An ultimate New England base for adventurers and beach lovers, this southern Maine town (population 18,900) is among the fastest-growing communities in the state. In addition to its natural gifts, Scarborough can boast low crime, excellent schools, and a spirited community ethos (including a Pickleball league). The town's prime location six miles south of the sports, art, and dining riches of Portland just sweetens the deal.
Scarborough is home to Maine's largest salt marsh and more than 3,000 acres to explore by kayak. Combine this watery treasure with Scarborough's white sands: four-mile Pine Point Beach, beloved by surfers and fishermen; Higgins Beach, a quiet half-mile crescent near the mouth of the Spurwink River; and the mile-long, lifeguard-protected Scarborough Beach State Park, with water temperatures in the high 60s during the summer. And of course there are dramatic ocean views, perhaps best captured by the great artist Winslow Homer, whose studio still stands (and is open to visitors) on Prouts Neck.
Where to Stay: Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean on three sides, the historic Black Point Inn on Prouts Neck offers classic Maine vistas and pampers with luxuries, including a geothermal heated outdoor pool. Rates start at $205; 207-883-2500 or blackpointinn.com.