Popham Beach in Maine

This "As-Seen-in-Movies" Beach is One of the Finest on the Maine Coast

Popham Beach Maine
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Popham Beach is one of the finest and longest sandy beaches in Maine. Located in one of Maine's best beach towns at the tip of the Phippsburg peninsula not far (about 14 miles) from Bath, 500-acre Popham Beach State Park is a popular spot for locals and visitors alike.

Generally, there's plenty of beach available to stretch out on, and you can find an uncrowded spot to call your own (although you may have difficulty finding parking). Due to dune erosion, however, when high tide corresponds with peak times—particularly on the hottest, busiest summer days—there may be limited sand space available at Popham Beach.

Millions of movie-goers around the country flocked to see Kevin Costner's 1999 romantic drama, Message in a Bottle, but few knew that the movie, which is set in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, was actually filmed in several Maine locations—including Popham Beach. An existing Maine beach house was transformed into the seaside home of Costner's character, widower Garrett Blake. 

Once you've parked your car and walked the short distance to the beach, you'll find sand stretching to the right as far as the eye can see. Slightly to the left, a rocky outcropping (Fox Island), which is interesting to explore, is reachable at low tide. Keep your eye on the incoming tide and don't get caught on this little island when the tide starts to turn. (This account of the harrowing rescue of a woman and her daughter who were stranded on the island at high tide in March 2011 should convince you to take this danger seriously.)

To the left of this outcropping, at the mouth of the Kennebec River, is Pond Island: a ten-acre island with a lighthouse built in 1855 to replace the older lighthouse built in 1821. The lighthouse is not open to the public, but several boat companies offer cruises that pass the island for a close-up view. Bring binoculars, as this is now the Pond Island National Wildlife Refuge, a sanctuary for Common, Roseate and Arctic Terns and other seabirds.

Picnic tables and charcoal pits, as well as a bathhouse with freshwater showers, are available in the wooded section of the park. Fort Popham, built during the Civil War in 1860 and never finished, is located two miles farther down Route 209. The fort sits on the banks of the Kennebec River, where it broadens into Atkins Bay, and offers views of Georgetown Island (also home to fine beaches within Reid State Park), across the river. A second fort, Fort Baldwin, built during World War I as an observatory used to spot periscopes of enemy submarines, sits atop nearby Sabino Hill.

Both forts are now state historic sites: You are welcome to explore the grounds from 9 a.m. until sunset. There is a fee to visit Fort Popham.

Popham Beach Directions and Information:

From Route 1 just before the Sagadahoc Bridge in Bath, take Route 209 south and follow all the way to Phippsburg (14 miles). Follow the signs for Popham Beach State Park. There is an admission fee ($6 for state resident adults, $8 for non-resident adults, and $2 for non-resident seniors as of 2018). Maine resident seniors age 65 and older are admitted to the beach free. Call 207-389-1335 for details.

To reach Fort Popham and the quaint village of Popham, which is part of Phippsburg, continue past the beach entrance on Route 209. The fort is at the end of the road, after the town. Fort Baldwin can be reached by heading back through the village and taking the first right after the chapel and library on Fort Baldwin Road. Fort Popham is open April 15 through October 30 from 9 a.m. until sunset, and during the off-season, you can still park outside the gate and walk in during those same hours. Fort Baldwin is open year-round, but the trail to the fort is not plowed in the winter.

Where to Stay Near Popham Beach