Harpswell is a town in mid-coast Maine that consists of peninsulas and 3 large islands (Bailey, Orr’s and Sebascodegan) as well as over 200 smaller islands. It is connected to the rest of Maine by a piece of land called Harpswell Neck. Originally inhabited by the Abenaki Indian tribe, it was then a farming and shipbuilding community. Today, the town is primarily a tourist destination with fishing and lobstering as its other industry. Its natural beauty attracts artists and photographers, but dog-lovers are drawn to the many pet-friendly parks and trails nestled among the islands, such as the Long Reach Preserve.
The Long Reach is a 95-acre preserve that permits dogs to be off-leash and under voice control from August 1 to mid-April, but on-leash during bird-nesting season from April 15 to July 31. This area features a challenging 1.5-mile trail that begins at the parking lot and proceeds through forest and bog, then descends to the shore of Long Reach. Long Reach is a submerged valley that drains with low tide to become mudflats. From the top of the Preserve, you and Fido can look across to another trail system: Cliff Trail, and its rocky cliffs. There are multiple opportunities for scenic views and photographic moments. It’s a pawsome hike!
Should your fur-buddy become ill or injured while in the Harpswell area, there are at least 2 veterinarians in Harpswell, with several others in nearby Brunswick, Bath and Topsham. They are ready and able to get your pup wagging again in no time!
So take in all that the coastal town of Harpswell has to offer you and your adventurous pup!
The Harpswell Town Center contains the Cliff Trail system, which follows along the shore of Strawberry Creek and rises to the 150-foot cliffs that are visible from the Long Reach Preserve. The trailhead is at the parking area on Mountain Road, and the trails meander through the forest to Henry Creek, down along the cliffs and past a cut-off trail that contains a fairy house zone for the kiddos’ enjoyment. Another fairy house zone lies to the south at the point where the best viewing of Long Reach exists. The trail is just over 2 miles long and takes approximately an hour to complete, depending on your pace. Birds and wildlife will interest your fur-pup along the way during all 4 seasons. In winter, paths are groomed for snowshoeing, and the wintering-over species appear: deer, rabbits, cardinals and chickadees, among others.
This Harpswell neighborhood is home to the dog-friendly Curtis Farm Preserve, with a 1.25-mile trail system that traverses fields, through the forest and ultimately to the shores of Basin and Curtis Coves and their gravel beaches. The property also includes a freshwater pond and wetlands to explore for waterfowl and other wildlife. You will find shellfish in the mudflats, and the views are fantastic! Take Fido for a hike, but keep him leashed during nesting season April 15 to July 31. Other times, he can be under voice control. Hungry? There’s a picnic area on the Basin Cove side, near the pond, as well as a spot with water access in case you’re in the mood for some cruising or fishing. Woofderful!
Dog-friendly Orr’s Island lies just to the south of Harpswell Center, and it features the Devil’s Back Trails, West and East. The West Trail loops north and south from the parking area on Harpswell Islands Road (Rt 24) near Seal Rock, and meanders through wooded lands before descending to Long Cove in 3 separate loops. The park has provided a bench about halfway down for resting and viewing the beautiful cove. On the East Trail, which is comprised of 2 long loops that intersect near the parking area, you can view the scenic Gun Point Cove, while the Seal Rock Trail affords views of seals basking in the sun, playing and fishing. This is also where there might be ospreys riding the thermals looking for their fishy dinners or perched in their large “stick nests.” Your fur-pup will especially enjoy these samples of marine life, along with the other birds and mammals you’re likely to encounter on your walk. He can be allowed off leash if he is under good voice control.
Further south from Orr’s Island on Rt 24 will bring you to Bailey’s Island, home of the Johnson Field Preserve, an open meadow at the head of Mackerel Cove with 2 convenient parking areas. This recreational gem features great dog-friendly activities including walking, picnicking with the family, access to the beach for romping and swimming, and a great place to launch a canoe, kayak or motorized boat for a day or afternoon on the water. The views from the Preserve are fantastic, and it is open year-round. In the winter, sledding on the meadow’s gentle hill is a family favorite, and some fur-pups love to chase that sled and its human down and back up again! Furtastic!
The Goslings are 3 undeveloped small islands so named because they lie just south of Lower Goose Island in Casco Bay, east of Harpswell Center and part of Harpswell. They are uninhabited, but 2 of the islands have established campsites where pups are welcome, as well as meadows and woods to explore, and a sandbar connects them at low tide. Woof! The third island, named Irony, is primarily a sand bar with a few wind-bent trees, but is home to a pair of long-time resident ospreys who unintentionally pose for pictures and fish for dinner in the inlet between the islands. All 3 islands can be reached by private boat or launch from Harpswell Center, and are available for day trips if remote camping isn’t your thing.