Maine’s coastline is a treasure on its own, but there’s a bounty for beachcombers right where the tide comes in. In fact, one of the best times to go beachcombing is right after a big storm or large swells. Bonus points if that storm comes in at high tide.
However, it’s not just ANY beach that shares the sea shelling and elusive sea glass spreads. While some secret spots are held as tightly among Mainers as the president holds nuclear codes, we’ve hunted down some of the top spots for beachcombing in Maine.
Is Beachcoming Legal in Maine?
We channel our inner lawyer as we answer, “It depends.” State and National Parks will have “Leave No Trace” principles that urge you to leave the land as you found it. That means not touching a single shell.
In fact, sea glass collecting is prohibited on all beaches under the control of state parks, and offenders face severe penalties.
However, Maine’s law states that recreational uses of the beach on intertidal and submerged lands include “gathering shells and sea glass and the building of sandcastles.” The only caveat is if superseding laws impact the “public health, safety, and general welfare.”
A beach’s supply of sea glass gets depleted when too many visitors take “just a few pieces,” leaving nothing for the subsequent visitors to enjoy. So if at all feasible, just go hunting, gather your treasures, wonder at them, and snap photos of them. Throw them back where you found them after that.
Bottom line: always ask if you are at a public beach before you take anything. Beachcombing can be just as fun with photos as pocketing the treasures. One standard rule is to leave shells that contain living animals.
When is the Best Time to Beachcomb?
A few circumstances, including the aforementioned storms like the recent Hurricane Lee, make it more likely you’ll find shells or sea glass on the beach.
- Post Storm: The storm carries shells farther inland and in much better shape than those beaten over waves for months.
- Seasonally: Loosely tied to the first point, spring and fall bring the most shoreline storms, making better seasons for sea glassing.
- Outgoing/Low Tide: This is when the shoreline is most exposed, revealing a wide range of treasures washed up by the sea. Focus on the intertidal zone (between low and high tide lines).
- Morning: Smaller crowds and the Golden Hour light give you ideal access to the freshest stacks of shells and exposed shoreline.
Top 14 Beachcombing Beaches of Maine
If you’re searching for sea glass beach in Maine, you want a rocky beach. Sea shells are more commonly found on sandy beaches. Luckily, Maine has many of each kind and some with both elements!
Middle Beach, Kennebunk
Head to the beach between Gooch’s and Mother’s Beaches in Kennebunk. It will stand out because it’s mostly rocks while the others are sandy. This location is said to have some of the best sea glass in the state. Given how narrow this beach is at high tide, you’ll definitely need a low tide adventure.
East End Beach, Portland
So. Many. Shells. Look for spiral shells and remnants of clam and mussel shells among the sand and stones. This is also a busy beach throughout the year, so look for secluded spots or tidal pools. You might have to dig through some seaweed, but did you know you can harvest up to 50 pounds without a license?
HOT TIP: Any beach along Casco Bay is prime for sea glass and sea shells.
Little Chebeague Island, Long Island
A bigger beachcombing adventure comes to those who travel by boat to Little Chebeague Island. It’s uninhabited and part of the Maine Island Trail Association. It’s a not-so-secret spot on the backside sandbar that brings locals out to hunt for shells and sea glass. Little Chebeauge also allows camping on the beaches.
Fortune Rocks Beach, Biddeford
While beachcombing has nothing to do with the name, it’s appropriate given how many shells and sea glass options you can find here with clever searching. Park at the beach’s southern end and stick to that area for the best chance at finding sea glass.
Short Sands Beach, York
Copy and paste all the information mentioned above about how great Short Sands Beach is for beachcombing, but another lure on this long stretch of beach is much more elusive. A shipwreck’s skeleton shows itself every few years, usually after major storms. One theory is that it’s the remains of Defiance, a ship built in the 1750s.
Long Sands Beach, York
If you’re ready to “dig in” to beachcombing, this long stretch of sand is the premier location in Maine for finding sand dollars. For the best sand dollar searches, you’ll need to go at low tide, after a storm, and look at the high tide line for round sand depressions. Once you find one, it’s important to hold it in your hand for about a minute and see if it moves. If it’s still alive, put it back.
Ogunquit Beach, Ogunquit
The only downside to this beachcombing delight is the number of people who enjoy this beach, so walk a little further to escape the masses. Ogunquit Beach is known for its soft, sandy shores and dramatic rocky cliffs. These cliffs, made of granite and other rock types, help tumble and smooth sea glass into beautiful, polished gems.
Popham Beach State Park, Phippsburg
Popham Beach makes headlines for the erosion cutting into the expanse of sand, so go while you can. As it’s a state park, you can look, but don’t take the treasures you find. Popham Beach is a natural wonder with expansive tidal flats and sandbars. It’s a hotspot for tidal action and offers numerous tidal pools that often hold abundant sea life and shells.
Bailey Island, Harpswell
The locals love this beach, but it’s not a tourist hot spot so beachcombing could be better than ever. Bailey Island boasts a rocky shoreline with numerous coves and inlets. These natural features create pockets where sea glass and shells can accumulate. The rocky terrain and quiet charm of Bailey Island allow beachcombing at a slow pace.
Hulls Cove, Bar Harbor
It’s not the most popular or well-known beach in Bar Harbor, but Hull’s Cove has turned up several rare pink sea glass pieces. The beach is off the main road, making it worth a stop even if you don’t find much. We’ve also seen photos of broken pottery pieces washing ashore across Mount Desert Island beaches.
BEACH TIP: Lower expectations for finding sea glass at Sand Beach in Acadia National Park. We’ve repeatedly been told this beach is swept clean of anything interesting.
Belfast Beach, Belfast
This might be the best beach in Maine to find sea glass, especially for those without luck elsewhere. Several reports of people filling up buckets of sea glass in a spectrum of colors make this one of our favorite spots. Stick to the public beach by the city park. The rarest sea glass colors are orange, turquoise, and yellow.
Mowry Beach, Lubec
Just a stone’s throw from Canada, Mowry Beach on the Bold Coast is a preserve packed with sea glass and seashells waiting to be discovered. You’ll also find sensational spring wildflowers here and a somber shipwreck memorial. This beach is rarely crowded and off the beaten path for the average Maine tourist. At low tide, you’ll also see ancient forest tree stumps.
Reid State Park Beach, Georgetown
On top of being one of the most stunning beaches you’ve probably never heard of, Reid State Park Beach is big on BIG seashells, and you can easily find huge ones intact. This is also one of the best places in Maine to find driftwood. Surfers love this spot, which means big waves bringing in so many shells. You get a bonus of three beaches to explore.
Peaks Island, Portland
Peaks Island has great beachcombing, but there’s another hot spot beach explorers won’t want to miss. Head just south of the ferry terminal (oh, yeah, you’ll need to hitch a ferry ride) for the best shells and sea glass at the small Centennial Beach.
However, Whaleback Ledge on the backside of Peaks Island is the showstopper. The hauntingly dark and rugged rocks are unlike anything you’ve seen before. While it’s not the kind of beach where you can bring something home, take tons of photos of this unique spot.
How to Preserve Seashells
You can take easy steps to keep your shells spectacular. First, clean them with mild soap and a soft brush, optionally using a diluted bleach solution for stubborn stains. Rinse thoroughly and air dry away from direct sunlight. Deodorize with a vinegar-water mixture if needed. Once dry, apply mineral or baby oil for protection and sheen, wiping off excess oil. Store shells in an airtight container or display case in a cool, dry place for long-term preservation.
How to Preserve Sand Dollars
To preserve sand dollars, start by rinsing them in fresh water to remove debris. Soak them in soapy water, gently scrub them, and rinse to clean. Soak briefly in a mild hydrogen peroxide solution for brightening, then rinse. Air-dry them flat on a towel. To enhance appearance and prevent brittleness, apply a thin mineral or baby oil layer and wipe off excess. Consider a protective case or frame in a cool, dry place for display or storage.
How to Preserve Driftwood
Clean it by scrubbing and soaking it in soapy water, followed by optional bleaching for lightening and pest removal. Air dry thoroughly, which may take several days. Sand the surface for smoothness and apply wood sealant or mineral oil to protect and enhance its appearance. Ensure it’s fully dried before using or displaying.
Preserve Your Beachcombing Vacation
The beauty of beachcombing, where you’re allowed to take pieces home, is the experience of crafting your favorite sea glass pieces or shells into jewelry, pendants, frames, etc. Paint the inside of seashells with your own artistic flair or design a seashell mosaic.
Taking beachcombing to the next level is an ideal way to preserve your Maine trip and share a unique piece with your loved ones.