The State of Maine boasts an impressive coastline, the largest on the eastern seaboard. Maine’s coast stretches from its southeastern border with Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to its furthest northeastern border with New Brunswick, Canada – for 3,478 miles bordering the Atlantic Ocean. Maine’s coast is about 50 miles longer than California’s coastline along the Pacific Ocean. The coast of Maine is famous for its rugged, breathtaking beauty, white sand beaches, numerous islands, and quaint seaside communities.
Maine’s Coastal Towns
Several of the best-known towns along Maine’s coastline, accessible through a combination of US Route 1 and/or I-95, include:
- Southern coastal towns – Kittery, The Yorks (York Maine, York Harbor, York Beach), Ogunquit, Wells, Kennebunk, Kennebunkport (the summer home to former president and first lady, George and Barbara Bush), Biddeford, Saco, and Old Orchard Beach.
- Midcoast towns – Portland, Freeport (the home of L.L. Bean), Yarmouth, Bath, Boothbay Harbor, Camden, Rockport, and Rockland.
- Downeast coastal towns – Belfast, Searsport, Bucksport, Bar Harbor (on Mount Desert Island, the home of Acadia National Park), and Machias.
Dozens of islands grace the horizon off the Maine coast. Some of these are accessible by ferry, while others are homes to private residents accessible via their own boats. A few of Maine’s coastal islands are incorporated as their own towns, while others fall under their respective towns’ ordinances. About twenty of Maine’s more notable islands and island communities include the following from the southern end of Maine to its northern tip.
- Casco Bay islands including Portland’s Cliff Island, Cushing Island, Great Diamond Island, and Peaks Island, Yarmouth’s Cousins Island, Chebeague Island, and Long Island.
- Muscongus Bay islands along the lower midcoast include Hupper Island and Oar Island.
- Penobscot Bay islands along Maine’s midcoast include Criehaven/Ragged Island, Isle au Haut (includes parts of Acadia National Park), Matinicus Isle, and Monhegan; and the island towns of Islesboro, North Haven, and Vinylhaven.
- Downeast Acadia islands include Bar Harbor’s Mount Desert Island (home of the majority of Acadia National Park); the Town of Cranberry Isles which consists of Great Cranberry Island, Little Cranberry Island/Islesford, Sutton, Bear, and Baker; the Town of Frenchboro which includes Black Island, Crow Island, Drum Island, Great Duck Island, Green Islands (2), Harbor Island, Little Duck Island, Long Island (another one!), Mount Desert Rock, Placentia Island, and Pond Island; and Swan’s Island.
Coastal Maine Attractions and Activities
In addition to enjoying the coastline via beaches and resorts, visitors to Maine won’t want to miss several of the state’s most popular attractions and activities. Here are a few considerations, listed in alphabetical order:
- Acadia National Park – Perhaps one of the most notable and sought-after attractions in Maine, Acadia National Park is the hallmark of Bar Harbor on Mount Desert Island, and among the top 20 most visited National Parks. Comprised of 47,000 acres, Acadia National Park encompasses seacoast, islands, forest, lakes, rocks, and mountains. The Park offers something for everyone, including 120 miles of hiking trails; 45 miles of carriage roads for bikers, horseback riders, and carriages; 27 miles of scenic driving; guided tours; and camping.
- Bath Iron Works (BIW) – The Town of Bath in the midcoast area of Maine is home to Bath Iron Works, the state’s shipbuilding site, and the last active shipyard on the Kennebec River. While BIW is a secure defense industrial site, and therefore does not permit ship tours, visitors can view the entire BIW facility from the water during a one-hour boat cruise or from land in a one-hour trolley tour.
- Beaches – What better way to enjoy Maine’s vast coastline than spend lazy days at one of Maine’s numerous beaches? Several of the better-known beaches are Acadia National Park’s Sand Beach, Ogunquit Beach, Old Orchard Beach (OOB), Popham Beach, Wells Beach, and York Beach.
Forts – During past conflicts and wars in this country, more than two dozen forts along the massive Maine coastline served to defend its borders from invasion. Now the forts provide sources of fascination for visitors. Several of the forts open to tourists include:
- Fort McKinley in Portland
- Fort Popham/Fort Baldwin (built to replace Fort Popham) in Phippsburg
- Fort Edgecomb in Edgecomb
- Fort Halifax in Winslow
- Fort McClary in Kittery
- Old Fort Western in Augusta (oldest surviving wooden fort in New England)
- Fort Knox in Prospect (considered one of the best-preserved forts on the New England seacoast)
- Lighthouses – These famous landmarks and guardians of Maine’s coastline continue to fascinate residents and visitors alike. Over 60 lighthouses adorn the coastline, but several of the most famous of Maine’s lighthouses include the following: Bass Harbor Head Light, Cape Neddick Light, Cape Elizabeth Light, Marshall Point Light, Monhegan Island Light, Owl’s Head Lightstation, Portland Head Light, Pemaquid Point Light, and West Quoddy Head Light.
The Penobscot Narrows Observatory Tower – A new Maine attraction, as of 2007, is the statuesque Penobscot Narrows Observatory in Prospect, overlooking Fort Knox, Penobscot River, and Penobscot Bay. This amazing attraction is worth the slight detour from the coastline, since upon reaching the top of the 437-foot tower following a 1-minute elevator ride, visitors can enjoy a spectacular, breathtaking view of the entire Penobscot River Valley and Penobscot Bay. Accessible only through entrance to Fort Knox, the Observatory is open from 9 AM to sunset, May 1st to October 31st annually, for a nominal fee.
- Windjammer Cruises – For adventurous folks who want to actively enjoy the ocean, Windjammer Cruises offer such an opportunity aboard their fleet of 12 tall sailing ships, with cruises available from May through October. During any three- or six-day cruise, sailing guests may take turns steering; raising and lowering sails; exploring uninhabited islands and small fishing villages; and viewing lighthouses, seals, and porpoises.
Visitors to Maine’s coastline will not be disappointed, whether they vacation at a beach front resort, see any of the popular tourist attractions, or merely spend time at an ocean beach. Whether sunning, swimming, walking along a sandy beach and collecting seashells, or climbing over rocks and marveling at the striated rock formations — a day at the ocean, with its invigorating salty air and alternating pounding surf and retreating tide, is a treat to all the senses and embodies the thrill of visiting the coast of Maine.
Photo credits – All of the pictures in this article are courtesy of Maine resident K’Lee Banks a freelance writer and amateur photographer and are used here with her permission. See her blog, Office Help 4 Hire.