Jane’s Picks for Kid-Friendly Preserves

Jane Arbuckle, Maine Coast Heritage Trust’s Director of Stewardship, raised her three daughters on the water. She couldn’t be away from it for long. For one thing, her job is caring for MCHT’s conserved lands from Kittery to Lubec, and for another, there’s the Maine coast’s magnetic pull.

And so she wrapped newborns to her chest and hopped on boats. Her girls grew up staring into tide pools instead of screens. They learned the names for the plants they played among and the birds that soared overhead. They grew into women with deep knowledge of and love for the Maine coast—and sea legs to boot.

What follows are some of Jane’s picks for kid-friendly MCHT preserves up and down the coast, where you can share your love for nature with some of the people who stand to benefit from it the most: kids.

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Picnicking on Clapboard Island (photo by Ann Blanchard).

Southern Maine Region

Clapboard Island East Preserve makes for a great family getaway in Casco Bay. Not far from the Falmouth Town Landing, you’ll find several easy landing spots (please note that some areas of the island are private!). A short, easy trail system leads through spruce-fir and pine-oak forest to multiple beaches, and there aren’t any cliffs or large drop offs to worry about. Look out for wildflowers and tidepools.

Lanes Island Preserve is less than half a mile from South Freeport’s Winslow Park and the entire shoreline is easy to access. Wander along the easy (and sandy) landing beach or up the steps to the picnic area and campsite. If you bring the kids within a couple of hours of high tide in August and September, you’ll have a chance to point out migrating shorebirds and large groups of terns and sandpipers.

Swimming at Pond Island preserve.

Midcoast Region

Aldermere Farm Preserve is a great place to introduce your kids to a working farm and sustainable food system. Perched overlooking Penobscot Bay, the 136-acre farm is best known for its world-class herd of Belted Galloway cows. Join us for community-wide events (like Calf Unveiling Day), full moon snow shoe walks, and free farm tours from 10-11 a.m. on Fridays in July and August. Interested in MCHT’s youth agricultural programs? Here’s more info.

Erickson Fields Preserve is just down the road from Aldermere Farm Preserve. Say hi to the MCHT Teen Ag Crew growing produce for local food pantries on your way to the 1.4-mile Wellness Trail. This walk is best for kids ages 8-12 who might enjoy the serial story and/or art exhibition found on kiosks along the trail.

Lampson Preserve in Castine and Penobscot is 22 acres—just the right size for little ones. Enjoy the short trail that leads down to the shore at two places, and keep an eye out for wildlife. We often see seals or eagles and ospreys fishing in the fast current of the Bagaduce.

Pond Island Preserve in East Penobscot Bay is almost entirely ringed with beaches, and features a pond and stream perfect for small swimmers. Look out for crabs and small fish skittering around in the shallow water or porpoises surfacing near the beach.

Little Camp Island, in Merchant Row.

The MDI Region

Blue Horizons Preserve is a local favorite on MDI, though parking is limited. You can bring a stroller down the gravel drive almost all the way to the shore. Descend the granite steps to Clark Cove and let your dog run off her cabin fever on the cobble beach. On the western side of the island, the views across the Mt. Desert Narrows to Blue Hill are especially lovely at sunset.

Kelley Farm Preserve offers a short walk through open fields and along the tidal inlet Cousins Creek in upper Bass Harbor. In the wintertime, a gentle slope makes a great sledding hill for little ones. Live in the area? Want to grow your own food? We’ve got good soil, lots of sunlight, and open plots at our community garden at Kelley Farm—reach out to Douglas McMullin if you’re interested.

Merchant Row Preserves. Many a well-traveled boater will tell you these are some of the best cruising waters in the world—in part because so many islands (nearly 30) are open to the public for exploration. On Green Island, the old quarry makes a great swimming hole for older kids and teens, and the beaches and turquoise waters of Gooseberry and Little Camp islands are unforgettable.

Building a rock sculpture at Bog Brook Cove preserve.

Downeast Region

Bog Brook Cove Preserve is one of MCHT’s largest preserves, with miles of hiking trails on the Bold Coast. It’s also easy to get to the shore with a stroller! From the north parking lot, take the wide, universally accessible path to an incredible look out over the Grand Manan Channel.

At Sipp Bay Preserve it’s easy to bring your kids to the shore. Park near the beach and head to the water or throw a Frisbee on the grassy meadow. For those interested in taking a hike, there’s a loop around the peninsula.

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