Classic vistas await along the Kennebunk Bridle Path — Photo courtesy of Mark PechenikThere is perhaps nothing quite as Maine as shoreline walks along the Southern Maine Seacoast. So why not explore this natural wonder with a leisurely day trip to choice coastal destinations within a 2 hour drive south of Portland.
Let’s begin with an especially scenic excursion, the Kennebunk Bridle Path in nearby Kennebunk. This five-mile long trail begins beside the Sea Road School in Kennebunk (located at 29 Sea Road, visit http://www.rei.com/guidepost/detail/maine/mountain-biking/kennebunkt-bridle-path/37810 for more information). You start your stroll along a heavily forested path. Soon, however, the trees give way to coastal marshland featuring dramatic, natural canals which cut in zig zag patterns through compact clay sediment. Your eyes are drawn to the strong reflections of light which seem to bounce off the still waters. Moving further ahead, the trail crosses over a narrow strip of land with breathtaking, endless vistas of wetlands on either side. Take a moment and stop. The delicate touch of sea breezes, the intoxicating scent of rich salt air, the sight of marsh grass moving in unison with hawks soaring overhead – it all adds up to a truly magical moment of coastal bliss. Up ahead, you enter more heavily wooded terrain with achingly beautiful pools of water bordering the trail. Eventually, you come upon a golf course which ends your welcome sojourn.
Back to your car, you travel further south to the Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth (1000 Shore Road in Cape Elizabeth, 207-799-2661, www.portlandheadlight.com). Located in scenic Fort Williams Park, this classic Maine lighthouse represents the best of these iconic structures. A stroll around the park’s grounds introduces you to the rocky, aggressive shoreline that is so dear to Mainers and visitors alike. You may want to also visit the museum contained within the lighthouse which offers a fascinating retrospective of the lighthouse keeper’s contributions to American naval history.
Enjoying a walk along the Cutts Island Trail — Photo courtesy of Mark PechenikNext up is the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve (342 Laudholm Farm Road, 207-646-1555, www.wellsreserve.org). Situated on the protected Laudholm Farm in Wells, the Wells Estuarine Reserve is dedicated to the study of Maine’s coastal ecology. A small museum on the property details the intensive, ongoing research projects being undertaken by this facility to study and help maintain the health of the Gulf of Maine. Visitors also marvel at the 2 mile long boardwalk that winds its way through the rich marshlands adjoining the property. Here, you’ll enjoy viewing the amazing greenery – from bushes to flowers and trees – which are native to this section of Maine. Along the way, you can read informative markers which explain the importance of this habitat. The trail ends at the Wells Beach shoreline where it is possible to enjoy a refreshing dip in the ocean.
For some of the best beach walking in southern Maine, nothing satisfies quite like Short Sands Beach in York. Here you can indulge in long, leisurely strolls along the flat, sandy shoreline bordering downtown York. Visitors enjoy the rhythmic pulse of the waves, the cry of soaring sea gulls, and the intoxicating scent of fresh salt air that has made this beach one of the most beloved in the Pine Tree State.
For our final indulgence in shoreline strolling, we arrive at the Cutts Island Trail in Kittery (for details, contact the Town of Kittery at 200 Rogers Road Extension, 207-439-0452, www.kittery.org). Located off Chauncey Creek Road, which branches off from Route 103, the Cutts Island Trail has developed a well deserved reputation as one of the hidden gems of southern Maine. A well maintained trail leads from the roadside into the welcome embrace of deep woods along rolling terrain. After immersing yourself in this natural splendor, you come out onto the neighboring marsh with its pools of crystal blue water, twisting and meandering canals, and flat, level vistas of marsh grasses and trees that seem to go on forever. The trail is actually part of the Rachel Carson Wildlife Preserve, much like the Kennebunk Bridle Path to the north. It is well worth exploring and an excellent conclusion to your welcome exploration of Maine’s pristine, enduring and always beautiful shoreline.