The tide comes in, bringing with it shattered lobster traps, piles of driftwood, sand dollars and empty shells. And the tide goes out, washing away sandcastles and campfire rings, soda bottles and seagull poop. The Maine coast, with its hidden coves and dramatic cliffs, cobblestone beaches and rare stretches of soft sand, is ever changing.
And much of the coast is open for the public to explore.
A multitude of parks and preserves are located along Maine’s shoreline, safeguarding its natural beauty while opening the land up for people to enjoy. And many of these places feature trail networks, so visitors can combine exercise of hiking with the complete relaxation of lounging on the beach.
So get out there, walk on the sand, bask in the sun, and if you happen to break a sweat during your explorations, a dip in the Atlantic is sure to cool you off.
The following are a few places in Maine where trails lead to beaches:
Tracing the rocky coast of Mount Desert Island, this 1.4-mile loop hike offers stunning views of Frenchman Bay and nearby island. In addition to leading to the highest point of Great Head, a cliff that rises 145 feet above sea level, the trail visits the appropriately-named Sand Beach, one of Acadia National Park’s most popular destinations. Two parking areas for this hike are located off Schooner Head Road in the park. Sand Beach is closed to dogs during the summer season, but the trail is open to dogs if on leash (no longer than 6 feet). A small fee is required upon entry to the park May through October. For information and a video about this hike, visit actoutwithaislinn.bangordailynews.com/2014/01/14/one-minute-hikes/1-minute-hike-great-head-trail-in-acadia-national-park/.
Named for its crescent-shaped sand beach that is nearly a mile long, this state park opened in 1966 and has long been a popular spot for beach-goers, swimmers and wildlife watchers. Located off Route 77 (Bowery Beach Road) in Cape Elizabeth, the park features a mile of walking trails, which are used year round. The water is considered to be “relatively warm” with a light surf that makes swimming and boating popular activities, according to the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands. Dogs are not permitted on the beach April 1 through September 30, but they are allowed elsewhere in the park if on leash (less than 4 feet). A small admission fee is required upon entry. For information and a video about this hike, visit http://actoutwithaislinn.bangordailynews.com/2015/02/17/one-minute-hikes/1-minute-ski-crescent-beach-state-park-in-cape-elizabeth/.
Located where the Penobscot River enters Penobscot Bay, Sandy Point Beach is rich in history. Artifacts found along the shoreline indicate that it was once a summering and trading spot for Native Americans, and during the American Revolution, a major battle took place in nearby waters, where 39 ships were lost. Today, the beach — part sand, part rocks — is a spot for people to unwind, watch resident osprey, swim and sunbathe. Managed by the town of Stockton Springs, the park includes about 2 miles of woodland trails, which lead to benches with views of the ocean. A large parking area for the park is located at the end of Steamboat Wharf Road in Stockton Springs. Dogs are permitted on the trails and on the beach. Admission is free. From information and a video about this hike, visit http://actoutwithaislinn.bangordailynews.com/2012/07/03/one-minute-hikes/1-minute-hike-sandy-point-beach-park-stockton-springs-maine/.
The 2-mile hike over Morse Mountain to the sandy Seawall Beach runs through the Bates-Morse Mountain Conservation Area on a rough road, between the banks of Sprague River and Morse River. Seawall Beach is a stunning place, but if you’re looking for the typical beachgoing experience, with volleyball and lifeguards, it isn’t the spot for you. Balls, frisbees, radios, dogs and beach umbrellas are prohibited, and there are no toilet facilities. Admission is free. A large parking area for the conservation area is located on Morse Mountain Road in Phippsburg. For information and a video about this hike, visit http://actoutwithaislinn.bangordailynews.com/2015/05/12/one-minute-hikes/1-minute-hike-morse-mountain-and-seawall-beach-phippsburg/.
The ultimate family adventure, Wonderland Trail is an easy hike that travels through a whimsical habitat of granite and twisted pitch pines. The trail ends at beaches covered with sand, seashells, seaweed gardens and tidal pools to explore. Dogs are permitted if on leash (no longer than 6 feet). The hike is 1.4 miles, out and back. A small fee is required upon entry to the park May through October. The parking area for the trail is located off Route 102A in Southwest Harbor. For information and a video of the hike, visit http://actoutwithaislinn.bangordailynews.com/2015/04/14/one-minute-hikes/1-minute-hike-wonderland-acadia-national-park/.
Owned and managed by the Island Heritage Trust, this preserved features a 1.5-mile loop trail that leads to the ocean. The easy hike is ideal for families. The shore is made of beautiful pink granite and offers views of nearby islands, including Good Island, Campbell Island and White Island. Dogs are permitted but must be kept on leash. Admission is free. The trailhead is off Greenlaw District Road in Deer Isle. For information and a video of the hike, visit http://actoutwithaislinn.bangordailynews.com/2014/09/02/one-minute-hikes/1-minute-hike-shore-acres-preserve-on-deer-isle/.
Home to a 6-mile trail network, this state park has long been known for its beautiful, half-mile crescent beach of sand and pebbles along Englishman Bay. This beach is backed by Simpson Pond, so visitors can enjoy both saltwater and freshwater swims. Rental kayaks are also available. Dogs are not permitted on the beach April 1 through September 30, but they are allowed elsewhere in the park if on leash (less than 4 feet). A small admission fee is required upon entry. The park is located on Schoppee Point in the town of Roque Bluffs. For information, visit www.maine.gov/roquebluffs.
If looking for a daylong (or even weekend-long) adventure, try Cutler Coast Public Reserved Land — 2,234 acres of spruce-fir forests, peat bogs, dramatic cliffs and cobble beaches fronting the Bay of Fundy. On the property, there are more than 9 miles of hiking trails, as well as three tent sites. The trails are fairly challenging and remote. Dogs are permitted but must be kept under control. Admission is free. Parking is off Route 191 in Cutler. For information and a video of the hike, visit http://actoutwithaislinn.bangordailynews.com/2013/08/06/one-minute-hikes/1-minute-hike-cutler-coast-public-reserved-land/.
Rated #1 in New England for surfing by Boston Globe Magazine this spring, Reid State Park became Maine’s first state-owned saltwater beach in the 1940s. Thousands of people visit the park’s long sand beaches each year. Three easy footpaths are located throughout the park, one of which leads to the top of Griffith Head and a stunning view of the ocean, the lighthouses on Seguin Island, The Cuckolds, and Hendricks Head. Dogs are not permitted on the beaches April 1 through September 30, but they are allowed elsewhere in the park if on leash (less than 4 feet). A small admission fee is required upon entry. The park is located on Seguinland Road in Georgetown. For information, visit maine.gov/reid.