Whenever I travel around the state and tell people I live in Cape Elizabeth, the first thing they do is look at my shoes to see if I’m wearing Johnston and Murphy or my shirts to see if they’re from Mercer and Sons. Cape’s reputation as one of the wealthier communities in the state precedes it and I’m not sure people outside of southern Maine expect to see someone from the town dressed out of Reny’s via Marden’s. Of course the ocean side of town—Shore Road—is home to the big rockpiles and estates built by and for such luminaries as the architect John Calvin Stevens. But those of us who live in what’s affectionately known as Baja Cape (or NoSpur—North of Spurwink) know there are plenty of pleasures available to the day tripper and resident hoi polloi.
While not exactly prohibited from the private drives along Shore Road, visitors are more encouraged to visit the free and public park at Portland Head Light, the iconic lighthouse depicted in advertisements for everything from Reny’s advertisements to cell phones.
Fort Williams Park, which contains the lighthouse, also houses a gorgeous cliff walk, with views of the ocean and the cities of Portland and South Portland, as well as some of the best lobster rolls in town. Parking and entrance is free; lobster rolls are not.
Walk off your crustacean-induced coma a short jaunt south on Shore Road at the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust trails in Robinson Woods, with free parking available at the road side. Robinson Woods contains over 145 acres of land with walking trails, fields, ponds, and woods. Because the land was never suitable for farming, much of it is in the same state as it has been for centuries. Massive trees, streams, wildflowers, and ferns grace your path as you feel your cholesterol-fuelled pulse return to normal. The Land Trust has numerous other parcels in Cape Elizabeth also suitable for walking. See this list for details.
Moving farther south on Shore Road, be sure to take a long look at the view from Pond Cove on the left, another Land Trust parcel that hosted some of the earliest settlements in Cape Elizabeth.
Ready for a beach day instead? No problem. Continue up Shore Road to the intersection with Ocean House Road (Route 77) and take a left.
Cape Elizabeth has two state parks with excellent sand beaches. Kettle Cove and Crescent Beach are next to each other, just off Route 77 to the left about a mile or so beyond the “center” of town. Kettle Cove is the smaller of the two parks, with a small well-protected beach and walking trails. Take the left off 77 just before the Kettle Cove Creamery (ice cream later!) and follow the road out to the parking lot. To reach Crescent Beach, which is larger and has shower, changing, and restroom facilities, continue down 77 to the sign. Both beaches are State Parks and have entry fees, though Kettle Cove’s fee is on the honor system—please pay it!
Rainy day. Tour the local farmstands—Jordan’s Farm and Alewive’s Brook Farm (don’t mention my name to Jodie!) for almost anything in season and Maxwell’s Farm. Lunch at C Salt Gourmet Market (year-round) for good sandwiches or Two Lights Lobster Shack (seasonal) for the best fried clams in town.
Of course the best places in Maine are only known to the locals and Cape Elizabeth is no different. We have one of the best Transfer Stations (aka The Dump) around and a Swap Shop, where residents leave and retrieve all kinds of treasures, from furniture to paperbacks.
Many’s the good find come from the Cape Elizabeth Swap Shop
but you need to get there early on Saturdays—the ambience is reminiscent of Filene’s Basement on the pre-Christmas sales. You’ll have to find someone with a resident sticker to take you, though. In Cape Elizabeth, our junk is for us . . .