The romantic rocky coast of Maine has inspired many a mystery novel, but shale outcroppings and barnacle-encrusted rocks don’t make for easy sitting or sunbathing. It’s fortunate, then, that nestled among the cliffs are many sand and pebble beaches.
Following are a few Maine beaches accessible by hiking trails, places where you can combine beachcombing with shaded woods walks.
Shackford Head State Park in Eastport, the easternmost city of the country, includes 90 acres of Moose Island overlooking Cobscook Bay. The land includes Cony Beach, where five Civil War chips were burned for salvage during the early 1900s (swimming is not recommended in this area of the beach). And the trail system consists of more than 3 miles of easy-advanced footpaths that lead hikers to high cliffs with views of Campobello Island. Dogs are permitted if on a leash. Some trails may be closed to protect nesting eagles. Entrance fees range from free to $3. The park entrance is on Deep Cover Road in Eastport. For information, call 941-4014.
The Bold Coast of Cutler is accessed by trails located on Cutler Coast Public Lands, 12,334 acres of various habitats. The 9.5-mile trail network is moderate-strenuous in difficulty, depending on how much of it you want to hike. Hiking from the trailhead to the ocean via Coastal Trail is 2.8-mile round trip. However, if you continue on, the Coastal Trail will lead to a beautiful cobble beach at Black Point Cove. Access is free. Pets are permitted. To reach the trail parking area, start at the intersection of Route 1 and Route 191 in East Machias and turn right onto Route 191. Drive about 17 miles to the parking area, which is marked with a large sign. For information, call 941-4412.
Rogue Bluffs State Park in Rogue Bluffs is 274 acres on Schoppee Point and includes a beautiful, half-mile crescent of sand and pebbles along Englishman Bay. A 6-mile trail network just inland from the shore leads through old orchards, fields and woods, with paths that follow the rocky shores of Great Cove and Pond Cove. Libby Lighthouse (formerly known as Machias Lighthouse), built in 1817, stands just offshore and is still an active beacon. Dogs are not permitted on the ocean beach, but they are permitted elsewhere in the park if kept on a leash. Entrance fees range from free to $4.50. Parking for the hiking trails can be found in the village of Rogues Bluff. For information, call 255-3475.
Petit Manan Wildlife Refuge in Steuben is a 2,195-acre piece of land that includes a spruce forests with some mixed hardwood, jack pine stands, coastal raised heath peatlands, blueberry barrens, old hayfields, freshwater and saltwater marshes, cedar swamps, granite shores and cobble beaches. Dogs are allowed if on a leash. Trail use is free. The parking area for the Birch Point Trail (4.2 miles round trip) is 5.8 miles from Route 1 off Pigeon Hill Road, and the Hollingsworth Trail (a 1.5-mile loop) is 6.2 miles from Route 1 off Pigeon Hill Road. For information, visit www.fws.gov/northeast/mainecoastal/.
Sandy Point Beach Park in Stockton Springs is located on French’s Point, where the Penobscot River enters the Penobscot Bay, and includes a sandy (by Maine standards) beach and trail network that totals a little less than 2 miles in length and is easy-moderate in difficulty. A state property managed by the Town of Stockton Springs, the park was established in 1990 is is just over 100 acres. The parking area for the park is at the end of Steamboat Warf Road. From the parking area, a wooden, wheelchair-accessible boardwalk leads to the beach and a wooden platform near the beach. The trail network begins at the end of the parking lot. Osprey and other birds nest on the remains of an old pier that can be seen from the right end of the beach. For information, call the Stockton Springs town office at 567-3404.
The Beehive in Acadia National Park is one of the most popular hikes on Mount Desert Island and is moderate-strenuous in difficulty. At 520 feet in elevation, Beehive offers stunning views of nearby Sand Beach. There are two ways to the top of Beehive, which is a distinctive hill beside Sand Beach in Acadia National Park. One of the trails (just 0.8 mile) is not for the faint of heart; it includes several ladders, rungs and narrow bridges and zigzags up a cliff. The other trail, which travels the more gradual “backside” of Beehive, is a better choice for children, dogs and people who are afraid of heights. The Sand Beach parking lot is off Park Loop Road, past the park entrance fee station. You will need to pay a small fee to pass the gate from May through October. From the Sand Beach parking lot, walk back to Park Loop Road, turn right and walk a short distance to the trailhead of Beehive. For information, call 288-3338.
Sears Island in Searsport has three marked trails that are easy-moderate in difficulty, as well as two roads, all open for the public to explore year round. The 936-ace island is approximately 2 miles long and 1 mile wide, with approximately 5 miles of shoreline. Pets are allowed, and hunting is permitted on the island during open seasons. The island is connected to the mainland by a causeway at the end of Sears Island Road. Park at the end of the causeway, and make sure to note the parking restrictions close to the gate. Not far past the gate is a kiosk displaying an island map. For information about the island, call the nonprofit Friends of Sears Island at 548-0142 or visit friendsofsearsisland.org.
Reid State Park in Georgetown, established in 1946, is Maine’s first state-owned saltwater beach. Visitors can enjoy the park’s long, wide sand beaches, which are essential nesting areas for endangered least terns and piping plovers. And from the top of Griffith Head, a rocky headland overlooking the park, visitors can view the lighthouses on Seguin Island, The Cuckolds and Hendricks Head. The park features two relatively flat trails — the 2.1-mile Ski Loop Trail and the 1.4-mile Little River Trail — and is open all year. Pets are allowed if on a leash, though pets are not allowed on the beach from April 1 to Oct. 1. Entrance fees range from free to $6.50. To reach the park, turn onto Seguinland Road in Georgetown from Route 127, and follow it 1.5 miles to the park. For more information, call 371-2303.
Ferry Beach State Park in Saco features a white sand beach, picnic area and a little less than 2 miles of nature trails. The Tupelo Trail (0.4 mile) traverses through a tupelo (black gum tree) swamp on a raised boardwalk. These trees are rare at this latitude. Located just two miles from the center of Old Orchard Beach, this 100-acre park is a quieter place to enjoy a sandy southern Maine beach. Pets are permitted if on a leash, but they are not allowed on the beach from April 1 to Sept. 30. Entrance fees range from free to $6. The park is located off Route 9 on Bay View Road in Saco. For information, call 283-0067.
La Verna Preserve in Bristol features 3,600 feet of rocky ocean shoreline and 2.5 miles of trails through 120 acres of forests, wetlands and overgrown farmland. Pets are permitted if on a leash. Beware of poison ivy near the shore. The preserve is open to visitors during daylight hours, and access is free. Preserve parking is off Route 32 near Ocean Hill Cemetery in Bristol. The trailhead is across Route 32 from the parking area. For information, call Pemaquid Watershed Association at 563-2196.