If three words could summarize Scarborough Maine in its entirety, they would be “marshes, mayhem, and magnificent.” In the southern portion of the Portland Casco Bay region, the town proudly stands on natural attractions that range from serene to secluded to stately.
Scarborough has some of the best beaches on the Maine coastline with a mix of the rugged and rocky edge that is quintessential to the Pine Tree State. The town offers a range of budget-friendly options — from prestigious to primitive camping in the backcountry.
Evidence of its manmade riches reaches up from Prouts Neck, but the natural attractions in Scarborough Maine are the priceless parts of this unique ecosystem.
With 8 miles of coastline, four beaches, five rivers, and Maine’s largest salt marsh, Scarborough is a peaceful and pristine place to stay with big city life in Portland just 15 minutes away.
About Scarborough Maine
The land that is now Scarborough was initially inhabited by the Abenaki Tribe, who called the area “Owascoag,” meaning “a place of much grass.” The first recorded European settlement in the area was in 1631 when Richard Vines — an Englishman — established a trading post on the Spurwink River.
Scarborough played a significant role in the King Philip War that started in 1675. The conflict between English colonists and several Native American tribes was one of colonial history’s bloodiest and most devastating conflicts.
The town played critical roles in the American Revolution, the Civil War, and both World Wars, too, before transitioning into a peacetime place of respite because of its pristine beaches and generous salt marsh of more than 3,000 acres.
Protected Land & Redeveloped Town
Today Scarborough Maine is a recreational haven with thousands of acres protected from development while growing into spaces to provide more amenities to the fast-growing population.
Most notable is the downtown area that the town never had, replacing the sight of Scarborough Downs with a Live|Work|Play community of The Downs. So while Scarborough is no longer a secret, it holds many secrets to explore.
Seasons & Weather
Winters are long and cold in Scarborough Maine, with about 6 feet of snow on average. May is the first month when freezing temperatures are unlikely, and June is when the 70s start as daytime highs, heating to an average of 79 degrees Fahrenheit in July. Then, the crisp fall air comes in by October.
Since you’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors, you need layers of waterproof and breathable fabrics, with insulated winter layers and thin, light-colored fabrics in the summer. Waterproof boots and water shoes are essential for enjoying all outdoor areas.
NOTE: It’s important to know the tide schedules in Scarborough because the beaches and salt marshes pose certain safety risks if an adventure is timed on the wrong side of the tide.
Outdoor Things to Do in Scarborough Maine
As a four-season town, cold winters don’t stop people in Scarborough from enjoying the great outdoors. Every season brings new wildlife and scenic vistas for guests.
Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center
The Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center includes a nature center within the Scarborough Salt Marsh. It offers educational programs, exhibits, and guided tours, educating visitors about the unique ecology of the marsh and its inhabitants.
From here, you can explore trails by foot or kayak, and you can make it interesting with a Marsh Scavenger Hunt.
Scarborough Beach State Park
Scarborough Beach State Park is within the Maine State Park system but is managed by Black Point Resource Management. It’s also unique for the long, sandy beach and sensational surfing opportunities, with Massacre Pond along the path to the sand.
NOTE: Arrive early on weekends because on and off-site spaces can fill up quickly.
Prouts Neck is a prestigious part of the community, with primarily private roads and majestic homes. The Prouts Neck Cliff Walk is one attraction open to the public, spanning more than 1 mile. This rocky, unmanicured trail is subject to closure after significant storms.
TIP: Access to Prouts Neck Cliff Walk is possible during low tide from Scarborough Beach, but don’t attempt the walk as the tide is rising, or you’ll be stuck on Prouts Neck until the next low tide.
You can coordinate a tour or kayak excursion on Stratton Island and the Phineas W. Sprague Memorial Sanctuary, but it’s best to go with an organized tour for the best education and safest experience.
Scarborough Land Trust
Maine has many land trusts that protect its natural habitats, and the Scarborough Land Trust has seven sights to explore — Fuller Farm Preserve, Pleasant Hill Preserve, and Warren Woods have the longest trails.
Events are held throughout the year, but the trails are open for hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and wildlife watching.
Four beaches dot the Scarborough landscape, each bringing a unique experience. Higgins Beach is a local favorite and a popular rental destination for guests. Scarborough Beach is within the state park, offering expansive sands and surfing.
Ferry Beach is a calmer stretch of sand where the ocean and Nonesuch River meet. It wraps around toward Western Beach, a private beach that allows public access. Pine Point Beach is across the mouth of the Nonesuch River and is technically an extension of the sand from Old Orchard Beach.
The inland area of Scarborough has rich soil and several farms open to the public — Broadturn Farm, Flaherty Family Farm, Firth Farm, and Highland Farm. Check each farm’s website for hours, tours, and seasonal activities.
Pleasant Hill Disc Golf & Driving Range
Scarborough Golf Courses
TIP: Did you know you can still get sunburned in Maine on overcast days? Wear SPF 30 or higher for the best coverage.
Indoor Things to Do in Scarborough Maine
While Scarborough has a treasure trove of outdoor activities, there’s a lot to be said for the indoor options as well. Here are several places where you can enjoy indoor activities.
Scarborough Historical Society
Scarborough Historical Society offers artifacts, photos, and personal stories of the battles and bounties that made this community into what it is. This is a great first stop to appreciate all the things you’ll see during your visit.
Len Libby Candies
If a life-sized chocolate moose won’t bring you inside, what will? Len Libby Candies is a legend in Scarborough Maine. Chocolates, taffy, flavored popcorn, roasted nuts, kettle fudge, and maple syrup offer something to satisfy any sweet tooth. Stop by the gift shop for souvenirs or to stock up for the holidays.
Winslow Homer Studio
Winslow Homer is known for his landscape artwork, which rivals the real views of Scarborough and Prouts Neck. Seasonal tours are available at Winslow Homer Studio, an extension of the Portland Museum of Art but located in Scarborough’s prestigious Prouts Neck.
Salt Pump Climbing Company
Rainy days and winter storms make Salt Pump Climbing Company a great way to stay active without risking life and limb in the elements. Beginners classes are available, and climbing walls are open for all experience levels, with a special section for the kids.
Stock up on outdoor equipment at the Cabelas in Scarborough. You never know when you’ll need a new pair of gloves, extra socks, or crampons to navigate the great outdoors. More shopping can be found just 10 minutes away at the Maine Mall in South Portland.
Additional Attractions Near Scarborough Maine
In addition to being just south of Portland Maine, Scarborough is flaked by two amazing Maine towns that offer even more attractions and things to do while you’re in the area.
Old Orchard Beach
The beachfront amusement park and pier at Old Orchard Beach have been welcoming guests for generations and still provide a nostalgic feel while spanning 7 miles of pristine beaches.
Light up with lighthouses galore in nearby Cape Elizabeth. The famous Portland Head Lighthouse and Fort Williams Park are must-sees. Three state parks are also located here — Crescent Beach, Two Lights, and Kettle Cove.
Best Restaurants in Scarborough Maine
Scarborough is more spread out and nature-based than other nearby cities, but the dining options are as vast as its landscape. While many busier coastal cities don’t accept reservations, many Scarborough restaurants encourage them.
Casual, Family Restaurants
You’ll see the line before you see the sign, but Ken’s Place Seafood Restaurant has been going strong for almost 100 years in this coastal community, and it’s a town favorite.
It was voted 2023 Best Seafood Restaurant in Maine by the Best of the 207. Picnic tables, family-style seating, and small tables are available for guests.
Grab some apps or go all in with the 2.5-pound Captain’s Plate at The Clambake. The food is good, but you’ll be talking about the animals that adorn the walls — the bear, wolf, and moose. Plus, plenty of lobstering artifacts line the walls.
More than 30 menu items and ample free parking make this a perfect stop.
El Rayo Taqueria
Take a lobster break to check out the colorful restaurant and menu at El Rayo Taqueria. The menu features daily enchilada specials, specialty burritos, and tacos with special surprises like Golden Jet Pineapple served on a stick with spices and lime.
The Garage BBQ
Park it here at The Garage BBQ for a simple, casual, and mouth-watering barbecue that’s worth the sticky fingers. Brisket, burgers, burnt ends, and salads round out any meal, but don’t forget a taste of the bacon mac ‘n cheese or the giant pretzel.
The Chart Room on Prouts Neck
Set your compass to The Chart Room at the Black Point Inn for views as prestigious as the service. Sip wine on the patio or have an after-dinner brandy by the fireplace while savoring locally-harvested ingredients at one of the most historic buildings on the peninsula.
Tuesday nights have live jazz, and Wine Wednesdays offer half-off bottles.
Shade at Higgins Beach Inn
Get breakfast as close to the beach as possible without getting sand in your shoes at Shade at Higgins Beach Inn. Dinner is also served, making this a great post-beach adventure with the same vibe.
Have a romantic meal on the patio, or sit inside and soak in the essence of Higgins.
Pine Point Grill
One restaurant explores Maine’s four seasons with ambiance and an adaptive menu. Pine Point Grill offers heated deck seating by a fire pit and cozy space indoors. Iconic dishes like maple mustard scallops or design-your-own artisan pizza will keep you coming back every season.
Coffee & Ice Cream Shops
St. Joe’s Coffee serves a variety of fresh brews with its famous deep-fried dough treat called a Bennie. Scarborough Grounds has an extensive menu of hot, cold, and blended drinks with pastries to pique your interest.
Just one of four The Holy Donut locations is in Scarborough Maine, serving Wicked Joe Organic Coffee and some of the most creative donuts you’ll ever find.
Ice Cream Spots
A trip to Maine isn’t complete without ice cream, and one of Scarborough’s best is Bayley’s Ice Cream, with inventive flavors and traditional favorites.
Breweries & Restaurants With Bars
Nonesuch River Brewing ties the spirit of the nearby river into a community gathering place with rustic charm and revolving beers.
Check the extensive menu of Dunstan Tap & Table before you go because there’s a lot to unpack. The drink menu alone includes beers, spirits, wines, ciders, seltzers, and non-alcoholic drinks.
Perk’s Beer and Beverage offers the best of Maine’s home-brewed selections to take back to your rental or campsite. Delivery is also available.
If you’re planning a more upscale party, The Cheese Iron is your charcuterie solution for cheese, wine, and specialty food.
Hotels in Scarborough Maine & Other Lodging
One of the best parts about staying in Scarborough is that you won’t find hotels on top of hotels. Sure, there are plenty of interstate options if you’re on the go. If you’re going to stay a while, though, you’ll have plenty of space to relax and explore.
Higgins Beach Inn
Somewhere between a big hotel and charming bed and breakfast, Higgins Beach Inn brings the best of overnight accommodations within a stone’s throw from one of the most popular yet less crowded beaches in Scarborough Maine.
Known as “Maine’s Original Beach Hotel,” the inn has been welcoming guests since 1892 with renovated rooms and suites with immersive beach vibes. Two restaurants covering all meals are also on the property.
Do you need to be a little closer to the beach? The Breakers Inn is right on the shore, just steps from the beach. Every room has an ocean view with stunning sunrise wake-up calls.
Breakfast is free with yet another unparalleled ocean view. The Breakers Inn is also certified as a “Green Lodging Establishment” dating back to 2007.
Black Point Inn
Black Point Inn is the original inn on Prouts Neck, open since 1878 and surviving the tragedies of fire and World War II that other resorts nearby succumbed to.
The grand hotel blends in with esteemed private residences nearby, offering an escape from beach crowds with impressive views of nearby Western Beach and Old Orchard Beach across the bay. The inn captures a bygone era while achieving eco-conscious accolades.
Camping in Scarborough
Because of the unique arrangement of Scarborough Beach State Park being managed by a third party, campsites aren’t available. However, you will find camping options nearby.
Wild Duck Campground
Wild Duck Campground is an adults-only location, offering an ideal spot for honeymooners or those who want a quiet experience. The wooded location near salt marshes and the Nonesuch River offers respite while still having close access to major roads.
Bayley’s Camping Resort
Bayley’s Camping Resort offers some of the finest amenities you can find at a campground or a hotel.
Cabins, trailers, and campsites can be reserved, and all reservations come with access to an entertainment pavilion, three pools, four hot tubs, an arcade, three fishing ponds, and a laundry room. Two stores are on-site to get supplies.
Wassamki Springs Campground
On the other side of the interstate, in a more remote location, is Wassamki Springs Campground. Set on a private lake, the campsites offer tent-only locations or full hookups. A robust entertainment schedule is planned for campers, and plenty of activities are planned on and off the water.
Scarborough Maine has plenty of rustic, charming, or chic homes for rent, many of which have been in families for generations. Here are a few to consider during your visit:
- One Bedroom Cottage: On the Pine Point side of Scarborough, this rental is closer to Old Orchard Beach.
- Tranquil Beach Home: This large home hosts up to seven people and is within a three-minute walk to Pine Point Beach.
- Higgins Beach Estate: Big enough for multi-family adventures, this huge home can comfortably fit 27 people.
FAQs About Scarborough Maine
What happened to Scarborough Downs?
Scarborough Downs ended its 70-year run in 2020 after 15 years of struggling financially. The facility became outdated, unsafe, and emptier with every race.
Now, the site will be used to transform Scarborough’s newest downtown and expand hundreds of much-needed homes as the population increases.
Is it true there are still shipwreck remains on a Scarborough Maine beach?
Yes! There are no legends, ghost ships, or tall tales in Scarborough Maine. On a foggy August night in 1897, the schooner Howard H. Middleton ran aground.
If you visit Higgins Beach at low tide, you’ll see its toothy remains sticking out of the sand, sometimes more visible than others as it gets buried deeper and deeper.
Is the Scarborough Salt Marsh safe?
Some people confuse a marsh with a swamp, provoking unsavory images of scary creatures lurking in foggy haze by moonlight.
The Scarborough Salt Marsh is the largest in Maine and is a critical ecosystem to protect animals, water quality, and beach erosion.
Greenhead flies are one of the biggest deterrents for tourists in the summer, but you’ll see boxes throughout the marsh to control the population, and you can take simple steps to limit your exposure.
Did a real massacre happen at Massacre Pond in Scarborough Maine?
Maine has a bloody and war-torn history long before it was Vacationland.
King Philip’s War is relatively unknown to those outside of New England, but the Siege of Scarborough and Maine’s Long War are what brought many of the Scarborough names we now know — including Massacre Pond, once known as Great Pond.
Savoring a Trip Full of Activities in Scarborough Maine
Scarborough has long been a summer retreat for sunseekers and beachgoers, but with every generation, this community manages to move into the future while cradling the past glory and celebrating the beauty of both.
The beauty of visiting Scarborough Maine is that you’ll always get something new as it continues to grow but still have that idyllic spot on the beach, seemingly untouched for centuries.