LONG ISLAND — On any list of Maine’s best beaches you’re likely to see Long Island. But this Casco Bay island’s smooth, white sand stretches, which locals say actually “sing” under your feet, are not easily found.

It’s not just the fact you need to sail, paddle or take a ferry to get to the large public beach. Even at the town landing six miles off the coast of Portland, there are no signs directing you toward the beach and no signs at the beach telling you that you’ve arrived.

Heck, there are no street signs.

“That’s just the way it is,” summer resident Lucy Donovan said with a wide grin.

The local name for the public beach here is not even the same as the official state name given more than 40 years ago. South Beach, as the locals call it, is called Andrews Beach by the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands because it is a 3-acre state park. But Andrews Beach is not listed on the state website for state parks and historic sites and it has no sign designating it as such.

“It’s kind of an area where there is a hidden gem,” said Gary Best, acting regional manager with the bureau. “It’s one of those places you find out about by word of mouth.”

Andrews Beach was purchased by the Bureau of Parks and Lands in 1972 with the help of the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Unlike Maine’s other soft, sandy beaches along the southern coast and midcoast, there are few houses within sight. At Andrews Beach, where there are two half-moon stretches of sand, the view is to an undeveloped rocky island.

On a dry day, the sand makes a strange, haunting noise beneath your feet, Donovan promises.

“You step on it and it sings. It’s the most beautiful sound. It won’t happen when the beach is wet. It must be dry,” Donovan said.

Certainly during the hot summer tourist season, finding the beach is easier when you can see crowds of sun bathers. But with no street signs, it can be hard finding it on a quiet, cool weekday.

The locals like it this way.

“We’re starting to notice a little traffic at South Beach in the summer. I think that might have to do with a Down East (magazine) article that gave it a bit of a boost. Some people probably think that’s good, and some probably don’t,” said Long Island recreation director Katie Norton. “But you can always find a spot. You never have to worry about where you’ll put your beach towel.”

Long Island seceded from Portland in 1993, and this tight-knit island of 200 year-round residents, many who make their living lobstering, banded together instantly.

“When the island seceded from Portland, they made up the difference after the loss of town workers with road crews made up of volunteers. And they did a better job,” said Henry Donovan, Lucy’s husband. “The people here take care of each other.”

Island residents say you can see Portland’s City Hall from spots on the 3-mile-long island. You can even hear the jets taking off from Portland Jetport, Henry Donovan said.

But don’t be fooled. Long Island feels as remote as an island far Down East. With 125 acres of conservation land, pine forests cover much of the island.

“We run a very conservative, practical community here,” said Mark Greene, a resident and avid town volunteer. “At some town meetings we raised the question of whether we should buy and put in street signs. It was voted down. I haven’t heard of anyone here not getting where they want to go.”

The Casco Bay ferry website says it’s best to have a bicycle to get around the island, but there are no bike rentals.

The truth is the state-park beach is within reach, about a 20-minute walk from the town landing. Stop at one of the two food and beverage marts near the town dock, get an island map that shows “South Beach,” and ask a local to point you in the right direction.

Once there, trash cans, bike racks and three granite benches looking out to sea will signal you’ve arrived.

With roughly a quarter mile of sand and a giant natural patio of rock ledge, there is plenty of room for a private picnic.

Just don’t expect a park sign welcoming you.

“It’s an absolutely beautiful beach,” Lucy Donovan said.


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