Location: Casco Bay, Cumberland County
Description: Long Island is located in Casco Bay, accessible by private boat, water taxi, or a 45-minute ferry ride from Portland. It was first settled in the 1700s and was part of the City of Portland until it became a town in 1993. Long Island is one of Maine’s 15 islands with year-round communities, with 200 year-round residents and hundreds more in the summer. The island is three miles long, and a mile wide, and is most visited for its gorgeous sandy beaches. The most popular public beach is South Beach (also known as Sandy Beach), a large, soft sand beach on the south end of the island where people claim the sand “sings” when walked upon. Other special beaches include Fowler’s Beach and Big Beach on the west side of the island (smaller and popular with residents) and Wreck Cove, a quiet, hidden beach almost completely covered by smooth, oval rocks. The island also has a 125-acre conservation area that is home to beavers, deer, and other wildlife, and offers many wooded trails for hiking.
Activities: Sunbathing, beachcombing, picnicking, swimming, sailing, kayaking, fishing, bird watching, dog-walking (on leash), hiking, biking, kite flying, photography
Favorite seasons to visit: Summer and fall
Why It’s Special: My husband’s family has owned a camp on the island for three generations, and he spent as much time as possible there as a child swimming, fishing, exploring tidal pools, and generally running wild with his cousins. He fondly remembers catching horseshoe crabs, digging clams, and gathering moon snails. Today we enjoy walking the beaches searching for shells and sea glass or taking a dip in the very cold water at Fowler’s Beach. We think of it as an “instant vacation” in just a short ferry ride, great to visit just for the day or for an extended break. It’s a great place for families to bring their kids since it’s easy to get to from Portland. One of my fondest memories from visits to the island is sitting only yards away on the beach watching terns dive into the ocean over and over to catch fish. Sunsets at Fowler’s Beach are truly stunning, and napping in a hammock at the camp can’t be beat.
Tips: The best way to get there is by ferry. Visit the Casco Bay Ferry Lines website for their rates and schedule, which change seasonally: www.cascobaylines.com/. Park in the ferry terminal garage on Commercial Street, or use on-street parking and walk a few blocks to the terminal. The ferry also goes to Great Diamond, Little Diamond, Chebeague and Cliff islands; consider one of the scenic cruises offered by the ferry lines. Dogs and bicycles are welcome, but there is an additional fee for each on the ferry. The Town of Long Island celebrates Independence Day with a parade and celebration of “Mr. & Mrs. Long Island,” a local tradition that can be quite competitive. The parade is a lot of fun, and Portland’s fireworks show can be seen from certain parts of the island. Go before Independence Day or after Labor Day for more quiet. The island has two small convenience stores that carry basic groceries, drinks and ice, and lobsters can also often be found for sale at the dock.