Nubble Lighthouse-York-Winter
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8 BEST Southern Maine Beach Getaways in Winter Ideas

Winter beach getaways on the Southern Maine Coast might be in the off-season, but the activities are pretty on point. Deep discounts, smaller crowds, and wide open beaches allow a more intimate experience at the places that draw you to Maine in the first place.

For some of the more popular activities, winter might just be the best experience you’ll have comparatively. You just have to know where to look and how to plan. That’s where we come in!

Acadia National Park Winter
Acadia National Park Winter

Why Maine’s Southern Coast Makes an Excellent Winter Beach Getaway

Maine is designed for four seasons of outdoor fun, and that’s half the battle right there. Mainers don’t complain about how cold it is outside (and they don’t want to hear you complain either). Instead, they’ve designed life and luxuries around taking advantage of winter’s hallmarks.

Mainers Make It Special

Maine’s Southern Coast makes an excellent winter destination because the people around you are celebrating winter — from cross-country trails groomed by volunteers to festivals celebrating the solstice and night skies.

Winter Views WOW You

Sprinkle on top of that a landscape that demands attention in winter. People love the rugged appeal of Maine’s coastline, but have you considered that it was many a winter storm that shaped that style?

When the ocean is roaring, you get to see the mighty majesty. Snowflakes falling on a saltwater marsh or sand mixed in with flakes on the beach add to the experience.

The Weather Is Not THAT Bad

Winter weather in Maine can be excellent, especially if you like sweater weather vibes. Whether you love or loathe snow, the coastline caters to you.

Looking back over 30 years, most Maine coastline cities don’t get more than seven snow days in a month. Over the past decade, that number has dwindled to no more than four. Most cities have temperatures at or above freezing even in the shortest days of winter.

Snow lovers don’t have to look too far to experience some of the best skiing in the East — Sugarloaf, Saddleback, and Sunday River are easy day drives from anywhere on the coast.

Yes, Maine Is Open

Along with the bulk of experiences that you’d expect from Maine coastline communities, you have a better chance of getting a great oceanview room at your favorite inn without the expensive bill.

Of course, some crab shacks and ice cream stands will close in the winter. But doesn’t that happen everywhere outside of South Florida?

Feed Your Winter Desires

Maine is a foodie destination with Portland being the kingpin for cuisine — from the seasonal hard-shell lobster to a collection of choice chowders topped off with fresh-baked whoopie pies. The winter beer selections are also top-notch, and breakfast gets a boost with the maple syrup season in March.

Meanwhile, Maine restaurants come up with creative ways to offer outdoor seating throughout the season — from igloos to heated cabins. Indoors or outdoors, Maine makes winter fun.

Kittery Premium Outlets
Kittery Premium Outlets | photo via Greg & Heather Burke

Indoor Things to Do on the SMC

To warm up your winter beach getaway itinerary, let’s start with the indoor things to do on the Southern Maine Coast.

Go Shopping Southern Maine Style

Some of the best shopping in the Pine Tree State awaits on the 65-mile stretch from the state line to the Mid-Coast.

Kittery Maine is home to several outlet malls, all conveniently located on Route 1. One must-stop shop is the Kittery Trading Post, which feels somewhere between Bass Pro Shop and L.L. Bean but with generations of one family keeping the place going since 1938. Three stories and 90,000 square feet make this a massive shop with plenty of intriguing sculptures and taxidermy.

Another popular spot for shopping is the Kittery Premium Outlets, which allows shoppers to score fashion brands like Adidas, Michael Kors, Tommy Hilfiger, and the like for less than the original retail prices.

Following Route 1 north to Old Orchard Beach, you have several charming downtowns in Ogunquit, Kennebunkport, Saco, and Biddeford with local shops that sell Maine products you can’t find anywhere else.

Book a Unique Boat Charter

It may not sound like it at first, but a boat charter is one of the most unique activities you can do in the SMC. Seacoast Maritime Charters offers year-round cruises of Portsmouth Harbor from Kittery, giving visitors the chance to see the town and Portsmouth New Hampshire from the water.

But what makes this boat operator unique is that it offers access to Star Island and the Isles of Shoals — the latter of which is steeped in lore, such as shipwrecks and a notorious 19th-century double murder.

You can find even more scenic, eco, and whale-watching boat tours in Kennebunk with New England Eco Adventures and in Kennebunkport on the Pineapple Ketch and the Rugosa.

Visit Museums

The Southern Maine Coast is an artist’s dream, and that’s not just the inspirational scenic viewpoints. There are numerous museums and cultural spots to explore throughout the region.

In Kittery, you can make a winter appointment to visit the Kittery Historical & Naval Museum. Tours are self-guided with a scavenger hunt for kids and a historic movie showcasing the importance of this naval location.

For arts and culture, you’ll find plenty to see in Ogunquit. You can watch top-notch musicals at the Ogunquit Playhouse during early winter just before the production’s annual break. On top of that, you can peruse several galleries.

And, stop by historic downtown Kennebunk for a visit to the Brick Store Museum. While the museum holds the shipbuilding, wartime, and development history of Kennebunk and Kennebunkport, it’s also one of less than two dozen museums founded by a woman. The building’s name comes from the expensive brick that was used to build it when timber was a more plentiful and affordable option in 1825.

Nubble Lighthouse-York-Winter
Nubble Lighthouse I Shutterstock

Outdoor Things to Do on the SMC

Like one of the coolest Instagram filters, winter’s spectrum on the Southern Maine Coast is impressive. You’ll stay active enough to keep warm and won’t have to worry about the black flies and greenhead giants that come after you in the summer.

Head to Historic Sites on the Coast

Starting in Kittery, Fort Foster Park wraps around the northern coastline of the Piscataqua River and the ocean. The gates are open in the winter. You won’t have amenities, but you are free to explore the beaches and fort.

NOTE: The fort was built to protect Portsmouth Harbor and the naval yard in the late 1800s, and it served as a defensive post for most of the wars through 1946.

The Kennebunkport Conservation Trust protects historic sites and preserves land, offering a two-for-one experience in winter. Locations like Emmons Preserve and the Grist Mill are within walking distance of different parts of town, while others are more focused on nature.

Look at Lighthouses

There’s just something about a lighthouse with the waves crashing at the bottom that makes them appear even grander than usual. From the recently renovated Whaleback Lighthouse in Kittery up to Wood Island Lighthouse in Biddeford, you will be surprised how long you can just sit and look at a static beacon.

I’d say Cape Neddick “Nubble” Lighthouse in York is a must-see tower, which is viewable from the town’s Sohier Park. You’ll need to go off the beaten path by visiting Vines Landing to see the haunted Wood Island Lighthouse.

And, you’ll have to take a boat to get a closer look at Boon Island Lighthouse off the coast of York and Whaleback Lighthouse off the coast of Kittery.

Explore at a State Park

For the most part, state parks are open in the winter. You should always check the website for the park before you go, but by and large, you are allowed to park outside the gates and walk in. This opens possibilities for cross-country skiing, beach walks, and winter wildlife viewing.

Our favorite state parks along the Southern Maine Coast are Ferry Beach State Park in Saco and Vaughan Woods Memorial State Park in South Berwick.

Also, you can pick your preferred spot to explore in the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, which stretches across nearly a dozen locations between Kittery and Portland. Trails weave through woods, saltwater marshes, and along the shore.

Most of these parks allow dogs on the beach in winter provided they are on a leash and that you pick up after them as you go.

Take a Winter Beach Walk

Southern Maine’s amazing beaches beg for more attention in the winter, and you’ll likely have a long stretch to yourself. While everyone comes for a Maine beach vacation in the summer, winter on the Maine coast is ideal for long beach walks and finding smooth beach stones, sea glass and shells, and even the occasional lobster pot after a sea storm.

Some of the most popular SMC beaches are Old Orchard Beach (7 miles), the beaches of Kennebunk, and Ogunquit Beach (3.5 miles). You can also aim for the beaches where you’re less likely to find a parking spot in summer, like Goose Rocks Beach in Kennebunkport.

What’s especially enjoyable about this region is that the Atlantic Ocean provides warmth in colder weather because the sea temperature averages in the 40s. So, seaside towns are often more temperate than inland and Maine mountain towns.

The Spa at Cliff House-Cape Neddick
The Spa at Cliff House | photo via meagdaley

Where to Stay for a Winter Beach Getaway on the SMC

Another bonus of a winter Maine beach getaway is great off-season lodging rates at waterfront inns and hotels — not to mention free available parking by the beach. Here are some great oceanfront resorts that are just steps to beaches:

  • York Harbor Inn in York Maine is a cozy clapboard romantic B&B and an easy walk to York Harbor Beach. Plus, it has two sophisticated restaurants on-site.
  • Cliff House Resort and Spa is a historic Cape Neddick site that’s idyllic Maine in every way even after a recent renovation.
  • Misty Harbor Resort in Wells is a short walk to Wells Beach and offers suite lodging and an indoor pool and spa.
  • Village by the Sea in Wells offers condo-style lodging close to the beach and Wells Harbor Park and fast access to Route 1.
  • Seaside Inn in Kennebunk is steps from a beautiful sandy beach with an outdoor oceanview hot tub. Kennebunkport is just 1 mile away, which is easy walking distance.
  • Breakwater Inn & Spa in Kennebunkport is right on the river with ocean views, and Stripers Waterfront Restaurant is on-site with a great happy hour, sunsets, and lobster specials.
  • Rhumb Line Resort in Kennebunkport has an indoor pool and spa and an outdoor hot tub, and just a short drive to several sandy beaches, it’s great for families.

Our guide to Southern Maine Coast lodging will help you find even more hotels, resorts, bed and breakfasts, and vacation rentals for your Vacationland stay.

Your Southern Maine Beach Getaway Awaits This Winter

Even on the most bitterly cold days, there’s a Maine phenomenon over the water that’s worth bundling up to see (or scoring a room with an ocean view).

“Sea smoke” forms when frigid air mixes with a shallow layer of saturated warm air floating immediately above the ocean. Much like a piping hot cup of coffee creates steam, the warm air is cooled beyond being able to hold water vapor. That creates wispy, wonderful sea smoke. The colder and more still the air, the more spectacular the sea smoke will be.

Also, it’s worth noting that Maine’s winter tourism is growing. So, book your trip before the secret is out about how wonderful the Southern Maine Coast is in winter. It’s a “shore cure” for cabin fever and winter blues, as well as less expensive than flying to a tropical island.

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