Coastal Tranquility: Eight Great Sea Kayaking Spots

Maine: Atlantic Voyaging

The rugged but beautiful Maine coast, where stands of pines run right to the water's edge, and hundreds of tiny islands dot the coastline, is a great place to recharge your batteries. Snug harbors are found everywhere, perfect for coastal exploring. The seaside villages and fishing ports remain small and quiet, a reminder of New England's past. Even the most popular resort areas are relatively unspoiled, and Maine remains a peaceful haven for the touring paddler.
Leave Stonington on Deer Isle and paddle eight miles offshore to little-known Isle au Haut, a large, picturesque island with freshwater lakes, cobblestone beaches, and plentiful wildlife. Spend the next few days exploring Isle au Haut and other smaller islands in the archipelago, paddling through clear and relatively calm waters and camping at night. More experienced paddlers will also enjoy Bois Bubert, the archetypal northeastern island: sparsely populated with a tortured landscape of granite headlands, dense forests, and low-hanging mist. Starting from Millbridge, this is a rewarding, but demanding trip requiring fairly long daily passages. Wind and wave conditions can be tough, but the scenery is excellent, and you rarely encounter other travelers either on the water or at your island campsites. For the serious adventurer, explore the wilder coastline of Northern Maine, a realm of exposed headlands, brawny outer islands, stronger tides, and fiercer weather. The occasional white shell beach contrasts with volcanic rocks and sea caves, Nature Conservancy preserves, outer island lighthouses, and grassy barrens with wild sheep. This area can be foggy, but it is free from virtually all tourist traffic.

Practically Speaking
Most sea kayaking in Maine is done in Acadia National Park and along the Maine Island Trail. Here, any reasonably fit paddler can range easily from island to island, camping in the park and visiting small harbor towns to replenish supplies, or perhaps bed down for a night in a seaside inn. While Maine's waters are calm and paddling is easy, good equipment and careful preparation are essential. With so many islands clustered around a jagged coastline, navigation also requires some skill. If this is your first coastal cruise, we recommend that you stay within the main Mt. Desert Island section of Acadia Park, not venturing too far offshore. Notify the parks department of your itinerary, and keep your daily paddling distances fairly short. Detailed land maps are available from park offices, but you should also obtain navigational charts and tide tables before you go.
Bar Harbor within Acadia Park gives it access to all the waters surrounding the park, south through Merchants Row, down to the Deer Isle Stonington area, Frenchman's Bay, and Blue Hill Bay.

Paul McMenamin is the author, editor, and photo director of the original Ultimate Adventure Sourcebook.

Published: 1 Feb 2001 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


Sign up to Away's Travel Insider

Preview newsletter »