Southern Maine’s Best Beaches — From York to Old Orchard Beach
While much of Maine’s approximately 3,500 mile shoreline is rocky, Maine’s 30-mile long southern coast is home to natural, clean, sandy beaches and quaint beach towns.
Major Destinations of the Southern Maine Coast Region
Kittery (zip code 03904) is the first town you come to in southern Maine after crossing the Piscataqua River from Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Kittery is primarily known for its plethora of outlet stores and Bob’s Clam Hut, a restaurant featured on the Food Network program Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.
York consists of 3 distinct areas: York Village (zip code 03909) – a historic settlement dating back to 1624 when Maine was part of the colony of Massachusetts, York Harbor (zip code 03910) – a quintessential beach town, and Cape Neddick (zip code 03902) – a more pastoral part of York. York Harbor is where you will find Long and Short Sands Beaches and the well-known Nubble Lighthouse.
Ogunquit (zip code 03907) is extremely popular with tourists due to its beaches, picturesque Perkins Cove, and the Marginal Way, a paved walking path along the coast. Originally discovered by artists over a century ago, Ogunquit is still a great place for the arts with the Ogunquit Museum of American Art and the Ogunquit Playhouse located in town.
Wells (zip code 04090) is an outdoor lover’s delight with 3 public beaches – Wells Beach, Crescent Beach and Drake’s Island Beach, 1 private beach – Moody Beach, and 2 nature preserves – Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge and Wells Reserve at Laudholm.
Kennebunkport (zip code 04046) is where former President George H. W. Bush’s summer home is located. It has housed 2 former U.S. Presidents and their families and been visited by many important world leaders including Margaret Thatcher, Mikhail Gorbachev, Vladimir Putin and Nicolas Sarkozy.
Visitors to Kennebunkport enjoy its beaches, shopping, dining, and oceangoing activities such as whale watching and sailing. Another favorite is the drive along Ocean Avenue from the Kennebunk River to the Atlantic Ocean where you can see some stunning oceanfront mansions including the Bush family’s.
Old Orchard Beach
Old Orchard Beach (zip code 04064) is not like the other towns along the southern Maine coast. It’s less about the nature and more about the entertainment. In many ways it reminds me of Wildwood on the Jersey Shore. The beach is great, but that’s really not why people go there.
Some people would say Old Orchard Beach is a town with a “carnival atmosphere” due to its arcades, amusement parks, restaurants, lodgings, gift shops, clubs, and The Pier, a famous oceanfront icon since 1898 that extends nearly 500 feet offshore.
Where to Stay
There are so many choices of places to stay in southern Maine. You can choose from luxury hotels and resorts, mom and pop motels, bed and breakfasts, rental homes and condos, and campgrounds. Just a few of your options include:
Hotels and Motels
- Wentworth by the Sea in Kittery
- Coachman Inn in Kittery
- Stage Neck Inn in York Village
- Union Bluff Hotel in York Beach
- Atlantic House Hotel in York Beach
- Cliff House in Ogunquit
- Sea Chambers in Ogunquit
- Norseman Resort in Ogunquit
- Elmwood Resort Motel in Wells
- Majestic Regency in Wells
- Colony Hotel in Kennebunkport
- Captain Jefferds Inn in Kennebunkport
- Alouette Beach Resort in Old Orchard Beach
- Gull Motel?in Old Orchard Beach
Bed and Breakfasts
- Enchanted Nights in Kittery
- Portsmouth Harbor Inn and Spa in Kittery
- Morning Glory Inn in York Village
- Inn at Tanglewood Hall in York Village
- Gazebo Inn in Ogunquit
- 2 Village Square Inn in Ogunquit
- Holiday Guest House in Wells
- Haven by the Sea in Wells
- Captain Lord Mansion in Kennebunkport
- Captain Fairfield Inn in Kennebunkport
- Auberge by the Sea in Old Orchard Beach
- Old Orchard Beach Inn in Old Orchard Beach
- Libby’s Oceanside Camp in York Beach
- Dixon’s Coastal Maine Campground in Cape Neddick (York)
- Sea Vu Campground in Wells
- Ocean View Cottages and Campground in Wells
- Salty Acres Campground in Kennebunkport
- Red Apple Campground in Kennebunkport
- Old Orchard Beach Campground in Old Orchard Beach
- Wild Acres Recreation Destination in Old Orchard Beach
In addition to all the commercial lodging choices along southern Maine’s coast, there are also a number of vacation rental options available to you.
Another option is to contact local real estate agents. To find rental agents, search for real estate companies in the area where you want to travel. Most real estate companies in popular vacation spots have short-term rental agents too. Talk to a few different rental agents until you find one you like. Never pay a rental agent a fee. The owner pays them. If you are asked for a fee, don’t work with that agent and/or agency.
Whether you are booking your vacation rental online or through a real estate agent there are certain things you should determine before finalizing your plans. They are:
- Know your budget before looking at rentals.
- Think about how many people will be traveling with you since vacation rentals range from studios with one bath to family homes with multiple bedrooms and baths.
- Make a list of your “essentials” — the things you can’t live without in order to enjoy your vacation. These “essentials” can be amenities you will have access to, how far the beach house is from the shore, and so on. You may not be able to find a rental with everything you’d like that fits within your budget, but if you know what is most important to you, you can find something that you will be happy with.
- Do not just compare prices; compare quality and services too.
Where to Eat
Fresh seafood abounds along the southern Maine coast with many low-key, yet delicious, seafood shacks and shanties. However, if you or your loved ones don’t like seafood there are plenty of other options from fine dining establishments to burgers and fries.
The best lobster and seafood shacks include:
- Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier in Kittery
- Bob’s Clam Hut in Kittery
- Fox’s Lobster House in York
- The Lobster Shack in Ogunquit
- Barnacle Billy’s in Ogunquit
- Mabel’s Lobster Claw in Kennebunkport
For fine dining, head to Arrows in Ogunquit or the White Barn Inn in Kennebunkport.
For outstanding comfort food and New England specialties, don’t miss Maine Diner in Wells. It was also featured on the Food Network program Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.
Things to Do
There are so many things to do in southern Maine. If you or you loved ones are water people, you can surf, boogie board, paddle board (SUP), skim board, fish, and kayak at the beach. You can also kayak in the many coastal marshes. Or, you might like to take a trip on an authentic lobster boat, sailboat, fishing charter, or whale-watching excursion.
If you prefer land sports you can play golf and hike. Or, maybe you prefer indoor pursuits. Southern Maine has outlet shopping, amusement parks, antiquing, art, crafts, and history galore.
All in all, Southern Maine’s Coast Region is a wonderful destination for your next vacation.
To many joyful beach experiences!
— Lisa Dworkin