8 Top-Rated Beaches near Portland, Maine
In and around Portland you will find a good variety of beaches, from the large, activity-filled Old Orchard Beach to the family-friendly local swim spot at Willard Beach in South Portland. These southern Maine beaches are some of the most popular in the state, all within day-trip range from eastern Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
These beaches are also some of the most scenic thanks to the varied landscape, picturesque buoys, and abundance of personal and commercial vessels that come and go along the coastline. You will find that tourists are welcome at even the most secluded of spots, and the locals are always more than happy to let you know where to find the best catch of the day.
Find the top spots to relax by the sea with our list of the best beaches in and around Portland, Maine.
1. Old Orchard Beach
Old Orchard Beach has been my favorite since I was a little kid, and it has been the go-to beach for treating my own kids when they earn an extra-special beach day. It's just as fun for the grown-ups, too, and there is literally something for everyone here (it's true — we even saw Elvis last summer!).
Palace Playland, New England's only beachfront amusement park, has rides and attractions for the entire family, with nearly 30 rides to choose from. When my kids were younger, they loved the kiddie rides and the bumper cars; nowadays, we go for the roller coaster and, of course, the Ferris wheel to catch the views out across the beach and boardwalk.
In addition to the Sea Viper coaster, the park has other high-intensity rides for thrill seekers, like the Riptide and the Matterhorn. Rides are purchased using a ticket system instead of a per-person theme park admission, convenient for those who only want to enjoy a few rides while at the beach.
A popular destination for adults is Old Orchard Pier, where you can find an assortment of restaurants, shops, and entertainment venues that sit atop pilings extending 500 feet into the ocean. Open May through September, the pier is alive every night of the week; I tend to avoid it later in the evening since it can get a little crowded and noisy, but it's one of my favorite lunch spots.
You'll find dozens of options for food within a block or two of the beach, from snack-stand finger food to upscale dining. But, I never consider a trip here complete without a slice of two from Lisa's Pizza, which is right in the heart of the action at the end of 1st Street.
Another thing that makes OOB so popular is its accessibility, with a seasonal Amtrak station right in town. This makes it easy for anyone to hop the Downeaster line from Boston or any of the points along the way.
The Beachwood is a recently remodeled oceanfront hotel at Old Orchard Beach that offers full kitchenettes and self-serve laundry, making it a top choice for families and long-term stays. There is a pool and hot tub on-site, and beachgoers can use the hotel's beach chairs and umbrellas for a relaxing day by the waves.
2. Crescent Beach
Located on Cape Elizabeth about eight miles south of Portland, Crescent Beach is part of Crescent Beach State Park, a picturesque spot where visitors can enjoy all that Maine beaches have to offer. There is a mile of sandy beach, plus grassy dunes, rocky outcroppings, and shady wooded areas, as well as several great spots for fishing.
The beach is known for its gentle waves and amazing views, with a nearby island and local fishing boats dotting the water. It's one of my favorites because you rarely have to worry about finding a parking space — even if you end up walking a bit, it's paved, and you won't be left trying to find a spot at another packed beach.
Lifeguards are on duty during the summer season, and there are restrooms and showers available. There is also a concession stand and bicycle racks for those who bike to the beach, as well as kayaks available to rent.
The 4-star Inn by the Sea is very close to this beach and has kids' activities, an on-site spa, a restaurant, and a pool. This dog-friendly hotel also has a private stretch of beachfront and offers family-sized suites with full kitchens and fireplaces.
Address: 66 Bowery Beach Road, Cape Elizabeth, Maine
3. Pine Point Beach
Pine Point Beach stretches for about four miles from Old Orchard Beach to the Pine Point Jetty on the shores of Saco Bay. I like to come here on days I want to get away from the distractions at OOB and just enjoy the sand and water, but don't want the full seclusion of the lesser-known beaches.
Emma's Eats food shack sits right between the parking lot and the sand (which is just a few steps) and they not only keep you fed and hydrated, but also offer a range of beach supplies to keep you UV-blocked, shaded, and entertained. If you don't mind a short drive or a ten-minute walk, there are also a couple of good seafood restaurants nearby, including Stern Seafood and The Bait Shed.
I find parking here to be much better than most of the other Portland area beaches; there are attendants on duty collecting per-car fees (you also have the option to pay by credit card), and the lot is paved, making it easy to pull your wagons and coolers. Public parking is located on Avenue 5.
The beach itself is plenty long and wide enough to fit the crowds, and if you walk just a short way in either direction from the entrance, there's plenty of room for kite-flying and surfing.
Location: Avenue 5, Scarborough, Maine
4. Willard Beach
Willard Beach is smaller than many of its neighbors but is hands down my top pick for families with school-age children. Tucked within Simonton Cove, the water here is calm and scenic, dotted with sailboats making their way in and out of the harbor.
There is a well-maintained playground on-site, as well as a bathhouse with toilets and showers, water fountains, and a concession stand for refreshments. On any nice day, you'll find this beach full of kids, teens, couples, and solo sunbathers.
Another thing that makes Willard Beach convenient is its location right in South Portland, which is easier to visit if you don't have your own vehicle or aren't up for a drive. My only issue is the lack of parking — there is a free public lot on Willow Street, but it fills up quickly on hot days. Even my last visit, on a weekday in June, left me circling to find street parking that wouldn't end up with a ticket.
If you are feeling adventurous, you can take a short walk on the Spring Point Shoreway Trail out to Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse, which has been lighting the way into Portland Harbor since 1897.
A dependable family hotel nearby is the Best Western Merry Manor Inn, which has both indoor and outdoor pools, complimentary breakfast, and self-serve laundry facilities.
Location: South Portland, Maine
5. Ferry Beach, Scarborough
Ferry Beach in Scarborough (not to be confused with nearby Ferry Beach State Park in Saco) is one of my favorites, and definitely one of the best in the area for toddlers and younger kids.
This crescent-shaped beach is well-protected, tucked just inside the mouth of the Nonesuch River at the northern end of Saco Bay. This ensures small waves and minimal undertow, and its small size helps you keep an eye on the kids.
The parking lot isn't huge and you will get towed if you park on the road, so you will want to get there earlier on weekends and hot days. The upside, though, is that the beach never gets overwhelmingly crowded.
They don't have a snack shack, but there are flush toilets and showers. For food recommendations, I depend on the friendly gentlemen at the gate to fill me in on which restaurant to head to at the end of the day.
Author's Tip: Be sure to heed the signs warning of stray golf balls — the beach sits at the edge of a large private course (hence the limited parking), and it's not uncommon for the wind to push the balls far astray of their targets!
Address: Ferry Road, Scarborough, Maine
6. East End Beach, Portland
By far the most convenient beach for anyone living or staying in downtown Portland, East End Beach sits on Casco Bay at the end of Cutter Street and the Eastern Promenade, near Portland's Old Port shopping district. If you have a car, parking is free, although your downhill walk to the shore means an uphill walk back.
Although it's small, this is one of my favorites for many reasons, and it has an oddly welcoming feel, despite its size. The spot itself is pretty, lined with stone walls and beach roses, and I find that there's always a good mix of people of all ages (and often, their dogs).
Beach amenities also include changing rooms and restrooms, as well as tennis courts, basketball courts, and a playground. Behind the beach, a grassy hillside with leafy trees provides a nice spot for picnics, with plenty of tables and benches, and you will often find food trucks lined up in the parking lot.
Every time I visit, I spend far more time than I planned, just walking around the park and enjoying the scenery. Thanks to the rather steep hill behind the beach, this is an excellent place to visit for photographing the bay, its islands, and occasionally even a seal.
I particularly love watching the sailboats come and go from the nearby marina, and if you want to head out on the water, there is a public boat launch by the beach. You can also rent a kayak on-site, or keep your own small craft handy by renting a spot in the rack, which can accommodate canoes, kayaks, and small dinghies.
Beachgoers have easy access to the Eastern Promenade, a two-mile harborside trail and park, which was designed by the same team as the Boston Commons and New York's Central Park. Be sure to keep an eye out for the sightseeing train operated by the Maine Narrow Guage Railroad, which runs right behind the beach (be careful when you're crossing!) and alongside portions of the trail.
Address: Cutter Street, Portland, Maine
7. Scarborough Beach
Scarborough Beach State Park is a family favorite, known for its temperate waters during July and August. You can rent a variety of recreational items at the lifeguard station, including chairs and umbrellas, boogie boards, surfboards, stand up paddleboards, and sea kayaks.
Lifeguards are on duty from early June through Labor Day, and swimmers should be aware that this beach can have a strong undertow current, so it is wise to stay in the lifeguard's range. There is a small burger stand for refreshments and lunch, and showers and restrooms are available.
This beach is a nesting ground for the endangered piping plover, so dogs, kite flying, and bicycles are not allowed on the beach from the beginning of March through November.
Although Scarborough Beach is considered a state park, it is managed by a private company, so Maine State Park passes are not valid for entry here. One thing I don't like about this beach, though, is their pricing — it's per person, not per car, with an extra charge if you'll be surfing. And if the main lot fills up, you have a long walk to the beach in addition to the steep fee.
Address: 418 Black Point Road, Scarborough, Maine
8. Higgins Beach
Higgins Beach is a popular choice for people who like calm surf, soft sand, and smaller size. The northern end of the beach has the calmest waters, facing the outlet of the Spurwink River. This has made the spot a popular one for both fly fishing anglers and kayakers, as well as those seeking a peaceful stretch of sand.
One of its most interesting features is the embedded remains of a wooden shipwreck that now decorates the shore, sparking the imagination of many a child (and adult) who approaches.
Just 15 minutes' drive from Portland, Higgins Beach is set alongside a peaceful beach community. There is a municipal lot within a reasonable walk to the beach, as well as some limited one-hour street parking and a drop-off spot for convenience. There isn't much in the way of amenities and the vibe leans towards a private upscale feel, so I recommend Higgins Beach for adults and sunbathers.
The locally owned Higgins Beach Inn sits only about a block from the beach and serves an included breakfast at its restaurant. Guests can take advantage of the hotel's bicycle and watersports equipment rentals, or spend time relaxing at the on-site pool.
Location: Scarborough, Maine
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