Reid State Park in Georgetown has long been a favorite destination of mine: one of Maine’s longest sand beaches, less than an hour from Portland and open year-round. But I recently discovered it’s far from the only scenic seaside destination worth visiting on the Georgetown peninsula. Tucked less than two miles away is a truly unique spot that offers a staggering variety of landscapes and wildlife: the Josephine Newman Audubon Sanctuary.

The 119-acre preserve, willed to Maine Audubon by Josephine Oliver Newman more than 50 years ago, features more than two miles of well-maintained trails. It may not sound like much – and isn’t, geographically speaking – but in that small distance you can see meadows, marsh, forest, ridges and coastline.

Spring is a perfect time to visit the sanctuary. And coincidentally, this Tuesday is National Audubon Day – an appropriate occasion to stroll along the well-maintained trails and celebrate the birthday of ornithologist and naturalist John James Audubon, for whom the National Audubon Society and its 500 chapters are named.

The sign marking the sanctuary can be hard to spot: Heading south on Route 127 from Woolwich, pass the Georgetown Country Store and Georgetown Fire Department. On the other side of the bridge, take a right onto the narrow dirt road marked with a small sign. Be careful of anyone leaving the sanctuary – there’s only one turnaround, about 500 feet up the road.

At the small parking lot, there’s an informational kiosk with trail maps, and a few different routes to try. I opted for a clockwise route around the perimeter of the sanctuary, starting with a left that took me east from the kiosk onto the Geology Trail.

The Geology Trail follows easy footing, with rises and dips as you approach Robinhood Cove. At the water’s edge – where you have a nice view north, back to Route 127’s bridge over the Sasanoa River – the trail gets much more rugged, with steep pitches and terrain that changes almost as quickly as you can traverse it.

When the Geology Trail brings you back to the cattail marsh near the kiosk, take a left onto the Rocky End Trail, which swings back toward the river. Follow the water, through stands of oak, pine, spruce and hemlock, with benches that offer pleasant views over the water. The trail ends on a small finger of land sticking out into the river, where wide, flat rocks make it a perfect spot to stop for lunch.

The Rocky End Trail heads inland, away from the river, over a bit of steep terrain with striking rock formations. Here it becomes easy to lose the trail – the sanctuary borders the Berry Woods Preserve, which offers another three-plus miles of trails – so make sure to follow the red markers unless you want a longer hike.

From the junction of the Rocky End Trail and Horseshoe Trail at the southern end of the preserve, a quick trip on the Cabin Trail to the ruins of an old cabin is worth the time – another great lunch spot.

Continuing clockwise on the Horseshoe Trail you’ll find one of the real hidden gems of the sanctuary at its western edge: a beautiful waterfall, more than 12 feet tall, tucked away at a curve in the brook leading toward the ocean. A stone bench sits at an ideal overlook, protected by trees.

The Horseshoe Trail turns north, and after a quick walk through a marshside field, you’re back at the parking lot, having walked the entire edge of the preserve. The whole circuit can easily be completed within a couple hours, leaving plenty of time to continue on to Reid State Park, or to ice cream and lobster at Five Islands Lobster Company.

The Josephine Newman Audubon Sanctuary is a great reminder that there are a lot more places to see in Maine than the crowded spots in the brochures. In fact, some of them are even right on the way.

Jake Christie is a freelance writer living in Portland. Along with his brother, Josh, and father, John, he writes about great Maine destinations for outdoors enthusiasts. Jake can be reached at:

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