Maine has 3,500 miles of jagged coast: that's more than California. Yet, only 70 miles can be classified as beach. You may have heard of some of the state's most popular beach destinations, like Ogunquit and Old Orchard Beach, which certainly rate among the best. There are other sandy stretches worth discovering, though, both along Maine's incomparably picturesque shore and even inland. Seek out one of these 10 mood-boosting beaches whenever you need a remedy for life's inevitable bumps and bruises. Whether you crave lively activities or a soothing escape from reality, there's a Maine beach waiting for you.
This perennially popular beach on the Phippsburg peninsula is an idyllic place to swim, surf and gather seashells. History buffs love this Maine destination, too. Civil War-era Fort Popham and World War I-era Fort Baldwin are both nearby, and these state historic sites are open seasonally to visitors. Popham Beach has the extra star cred of having appeared in the Kevin Costner film "Message in a Bottle." The dynamic shifting of sand has narrowed this beach, making it important to check the tide schedule before you go. When high tide coincides with the the highest heat of a summer's day, space to spread your blanket may be limited.
Located in the Midcoast town that shares its name, Old Orchard Beach is the only beach in Maine you can get to by train. Maine's longest beach is free and open to all and features 7 uninterrupted miles of cushiony sand fanning out in each direction from the wood-planked Pier: an iconic landmark rebuilt several times since its 1898 debut. The Pier's restaurants, bars and entertainment make it the place to head after dark. By day, there are nostalgic amusements, too, including New England's only surviving beachfront amusement park — Palace Playland — famous for its Ferris wheel with spectacular beach views. The farther you wander away from The Pier, the more likely you are to find a quiet patch of sand to call your own. There are hotels aplenty along and near the beach, and with more campsites than any other Maine town, Old Orchard Beach can be an affordable place for your family's vacation by the sea.
On the island of Georgetown, which is connected to the mainland by a bridge, you'll discover one of the best gifts ever given to the state of Maine. Georgetown resident Walter East Reid's generous donation ensures Mile and Half Mile beaches — two rare, wide expanses of sandy shore — are forever accessible to the public. The day use fee at Reid State Park is a small price to pay for access to an ocean realm that feels like a true escape. In addition to swimming, the beach beckons to those who want to try saltwater fishing, spy on shore birds or build driftwood fortresses. It is also a photographer's delight: a place where sparkling ocean waves leave lacy patterns on the sand and you'll look amazing in selfies because you're at your relaxed, sunlit best.
Ogunquit's 3-mile-long barrier beach has been connected to the village by a bridge across the tidal Ogunquit River since 1888. That's the same year impressionist painter Charles H. Woodbury began enticing other artists — and vacationers — here with his sea scenes. In the native Abenaki language, Ogunquit means "beautiful place by the sea," and even though this southern Maine town now fills to the brim with summer tourists, there's still a sense of pleasant isolation when you're out on the sand or walking the Marginal Way. Ogunquit has long been known as a gay resort town, and the gay section of the beach is about 200 yards north of the entrance.
Even on a sweltering August day, the water is bracingly cold at Sand Beach in Acadia National Park. Stick your feet in the froth anyway. You'll be distracted by the gorgeousness that surrounds you: There's no more scenic swimming spot in all of Maine than this crushed seashell beach with its views of crackled cliffs fringed with fragrant pines. Parking can be tricky, so consider taking the free Island Explorer shuttle that connects downtown Bar Harbor, hotels and campgrounds with popular destinations in Acadia National Park including Sand Beach. You will still need to purchase a park pass ($15 per person, valid for seven days). The entrance fee if you're driving into the park is $30 per vehicle including all of its occupants.
The Town of York in southern Maine is blessed with two family-friendly beaches, each with distinct character. Quarter-mile-long Short Sands Beach on Route 1A in Ellis Park has a playground and a promenade walkway along the shore, and its popularity is boosted by the walk-to proximity of flip-flop-casual restaurants, souvenir shops, hotels, the old-school Fun-O-Rama arcade and The Goldenrod, where you can watch antique machines pull and twist colorful taffy "kisses." One mile south of Short Sands Beach on Route 1A, you'll find Long Sands Beach, which is… as you've already guessed… longer! Two miles of sand are your place to swim, surf, sunbathe and play beach volleyball. Long Sands Beach is also wheelchair accessible.
Don't want to navigate Kennebunkport's congested streets during the busy summer season? Then you may want to skip this famous seacoast town's well-known trio of Gooch's, Middle and Mother's Beaches — collectively known as Kennebunk Beach — and instead head to Maine's best hidden beach. Parsons Beach is undeveloped, uncrowded and known chiefly to locals. You'll find this half-mile crescent of soft sand on Parsons Beach Road in Kennebunk, and while parking is limited and requires either a bit of a walk or the same parking pass required at the other Kennebunk beaches, you'll cherish the wildness, the solitude and the view of Mount Agamenticus from this private beach that is generously shared with the public by the Parsons family.
Let's face it: The ocean in Maine can be downright cold, and not everyone is a fan of vigorous saltwater surf. If you'd much rather dive into sun-warmed freshwater, head to Weld, Maine, in the western part of the state. You'll find Maine's best lake beach inside 8,000-acre Mount Blue State Park, named for the imposing mountain you'll gaze at as you splash in Webb Lake or kayak on its clear waters. There's a pet-friendly campground here, so book a site and enjoy a different kind of Maine beach vacation with your family.
Feeling adventurous? Set your GPS for the northern Maine town of Machiasport — about 45 minutes south of the Canadian border — and visit the most unusual beach in the state. Half-mile-long Jasper Beach sits between two bluffs and is devoid of sand. Instead, you'll tread upon billions of colorful, sea-tumbled stones, smoothed by their journey here from who knows where. Listen as Atlantic waves tickle this unique beach, causing the stones to vibrate and collide in a crackling symphony.
The best beach near Portland is this standout in Cape Elizabeth. It's a classic sandy beach with grassy dunes, a picnic area, a playground for the kids, a snack bar and a bathhouse. Even if you're not staying at Inn by the Sea, wander up the property's wooden boardwalk from the beach and admire the native landscape, which has been restored as bird and wildlife habitat as just one of the inn's many green initiatives. You'll want to explore coastal walking trails at the adjacent Kettle Cove State Park, too.