1.) Kettle Cove
There is nothing particularly exciting about Kettle Cove–no big waves, no stunning vistas, no shocking wildlife. There doesn’t need to be. Kettle Cove is peaceful and expansive, a plane of soft sand leading down to a calm, clear stretch of water for swimming. The cove is protected by an impressive wall of rock, at the top of which there is a stretch of grass perfect for picnicking. In short, Kettle Cove is the perfect spot for nice long lazy days of swimming and sunbathing, nothing more, nothing less.
2.) Higgins Beach
This beach is a real gem. It’s tucked away in what feels like a relatively isolated pocket of Scarborough, just a short drive away from Portland and Gorham. Here you get a quaint-feeling coastal town surrounding by a great stretch of powdery sand. The water’s great for swimming, with clear and unseasonably warm conditions. Parking can be kind of a pain, so prepare to pay for a spot and stay for the day or arrive early to fight it out for one of the metered spots. In the end, it’s worth it. This spot is a great place to swim, lay on the sand or explore the surrounding grassland.
3.) Sandy Beach
The slightly misleadingly named Sandy Beach is one of the most popular summer spots on Peaks Island, and with good reason. At high tide, this beach is the perfect spot to swim, and at low tide, the combination of the rocky tidepool landscape ringed with sand has something for everyone, with good spots for everything from climbing to sandcastles. Sandy is also just a hop, skip and a jump from what passes for ‘downtown’ on Peaks–that is, it is a short walk from the ice cream store, the grocery store, and each one of the restaurants and places to go for drinks that the island has to offer. For the price of one 15 minute boat ride, take a mini-vacation out of town without ever technically leaving the city of Portland.
4.) East End Beach
Probably the most convenient for Portlanders, the East End Beach is just off of the Eastern Promenade Trail. Portland’s only public beach is free, with plenty of parking. It’s not the most quiet or secluded of places and depending on the tide it might be hard to find a place for your beach chairs, but its close proximity is great for an impulsive weekday jaunt after work or a summer class. Get iced coffee and picnic supplies up at Hilltop Coffee and Rosemont Market on the hill. If you’re a dog owner, you can bring your dog to play leash-free after 5 p.m. (and if you’re not a fan, be sure to avoid the evening).
5.) Old Orchard Beach
If you’d rather spend a hot day smothered by crowds of strangers (and their annoying kids fresh out of school and ready to drink Mountain Dew all summer) OOB is the place to be. This isn’t a place to walk your dog or stare off into the ocean contemplating existential questions. This beach is all about partying, playing games of tackle football and dodging sandcastles as you run down to boogie board in the ocean. If you need a break from the beach, you can hit up the pier and grab a greasy bite to eat, get rid of all that spare change at the arcade or snatch one of those sick hats with your name graffitied on it. I recommend going on a rainy day when there’s no one there if you don’t like people.