Maine Beaches: Lighthouses, Lobsters and Long Sandy Beaches

When real estate agents refer to the “three L’s,” they mean “location, location, location.” The Maine Beaches region goes one step further. The area not only enjoys a prime location along the Atlantic Ocean but also offers three other L’s that draw tourists: lighthouses, lobsters and long sandy beaches.

The Maine Beaches region stretches from Kittery to Old Orchard Beach in York County. More than 30 miles of sandy beaches and sparkling Atlantic Ocean waters provide the setting for relaxing days by the shore. Recreational opportunities such as boating, surfcasting fishing, swimming and whale watching abound, but the area also has plenty of “land” attractions ranging from shopping, dining and antiquing to theaters and performing arts playhouses, amusement parks, historical sites and museums.

The Maine Beaches Association’s website ( lists 27 beaches, each with its own character and amenities. “The nice thing about our area is the diversity,” says Paige Farmer, the Association’s project manager. “We have very family-oriented beaches, and some are quieter and more adult-oriented.” Most of the beaches have parking and easy public access, she adds.

Family-friendly beaches include Wells, where four distinct beaches combine to offer four miles of sand, ocean and rocky formations for exploring, and Old Orchard, a seven-mile stretch of coastline that features New England’s only beachfront amusement park and Thursday night fireworks during high season. Palace Playground draws children and adults to its Ferris wheel, roller coaster and other thrill rides. York Beach, another collection of four beaches, prides itself on its family-friendly attractions. A stretch of arcades, candy shops, a zoo and an amusement park is just steps away from the ocean. “You can spend time on the beach and then, in the evening, go over and see the animals at York’s Wild Kingdom, which has exotic animals and a petting area with goats and deer,” Farmer says.

Ogunquit is known for three beautiful beaches and a robust nightlife, Farmer says, adding that the area is couples-oriented and gay and lesbian friendly. The town recently claimed the No. 2 spot on a list of the 10 best coastal towns in the United States, voted by readers of USA Today. The newspaper singled out the beach and its grass-covered dunes, art galleries and recreational outlets for whale watching, kayaking, hiking, golf and deep-sea fishing. Walking enthusiasts can stroll along the Marginal Way, a paved shoreline footpath that skirts the coast and connects Perkins Cove to Ogunquit Beach.

In the Maine Beaches region, numerous lighthouses dot the coastline. The most famous is Nubble Light off the coast of York, known as “the most photographed lighthouse in the world,” Farmer says. Built in 1925 and operated by the U.S. Coast Guard, the lighthouse is visible from Sohier Park where it can be viewed, painted or photographed. Area tour companies offer lighthouse cruises, while an annual event in September further casts the spotlight on these lighted towers. “This year, September 12 will be Open Lighthouse Day,” Farmer says. “Up and down the coast, visitors will be able to access and tour many of the lighthouses. A lot of them also plan special events.”

Foodies often travel to Maine with the express intention of savoring fresh lobster. While many restaurants feature lobster on their menu, lobster pounds offer still-swimming lobsters that can be brought home to cook. Lobster boat tours also are available for an up-close look at lobster trapping and banding as well as updates on the market. “These tours are very interactive,” Farmer says.

The lobster roll is served at casual and white tablecloth restaurants alike up and down the Maine coast. Some of those restaurants have received awards for their interpretation of the iconic treat. The Clam Shack, a Kennebunk take-out spot, took top honors on Steve Harvey’s Great American Food Fight in June, 2014. Additionally, MC Perkins Cove ini Ogunquit is run by James Beard Award-winning chefs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier

Visiting Maine beaches in high season “has a special feel to it,” Farmer says, adding that folks who plan summer visits can easily “picture themselves on the beach.” The allure of the pristine beaches doesn’t end with the close of the Labor Day weekend. “Post-Labor Day to Columbus Day is almost the best time to come to the area,” Farmer says. “You still have gorgeous weather, the crowds thin out, everything is still open and after heating up all summer, the water is as warm as it will ever be.”

The fall has its share of special events, including the 22nd Annual Old Orchard Beach Car Show (Sept. 18-19), a classic car show and competition with a parade and entertainment, and the Family Jamboree (Sept. 19), a festival of games, crafts, hayrides, food and more on a working farm in Wells.

The appeal of the Maine Beaches region is year-round. “We absolutely encourage people to come in the summer because there is so much going on,” Farmer says, “but they might want to think of a supplemental trip off season. Coming during the off season allows visitors to see all the beauty of the area through a different lens.”

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