A paddle through Portland harbor allows you to get a close-up look at the working waterfront and the many traces of the port’s long history. For this trip, we’ll describe the highlights of a paddle that begins at the East End Beach and continues up the Fore River past the Old Port towards the Casco Bay Bridge.
TRIP LENGTH: 2.5 Nautical Miles (if you loop around the fort) HIGHLIGHTS: Exploring the inside an amazing old fort, looking at interesting boats/ships along the way, watching harbor seals
Fort Gorges is just one mile from the Portland waterfront, and it has a few features that make it particularly unique and fun to explore. For one thing, the fort is practically an island itself. It was built on the low, rocky land mass called Hog Island, but it takes up virtually the whole island, creating the illusion that its thick granite walls are rising out of the ocean.
TRIP LENGTH: 7 Nautical Miles HIGHLIGHTS: Gazing up at the Cushing Island cliffs, reaching the open ocean, stopping on Peaks Island, watching guillemots land on water (it’s hilarious)
Paddling from East End Beach to Whitehead Passage is the perfect progression from sheltered beginnings to an open-ocean-horizon. Along the way, you’ll move through some of Casco Bay’s layered history, observe wildlife and island life, and breathe the open-ocean air.
TRIP LENGTH: 14 Miles (loop from East End Beach) HIGHLIGHTS: Paddling beside the Diamond Island cliffs, crossing Hussey Sound, exploring island's trails, camping on sandy beaches
Little Chebeague Island is the sandy satellite of Great Chebeague, which is the second largest island in Casco Bay. The two Chebeagues connect at low tide by sandbar, allowing you to walk between them. Unlike almost every other island in Maine, fine sand makes up nearly all of Little Chebeague’s shoreline, the exception being a spit of granite to the west.
LENGTH: Several miles to explore, but there's no set route. HIGHLIGHTS: Relatively calm and protected waters, wildlife, easy access.
Highland lake is sprawling enough that even on busy days it’s fairly easy for paddlers to find quiet spots and view loons, eagles, frogs and other wildlife. It makes an ideal destination for a quick after-work paddle for Mainers in the Greater Portland region, but you can also spend a full day exploring its entire length.
TRIP LENGTH: 4 miles HIGHLIGHTS: Paddling through a salt marsh to the open ocean, great birdwatching, riding the tides.
This saltwater creek in Scrarborough starts in the salt marsh of the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge and ends in the surf of Higgins Beach. If you time the tides just right, you’ll ride the ebb tide down this narrow, winding wetland stream to its mouth at the ocean and then let the flood tide push you back up the river to your car.
TRIP LENGTH: 15 Nautical Miles HIGHLIGHTS: Weaving between unique islands, crossing the open ocean, watching ospreys soar and glide, exploring the Punchbowl
Even though it lies less than 8 miles from the Portland waterfront, Jewell Island feels incredibly remote and wild. And it's a big enough island that there's a lot to see and explore. On a visit to Jewell, you’ll discover ecological wonder, military relics, miles of trails to explore and beachside campsites right on the edge of the vast Atlantic horizon. As her name suggests, Jewel glistens amongst the many shining islands of Casco Bay.
TRIP LENGTH: 9 Nautical Miles HIGHLIGHTS: Paddling in the open ocean, observing island life, counting seabirds and harbor seals, feeling proud for circumnavigating a formidable island in Maine
Peaks Island offers kayakers two sides of the Maine coast. On the outer, ocean-facing side, you'll experience a rugged, rocky coastline, crashing waves and the full range of conditions that comes with exposure to the Atlantic Ocean. On the inner, Portland-facing side of the island, you'll encounter a generally calm and protected harbor beside a village that's packed with restaurants, ice cream shops and lots of visitors.
TRIP LENGTH: 4 miles HIGHLIGHTS: Experiencing the bold coast of Cape Elizabeth
Paddling around Richmond Island is interesting and rewarding for a person of any skill level. Even in calm weather, there’s destined to be some degree of technical challenge, and the natural beauty of this expedition never fails to overtake the most seasoned visitor. If it doesn’t impress you, you might be a robot.
TRIP LENGTH: 8.5 miles (from the East End Beach round-trip) HIGHLIGHTS: Check out Presumpscot Falls, swim in the river, bird-watch in the estuary, ride the tides in and out of the river.
The Presumpscot River flows into Casco Bay about one mile from the East End Beach. With the right timing, you can ride the flood tide upriver and cruise back out with the ebb. Paddling up the Presumpscot allows you to experience three very different environments: The open waters of Casco Bay, the wildlife-rich salt marsh of the Presumpscot River Estuary, and the narrow, densely-wooded river gorge where you'll find roaring Presumpscot Falls.