Secret Maine beaches

Posted July 09, 2010, at 8:22 a.m.

For seashore-lovers seeking less crowded beaches along the Maine coast, several beaches scattered from the Midcoast to Down East offer great places to relax amidst the sand and surf this summer.

ä Birch Point Beach State Park

Located off the Dublin Road in Owls Head, Birch Point Beach State Park encompasses a typical coastal Maine spruce-fir forest reaching the sea at Birch Point Beach, where the gray sand nestles between rocky headlands. Tourists, even most Mainers, overlook this quiet gem with its picnic tables, sand-slapping waves, and easterly views across Penobscot Bay to Vinalhaven (identifiable by its three wind towers) and three-humped Isle au Haut.

Bring a cooler and a picnic lunch, a few lawn chairs, and the kids, who instinctively pursue sea life trapped in the shallows by the outgoing tide. Rest-rooms and parking are located on-site.

Tie relaxation at Birch Point Beach with a visit to nearby Owls Head State Park and its clifftop-perching lighthouse (oh, yeah, there’s a beach and picnic tables there, too). If time permits, check out the antique autos and aircraft at the Owls Head Transportation Museum, located at the Knox County Regional Airport in Owls Head.

ä Beaches of Lamoine

Separated by Eastern Bay from tourist-bound Mount Des-ert Island and Acadia National Park, Lamoine remains forever off the beaten path, and the town’s residents like life that way.

Due to this far-from-the-maddening-crowd trend, expect to share the beaches of Lamoine with relatively few people, at least when compared to mid-July at Sand Beach in Acadia. Take Route 184 southeast from Ellsworth, cruise past Lamoine Town Hall, and follow the signs to Lamoine State Park.

Site of a coaling station foisted onto the U.S. Navy by Maine Senator James G. Blaine, the park offers a campground, a playground, a boat ramp, on-site parking, and a slightly rocky beach that almost vanishes at high tide — which doesn’t last long before retreating seaward. Picnic tables spread among the white birches lure families to picnic and kibitz while the kids play in the shallows (no lifeguards, but the bottom deepens gradually, not precipitously).

Past the state park’s roadside stone walls, Route 184 ends at Lamoine Beach (on-site parking available), where visitors can stroll the shore while enjoying fantastic views across upper Frenchman Bay.

Route 204 bisects Lamoine from west to east and leads to Marlboro Beach on Raccoon Cove. While not geographically isolated from “anywhere else” in Lamoine, Marlboro Beach primarily draws folks who know it exists.

ä Roque Bluffs State Park

Between Jonesboro and Machias on Route 1 in Washington County, directional signs placed at two road intersections direct visitors to Roque Bluffs State Park abutting English-man Bay.

The idea that a beach exists where the signs say “bluffs” makes no sense, but arguably the quietest (and prettiest) beach east of Acadia National Park stretches almost a half mile along the bay.

And those bluffs? Found elsewhere in Roque Bluffs (pronounced like “rope,” not “rock”).

Roque Bluffs State Park features rosa rugosa-capped dunes, a freshwater pond, extensive hiking trails, a playground, and restrooms. The main attraction lies across the asphalt from the main parking lot: A beautiful hard-packed sand beach where folks can claim more square footage per capita than they can on southern Maine’s crowded beaches.

Under adults’ watchful attention, children can play at water’s edge (unless the tide’s foaming too much) or run amuck along the beach. Spread a blanket or unfold a lawn chair and listen to the gulls or the sea slurping at the sand.

ä Rock, rattle, and roll

Across Little Kennebec Bay from Roque Bluffs, Machiasport thrusts like a dagger into the Atlantic Ocean. The town stakes claim to the historic Fort O’Brien and Gates House, a fishing village named Bucks Harbor, and Jasper Beach, where Mother Nature literally rocks, rattles, and rolls.

That’s because unlike sandy Roque Bluffs Beach over yonder, sea-scoured rocks comprise Jasper Beach, the whole beach and nothing but the beach. Visitors clamber over storm wave-stacked gray rocks to reach the sea, slip ’n slide among gray rocks while walking anywhere on the beach, and picnic or sun bathe on blankets spread across gray rocks. Folks familiar with Mount Desert Island’s Quietside can think “Seawall,” only with smaller rocks — and lots more of ’em.

While lacking the proverbial sand, Jasper Beach is worth a visit just for the natural and geological experience. On days when the incoming tide booms ashore, the roiling waves can toss and rattle rocks, adding an aural sensation not heard at sand beaches.

Parking’s limited at Jasper Beach, which faces Howard Cove and Libby Island Lighthouse on the southern horizon.

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