The Ultimate Guide to Surfing in Maine

by Tom Sanchez

Surfing in Maine takes you to long-lost bays under pine-studded mountains, but also to long beaches south of Portland.

Surfing in Maine at a glance

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The good

  • Untrodden surf territory, especially in the north of the state
  • A-frame peaks on the beaches in winter
  • Good variety along the Maine coast

The bad

  • It’s fricking cold!
  • Hard to get between breaks
  • Short swell windows

This guide is just one part of our complete guide to surfing in the USA

What’s in this guide to surfing in Maine?

An introduction to surfing in Maine

Surfing in Maine

Surfing in Maine is nothing new. People have been plying this land of fragmented islands and pine-studded bays for decades now. They’ve been content to let the West Coasters be in the limelight, mainly so they can chase their unforgiving points and shoreline slabs in the midwinter without being hassled too much.

Go up north and there are loads of empty beaches and hidden rock reefs that have yet to be added to any surf map, and we’re not gonna’ start now. Further south and there’s a developing surf scene, mainly oriented around the famous river mouth in Ogunquit and the winter swell-magnet bay of Gooch’s Beach. That area also comes interspersed with some fantastic beginner beaches, like York, for example, which offer endless peaks and lots of mush to practice on.

The main thing to think about here is the weather. Summer and spring aren’t great. Fall and winter take center stage because they get blessed by almost continuous northerly winds and lots of S-SE swells thanks to the Caribbean hurricane belt. Those combined bring in the famous A-frames and gnarly slab rights that get seem to be creeping into the surf mags more and more.

A guide to the best surf spots in Maine

There are loads of spots in Maine, but remember this is one of the last frontiers of the Eastern Seaboard, with remote bays and coves that often go totally unsurfed. Here’s a look at all the top spots from north to south…

Crescent Beach

Crescent Beach is remote and pretty fickle. It picks up some strong E swells when the winter hurricanes get rolling and they’re enough to push up through Fishermans Island Passage, hitting the southern lip of the headland and creating some lippy rights and lefts in the main bay. Usually messy, but decent for winter SUP sessions.

Reid State Park

This handsome stretch of New England shoreline is one for those who like to dodge the bigger lineups of Southern Maine. It angles almost perfectly south-east into the Atlantic, which is perfect for hoovering up the dominant ESE swells that come along in winter, although it’s perhaps a touch marred by the long shelf and the forever shifting sandbanks. The result is a wave that’s usually at touch messy but can give good lefts and rights, with about 10-20 second rides that allow a few cutbacks and whatnot.

Popham Beach

One of the better spots for surfing in Maine if you’re limited to the northern side of the state, Popham has a mix of rivermouth breaks and sandbars that are really well positioned for those fall and winter hurricane swells. Usually, it’s best at chest or head high, when things get super cruisy and it’s a longboard/beginner dream. When the banks alight right and there’s action in the Atlantic in December or Jan, combined with offshores from the Great Lakes, you can find totally deserted barrels on occasion at Popham’s.

Higgins Beach

Higgins Beach is the jewel of the north Maine coast. It’s a open bay that faces almost plum south towards Bermuda and just about avoids the swell shadow cast by Cape Cod in that direction. The upshot? Hurricane season fall swells will push straight up here, gaining moxie as they cruise through the Atlantic canyons. When the turn up on Higgins they really turn up – think triple overheads that hold super well thanks to the shallow sandbars in sort of mini Skeleton Bay. Sadly, that’s not the norm. Usually, you’re looking at unruly slop. It’s worth waiting though. Experienced surfers only when it’s on.

Scarborough Beach

Scarborough Beach takes over from where Higgins leaves off. It’s not great for S swells unless they’re strong enough to wrap around the Prouts Neck headland, in which case you’d be surfing in Higgins anyhow, right? But when there’s some summer east or ESE element in the swell direction, there can be nice A-frame peaks here. Usually, it’s a good beginner spot.

Fortunes Rocks

Jump off the craggy coastal blocks here on a winter’s day of 6-8 foot and you could just be rewarded with curling A-frames that offer lefts and rights. The right is better and the spot usually requires a decent offshore to really shape up.

Gooch’s Beach

Gooch’s Beach is the main beach in Kennebunk (in fact, it’s sometimes referred to as Kennebunk Beach). Come the New England winter and the arrival of the NW winds courtesy of the regular Nor’easterner blizzard cyclones, the spot manages to suck up nice S swells from the mid-Atlantic and combine them with consistent offshores. Sure, it’s freezing as hell then but you’ll be gifted with fast and challenging drop-ins to often-hollow tubes.

Wells Beach

One of the top beginner surf beaches in Maine, Wells runs for a couple of clicks south from the estuary wetlands of Wells Harbor (a stunning place to explore when it’s flat, by the way). Most people paddle out right by the breakwater at the north end, That will magnetize south-southeast swells and offer regular right handers that are good quality and sometimes hollow when it’s clean and there’s a westerly offshore. Further south and Wells can be totally empty, offering loads of peaks of all shapes and sizes, from A-frame wedges to frothy mush for the foamers.

Ogunquit Beach

Ogunquit Beach rins north of the Ogunquit Rivermouth (check below). It’s a long, sandy stretch with banks that move during the storm season, meaning you never really know if it’ll all be mush or there’s gonna’ be shape and A-frame beachies to contend with. Works really well with medium-sized fall swells, which turn the whole spot into an all-level fun party.

Ogunquit Rivermouth

One of the finest waves in the whole of New England, let alone just Maine, the Ogunquit Rivermouth is actually point break that is almost perfectly orientated for those S-SE swell directions that come up from the Caribbean in the wintertime. The take-off zone is just below Lobster Point. To the left, it’s a quick, steep ride with a fun bottom turn towards the cliff. Most go to the right, though, where a long, rippable shoulder can take you right the way into the estuary and sometimes even cross onto Ogunquit Beach.

Long Sands/York

Long Sands is the last stretch of uninterrupted beach before the Maine-NH state line. Facing almost directly east, with a slight hint of south, it can catch but hits on storm swells in the midwinter. Really, though, it’s the epitome of a New England beach break, with lots of mediocre peaks that are good fun. We like a longer board here to manage the cruisy, fatter swells. The spot loves to close out on beefier days and suffers from big exposure to the wind, so it can be messy and cold!

Where to stay when surfing in Maine

We don’t think you’ll have trouble seeking out good places to stay on the Maine coast for surfing. It’s true that most of the top hotels are in southern Maine, just because that’s the more popular holidaying spot. However, there are wilder cabins and whatnot further north that can offer good access to the emptier swells. We’ve gone for a mix below…

Pineapple Cottage By The Sea

Surf-hotel-top-pick

Crank up the romance by booking a couples’ trip surfing in Maine at the Pineapple Cottage By The Sea. It’s a charming little bolthole that oozes New England style, offering a quaint little porch and wood-clad architecture just a stone’s throw from Ogunquit’s beach breaks.

InnSeason Resorts The Falls at Ogunquit

This highly rated holiday resort also puts you a short walk through the coastal tree groves from the all-level break at Ogunquit. It’s a combo of motel-hotel, with good access to the highway but also some added charms – a fire pit area, a swimming pool, deluxe suites with flat-screen TVs.

Coveside Bed & Breakfast

Want to hit the remoter beaches of northern Maine? Escape to the area around Popham and Reid State Park by choosing the Coveside Bed & Breakfast. It’s a pure dose of hearty New England charm, offering homey rooms and old-school service between the pine forests and the coves. A car will be required to move from break to break.

When to surf in Maine

Maine seasons

Fall and winter are the perfect times to go surfing in Maine. A lot goes on then with the Atlantic North East weather systems, but basically it’s the combo of offshore winds courtesy of big storms and southerly swell from the Caribbean. Bejeebus it’s going to be cold though – you’ve been warned!

Summer (June-August)

Summer in New England is mainly for lazing on the beach and topping up the tan, even if the hotter days only last a couple of months. Surf wise, things are all but dead. You might be lucky and catch some mushy ankle burners now and then, but it’s not the time to plan a whole holiday of surfing in Maine, that’s for sure.

Fall (Sept-Nov)

Wohooooo….fall in Maine is when things really get swinging. Hurricane swells start moving up the Eastern Seaboard all the way from Florida way, helping to fire up the points of Ogunquit and others. Things are regularly shoulder-to-head high, and there’s a good chance of inland winds blowing across from the Great Lakes. What’s more, the uber-cold temps of winter haven’t hit yet, so you can get by with thinner rubber and even bare feet early on in the season. Enjoy it – the luxury won’t last!

Be sure to check out our gear guides:

Winter (Dec-April)

Move over Iceland, winters in Maine are brutal as can be. Ocean water temperatures plummet to around just 30 F, while the coming of the great Nor’easterner storms means real feel in the air is consistently sub-zero and then some. Surfers will need to raid the gear closet for this one – hoods, boots, thick wetties of 5/4 and up, it’s all needed. But you’ll be rewarded for braving it, with strong swells that can double and triple overhead, along with regular off- or cross-shore winds.

Spring (March-May)

There’s a lingering mix of winter swells from the south and the southeast that help Maine stay in action until around mid-April. After that, things are short lived, with summer flatness taking over and the winds coming onshore again. If you’re planning to come this time of year, plan for the early part of the season.

Surf shops in Maine

A nascent surf scene in Main means there are some pretty decent surf shops in the state these days. Here are our top picks.

Maine Surfers Union

This homegrown Portland emporium is a must-visit for anyone surfing Maine. It’s a super-cool spot with some neat hand shaped boards – check out the patterned deck designs. They also stock tees, shirts, bags and wet bags. For us, it’s the best shop in the state.

Liquid Dreams Surf Shop

Liquid Dreams Surf Shop has two locations, one in Ogunquit and the other a little to the south in York. They offer surf guiding, organized surf lessons, board rental, and even full-on group surf camps.

Where to eat in Maine

Taste some of New England’s famous seafood while you travel this corner of the USA – it’s a must. There’s that and some more casual surfer eating in our guide below.

Egg & I Restaurant

Start the day at Egg & I Restaurant, a local Americana diner on the main road just behind Ogunquit Beach, to chow down on stacks of homemade pancakes, greasy bacon rashers, fried eggs, and waffles. It’s a locals place that oozes character.

Nunan’s Lobster Hut

No trip surfing in Maine could possibly be complete without a taste of the local lobster. Cue this acclaimed shack just north of Gooch’s Beach. Head up after catching some heavy barrels in the bay to refuel on lobster rolls and boiled lobster, not to mention some particularly epic blueberry pie.


We might use affiliate links in this post. Basically, you click em’ and we get a little something from your booking or purchase. They help us keep offering more and more in-depth surf guides to awesome places all around the globe. So, thanks for that!

This article is just one part of our complete guide to surfing in the USA

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