Each town on the South Coast  believes without a doubt that its beaches are the finest. And to be fair, comparing the area’s bounty is rather like comparing Olympic medalists. Even so, some are less crowded and sport better dunes than others. Footbridge Beach (Ocean Ave., Ogunquit, 207/646-2939, www.visitogunquit.org ) sees far less hordes of sunbathers and swimmers than the town’s Main Beach, and is easily accessible.
Recreationally speaking, you can’t do much better than the 1,600 acres of the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve at Laudholm Farm (342 Laudholm Farm Rd., Wells, 207/646-1555, www.wellsreserve.org , 7 a.m.–sunset daily year-round; visitors center 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Mon.–Sat., noon–4 p.m. Sun. late May–mid-Oct.; closed Sat.–Sun. mid-Oct.–late May, $2 adults, $1 children). Full of wetlands, beach dunes, and show-stopping sunsets, the reserve contains a network of trails perfect for hiking, bird-watching, and cross-country skiing.
Hikers in search of something other than sand to cross are well-served by turning their sights to Mount Agamenticus (186 York St., York, 207/361-1102, www.agamenticus.org ). Kilimanjaro it’s not—standing at just below 700 feet, it’s an easy afternoon climb. But with beautiful views of the area’s beaches and towns, plus mountain biking and sledding areas, it’s well worth a day trip.
Take a boat tour with Captain & Patty’s Piscataqua River Tours (Pepperrell Rd., Kittery Point, 207/439-8976, www.capandpatty.com , Tue.–Sun. Jun.–mid-Oct., adults $12, children $10) and spot various local lighthouses, forts, shipyards, and other historic sights on the guided one-hour tour.
Or, if you’d rather go the marine biology route, see first-hand how to fish for lobster with Captain Tom Farnon (Town Dock #2, Harris Island Road, York Harbor, 207/363-3234, every hour 10 a.m.–2 p.m. weekdays in summer, $8 per person), who runs clear-bottom-boat excursions, and has plenty of knowledge about the crustacean to relay.