Wanderlusting: Popham Beach and Fort Popham

“History is not a burden on the memory but an illumination of the soul.” ~ John Dalberg-Acton

Adventuring I go

Hello friends! Happy Sunday! I hope you are all having an amazing weekend! I certainly am! There is nothing better then adventuring, especially if it is to a place that feels like the end of the earth. Have you ever been to a place like that? Where you are just driving and driving (usually for me on an island) and it is just open space, or cliffs and water and NO ONE is around. It is both eery yet peaceful and still cool all at the same time. Well Popham Beach, and subsequently Fort Popham, feel like that to me. Located in Phippsburg, Maine, on a peninsula fifteen miles outside of Bath, Maine, it has its own little community nestled on the Maine Coast. It is also the most visited State Park for Day use in the State of Maine. Though it didn’t feel like that when I went there!

Fort Popham

Popham actually began as a colony started by George Popham, (thus the name) and turned into a military fort, albite a very small fortification during the Revolutionary War to protect the Coast. It became known as an Embargo Fort, after Thomas Jefferson’s Embargo Act of 1807, as tensions with Britain and France began to rise again and the government decided it needed to be expanded and upgraded for further protection and defense of the Kennebec River. It saw minimal action, and after the war laid essentially dormant until the Civil War where once again Congress decided to update and expand Popham in 1961 to the fort it is today. During the two World Wars it was semi-operational more as a precaution, then to actually be used to protect the country. It was made a historical landmark in 1969, and efforts have been in the works to preserve it. It is open to the public and while free of charge donations are appreciated to keep the fort from falling into ruins.

Popham State Park and Beach

Two miles down from Fort Popham, lays Popham State Park on 605 acres of coastal beach and woodlands. At low tide you can actually walk on the beach between the park and the fort, as they are connected. There are also multiple islands and sand bars you can walk on, but watch the tides! Just off of the beach (and also seen from the Fort) are two islands with lighthouses, Pond Island, and Seguin Island (which has the second oldest lighthouse in Maine!) which you can kayak to or take a ferry to and explore. Popham has some of the prettiest shoals, but it is also a testament to the erosion, and crazy weather patterns it experiences. Since Hurricane Irene, conservation efforts are being made too preserve and protect the park so people can use it for years to come. Popham has multiple trails and because it is so popular it has two sets of facilities for visitors to use as well as lots of parking.

My Visit

Despite it being the most visited State Park in the state, I went in the off season and there was NO ONE there, though it was open, and that included the facilities. I went to the beach first, and it was windy! The tide was coming in so I was unable to walk out to the islands, but I did grab some pictures of the shoals. Popham isn’t a calm beach, so if you are looking for a place to boogey board, this is the beach for you! I walked about a mile down the beach before turning back and making my way to the Fort.

The Fort just might have been my favorite part of my adventure. There is a small beach at the fort where people were fishing, but because it was high tide it was not very big. You can park at the beach or go further down and park in the fort, but it is limited. The Fort was busier then I expected, but it wasn’t overcrowded. You can either walk through the gates that open up from the parking lot, or take a trail that parallels the fort and the beach and go in from the side which is what I did.

And then you can explore to your hearts content! The fort is two levels (technically three, but the top is cordoned off) and you can climb the stairs to look out, which I did and not going to lie, I was quite proud of myself since I HATE heights! It wasn’t to scary and since it was a gorgeous day, the views were spectacular, and definitely worth my adrenaline/sweat rush. I could see the islands and lighthouses off in the distance, which I am not sure if it counts, but I did take pictures so maybe, JUST maybe, I can count those lighthouses as having seen them?

Some things to note: I did get lost on my way there. And cell service was NOT the greatest. The State Park charges (though the fort is donation based) but they don’t always have an attendant so make sure you have cash on hand. It is also rather chilly so dress accordingly. I also recommend getting there on the earlier side as it does fill up! And enjoy! You can explore, but also kayak, fish, boogey board, go for a run and just enjoy the sound of the waves. Both the park and the fort are open year round and while it might be chilly in the fall, it is also the prettiest in my opinion!

Have you ever been to Popham Fort or State Park?


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