Maine

11 Amazing Maine Swimming Holes & Swimming Beaches

by Sarah Lamagna
Updated August 21, 2021

Maine swimming holes
Photo: Brian Scantlebury / Shutterstock

Guess how many miles of coastline Maine has. 300? 1,000? 3,000?

Wrong: Main has 3,478 miles of coastline. That number includes endless inlets and bays along Maine’s coast, and the state has hundreds of beautiful waterways that eventually feed out into the Atlantic. And summers in Maine are like no other.

Mainers are some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet and are always willing to help you find the best spot to put up your beach umbrella and bask in the sun. Ask them for tips on best places to eat, too — they’re happy to tell you where to find the best whoopie pie for you and your family.

Because of the state’s diverse landscapes and bays, you’ll find Maine’s swimming holes at the base of waterfalls, in rivers along gorges, and near quiet beaches scattered throughout the state. Whether you want to walk a few miles to a serene pool or pull off on the side of a road for a quick dip, these 11 Maine swimming holes and secret bays are perfect for an adventurer that needs to cool off.

Related Read: 8 Scenic Drives in Maine that Will Leave You Speechless

1. Coos Canyon Waterfall

coos canyon Maine swimming
Photo: David Harwood / Shutterstock
  • Nearest town: Byron
  • Hike to swimming hole: Near parking

This waterfall and swimming area is easily accessed off Route 17 Scenic Highway in Byron. Over the years, the water rushing through the narrow canyon walls created smooth curves along the large boulders in the Swift River. There are even some rocks shaped perfectly like recliners in case you want to lounge in the water with a beer or kombucha.

Since the rocks are curved, when wet they can be quite slippery, so tread carefully. Parking is at the nearby rest area where there are picnic tables and charcoal grills. From there, it’s a very short walk to the swimming hole. It’s a great place for a small family barbecue and afternoon out in nature.

Related read: Guide to Lincolnville, Maine: Things to Do, Where to Eat & Stay

2. The Cataracts

the cataracts Maine swimming
Photo: Alexander Gabelev / Shutterstock
  • Nearest town: Newry
  • Hike to swimming hole: Roughly .5 miles

If you want ample choice of swimming holes, diverse waterfalls, and even a gorge, The Cataracts bring you all three. It’s about a 10-minute stroll to get there. There are three obvious spots to potentially swim in, although one of them has a treacherous descent (and is not recommended). The first waterfall (sometimes referred to as “The Churn”) only drops 12 feet into a small pool and is easily accessed from the trail.

The second waterfall is grand: “The Cataract.” Water falls about 70 feet down into a deep pool, but there is no safe way to access it. The gorge is very steep here, with a wooden fence along the edge to show you just how risky it is. So skip it and instead head on to the third waterfall known as “The Flume.” It’s the most family-friendly of the pools and has a series of cascading and horsetail waterfalls. Only access these pools during low-water levels as springtime runoff can create hazardous conditions.

3. Rattlesnake Pool

rattlesnake pool Maine swimming
Photo: Shutterstock
  • Nearest town: Stow
  • Hike to swimming hole: Roughly 1 mile

Technically, this swimming hole is accessed by parking in New Hampshire and walking across the border to Maine. Although New Hampshire may lay claim to a serene watering hole called the Emerald Pool, Maine rivals it with the Rattlesnake Pool.

It’s one of the most magical swimming holes in Maine and certainly one of the most beautiful, if not the most. It’s so magical, in fact, you almost expect to see little fairies and elves hopping across the rocks that line the emerald-green water. The pool itself is on private land but the owners allow the public to access it. Make sure that generations to come can enjoy its magical (yet freezing) waters by leaving no trace.

4. Ledge Falls Pools

ledge falls pool Maine swimming
Photo: James W Thompson / Shutterstock
  • Nearest town: Millinocket
  • Hike to swimming hole: Near parking

Definitely one of the more popular places to take a dip, Ledge Falls Pools are deep within Baxter State Park. What makes this swimming hole worth the drive are the numerous natural waterslides. Make sure to wear some rugged swim trunks or bathing suit to prevent you from ending up in your birthday suit (see what I did there?)

Feel free to bring flotation devices (again, make sure they’re very durable) to see how fast you can go down the rock slides. If you want a little more adventure, head to the numerous hikes in the state park or scale the highest mountain the state: Mount Katahdin. Parking here fills up very quick and the next closest parking is nearly seven miles away, so get here early.

5. Screw Auger Falls (in Gulf Hagas Gorge)

Photo: Derek Young / Shutterstock
  • Nearest town: Brownville
  • Hike to swimming hole: Roughly 1.7 miles

Consider avoiding this high-use area during peak periods (try 10 a.m. on a Tuesday). Gulf Hagas is an incredible four-mile-long gorge with a series of waterfalls and tempting swimming holes. The best of the swimming holes is the pool at the base of Screw Auger Falls, which is just a quick hike from the Pleasant River trailhead. To get to the best spot, take a left at the Junction to follow the Rim Trail. The short side trail to Screw Auger Falls is about a quarter mile past the junction on your left.

You’ll have to ford the 150-foot wide section of the Pleasant River, so tread carefully. Do not attempt to cross the river during high water levels. If you’d prefer to take a bridge, you can take the long way around by using the Head of Gulf trailhead. There’s a somewhat steep parking fee (around $20) so bring cash when you come in.

6. Babb’s Bridge

babb's bridge Maine swimming
Photo: www.maine.gov
  • Nearest town: Gorham
  • Hike to swimming hole: Near parking

There are only nine covered bridges in Maine, so it’s pretty rare to be able to swim under one. Babb’s Covered Bridge was Maine’s oldest, although the original structure got destroyed by a fire in 1973. The one that stands there now across the Presumpscot River is a replica. This swimming hole in Maine is worth a mention as it’s just below the bridge, complete with rope swings for the thrill seekers. Release your inner child (or Tarzan, maybe?) and plop into the refreshing water on a scorching day.

7. Laudholm Beach

laudholm beach Maine swimming
Photo: Shutterstock
  • Nearest town: Drakes Island
  • Hike to swimming hole: Near parking

Hardly anyone is ever on this beach in the summer — crazy, right? Maybe it’s because no one wants to hike with their beach gear, although it’s a short hike at only about .6 miles from the parking lot at The Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve. If you’re a huge bird nerd, bring your binoculars to check out nesting ospreys and geese along the estuary.

The trail to Laudholm Beach is wide, flat, and smooth enough to bring a beach wagon so you can have all the luxuries of a beach day without the crowds. To keep the kiddos entertained, you can opt for one of the Reserve’s daily nature programs or story walks.

8. Crescent Beach State Park

Photo: Alexey Stiop / Shutterstock
  • Nearest town: Cape Elizabeth
  • Hike to swimming hole: Near parking

This crescent-shaped (duh) beach creates a cove along southern Maine’s Cape Elizabeth, meaning it’s a lot warmer than many of the other beaches and swimming holes in Maine. Inside a state park, Crescent Beach is a mile-long stretch of sand perfect for those who want wade in the waves. The beach doesn’t drop off into the ocean, meaning that there’s a very long, shallow drop off, so you can wade out incredibly far – it’s a great place to explore for little legs.

There are restrooms and changing stalls at the entrance to the beach in case potty-training is on your mind. There’s a small entrance fee (must be paid in cash) of $8 per out-of-state adult, $6 per in-state adult, and $1 for kids up to 11 (kids under 5 are free.)

9. Fowler Beach

fowler beach Maine swimming
Photo: Mike Mahaffie / Flickr
  • Nearest town: Long Island
  • Hike to swimming hole: 1 mile from the ferry stop

This is one of the hardest beaches to reach since you have to take the Casco Bay Ferry to Long Island to access it. Once there, though, Fowler Beach has privacy and serenity galore. The ferry only has passenger service (meaning no vehicles) so from the ferry, you’ll have to walk or bike to the beach itself. It’s just under a mile from the wharf, so bring a wagon to put all your stuff and potentially a child carrier if your kid can’t walk very far. Check out the Hardshell Café for some ice cream or some of the best lobster in the state on your way out.

10. Flagstaff Lake

flagstaff lake Maine swimming
Photo: Jeff Holcombe / Shutterstock
  • Nearest town: Eustis
  • Hike to swimming hole: 1.8 miles

Visiting Flagstaff Lake is much more than a quick dip: it’s a one-of-a-kind experience. The hike to get you to the lake is relatively flat and easy for short and tall legs alike. Once there, you’re arrive in front of one of the Maine Huts and Trails (MH&T) organization huts, aptly named Flagstaff Hut.

If you’re a MH&T member, the kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards are available for your use free of charge. For all others, it’s a small $10 fee to be a member for the day. Swimming is free, however, and absolutely refreshing after the nearly-two-mile hike in. On summer weekends, you can buy lunch at the hut. So if you’re dreaming of a fresh sun-dried tomato, pesto, and spinach sandwich while overlooking a beautiful wooded lake, this is your spot.

11. Frenchman’s Hole

Photo: Kelly Sikkema / Unsplash
  • Nearest town: Bethel
  • Hike to swimming hole: .5 miles

Located just on the eastern side of White Mountain National Forest, Frenchman’s Hole is the summer gathering place in the ski town of Bethel. It’s slightly complicated to get there and service is spotty, so come prepared with directions. You’ll know that you’ve taken the right road when you turn on Bull Branch Road (though it’s usually not physically marked) and see a small sign with a swimming icon that says “0.5 miles” on it.

The parking lot is just ahead on the left, but you’ll have to walk back down the way you came to access the trail to the waterfall and pool. This place can get crowded in the summer, so go with the knowledge that it’s not always a quiet affair.

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