Maine's South Coast
Maine's South Coast, unlike much of the rest of Maine, which is famous for its rock-bound coast, is best characterized by its long, flat, sandy beaches. Great swimming and sunning begins in Kittery, just across the border from New Hampshire, and continues north up the coast through York, Ogunquit, Well, Kennebunk, Biddeford and, of course, the grand dame of South Coast beaches, Old Orchard. Here the amusement pier and honkytonk main drag attract visitors by the thousands, including scores of Canadians who shed the cooler climes of Quebec and flee down Routes 201 and 302 in search of fresh sea air, the scent of sun tan oil, and the feel of fine white sand under foot.
But the South Coast is more than just beaches. There are scores of picturesque harbors, quaint shops, cozy inns and bed and breakfast establishments, as well as outlet shopping in Kittery, which is also home to the renowned Kittery Trading Post, an outfitter selling everything from cross-country ski wax and tents to firearms and hunting apparel.
Portland, Maine’s largest city, reigns over the region. Too poor during the 1960s to afford the type of urban renewal that leveled historic structures in many New England towns of similar size, Portland was perfectly positioned when the restoration boom of the 1980s took root. Its famous Old Port section, characterized by gas-lit cobblestone streets, now bustles with trendy shops and charming restaurants and bars.
Portland, along with the docks in South Portland to the west, is one of the busiest seaports on the Eastern Seaboard. Here the waters of Casco Bay are traversed daily by tiny lobster boats and sprawling ocean-going bulk carriers. The city is also home to a major art museum and the Seadogs, the state’s only minor-league baseball team. The state’s largest retail shopping complex, the Maine Mall, is located in South Portland.
To the northwest is one of Maine’s premier freshwater playgrounds, Sebago Lake. The towns that surround it boast long, proud histories predating the Revolutionary War and are themselves the gateway to New Hampshire’s lofty White Mountains.
At the northeastern end of this region lies Freeport, home to the legendary L.L. Bean and dozens of other outlet and factory stores. DeLorme, the homegrown mapping company that has now become an information and software giant, is headquartered here with Eartha, the world’s largest three-dimensional globe, which spins silently in the three-story glass atrium lobby of their company superstore.
Still, despite its urban and suburban nature, the South Coast still has plenty to offer those who seek to cast off the cloak of civilization. From nature centers, bird sanctuaries and state parks in Scarborough to the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in Kennebunk to Bradbury Mountain State Park in Pownal, escape from the hustle and bustle is only minutes away.
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