Although Maine has some incredible cities and towns all over it, not many are as focused on tourists as Old Orchard Beach along the coast. With a long history of fun activities focused on tourists as well as locals, it also has incredible beaches and ocean views. If you’re driving through the Maine coast, for example on our recommended Coastal Road Trip, this is one stop you’ll want to add to your list.
Where is Old Orchard Beach?
Old Orchard Beach, Maine is located on the eastern coastline in Southern Maine. It’s located just under 30 minutes from the Portland International Airport, the largest airport in the largest city in Maine. Less than 2 hours from Boston with a large international airport, bus, and train hub. Finally, it’s only about 10 minutes off of I-95, the primary interstate in Maine.
The easiest way to get there from destinations ranging from as far north as Brunswick, Maine to as far south as Boston is the Downeaster Amtrak Train. Note that the Old Orchard train stop is seasonal, only open from May to October each year. When it is open, it is steps away from the beach and all of the activities I’ve listed below.
Things to do in Old Orchard Beach
Old Orchard Beach only has about 7.5 square miles of land, but they use that space to its fullest. It is a tourist destination in the summer, and it will be packed with people. These five activities will be worth the wait. Luckily, even at their busiest, these locations don’t feel as busy as you might expect in other top-rated tourist destinations. We’ve been to all of these locations and never had an excess wait at any of them.
Visit the Beach
This one is obvious, you have to visit the beach in Old Orchard Beach. In total, the beach is 7 continuous miles long, spanning three towns. The beach is well maintained with regular lifeguard stands. There are showers to rinse your feet after leaving the beach. Wearing beachwear is common at most of the shops in Old Orchard Beach. The water averages 56’F in the summer, so chilly, but pleasant on a warm day.
Luckily with so much beach, you can spread out without feeling crowded. I would suggest walking north past the pier where fewer people seem to congregate. But, south of the pier, there are lots of restaurants, hotels, and services right along the beach. You’ll also generally find beach volleyball nets on the beach in front of the beachfront hotels.
Originally built in 1898, it was the longest steel pier in the world at just under 2,000 feet. After being destroyed by the ocean a few times, it’s much shorter now, only stretching 500 feet into the Atlantic Ocean. This isn’t your typical pier, it’s filled with souvenir shops, restaurants, and a nightclub at the end. It also has one of the few sets of public paid bathrooms along the beach.
Note that although the pier goes out into the ocean you can’t see much of the ocean. The views are blocked by the many restaurants and shops. Some seating areas look out into the ocean, but those seats are often the first to fill up. The pier is one of the more packed places in Old Orchard Beach.
Home to the first carousel in the United States, Palace Playland was built in 1902. In addition to being a fully functioning amusement park with water rides, a drop zone, a Ferris wheel, an arcade, and a roller coaster. It’s also New England’s only beachfront amusement park. Palace Playland does a fireworks show over the beach every Thursday evening all summer long.
Tickets are reasonably priced and are per ride, with no park admission. Meaning that you can ride some rides, go to the beach, grab some lunch, and then ride some more rides all within an afternoon. With everything being so close together, you also don’t need a car to get around.
Pirates Cove Adventure Golf
What beach is complete without mini-golf? Although a little bit farther from the beach than some of our other activities, it’s still easily walkable at barely a half-mile from the pier. Although it’s a chain place, Pirates Cover Adventure Gold has two nice 18-hole mini-golf courses at the same location. At less than $10 per person, it’s a good deal for a couple of hours of fun. For less than $15, you can do both 18-hole courses. Note, that like most of Old Orchard Beach, it is seasonal.
Surfboard Lessons or Rentals
If you’ve ever wanted to try surfing, Mocean Surg & Skate, located just steps from the beach, has you covered. In addition to surfboard rentals and lessons, they also have stand-up paddleboard rentals and lessons as well. Private lessons start at $100, which includes a board, a wet suit, and an instructor for one hour. Group Lessons are only $65 per person which includes all the same. About a mile walk from the pier, it’s also only open seasonally.
Frequently Asked Questions About Old Orchard Beach
If you’re considering visiting Old Orchard Beach, you’ll undoubtedly have some questions. Here are some of the more common questions that we get from people who have it on their bucket lists. Hopefully, these answers will help you plan your trip to this incredible destination.
When is the best time to visit Old Orchard Beach?
The easy answer is during the summer. The significant majority of businesses, restaurants, bars, amusement parks, and even hotels and B&Bs close during the winter. Although there are still some activities, stores, and attractions open, it’s the minority. Most Old Orchard Beach activities are open between May and October each year, with the edges of that period being the least crowded.
How to get around Old Orchard Beach?
Old Orchard Beach is very walkable. If you take the train or bus, it’ll drop you off downtown and you can walk from there. If you drive, there are plenty of paid parking lots near downtown, but some of them can be reasonably expensive. Remember that all of Old Orchard Beach is just a little under 7 square miles of land. Nearly everything worth going to is close together.
What is there to eat in Old Orchard Beach?
There are tons of options for food, ranging from walk-up shops to full-scale restaurants. For a quick snack, you should try pier fries. They are a local staple, even if the price reflects their tourist trap qualities. While you’re in town, you’ll also want to stop by Dickinson’s Candy and take in their surprisingly large candy selection. Finally, for a full dinner, you need to have a local seafood meal at Myst Oceanside Restaurant. Treat yourself to some Maine lobster, one of the most popular dishes in the state.
What towns are near Old Orchard Beach?
Although we’ve hyped up Old Orchard Beach, Maine as a whole is a beautiful state with lots to see and do. Just barely up the street is Saco, which has Funtown/Spashtown USA, an amusement park, and a waterpark in one. A little further south is York, which we loved so much and is perfect for spending the weekend. North is Portland, Maine which is the largest city in the state. With Old Port, a popular area with bars and restaurants to the many museums, stores, and the largest mall in Maine, it’s worth a visit.
Slightly further north is Freeport, home of the LL Bean Campus consists of 7 LL Bean stores, which are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a day. In addition, Freeport is well known for its large selection of outlet stores and local shops.
Can you swim at the beach at Old Orchard Beach?
You absolutely can swim here. There are lifeguards and beach patrols along the beach that will indicate if the water is unsafe for any reason. Although the Maine water can be cold depending on the time of the year, it can be refreshing on a hot day. Just so you know, the water will be warmest in the evening and coldest early in the morning.
Does Old Orchard Beach have a lighthouse?
Because the town is conveniently located between two peninsulas and several islands, they don’t need their lighthouse. Just south of the town is Wood Island Lighthouse, aptly named after Wood Island in which it resides. Just north is Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth, the largest lighthouse in Maine.
I hope that you’ve now seen the benefits of visiting Old Orchard Beach. If you weren’t already considering visiting, hopefully, you will now. On a beautiful summer day, you could explore even more downtown and find even more things to explore that I didn’t include on my list.