Best Scuba Diving in Maine
If we talk about the northeast coast of the United States that borders the neighboring Canada, what usually comes to our mind are Moose grazing in the rolling mountains or shipyards in the flatlands of its coastal area. While this is the description often given to the State of Maine, little did we know that is also a hotspot for scuba diving where its 3,478 miles (5,597 kilometers) long coastline facing the Atlantic Ocean is dotted with amazing and unique dive sites.
Scuba Diving in Maine - Seasonality and Weather
Having a humid continental climate, Maine generally has warm summers and cold winters, but the coastal area is influenced by the Atlantic Ocean resulting in mild winters and cool summer. With this, the best month to go diving in Maine is during summer where water temperature ranges from 50 to 60OF (10 - 15.5OC). With this, wearing of exposure suits is a must. And not just any ordinary wetsuit, but wearing a wetsuit that has a thickness of at least 7mm, or perhaps a drysuit is mandatory to avoid hypothermia since water temperature is very cold. The visibility of its water is not that clear where it only ranges from 10-15 meters (30 - 50 feet).
If there is one thing that you should monitor in Maine, then it should be the tides. The tidal exchange in Maine has a considerable fluctuation that causes a strong current. Not unless if you are into drift diving, we highly advise you to go diving on a slack tide where the speed of the water is at its least.
Since Maine has a cold water environment, don’t expect to see coral reefs. However, the absence of corals does not mean there’s nothing to see underwater. Marine life is flourishing in Maine. Unlike in the tropics, all of the dive sites in Maine has a unique set of marine life where crabs, lobsters, sea anemones and odd-looking fish dominates the area. Shore diving is popular in Maine; however, not all sites features easy access to the beach as Maine’s shores are filled with a rugged coastline. Don’t worry as boat diving is always an option for your trip.
Best Dive Sites in Maine
1. Nubble Light
Location: Cape Neddick, Sohier Park in York County
This popular dive site in Maine can easily be identified courtesy from the towering structures of an 18th-century lighthouse. Since the lighthouse is erected on an islet just a few hundred meters away from the shore, the waters in between the islet and the coast provide a perfectly calm spot for scuba diving. As you enter the water, you initially see that the seafloor is covered with protruding algal beds. As you go deeper, other marine life will sill start to appear where you can see lobsters, crabs, torpedo rays, yellow skates and pollock that often forms a school.
The underwater topography in Nubble Light ends in a shallow seafloor where your maximum depth is only 15 meters (50 feet). You also need to take note that visibility at shallow waters ranges from 10 to 15 meters (30 to 50 feet) and it starts to deteriorate as you go deeper where some have experienced as turbid as 3 meters (10 feet).
Tip: Nubble Light can be crowded with divers during the weekends, so diving on a weekday is recommended to bypass the crowd.
2. Biddeford Pool
Location: Saco Bay, south coast of Maine
Locally known as ‘The Gut”, Biddeford Pool is a large natural tidal pool that is a flat land during low tide but becomes a divers haven during high tide. While this is a relatively shallow dive where your maximum depth is only 25 feet (7.6 meters), it is compensated with the immensity of marine life.
As you enter the shore that is predominantly composed of gravel, you will see that the seafloor is populated with algal beds. Fish starts to appear when you arrive at 3 meters (10 feet) deep where you can see a school of striped bass. In most occasions, you will see a sea lion following the striped bass feasting on their school. However, just in case you can’t see these marine mammals on water, you will see them on the nearby rocks bathing under the sun.
Side trip: after diving, you can visit the former Fletcher’s Neck Lifeboat Station which is now a museum.
3. Twin Lights
Location: 5 miles (8 kilometers) south of Portland
Also called as Two Lights, Twin Lights has a shallow dive profile with a maximum depth of only 40 feet (12 meters) and is named after two lighthouses built in the 18th century. As you enter the surface water, you can see both lighthouses, one located at the eastern end which is still in active service, while the other lighthouse is located at the western end and is not functioning.
As you start your descent, you will arrive at a rocky bottom filled with algae. You have to take note that the algal bed becomes thick if you are diving on a summer. Take time sneaking a peek on what’s under the thick algae, and you will be surprised to see some large crustaceans like crabs and lobsters. Aside from the clawed marine life, some divers were also able to find old coast guard artifacts where this underwater antiquity hunting has become a signature activity in Twin Lights.
Tip: After diving, you can visit a nearby restaurant that offers one of the best lobster stew in Maine.
4. Fort Foster
Location: Kittery Point, Kittery, Maine
This former military fortress from the 18th to 19th century is now a popular tourist destination where its guest can go diving courtesy from the beach located right in front of this inactive military installation. While the shoreline in Fort Foster is pretty long, your entry and exit point can easily be found at Rocky Beach. Large boulders litter the underwater topography of this dive site where most of them are encrusted with algae that sway along with the tide. Just a few meters after the pile of rocky boulders, you will arrive at a sandy patch filled with odd-looking fish that hides their body in the sand, and only the upper body is exposed - the garden eels.
If you are a newbie or still getting used to in using a thick wetsuit or a drysuit, Fort Foster is the perfect site for you as it is has a confined setting and a shallow profile where maximum depth is only at 25 feet (7.6 meters).
Crabs and lobsters are abundant in Maine, and you are almost guaranteed to see them during diving. While the urge to pick or hunt them for food is high, please do not take them out of their habitat. However, just in case you want to feast in this mouth-watering seafood, go to a restaurant (there’s always a nearby restaurant near a dive site) where their catch is sustainably controlled and regulated by the government.