When people think of moving to Portland, Maine, they don’t usually think that they’re moving to a beach town, but that’s just what the Greater Portland area offers, including many beaches that are great for kids! Here are some of our favorites.
Mackworth Island, Falmouth – With its one plus mile trail around a mostly-undeveloped island, Mackworth has several small beaches that are great for kids, with gentle waves and plenty of opportunities to hunt for crabs and other sea creatures in the seawood in the rocky areas bordering the beaches. Although you’ll see a lot of families camped out at the sandy beach that is near the parking area, the more gravelly beach that is about halfway around the island is our favorite as there are rocks to climb, shade up near the tree line, and an easy entry into the water. Add in a trip to the “fairy village” in the woods where the kids can build their own fairy houses, and you have a magical Maine morning or afternoon practically at your doorstep.
Willard Beach, South Portland – The crown jewel of a thriving and increasingly popular neighborhood in South Portland, Willard Beach is a ½ mile sweep of white sand, bordered on one end by a rocky outcropping with gorgeous homes in the Loveitt’s Field neighborhood, and Southern Maine Community College and Spring Point Light on the other. Willard Beach has everything you could look for in a beach for children: bathrooms, a snack bar, shallow entry water, and even a jungle gym right on the beach. Just a short stroll from Scratch Baking, home of what I think are the best bagels in the Portland area along with other delicious baked treats and coffee, and Willard Scoops, you can start or end your day at the beach or make a whole day of it. Furred friends are also welcome on the beach in the early morning and evening hours during the summer season, and all day long in the winter.
Kettle Cove, Cape Elizabeth – Kettle Cove in Cape Elizabeth is by far one of our favorite beaches for our own young children. With waters that are relatively protected, the waves are small and the water tends to stay a bit warmer than at other area beaches. The greatest asset at this beach isn’t the sand and the surf, but the amazing tidal pools at low tide. There are times of year that they look like a hermit crab super highway , which is always exciting for the littles and bigs alike, but you can also find baby shrimp and lobsters, oysters, mussels, crabs, and an abundance of other ocean life. The parking and amenities at Kettle Cove are limited, so get there early on hot weekend days and plan on bathing at home, but there are clean outhouses set back off the parking area. From the spit of land overlooking the beach, you can watch the lobstermen pull into the harbor or take a walk along the short trails in the wooded and rocky area at the far end of the beach and you may even surprise a deer or two.
Cresent Beach State Park, Cape Elizabeth – Cresent Beach State Park in Cape Elizabeth is a long stretch of white sand with gentle waves with views out to the islands. Because it’s a state park, there are no houses on the beach, giving it the secluded feel of many of the beaches north of Portland while also offering full amenities in the high season – bath houses, food, and plenty of parking. On a hot day on the weekend, the beach can get a little bit crowded right near the walking paths but there’s always room to spread out if you’re willing to walk a bit further. In the winter and other cooler months, it’s a beautiful place to walk, run, and burn off some energy.
Broad Cove Beach, Cumberland – Broad Cove Beach has only been open to the public for a couple of years now but it’s a great addition to the kid beach scene in the Greater Portland area. The relatively shallow water on the marshy side of the beach is filled with tiny fish, which the kids can readily see, and the water is much warmer here, making it swimmable even for those who fear the chilly Maine ocean waters. During the summertime, there’s a shuttle (just a pickup truck) that drives beachgoers down from a new parking area but the stroll down the hill through the woods and then the grassy meadows is also quite lovely.
Higgins Beach, Scarborough – Although the parking for Higgins Beach has gotten expensive in recent years, this beach offers something that many of the other Portland area beaches do not: big waves! So, if you have older children who are interested in learning how to surf, then Higgins Beach is a great option. It also is a beautiful place to walk in the winter when the crowds are gone.