One boat, one paddle with two blades, and a whole lot of open water to explore — if that sounds like the perfect way to spend an afternoon, you’re in luck. There are plenty of places to go kayaking in southern Maine, both on the high seas and on calm freshwater lakes and rivers.
Ogunquit’s Tidal River
Thanks to the moon’s gravitational pull and our position right on the water, the Ogunquit River flows both to and from the ocean right past The Dunes. Once you get the hang of the river’s changing schedule, you can use it to your advantage in planning your Maine kayaking adventure. You’ll have almost 10 miles of waterway to travel on, with the rare ability to paddle with the current both ways. Using an Ogunquit tide chart, you can plan to leave, paddling north, about an hour and a half before high tide and return as the water recedes. Our dock on the Ogunquit River doubles as a prime put-in for stand-up paddle boarding, too. For a preview, check out this photo tour of an Ogunquit River paddling trip.
Kennebunkport’s Tidal River
The Kennebunk River meets the ocean at Gooch’s Beach, which lies to the west of the mouth. The entire navigable length of the river is five miles, with a one mile stretch from the mouth of the river to the Dock Square bridge not recommended for kayaking because of heavy boat traffic. Above the Dock Square bridge, the river is closed to larger vessels, making it a paddler’s paradise. A few other markers are Durrells Bridge at 3.3 miles and the Railroad bridge five miles from the mouth. North of the Railroad bridge, it’s time to turn around.
Rachel Carson Wildlife Refuge
Catch breathtaking views and an unmatched opportunity to spot wildlife at the Rachel Carson Wildlife Refuge. You’ll need to know the tides, as some of the terrain can get marshy otherwise. Look for signs that say “Carry In Boat Access Only” — stricter conservation rules regulate where you can put in or take out your canoe or kayak. The three places to spot these signs are: Chauncey Creek on Seapoint Road in Kittery, Maine, Little River at the end of Granite Point Road in Biddeford, Maine, and Spurwink River at the fish pier on Route 77 in Scarborough, Maine.
This relatively large tidal pool has something for everyone. It connects at the northeastern corner to the ocean through a narrow opening called “the Gut.” There is a salt marsh at the southwestern and northwestern corners. The section of the pool closest to the Gut, where boats are moored, has water at all levels of tide, but most of the pool is dry three to four hours before and after high tide. Vines Landing is the best launch site, found on the eastern shore of the gut. At Vines Landing currents can be very strong, so be sure to time the trip with the tide. If you have an urge to get into the ocean, you can do so any time of the day or at any tide – just be ready for some brisk paddling for the first little bit if going against the tide. Parking is available at the launch site at no cost, but is somewhat limited.
Lobster, lighthouses, and islands, oh my! This is some of the best kayaking in Maine. To the east is Stage Harbor, is a quieter area surrounded by islands. Beware of poison ivy if you set foot on the islands. At the main entrance to Cape Porpoise Harbor is a working lighthouse, Goat Island Light, which has been restored to its original condition. You are welcome to paddle to Goat Island and land at the beach area on the northeastern side. Tours of the lighthouse are offered periodically — join one if the timing is right. To the west of the harbor there is a marsh with a small creek that leads to Turbats Creek. It is only accessible for roughly 3 hours on either side of high tide. You’ll notice this is true of many of the areas around Cape Porpoise. The best spot to launch is the Causeway on Pier Road, about 100 yards before the end of the road. Parking is limited right at the spot, but you’ll find more just past the causeway on the right side of the road or at the Pier Parking Lot.
Kids Kayak Too at Goose Rocks Beach
Planning gets a little easier at Goose Rocks Beach, which is accessible regardless of the tide and makes a great place to bring the kids. There are plenty of resting spots along the two miles of sandy beach for little paddlers to take a break. Goosefare Bay generally offers good protection from the wind, with the exception that an especially strong wind from a southerly direction will make the water a bit rough. If the winds do pick up, “Goose Rocks” provides some added protection. These rocks can be found 100 yards off the beach. The most convenient launch site is at the end of Jeffery’s Way on the eastern end of the beach, where kayaks can be unloaded at the beach access point. To park anywhere in the Goose Rocks Beach area, a Town of Kennebunkport parking sticker is required. You can buy a sticker — cash only — at the Police Station or at the Goose Rocks Beach General Store. You’ll drive right by the store, so it is a convenient stop on the way.
Make a Day Out Of It at Ogunquit Beach and River
The Ogunquit River is by far the closest of these places to kayak — it’s right out the door of your Ogunquit seaside cottage or guest room. Plan a whole day of your vacation around it by finding high tide on the river and planning your kayaking excursion first. Depending on the time of day that is best for kayaking, bring along the gear you’ll need to relax in the soft white sand of Ogunquit Beach.