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Favorite Coastal State Parks

With nearly 50 state parks in Maine, it is hard to decide which to choose for your next adventure. Want the scent of the sea breeze or to feel the sand between your toes? Looking for seaside camping or a hike past a lighthouse? Head to one of the 20 coastal or offshore island state parks.

If sandy beaches are on the agenda for the day, there are some tempting options. In the southern part of the state, Scarborough Beach State Park has long beaches, a designated lifeguard during the summer months and plenty of food trucks so no need to pack a lunch. Crescent Beach State Park offers picnic tables and grills, a children's playground, a snack bar and a bathhouse with cold-water showers. This park, and the small, adjacent Kettle Cove State Park, are two of the nicest salt-water beach parks in southern Maine. Crescent Beach has a mile of soft sand beach bordered by trails, seagrass and dunes. Another southern Maine sand beach park is Ferry Beach State Park—great for swimming, hunting for hermit crabs and exploring tidepools. Wander along the beach or on the inland network of trails, past a rare Tupelo swamp, forests and near the park’s fragile sand dunes.

Head up to the MidCoast region to Popham Beach State Park in Phippsburg. There’s a lifeguard on duty for this strong surf beach popular with swimmers and surfers alike. It is a unique stretch of coastline where the Kennebec River opens into the Atlantic and at low tide you can walk to nearby Fox Island. Or visit Birch Point State Park by a small, crescent-shaped beach that’s long been a favorite of locals in the area. The beach has a great view of Penobscot Bay and is fun for swimming, fishing and beachcombing.

Looking for a day hike? Maine’s coastal state parks offer fantastic hiking with great views of the Atlantic and the many islands offshore. Camden Hills State Park is renowned for its network of seaside hiking trails—with hikes for all levels—that lead to wonderful views of Camden, the coast, and the surrounding woods and lakes. Favorites include the Maidencliff Trail, with spectacular views of Megunticook Lake and the Megunticook Trail, with some of the park’s best overlooks from the highest peak in the park, Mt. Megunticook. The park also offers popular camping. Moose Point State Park is a great place for a break while traveling up the coast. Located off Route 1 in Maine’s MidCoast, the compact park on the water offers up pleasant short walking trails as well as shoreside picnicking areas and play areas for the kids. Reid State Park is a small coastal park that includes not only several stretches of perfect beach, but also sand dunes, rocky headlands, tide pools, a lagoon and a good series of hiking trails. It is also on the Maine Birding Trail and is a nesting area for endangered Least Terns and Piping Plovers. Plenty of easy seaside hikes can be found at Wolfe's Neck Woods State Park which is only a few miles from the bustle of Freeport’s shopping district. Trails wend through coastal forest and along the rocky coast. Visitors can also comb a stony seashore and watch for nesting ospreys on nearby Googins Island. For an easy walk near Portland, visit Mackworth Island State Park. The 1.25-mile loop provides great views of Casco Bay and the city.

If you want to fall asleep with the crash of the shore nearby, consider camping at one of Maine’s coastal state parks. Spend the night tent camping or cozy up in an RV at Cobscook Bay State Park. This park hosts some of the most scenic coastal camping on the Maine coast. Many of the park’s campsites border Whiting Bay, a sheltered inlet within the larger bay. Witness the dramatic 24-foot tides, explore the 888 acres and see the more than 200 birds that visit this region. Or camp at Lamoine State Park. This park, located near Acadia National Park, is in a quiet, coastal area and is known for shorefront camping and picnicking. Enjoy the views of Frenchman Bay while you roast marshmallows over the fire.

To learn a little or see some of Maine’s most iconic landmarks, there are coastal state parks that offer just that—like Fort Point State Park, which is a favorite park for history buffs. Fort Point contains not only the remains of Fort Pownall, a British fort built during the French and Indian War, but also the 19th century Fort Point Lighthouse. The park is also perfect for a coastal picnic. Check out the lighthouse built in 1852 at Owls Head State Park. Owls Head Lighthouse, which perches atop a rocky promontory that stands over Penobscot Bay, is also open for tours, primarily during the warmer months. The light keeper’s house now hosts the American Lighthouse Foundation’s Interpretive Center & Gift Shop. The stunning candy-striped West Quoddy Head Lighthouse is found at Quoddy Head State Park. At the tip of America's easternmost peninsula, the park includes hiking trails and picnicking areas. You can often see whales out in the channel. In southern Maine, Two Lights State Park perches right on the coast, featuring picnicking areas on rocky headlands overlooking wave-washed stone. The park also includes former World War II coastal-defense structures and walking paths.

Or maybe you just want to get away from it all. Several of Maine’s coastal state parks are remote and rugged. Holbrook Island Sanctuary is a rare swath of wild coastal forest, mudflats and rocky coastline. Visitors can explore the preserve by walking or skiing on old roads, trails and paths, keeping an eye open for animals and birds. There’s a launch for kayaks and canoes if you want to get out into Penobscot Bay. Near Machias, Roque Bluffs State Park has an unusual 1/2-mile sand-and-pebble ocean beach perfect for bracing dips in Englishman’s Bay, a freshwater pond great for swimming and kayaking and six miles of trails weaving through the coastal woods and fields. Shackford Head State Park is near Eastport, the easternmost city in the U.S. On an often-foggy headland near the Canadian border, this small park offers a number of dramatic hikes overlooking oceanfront bluffs, cliffs and beaches. For the ultimate remote experience, visit Warren Island State Park. This island, tucked in Penobscot Bay, is only accessible by boat, and the 12 campsites are truly secluded.

Whatever coastal state park experience you’re looking for, be sure to check the hours of operation and fees for the park you want to visit as they vary greatly, and check to see if you can bring your leashed dog as many beach parks have dog-friendly months.

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