Maine is every kayaker’s dream. With about 13% of the state being covered by water, you don’t have to travel far to find the idyllic tidal marshes or the long lazy winding rivers.
You also do not need to be an expert to explore most of these waterways. Maine is one of the best places to learn how to kayak. All you need is some good knowledge of where you are going and your water companion, your kayak.
With that said, in no particular order, here is our list of the best places to go kayaking in Maine.
1. Presumpscot River, Westbrook, ME
The 25-mile Presumpscot river is an excellent place to start your kayaking journey. The river is relatively calm for some swimming and fishing. You will also enjoy a wide range of spots to paddle along.
One of the most exciting stretches lies at the north of Westbrook so we’d recommend heading up there. It can easily be accessed by a public boat just a few minutes from downtown. Avoid paddling downstream as that may take you to the raging Saccarappa falls shown in the video above.
The shorelines are also heavily wooded, and you might be lucky to spot a few native animals as you pass. If you do not have your own kayak, you will need to hire from elsewhere as there are no rental shops around.
2. Spurwink River, Scarborough, ME
The beautiful Spurwink river begins in the marshes and it gently winds down to the coast of Higgins beach. As well as being very picturesque it’s also a great place to spot wildlife, and if you are a photo enthusiast, you will have an excellent opportunity to see and take beautiful photos of turtles, frogs, birds, and even seals.
If you time the tides just right, you will have a smooth sail through to Higgins beach, and if you are a weather wizard, you might have the flood tide push you back up the river back to your car.
However, be prepared to paddle one way against the current. The end stream is dangerous; be careful as you approach the end because you will be facing the open ocean, which comes with many waves and swift currents.
3. Cape Porpoise Harbor, Kennebunkport, ME
Have you ever kayaked to an island? What about an island with a lighthouse? A lobster? Then head to the east Stage Harbor and have a view of the three, all in one place!
The lighthouse is situated at the main entrance to Cape Porpoise Harbor and, if you’re there on time, you can catch the periodic tour of the lighthouse.
The beautiful harbor was named by Captain John Smith in 1614 and it’s divided into two sections. The main harbor is a lot busier as it features lobster boats and a lot of fishing vessels.
The other harbor is less noisy as it is surrounded by islands, and it’s where the working lighthouse sits so we’d recommend this harbor for your kayaking trip.
4. Scarborough Marsh, Scarborough, ME
Owned and managed by the Maine department of inland fisheries and wildlife, the Scarborough marsh offers a perfect starting point into the labyrinth-like waterway of the state’s largest saltwater marsh. If you have your kayak, you won’t have trouble finding a spot to launch from.
If you don’t have your own kayak though, you can always rent or take part in a guided tour. If you like still quiet waters, this place will impress you as it is a popular destination for beginners. When kayaking, make sure to be aware of the tidal currents to avoid getting stranded. The site is a prime venue for herons, egrets, glossy ibis, and other wildlife.
5. Saco River, Biddeford, ME
The Saco River is another excellent place for your kayaking adventure. The location offers a slightly different take when it comes to kayaking as it gives kayakers a first-hand view of Saco’s industrial legacy, Saco municipal, which offer easy access to the river.
If you paddle a little further along the river, you will enter a basin that is closely bordered by the closed mills. Further along, you can kayak up to the cavernous passageways used by the mills into the basin. There is an electric power plant with a thundering waterfall that will give you that dramatic scenery. As you kayak away from the mills, you can watch towering trees, majestic seagrasses and birds in their natural habitat. A highly recommend spot to visit.
6. Tenny Stream and Crescent Lake Raymond, ME
If you are still a novice kayaker, it is prudent to always check the weather conditions before heading out. Strong winds can make kayaking tough even for a veteran paddler. If it is too windy, you want to visit a place like the Tenny river which connects Panther Pond and Crescent lake. That means you have good options to choose from, depending on where you want to go.
You can paddle north and explore the lake, but the Tenny stream is a more exciting route. Some spots in the river are super shallow, and winds blow more gently here.
7. Damariscotta River, ME
Heading downtown Damariscotta serves you a launch point for a paddle through the oyster farms, islands, and many fishing boats all over the river.
If you go down the bridge to your right, you will encounter the enchanting Swiftwater of the tidal falls. The safer route will take you downstream.
Since the river flows entirely to the nearby ocean in Boothbay, you are likely to experience current challenges depending on whether it is flooding or ebbing. Therefore, make sure to consider the tidal currents when planning your kayaking trip.
8. Webhannet River, Wells, ME
If you head north again, you will spot the Webhannet River. It is the main estuary in Wells, which empties to the Atlantic Ocean. You can rent your kayak in the nearby Webhannet river kayak rentals.
The river also features a small harbor worth exploring. Kayaking through, you will enter the vast river view of the wetland on both sides. You will also encounter sea frogs, otters, and seafaring birds as you kayak. The shoreline features rocks and soil, and given the slow currents, you can actually sit back and enjoy your view.
9. Highland Lake, Falmouth, ME
The highland lake is the largest lake just an hour drive of Portland. The place is usually crowded as it is a popular spot for many paddlers. It is sprawling, and even on busy days, it’s quite easy to kayak and find quiet places.
The lake is home to frogs, loons, eagles, and other wildlife. If you live around the Greater Portland region, the Highland lake is an ideal destination for some quick after-work kayaking. It is also great for whole day kayaking. During hot summer days, arrive early enough as the parking lot often gets crowded.
10. Moosehead Lake, Greenville, ME
The Moosehead Lake is Maine’s largest lake, covering a maximum length of 40 miles and a width of 10 miles. The lake features peninsulas, coves and islands so there’s lots of explore.
If you’re a budding camper then there are lots of multi-day journeys and camping spots along the main islands. However, if you are new to kayaking, you will want to stick to early morning waters as it is still and quiet.
Summing up Maine for kayakers
If you have been kayaking and spending more time in Maine’s rivers, lakes, and other wetlands, you can agree that some of them are the most gorgeous places to be.
The best part about kayaking in Maine is that you don’t need to move too far to find a water body. Keep in mind that kayaking requires essential safety gear, especially a personal flotation device and vast knowledge of how to use your kayak or canoe SUP correctly.
For more inspiration of kayaking destinations in the US check out our post here.