One of the supreme pleasures of visiting the Portland area is the opportunity to sample some of its many great beaches and lighthouse and ocean views. Even within Portland city limits, you can laze on the Eastern Promenade’s tiny East End Beach for free; the views are great, though swimming there is a judgment call—a wastewater treatment plant looms nearby, although after years of cleanup efforts, city officials claim it’s safe for swimming. Across the bridge in South Portland, Willard Beach is a good neighborhood beach: small, with friendly locals, dogs, and tidal rocks to scramble over. There’s plenty of parking here.

For the best of the out-of-town beaches and views, though, strike out for Cape Elizabeth, a moneyed bedroom community just south of the city. (From Portland’s State Street, cross the Route 77 bridge going south, then follow signs.) You can choose from a trio of good beaches as you meander along Route 77, a lovely lane that occasionally recalls England with its sweeping views of marsh, ocean, or cultivated field.

Two Lights State Park  (tel. 207/799-5871) is impressively scenic, and has the advantage of a decent lobster-and-seafood hut beside it: Two Lights Lobster Shack, open late March through October. The lobsters are smallish, lobster rolls meaty, clam chowder pretty good, and the views are sublime. Farther south on Route 77, Crescent Beach State Park (pictured above, tel. 207/799-5871) is a lovely mile-long curve of sand, reached by a walk through beach roses; it has ample parking, barbecue pits, picnic tables, and a snack bar. Both charge a fee from Memorial Day to Columbus Day.

The town-operated Fort Williams State Park , located on Shore Road in Cape Elizabeth just off Route 77, offers free access (some paid parking) and sweeping vistas of craggy waves crashing onto dramatic rocks, as well as the much-photographed Portland Head Light. Two to 3 miles farther south, turn left onto Route 207 for two more options: Scarborough Beach Park, on the left, another long strip of clean sand and dunes with changing facilities ($9 for access in summer) or—a bit farther along, on the right at the end of Ferry Road—quieter Ferry Beach State Park (tel. 207/283-0067), which has good views south toward Old Orchard Beach.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.