Scarborough in Cumberland County, Maine, is part of the largest metropolitan area in the state. Its own population at the latest count was just under 20,000 and it is a community that continues to grow.
Scarborough was incorporated over three and a half centuries ago in 1658 and took the name of the coastal town in North Yorkshire, England.
It is close enough to Portland to enjoy the benefits of a big city but far enough away to avoid the problems of busy city life. The coastline is especially impressive, with lovely white beaches, marshy areas, and spectacular views over the North Atlantic Ocean.
Many of the 15 Best Things to do in Scarborough revolve around the outdoor activities that locals and visitors can enjoy.
1. Scarborough Marsh Nature Center
This estuary and marsh are open 12 months a year, but the months between May and October are the best time to visit, when the Audubon Center in the southwest of the area is open.
The total acreage is just over 3,000 and it is a delight for walkers and birdwatchers. It is also possible to rent a kayak or canoe. Existing trails reveal the natural environment to you, although you are welcome to wander wherever you please.
Within the center, you will see natural history exhibits and learn all you need to know about this impressive salt marsh.
2. Pine Point Beach
The lovely stretch of sandy beach on Saco Bay between Pine Point Jetty and Old Orchard Beach is a great place for families at any time after winter departs. The town maintains its cleanliness and rakes the sand weekly.
If you stroll down the beach, you will see children at play, swimmers, and people who simply want to relax.
Refreshments are available at a small place near the parking, lot and showers allow you to wash off any sand you have collected. Parking fees apply, although there is free parking further away.
3. Higgins Beach
Higgins Beach is another popular spot, and visitors are sure to enjoy the scenic route to get there. A small spit of beach jutting out to sea helps create a little river which is great for children to splash around in.
Once again, efforts are made to ensure the soft sand is clean for visitors. You are certain to see families enjoying the sand and fishermen regularly cast a line in hope of a catch.
It is never too crowded, even on sunny weekends, so this beach comes highly recommended.
4. Ferry Beach
The sands along the Scarborough River offer yet another place for families to enjoy a day. Backed by long grasses, this stretch of sand with parking nearby links the shore to the welcoming waters.
Lobster boats are active here, seeking the catch that you will be delighted to eat at dinner time. Before that, enjoy a swim and the warm summer breezes in this relaxing place.
There is no lifeguard but the waters are generally regarded as safe for swimmers.
5. Beech Ridge Motor Speedway
The setting may not be as quiet as that of the beaches, but this small oval race track in Scarborough has been attracting people for 70 years.
The asphalt-covered NASCAR-approved track measures just a third of a mile, with races held on Saturdays and Thursdays.
It is a fun day for the family and may be something completely new to you. It is noisy, so you may want to pack some earplugs. There isn’t much shade either, so bring some protection if the sun is out.
6. Maine Indoor Karting
If the racing track is not enough for you, try the indoor karting facility. It covers 42,000 square feet and gives you a chance to try out your skills in a small racing car. The karts are powered by gas and can reach speeds of 40 mph. The track twists and turns and is entirely indoors.
There are races designed for kids in specific age groups, so you need not worry about any dangers for your children, who are certain to beg you to let them have a go. For the young, the specially designed wheels ensure the whole exercise is perfectly safe.
7. Memorial Park
Memorial Park is a year-round facility where you can even partake in Nordic skiing in the winter.
It is an attractive park with a number of trails for walkers, joggers, skateboarders, and cyclists. The fields and landscapes are beautiful if you just prefer to sit and take in your surroundings.
This park’s trails at Oak Hill, behind the Municipal Building, are wheel-chair friendly and described as easy. Parking is on hand, so the park is accessible to all.
8. Fuller Farm Trail
This 2.6-mile trail is another spot where walkers and those exercising a little more vigorously can get some exercise.
It is a great place for birdwatchers, with a variety of species nesting here; visitors are asked to avoid walking in the fields in summer to protect their nests. The trail itself leads into woods beside the Nonesuch River. Several loops are available, along with a lovely waterfall, a small river, and picnic tables.
Fuller Farm was an old homestead which Scarborough bought in 2000; its front faces on to the Scarborough Marsh.
9. Scarborough Downs
Scarborough Downs horse racing track was in danger of closing down before it was revived by new ownership. The current year has been successful and next season’s calendar starting on 30th March has been announced, so the locals are hopeful that the facility has a bright future.
It first opened almost 70 years ago so a closure would be a big loss to the community.
The Downs is the largest racing track in Maine and has great grandstand viewing as well as good spectator facilities in general.
10. Scarborough Beach State Park
This State Park is probably the most popular with locals and is a great place for swimming. Water temperatures rise through spring, so by the time lifeguards are in attendance on Labor Day, you can expect the temperature to be in the high 60s.
There are currents, so swimmers are advised to stick to the designated swimming areas. Few places in Maine boast better swimming opportunities.
The Park is open during daylight hours from 1st April until the end of October.
11. Prouts Neck Cliff Walk
This cliff walk is lovely; if not rather bracing when the wind blows. It is a loop of around 1.5 miles, starting and finishing close to the Black Point Inn. The parking at the Inn is for customers only, so why not have breakfast or lunch there before you set out?
Along the route, you can enjoy the natural setting and some of the historic homes that are located there. Parts of the walk are narrow and difficult, so it is may not be well suited for young children.
12. Winslow Home Studio
The famous American landscape and marine painter, Winslow Homer, used the little peninsula of Prouts Neck as inspiration for some of his work. Some pieces can be seen in Brunswick in the Museum of Art in Bowdoin College grounds, and even more in the Portland Museum of Art.
His home and studio on Prouts Neck is a National Historic Landmark, full of his original furniture and artifacts as well as excellent copies of his best work. It is a lovely museum that is certain to give you a greater appreciation of this ‘’American Master.’’
13. Len Libby
If you have a sweet tooth, you should go to Len Libby’s on Route 1. You will not be able to eat its most famous exhibit – a 1,700-pound, life-sized chocolate moose named Lenny. This chocolate creation is 20 years old and what a shame it would be if you did not see it, especially if you are traveling as a family – the kids will love it.
There are miniature ‘’Lennys’’ that you can buy. This is a charming sweet shop with a difference.
14. Bayley’s Seafood Restaurant
Maine’s seafood is quite rightly famous; while you are in Scarborough, you should sample it at its best.
Bayley’s is a family business – a family with roots in Scarborough going back more than 100 years. The restaurant is on two floors with a takeaway service available. Picnic tables are located nearby so you can dine al fresco.
The food here is outstanding. Try ordering clam chowder followed by a lobster roll and finishing with homemade ice-cream.
15. Broadturn Farm
The owners of Broadturn Farm started their business 14 years ago on another site, farming and running a camp program. This farm is larger and, as well as acting as a working farm, has a summer camp program for children, field trips for school groups, and even an introductory course for those of pre-school age.
Youngsters can get a real insight into agriculture and livestock, but be prepared: they are likely to come back after the day fairly dirty.