The coastal area around Kennebunkport is home to several of the state’s best beaches. Finding a parking spot is often difficult, however, and all beaches require a parking permit, which you can get at the town offices or from your hotel. The local trolley offers beach access.

Southward across the river (technically, this is Kennebunk, though it’s much closer to Kennebunkport) are Gooch’s Beach and Kennebunk Beach. Head eastward on Beach Street (from the intersection of routes 9 and 35) past the White Barn Inn, and in a few minutes you’ll wind into a handsome colony of eclectic shingled summer homes. The narrow road continues twisting past sandy beaches and rocky headlands; this section is also well worth exploring for its summer mansions and golf course. Hard to believe, but it sometimes gets congested along this beach in summer; avoid the gridlock by exploring on foot or by bike. Very important, you cannot park here if you are not a resident—unless you’ve moseyed down to the police station on Route 1 and bought a temporary parking permit, which few summer visitors know to do. (Some local inns and hotels will give you a temporary day pass.] Again, if you can avoid bringing a car to the beach, do.

You can avoid the hassle by renting a bike and leaving your car at your inn or hotel. A good spot for rentals is Kennebunkport Bicycle Company (34 Arundel Rd.; tel. 207/385-4382), which rents a variety of bikes by the half-day, day, or week. There are also mountain bikes, along with kid trailers and baby seats. (Helmets and locks are free with rentals.) The bike shop is just north of downtown Kennebunkport: turn north on North Road, rather than following Route 9 north. A few hotels and inns in town also rent bikes to guests or even provide free bikes; ask when you book your room.

Goose Rocks Beach, north of Kennebunkport off Route 9 (watch for signs), is a good choice for those who like their crowds light and prefer beaches to beach scenes. You’ll find an enclave of beach homes set amid rustling oaks just off a fine sand beach. Just offshore is a narrow barrier reef that has historically attracted flocks of geese, hence the name.

The beach at Parson’s Way

It’s certainly one of the most attractive approaches to a beach in Maine, and Parson’s Beach itself is lovely and much less crowded than others in the area. Find the beach by heading south on Route 9 from Dock Square in Kennebunkport, through the traffic light; just after you cross a marsh and the Mousam River, hang a left onto Parson’s Beach Road.

You’ll drive down a country lane lined with maples. At the end, there’s limited parking, though you can also park on the north side of the highway if it’s full. This is not the best beach on the southern Maine coast for swimming—it’s rocky at the mouth of the river—but it’s great for lounging and reading. Be on your best behavior here. (Don’t trample the dunes, don’t take stuff from the tide pool, and so on.) You have to cross private land to reach the beach, and signs ominously proclaim that access can be denied at any time if the landowner so chooses.

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.