The labyrinth of beaches on the Southern Maine Coast can be overwhelming for first-time visitors, and finding the best beaches largely depends on what you’re looking for in your seaside vacation.
Whether you’re looking for beaches for families, finding sand dollars, or visiting in summer or winter, this jagged coastline offers something for everyone.
Unlike Florida, where the coastline can seemingly blur between beaches, each Maine beach is unique and worth visiting. We’ve scoured the coastline and found the major stops and well-kept secret sections of sand to appeal to every Maine traveler.
Beaches in Kittery Maine
Kittery Maine is known for a lot of things, but it’s not a traditional beach town — unless you know where to look. Here are a couple of great spots.
Ignore any notion that Kittery only offers resident-only beaches. Fort Foster has some great beaches where even dogs are allowed part of the year. The park has a map showing the beach locations, which is a smart download since mobile service can be spotty.
The Fort Foster beaches include Pier Beach South, Whaleback Beach, and Rocky Beach (aka Scuba Beach).
Seapoint Beach & Crescent Beach
Seapoint Beach and Crescent Beach are residential beaches, but Seapoint Beach is more accessible to the general public. You have to walk around Seapoint from Seapoint Road to get to Crescent Beach.
NOTE: The limited parking area at the end of Seapoint Road requires a resident Permit Parking Sticker.
York Maine Beaches
York, York Harbor, and York Cliffs make up the region known as The Yorks. The town’s three main beaches are just 4 miles apart, but each has a different view and experience. There are a couple of other beaches in the area as well.
York Harbor Beach
York Harbor Beach is a crescent-shaped spot of seashore tucked into the harbor. It’s popular with families for its soft waves and bay protection from rough ocean elements. It’s a great place for tide-pooling.
If you pair the beach activities with a cliffside path that juts from the same parking lot, you can get the best of Maine’s beach offerings.
NOTE: Parking at the beach requires a resident Permit Parking Sticker. Instead, general public parking is available on Route 1A and is limited to two hours.
Long Sands Beach
Long Sands Beach might be the most complete Southern Maine Coast beach experience with 1.5 miles of sand and rock mixed against a road dotted with ship-lapped buildings across the way and the Nubble Lighthouse in the distance.
This beach is also known as being one of the best places in Maine to find sand dollars.
NOTE: Metered parking is available on a first-come, first-served basis along Long Beach Avenue. Keep in mind that high tide pushes the water closer to the roadway.
Short Sands Beach
Don’t let the name fool you — Short Sands Beach is another unique experience in York Maine. While just a quarter-mile long, there’s a lot packed into this small space. The sandy beach touches the rocky shoreline while stunning waves crash along the tidal zone.
The beach is also part of Ellis Park, which holds events and festivals throughout the year. Metered parking is available separate from resident Permit Parking-only spots. As a bonus, Short Sands Beach is just a 15-minute walk from York’s Wild Kingdom, a zoo and amusement park.
Other York Area Beaches
Bonus York Beach | Sohier Park
Sohier Park on Cape Neddick isn’t a traditional sandy or pebble-filled beach, but no shoreline summer on the Southern Maine Coast is complete without it.
The rocky road that separates the park from the Nubble Lighthouse across the way is not accessible to people (so don’t try it), but this is one of the most photographed lighthouses in the world.
Parking is free (WHAT?), and you’ll be looking at something so iconic to the human race that even NASA included a photo of it in the Voyager II expedition to the outer reaches of the Solar System in 1977.
Cape Neddick Beach
Cape Neddick Beach isn’t listed in any tourist guides, but it’s a small stretch of curved beach in York near Shore Road and Intervale South Road. This tiny tidal cove is perfect as a starting or stopping point for a trip to Mount Agamenticus.
NOTE: Parking is available for a fee at Cape Neddick Oceanside Campground.
Beaches in Ogunquit Maine
Ogunquit Maine is a triple threat on the state coastline, offering an artsy and inclusive community along with 3 miles of beach along the same stretch of shoreline.
Ogunquit Beach is split into three parts:
- Main Beach is the most crowded span of the beach and is the closest to downtown Ogunquit.
- Footbridge Beach is a quiet side of the beach accessible by parking at the designated lot and walking across the footbridge. This is another way to access Main Beach without a parking fiasco during high season.
- North Beach is accessible through its own tucked-away parking lot, but don’t wander past Moody Beach’s “NO TRESPASSING” signs.
Ogunquit Beach parking rules require either credit cards or payments through the Passport Parking app. Cash is not accepted, but no parking permit is needed.
NOTE: Between Main Beach and Footbridge Beach is known as the LGBTQ+ section of the beach.
Under the heading “waterfront but not a beach,” there is a public access point to a rocky beachfront near the north end of Marginal Way. This stunning walk is worth the rocky pathway to get there, and it also ends close to the access point to Ogunquit’s Main Beach.
Wells Maine Beaches
The beaches of Wells Maine cover a large section of shoreline but are interrupted by a canal to get boats between the harbor and the ocean.
Horsing Around — Horses might be on the beaches between October and March. Ponies, llamas, vicunas, alpacas, and other large domesticated animals are not allowed.
A small parking lot offers easy access to a large stretch of secluded shoreline at Crescent Beach, protected from residential and business traffic by the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve, a nationally protected area.
There are about 30 parking spots and a stairway/ramp down to the beach. The entrance leaves you at a boulder-filled shoreline. But just a few steps north, you’ll be in the sandy section.
You can walk to Wells Beach from Crescent Beach or park in one of two lots available on the north or south end of the 7-mile stretch of sand. This is one of the longer beaches on the Southern Maine Coast and gives your bum the comfort of the sand with enough rocks to put tide-pooling on your bucket list.
The sunrises here are worth the early alarm. Private homes abut the beach, giving a sense of serenity away from the hustle of town traffic. Parking at the south end will get you closer to restaurants and restrooms.
Harbor Beach offers an intimate beach experience where you can enjoy boats coming in and out of the harbor. Parking is free but limited, and this option is great if you are taking a boat out or just want to get away from the larger crowds or big surf of the oceanfront.
TIP: You can also stop by the Webhannet River shop next door for paddle rentals or fishing supplies.
While not an island, Drakes Island offers another secluded stretch of beach with a larger paid parking lot and a small accessible free lot a short drive down the road with ramp access to the sand.
A big reason to go to Drakes Beach is the jetty that stretches out into the water. Watch your step because there are large gaps between the boulders.
NOTE: While it looks like Harbor, Wells, and Drakes Island beaches are really close together, the separation by water eliminates any hopes of beach-hopping without getting on the road again.
Within the Wells Reserve at Laudholm, you’ll find Laudholm Beach. You’ll walk more than a half-mile from the parking area to get to Barrier Beach Trail and pass through wetlands, grasslands, an apple orchard, and an aspen grove before arriving at the secluded shoreline.
Plan the hike to arrive at low tide for more space and stunning tidepools. For the best beach experience, take a different trail path back to see more of this natural wonderland of ecosystems. Also, you can join one of the guided tours to learn more on your way to the beach.
Beaches in Kennebunk Maine
Kennebunk Maine beaches are some of the most popular in the Kennebunk-Kennbunkport-Arundel area. The main stretch of the beach is interconnected by beachfront and sidewalks, with a road that lines the shoreline.
NOTE: Beach passes are required to park at any of the beaches.
This is the first beach you’ll reach when you enter Kennebunk from Beach Avenue while traveling south, so it’s likely to be the beach that fills up the fastest.
The tide schedule can impact how much of the beach is available for exploring, and the beach runs along the road, making it an easy trek from the car to carving out your spot on the beach.
The beach is slightly more than a half-mile long and has a short, rocky jetty to explore. Also, fishing is permitted off the jetty. Surfing is popular here as well.
The next stop on Beach Avenue is Middle Beach, which is a rockier version of the sandy alternative you first encounter, and high tide can quickly eat at available beach spots. This is a great spot for tide-pooling and beachcombing.
Mother’s Beach gets its name from the quieter waters away from the large surf, making it a place where mothers can safely bring their children. There’s also a playground to explore, and don’t miss the tidepools at low tide.
ACCESSIBILITY: Kennebunk has a beach wheelchair that you can reserve to make the stunning beaches accessible to those with mobility issues.
Kennebunkport Maine Beaches
Heading south from Dock Square, you’ll end up in the parking lot for Colony Beach. No beach pass is required, which is a nice excuse to stop here. A jetty offers a tricky path along the water. This stop is ideal for getting some beach time while watching the boats come in and sail out of Kennebunkport’s harbor.
Goose Rocks Beach
Named for the protective barrier that keeps the waves from crashing on a great beach day, Goose Rocks Beach is a stunning 2-mile stretch on the Kennebunkport shore.
The Little River and Batson River flank the beach, and those connective waters can have higher levels of bacteria, so check the Maine Healthy Beaches Dashboard before you go.
At low tide, some people walk to Timber Island. But again, those tide schedules come in handy because you’ll be stuck on the island if you time it wrong.
Don’t Miss Blowing Cave Park
Near Ocean Avenue and Endcliffe Road, there’s a small spot to pull over and see Blowing Cave Park. You can scramble onto the rocks, and visiting at high tide will provide spectacular views of the waves crashing against the sea cave.
Beaches in Biddeford Maine
NOTE: Parking permits are required at all beaches.
Fortune’s Rocks Beach
Fortune’s Rocks Beach got its name from the love story of a shipwrecked sailor named Francis Fortune, and now the 2-mile span of sand is still welcoming lovers and families to this day. The curved cove here gets a good surf, making it popular for everything from surfing to boogie boarding.
Middle Beach is an extension of Fortune’s Rocks Beach but has its own parking area. Also, it’s on the generally quieter side during the busiest beach days.
Gilbert Boucher Park & Biddeford Pool Beach
Once you find the narrow, hidden entrance to the parking lot, you’ll enjoy a sequestered part of Biddeford Pool Beach. Set your GPS to Gilbert Boucher Park to get to the right spot. If it feels heaven-sent, take a look at the white resort on the horizon, which is the Marie Joseph Spiritual Center.
TIP: You are welcome to join the spiritual center for morning prayer, mass, or evening prayer.
Saco Maine Beaches
Saco Maine has several beaches, including one that is part of a state park. Many of the beaches are connected by trail systems, offering more outdoor experiences along the way.
Camp Ellis Pier
Camp Ellis Pier offers a small sandy area while you enjoy lobster boats sailing in and out of port. A long jetty is open to exploring, and the northwest access point opens up possibilities of kayak and boat rentals to Saco Bay or the Biddeford Pool.
Fresh seafood is also served at the center of this triangle-shaped treasure trove of waterfront fun.
Bay View Beach
You’ll find the largest crowds at Bayview Beach. Parking is available for permit holders or by the hour. This is a great accessible beach with a beach mat offering a smooth ride for wheelchairs and strollers. Look for the Piping Plovers’ nesting area in the dunes and enjoy from a distance.
Kinney Shores is an extension of Bayview Beach, with its signature nearby attraction being the Goosefare Brook Observation Deck. This is a secluded beach with no amenities. Watch the tides for exposed sandbars to explore.
Ferry Beach State Park
Ferry Beach State Park is so much more than a beach access point. This treasure trove of nature includes a tupelo swamp, forest, sand dunes, and trail system that takes you between all of them. Among the trails, you’ll find sea monsters and witches (of the natural kind) and trees that appear to grow their own legs.
Once you weave your way to the beach, you’ll find expansive stretches of fine sand and serenity from the large crowds of town beaches.
Beaches in Old Orchard Beach Maine
Old Orchard Beach Maine, or OOB as it’s known to locals, is best known for its amusement park by the beach. The city is popular with Canadian tourists in the summer, and many families — domestic and foreign — have made OOB their summer home for generations.
The Beach at Old Orchard Beach
The beach stretches 7 miles here and was once used as an emergency landing strip for famed aviator Charles Lindbergh. As a top beach on the Southern Maine Coast, you’ll want to get here early and not give up your spot. The most crowded areas are near the Old Orchard Beach Pier.
NOTE: OOB doesn’t have a lot of public restrooms, especially on the outer edges of the beach, so plan ahead.
On the southern end of OOB starts the Ocean Park beach area, which is a Chautauqua-by-the-Sea community. This beachfront option is much quieter and more G-rated than some of the rowdier activities around OOB.
Scarborough Maine Beaches
Scarborough Maine provides many natural areas between the busy communities of OOB and Portland. Here are a few Scarborough beaches and parks with beachfronts.
Scarborough Beach State Park
Not that the Maine State Parks Department would play favorites, but even it calls Scarborough Beach State Park “some of the best swimming in New England” because of the warm water in summer and the expansive beach area.
A wondrous 360-degree view unfolds between the sandy shore, endless water on the horizon, and backdrop of pine trees towering over the inland views.
Pine Point Beach (Hurd Park)
Pine Point Beach is another glorious stretch of sandy beach with better options for surfers and another jetty to explore. Restrooms, showers, and concessions are available, and surfcasting is allowed for anglers with the proper license.
Ferry Beach isn’t the best for surfing but has the unique position of a beach that wraps from the Nonesuch River around to Western Cove, offering plenty of space to explore on your own away from the busier parts of the beach. This is a great beachcombing spot as well.
Higgins Beach is a white sandy beach that is perfect for sunbathers and those who don’t like the rocky shorelines. Public restrooms and showers are available, but there aren’t lifeguards at this beach.
Beaches in Cape Elizabeth Maine
The town of Cape Elizabeth is home to one of the most popular lighthouses in Maine — the Portland Head Lighthouse. But, don’t overlook the awesome beaches while you’re here.
Fort Williams Park
Fort Williams Park houses the Portland Head Lighthouse as one of many things to do with scenic views of the lighthouse along the rocky shoreline. For the more traditional sandy beach, stop by Ship Cove near the entrance, and you’ll be rewarded with a beachfront view of the Ram Island Lighthouse in the distance.
Crescent Beach State Park
As one of two state parks in Cape Elizabeth, Crescent Beach State Park is the standard sandy beach variety with a 1-mile stretch of sandy beaches where you can see ships and islands on the horizon. It is also a winter wonderland in the off-season.
Two Lights State Park
Right next to Crescent Beach State Park is Two Lights State Park and its rocky shoreline, offering the best of both types of Maine beaches in one area.
Trails along the 41 acres of rocky ridges offer views of boat traffic around Portland Harbor. Picnic tables in grassy areas offer great spots to stop and soak up the quintessential Maine outline.
Beaches in Portland Maine
Portland Maine might be the metropolitan hub of the Pine Tree State, but you can’t have a shoreline this stunning without having at least one beach to explore.
East End Beach
On the pebble and sand shores of East End Beach, you’ll have a hard time realizing that the city is just over the hill. The beach also runs along the East End Promenade Trail, which covers more than 2 miles of coastline. Kayak and dinghy rentals are available at East End Beach.
TIP: The beach is the terminus of the Sebago to the Sea Trail between Casco Bay and Sebago Lake.
South Portland Maine Beaches
Across the harbor from Portland, South Portland starts to fill up with more attractions mixed in with the beaches. To get the most out of a beach adventure, you can take the Spring Point Shoreway Trail to the sand while still seeing the sights.
Willard Beach provides an immersive sensory experience with boats, buoys, wildlife, and waves nearby. The sandy beach has some rocky areas and an elevated grassy space with views of the Portland Head Lighthouse in the distance.
On the north end of the beach, the trail will lead you down the breakwater to the Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse.
Yarmouth Maine Beaches
To enjoy the beaches of Yarmouth Maine, just north of Portland, you’ll need to go to one of the nearby islands. You’ll find the beaches in beautiful nature preserves.
Lanes Island Preserve
Knowing the tide schedule is critical, or you could end up portaging through low-tide muck and mud or waiting for the tide to come back. If you do get stuck, camping is allowed on Lanes Island, but reservations are required.
You can get to Littlejohn Preserve using the Royal River Water Trail or drive there, though parking is limited. The 23-acre preserve includes a 1.3-mile shoreline trail. The landscape is a unique blend of sandy beaches, rocky shorelines, and dense forests, making it a perfect fall beach trip.
Beaches in Freeport Maine
Freeport Maine doesn’t have large beaches, but there are plenty of coastal access points tucked into the lush landscape.
Winslow Memorial Park
Winslow Memorial Park & Campground is a small beach, and it gets smaller when the tide comes in. It has a comforting vibe of being wrapped in nature with stately trees along the road, a sandy beach mixed with rocks near the road, and a horizon of blue water mixed with islands. Lots of campsites are available.
The Top Beaches on the Southern Maine Coast Are Calling
Before heading to the best Southern Maine Coast beaches in summer, check the Maine Healthy Beaches Dashboard to look for closures or water advisories. Always know the tide schedule for your selected beach too.
Maine beaches in the winter are also a beautiful sight, with many locations offering free parking and no crowds. And while you’re exploring the beaches, you can stay in awesome hotels or vacation rentals and eat at some delicious restaurants on the Southern Maine Coast.