Maine is known for its scenic coastline, dotted here and there with historic and iconic lighthouses. If you’re on the Maine coast, you’re near a lighthouse – and the Kennebunks are no exception. It’s one of the more common attractions we’re asked about!
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Kennebunkport and Kennebunk locals know about some hidden gems that boast stunning views and access to the ocean that are off the beaten track and consequently less crowded. One of the most stunning is Parsons Beach. Bordered on the north-east end by the Mousam River, this small beach is open to the public but the access crosses land that is privately owned. The road to the beach, Parsons Beach Road, is directly off of Rt. 9/Western Avenue. It is unpaved and winds its way past the bucolic fields of Riverhurst Farm, an equine facility that offers beach rides during the summer. If you’re lucky the fields will be populated with grazing horses, making the scene even more picturesque. Near the end of the road it crosses a small bridge spanning Back Creek Lake where there are a limited number of parking spaces. Back Creek undulates its way through pretty wetlands until it merges with the Mousam River, offering glimpses of egrets, herons, and other shore birds browsing for a meal in the creek’s shallow waters.
The path to the beach is framed by clusters of rosa rugosa, beach roses that bloom all summer and scent the air with delicate sweetness. The start of the access path offers just the faintest glimpse of the ocean that lies ahead and opens out onto a pretty beach that curves around to meet the Mousam River on the left and is bounded by a rocky point of land to the right. The sandy beach stretching down to the ocean generally hosts no more than a handful of people, even on perfect Maine beach days, thanks to the limited parking and the fact that it is not well known to people outside the area. Unlike the Kennebunk Beaches and Goose Rocks Beach, Parsons does not require a parking permit, but get there early in the morning if you want to grab a parking spot since the number is limited. Alternatively, spots open back up later in the afternoon, making Parsons an ideal place to pack in a romantic picnic dinner. Pick up all the fixings for a lobster dinner at Port Lobster or some delicious prepared food at Kitchen Chicks cafe.
Another pocket beach that flies under the radar is Colony Beach. An easy to miss access road off of Ocean Avenue sits in the shadow of the historic Colony Hotel and is just beyond the property of the Breakwater Inn and Spa in Kennebunkport. Like Parsons, no permits are required to park but spaces are limited. This tiny beach is best visited at low tide as higher tides tend to swallow it. There is access to a breakwater which offers a great path to walk out over the waters of the Kennebunk River’s mouth. Both the breakwater and the beach provide great views of boats coming and going and the Kennebunk beaches.
The final spot we’ll mention isn’t a beach, but does offer a short, beautiful walk to views of a lighthouse and dramatic rocky cliffs dropping away to the sea. Just about fifteen minutes away from the Inn at English Meadows, right near Biddeford Pool, is the East Point Sanctuary which is maintained by the Maine Audubon Society. The trail winds past some private homes and a golf course on its way to expansive views of Saco Bay and the Gulf of Maine. Visitors can also look across the harbor to see the historic Wood Island lighthouse keeping dutiful watch over the entrance to Biddeford Pool. At various points along the trail you can access rocky areas that offer great spots for a quiet picnic. Stop in at Goldthwaite’s in Biddeford Pool before hitting the trail to pick up everything you need to have a delightful feast perched above the crashing waves. For the more adventurous, consider taking a tour of Wood Island and the lighthouse. During the summer a boat leaves from Vines Landing in Biddeford Pool to ferry visitors out to the island. Volunteers for the Friends of Wood Island Lighthouse association run the tours on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays during the summer for a suggested donation of $15.