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9 Coastal Wonders To See Now

Authors Heather Hansen and Kimberly Lisagor have traveled the world investigating coastal sites that are as stunning as they are endangered. Here, they share advice for planning an eco-sensitive trip―and how you can help.

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Casco Bay, Maine
Photo: Hardie Truesdale/Alamy

Casco Bay, Maine

Why go? From the cockpit of a kayak plying the ripples between the 222 islands off Portland, Maine, you can watch gannets plunge their big blue beaks below the water’s surface. Flocks of eider ducks soar overhead, and harbor seals play in the quiet coves of fern-draped, rocky island shorelines.

Why care? Population growth has had some unintended environmental consequences―among them, nitrogen pollution. When contaminated runoff enters the bay, patches of slimy green muck cover previously healthy beaches. Nitrogen pollution has already ravaged other bays worldwide, but Casco Bay is just beginning to see the effects. “We don’t want to get to the point where we can’t turn it around,” says Portland native Joe Payne, the Casco Baykeeper with eco-group Friends of Casco Bay. Joe and his organization are working to make Maine the first East Coast state to implement a statewide nitrogen limit.

Plan your trip: Best time to go: July or August. Catch a ferry from Portland to Peaks Island to join a trip with the Maine Island Kayak Company (maineislandkayak.com). Stay at the Chebeague Island Inn (chebeagueislandinn.com); rooms start at $245.

How to help: Friends of Casco Bay (friendsofcascobay.org) relies on certified volunteers to collect data for its EPA-approved water quality monitoring program. The group is also a resource for ecological landscaping, a technique that aims to keep fertilizers and pesticides out of the bay.

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