I have been living in southern Maine for twenty-two years and only yesterday discovered how special Willard Beach is in terms of its beauty and expense-free availability.
I’d been there many times to take a dunk--though generally speaking its water is colder than most other beaches in the area. The temp and humidity yesterday were challenging and I needed to get into the ocean.
Until last summer, it had always been free to park at Kettle Cove (suggested donation but I often ignored that) to walk to the right and enter Crescent Beach for a walk or a swim. I spent many summers, and winters (without the swim), doing that.
But last year a park ranger told me it was now mandatory to pay. It made sense since I am sure people like myself had always ignored the requested honor-system donation in the tin can.
Nevertheless, it wasn’t something I could afford so that meant I would probably stop spending time at either of those spots--Kettle Cove or Crescent Beach.
I am a beach-a-holic but if I have to pay it’s not going to work because I don’t have the cash.
I ended up moving to Biddeford for eight months this past year so I frequented a gorgeous beach there for free during the winter and spring months.
I returned to Portland this June and it’s been a challenge to figure out where I am going to plant my beach bum and dunk in the ocean.
A friend of mine lives in South Portland and suggested Willard Beach. It was just something I had forgotten about!
It lends itself to accessible free parking and is a joy to visit. It is a local beach--though welcoming folks from anywhere as it does not require a permit.
We went yesterday.
It was semi-crowded but completely enjoyable and breathable.
It has a nice stretch of sandy beach--not long--to find a spot with enough privacy to relax. The ocean itself is beautiful with rocky mounds jutting out here and there. Not too much seaweed and welcoming water.
I was in heaven.
I went in almost ten times over two hours since the humidity was high and the cold water wore off instantaneously.
Then, I went back to the parking lot to return my chair, wallet, and backpack so I could take a nice beach stroll without carrying my belongings.
I walked three laps up and down the beach for a nice workout. I submerged again at the end to cool off.
To top it off there are restrooms and an outdoor sprinkler to wash off one’s feet upon re-entering the car or getting on a bike. And it is situated in a way that you don’t have to trudge through sand again to get to your car.
If you cannot find parking in the designated lot you can drive around the neighborhood for street parking.
I hope they never start charging fees because honestly it is one of the last standing free beaches around this area these days.