Millions of movie-goers around the country flocked to see Kevin Costner's 1999 romantic drama, Message in a Bottle, but few knew that the movie, which is set in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, was actually filmed in several Maine locations--including Popham Beach.
Once you've parked your car and walked the short distance to the beach, you'll find sand stretching to the right as far as the eye can see. Slightly to the left, a rocky outcropping, which is interesting to explore, is reachable at low tide. Keep your eye on the incoming tide and don't get caught on this little island when the tide starts to turn. (This account of the harrowing rescue of a woman and her daughter who were stranded at high tide in March 2011 should convince you to take this danger seriously.) To the left of this outcropping, at the mouth of the Kennebec River, is Pond Island, a ten-acre island with a lighthouse built in 1855 to replace the older lighthouse built in 1821. The lighthouse is not open to the public, but several boat companies offer cruises that pass the island for a close-up view.
Picnic tables and charcoal pits, as well as a bathhouse with freshwater showers, are available in the wooded section of the park. Fort Popham, built during the Civil War in 1860 and never finished, is located two miles further down Route 209. The fort sits on the banks of the Kennebec River, where it broadens into Atkins Bay, and offers views of Georgetown across the river. A second fort, Fort Baldwin, built during World War I as an observatory used to spot periscopes of enemy submarines, sits atop nearby Sabino Hill.
Popham Beach Directions and Information:
From Route 1 just before the Sagadahoc Bridge in Bath, take Route 209 south and follow all the way to Phippsburg (14 miles). Follow the signs for Popham Beach State Park. There is an admission fee. Maine resident seniors age 65 and older are free. Call 207-389-1335 for details.
To reach Fort Popham and the quaint village of Popham, which is part of Phippsburg, continue past the beach entrance on Route 209. The fort is at the end of the road, after the town. Fort Baldwin can be reached by heading back through the village and taking the first right after the chapel and library on Fort Baldwin Road. Both forts are open Memorial Day through September 30 from 9 a.m. until sunset.
Where to Stay:
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Popham Beach Bed & Breakfast
This B&B was once a Coast Guard station, and sits right on the beach at Popham.