LEWISTON — Maybe you like places with sand. Because sandcastles are awesome.

Or maybe you’re more of a waterfall/rocky pool kind of person. Or you’ll only swim when lifeguards are around. Or you value swimming serenity above all else.

“It’s personal preference,” said Rebecca Goldfine, who lists places to walk and swim on her website MaineByFoot.com. “Some people have a high tolerance for slimy, muddy bottoms with weeds, and others don’t.”

Whatever you like — muddy bottoms and all — we’ve got the swimming spot for you.

As the summer kicks off, we looked at dozens of lakes, ponds and swimming holes to find the best options for all lovers of swim. We had just three rules:

• They have to be natural. (We love you Kennedy Park pool and YWCA of Central Maine, but we’ll need to catch you next time.)


•  They have to be open to the public. (We did our best here, but when in doubt, do your own research and be aware that a land’s ownership — and its restrictions — can change at any time.)

• They have to be in this area (Lewiston-Auburn and western Maine, give or take a few miles).

We narrowed it down to 12 spots, some hidden gems, some better known, all great for a cool dip on a hot day. This list isn’t comprehensive, but it’s a refreshing start.

Let’s get swimming!

Smalls Falls

Smalls Falls, just south of Rangeley. Photo courtesy SeeSwim.com

Where: Route 4, about 12 miles south of Rangeley. Look for the rest stop.


Cost: Free

What makes it special: A five- or 10-minute hike puts you in the middle of a natural wonderland filled with magnificent waterfalls, pristine pools, gigantic boulders and leafy trees.

“This place is just amazing,” said Justin Hirons, who runs SeeSwim.com with his wife, Hannah, and who’s visited close to 1,000 swimming spots in his lifetime. “There’s multiple pools that lead down the river. Some pools people jump off the cliff-side into, others are easily waded into. The last pool downstream has hundreds of rock piles creating some type of artwork. Some of the larger pools can be a little busy, but hiking up the river you can find your own little spots.”

Not that anyone recommends jumping off high things. Don’t jump off high things.

Range Pond State Park

Where: 26 State Park Road, Poland


Cost: $6 for Maine residents (free for seniors), $8 for non residents ($2 for seniors)

What makes it special: The state park has a lot going for it, including a sandy beach, public boat launch, easy walking trails, covered picnic area and playground. So go and do. Or go and relax.

“A lot of our parks are great family destinations that you can do a lot of things, and you can be as active or not as you like,” said Rex Turner, outdoor recreation planner for the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands. “You can read a book while your kids swim or swim with them.”

Lake Pennesseewassee Park/Norway Town Beach

Where: Route 117, Norway

Cost: Free


What makes it special: Sure, it has a small beach area, boat launch, volleyball court, basketball court and picnic tables. Which is great. But what’s truly unique are the little play areas tucked within the walking trail — a series of secret gems that kids just happen upon on their way to go swimming.

Frenchman’s Hole within Mahoosuc Public Lands

At Frenchman’s Hole, swimmers love jumping from the rocks into the water below. Courtesy of seeswim.com

Where: Bull Branch Road, Riley Township (Or Newry. Or Bethel. Depends on your GPS.)

Cost: Free

What makes it special: “It’s an opportunity for swimming in a stream that’s attractive, cool, free-flowing,” said Turner with the Bureau of Parks and Lands. “It’s a nice opportunity.”

Also, another waterfall! Swimmers love jumping from the rocks into the pool below (as you can see on YouTube), and there’s even a rope to help you climb back out and onto the rocks for another go. But dive at your own risk — this old-fashioned swimming hole isn’t staffed with lifeguards.


Bresca and the Honeybee at Outlet Beach

Where: Sabbathday Lake, 106 Outlet Road, New Gloucester

Cost: $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, $3 for children 3-13, kids 2 and younger are free. (Additional fees for boats.)

What makes it special: This privately owned beach area offers picnicking, boating and swimming — with small slides and diving boards, plus canoe, kayak and paddleboat rentals. A snack shack sells ice cream when the weather is nice and will sell lunch on Saturdays and Sundays starting next weekend. Keep in mind, this spot is cash only, so plan ahead. And since dogs aren’t allowed, leave Fido at home.

Beaver Park

Where: Cotton Road, Lisbon


Cost: $2 for Lisbon residents, $4 for non residents (Honor box at the gate.)

What makes it special: This town park has three ponds — two of them with beaches — plus miles of walking trails, fields and a shelter for group barbecues. Beaver Park is often called Lisbon’s best-kept secret, but “We don’t want it to be a secret,” said Mark Stevens, director of Parks and Recreation. So go! And tell all your friends.

Richardson Public Lands

Where: There’s more than one access point on these 22,000 acres in the Rangeley Lakes region, where there are swimming opportunities galore. According to the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands’ website, the area is “located between Upper Richardson Lake and Mooselookmeguntic Lake in western Maine. Access to the southern portion of Richardsontown is by water, with launch sites at Oquossoc in Rangeley and at South Arm in Township C. Route 16 passes through the northern section.”

Cost: Free

What makes it special: With 21 miles of shoreline on Upper Richardson and Mooselookmeguntic lakes, as well as multiple ponds, you will never feel crowded even on the hottest day in the middle of tourist season.


Little Concord Pond at the base of Bald and Speckled mountains in Woodstock. Photo courtesy Rebecca Goldfine, MaineByFoot.com

Bald and Speckled mountain swimming

Where: Shagg Pond Road, Woodstock

Cost: Free

What makes it special: You can go just to swim at Little Concord Pond or you can take a hike on one (or both!) of the mountains bordering it and then return for a refreshing dip. “It’s fantastic,” said Goldfine at MaineByFoot.com.

Strong Public Beach (Porter Lake)

Where: Beanie’s Beach Road, Strong


Cost: Free

What makes it special: Swim in a sandy bottomed lake, then picnic with views of the mountains. Ah, Maine.

Oversett Pond in Greenwood. Photo courtesy Rebecca Goldfine, MaineByFoot.com

Oversett Pond

Where: Willis Mills Road, Greenwood

Cost: Free

What makes it special: Six miles of trails, a mountain view and a pond surrounded by woods. A serene, secluded swimming spot — for people who like that sort of thing.


Mountain Pond

Where: Edelheid Road, Rangeley. From MaineByFoot.com: “Go about a half-mile to utility pole #13. (You have to squint to read the numbers.) There is a little sign for the trail, and a bench at the trail head, which is on the right.

Mountain Pond in Rangeley. While it probably won’t appeal to everybody, “you hike in and you’re hot and it just feels really good to jump in,” said Rebecca Goldfine at MaineByFoot.com. Photo courtesy Rebecca Goldfine. MaineByFoot.com

Park along the road.”

Cost: Free

What makes it special: If you’re looking to relive your rustic swimming hole days, this is the place to do it. A mile-and-a-half strenuous little hike takes you to a remote and beautiful — but somewhat murky — pond. “It won’t probably appeal to everybody because it does have that muddy bottom with weeds,” Goldfine said. “But you hike in and you’re hot and it just feels really good to jump in.”

Step Falls Preserve


Where: Bear River Road, Newry

Cost: Free

What makes it special: Over the millennia, the preserve’s waterfalls and rocks have created a kind of natural water park, complete with slides and small, shallow pools. Just be careful — the rocks can be very slippery. “I fell and slid down a whole (water)fall Saturday,” one visitor wrote on Facebook.

Not that it deterred her.

“I will definitely return,” she added. “Will just be more cautious.”

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