The views of Casco Bay from the Spring Point Shoreway are spectacular. As you look out onto the ocean, islands bask like jewels and white sailboats float on the sparkling waters. In early summer wild roses creep along the fence and berry trees wear their colorful blossoms. Put this altogether on a day when the sky is blue, and you can see one of the most beautiful sites in the world. And it is right here, in southern Maine.
The 1.6 mile Shoreway winds along the seacoast from Willard Beach, in South Portland, across the SMCC campus to Spring Point breakwater, The College and the Shoreway are on land that has been home to several forts over the centuries. The last, Fort Preble, was deactivated after World War II. The part of the Shoreway that approaches Spring Point crosses over an area of bunkers and fortifications and is the highest part of the trail. There are benches there where visitors can sit and savor the spectacular view
I like to sit on one of these benches and admire the panorama of Casco Bay and its islands. My thoughts usually wander to the horizon and beyond. For centuries, people have spent hours looking at horizons and wondering what lies out there. One of these benches is the perfect spot for beyond-the-horizon contemplation.
As you look down toward Spring Point from that height, there is an area of stone fortifications surrounding a large grassy area. (This is an ideal playground for the younger crowd. Portals through the stone walls are just perfect for youthful imaginations to become pirates, soldiers or super heroes.)
Along one part of the trail is the Shoreway Arboretum where many species of trees and shrubs are planted. The arboretum with its flowering shrubs and varied shades of green lends another aspect of beauty to this spot. Meander down this path with an ocean breeze at your back, the scent of roses wafting through the air and life is just about complete.
An added bonus of the Shoreway are the views of two lighthouses that can be seen – renowned Portland Headlight to the right and Spring Point Lighthouse to the left. On certain weekends during the summer months, the Spring Point Lighthouse is open to the public. Spring Point Lighthouse was constructed in 1897 and was tended by a lightkeeper until 1934 when it was automated. You can reach it by walking out on the causeway, built in 1951.
The oldest landmark in South Portland, The Old Settlers’ Cemetery, also known as the Thrasher Cemetery, dates from 1658 and is located here along the Shoreway. The oldest markers are just stones jutting out of the ground. Those jutting stones are stark reminders of how harsh life was in the earlier centuries of our country.
Oops, I must not neglect to mention that Willard Beach is just below the Shoreway. If you want to spend a complete day here, you might want to include some beach time. Just remember to check the time of high and low tides.
Now, when it’s time to eat, I am deviating from the usual course of selecting a nearby restaurant. Along the Shoreway is a covered picnic shelter. It is well maintained and you can sit there amid the greenery and admire beautiful Casco Bay. So bring sandwiches with you, take in the view and appreciate how fortunate we are to have this marvelous place available to us for free.
Directions: Cross the Casco Bay Bridge from Portland to South Portland and bear left onto Broadway. Go to the end of Broadway and turn right onto Benjamin Pickett Street; go to the end and turn left onto Fort Road. The college parking lots are on the right just a little way up the slope and are available when college isn’t in session. Or if you prefer, you can keep driving up the slight hill and then down to a smaller parking area near the Spring Point causeway.
Side note: If you continue to drive toward the causeway, you will pass a small white church on the left. It is called All Faiths Chapel and seats 40. This charming chapel is maintained by the college and can be rented for weddings.