a concession stand for food!
A confession. We’ve never gone to Higgins Beach. Why? Because public parking is scarce and we’ve never found a spot. But we’ve heard if you like crashing waves, and a place to surf or body board, this is the place to go. Good luck finding a parking spot!