A tenth of Maine is covered by water; with the trifecta of saltwater, standing water, and whitewater that is more than enough of the liquid stuff to enjoy yourself no matter where you put in. Fortunately, you don’t need to be seasoned paddler to enjoy the majority of the waterways, and most of the choice locations are easy to access and are a short drive off the main thoroughfares. One just needs gusto, a canoe, kayak or a stand-up paddleboard and a bit of knowledge on where to go. And rest assure, there are plenty of outfitters that offer everything you need.
The Casco Bay region hosts Maine’s biggest city, Portland. It is a popular spot not only for those interested in city wares, entertainment and food, but for kayaking. The more accomplished paddler will want to check out Fort Gorges. It is located on Hog Island and is one of the rawest fortes to survive the civil war. It is recommended that you procure a guide to explore the area. Local outfitters such as Maine Island Kayak Company, Portland Paddle and Rings Marine Service offer equipment and guided trips. Be sure to visit it during low tide for the best experience.
Inland, west of Portland, 45 square-mile Sebago Lake attracts day-trippers and out of state vacationers alike. The well-appointed campground at wooded Sebago Lake State Park on the north shore is worth checking out. Be sure to circle the charming season outpost of Frye Island and look for loons, eagles, otters and buffleheads. Sebago Kayak Company can get you anything you need to paddle you day away.
Just 45 minutes north from Portland, New Meadows River, a 12-mile tidal river, offers an opportunity to see lots of Osprey, Bald Eagles and other foul attracted to water prey. If you have a full day and are adventurous enough, the river will take you all the way to Caso Bay. If a shorter trip is what you’re looking for, head downstream a few miles to the more protected sandy beach at the privately-owned Thomas Point. With its own dock on the river, Seaspray Kayaking has everything you need.
Right off main street, the town landing in Damariscotta provides a launch point for tidal water trips through islands, oyster farms and the scattered fishing boats that decorate the Damariscotta River. The river is tidal and, depending on the time of day, will help or hinder your paddling muscles. So be sure to check the charts before you embark up or down the river. A good place to check out is Dodge Point Preserve, just a few miles downstream. With a beach and trails to explore it’s a great place for a day trip and a picnic. Be sure to hit up Mid-coast Kayak for your rental needs.
For the more experienced and dedicated kayaker, the Maine Island Trail, a 375-mile series of islands and passages running up the coast. Trail members can visit the more than 200 islands. Often, the islands are uninhabited, and camping is encouraged. A number of local outfitters including H2Outfitters, Maine Kayak, Mid-coast Kayak, Port Clyde Kayaks, Maine Sport Outfitters, Seaspray Kayaking and Tidal Transit Kayak Company offer tours of the trail and other areas including lessons on kayaking itself.
With the dramatic cliffs, sea stacks and the rough surf, Mount Desert Island is a place like no other and is a huge attraction for paddlers. You’ll be able to enjoy Acadia National Park from a unique perspective. Be aware, the surf in the area usually attracts the most seasoned of kayaks due to the technical difficulty. Don’t let this turn you away. In the greater area there is varied paddling opportunities and easily accessible islands. Be sure to check out the ‘bold coast’ farther down east. It is a more remote experience for those of you looking to be one with nature. Providing tours and instruction, local outfitters including Castine Kayak Adventures, Coastal Kayaking Tours, Maine State Sea Kayak, Sunrise Canoe and Kayak and Water Walker Kayak are a wise choice.
No matter where you end up, or how many times you visit, Maine never disappoints as a wellspring of adventure and excitement. Be sure to do you research before you embark on your trip, check the tides, weather and don’t be afraid to ask a local! And no matter what, relax and soak in all Maine has to offer.