Unlike much of the rest of Maine, which is famous for its rock-bound coast, the South Coast is best characterized by its long, flat, sandy beaches. Great swimming and sunning begins in Kittery, just across the border from New Hampshire, and continues north up the coast through York, Ogunquit, Well, Kennebunk, Biddeford and Old Orchard. But the South Coast is more than just beaches. There are scores of picturesque harbors, quaint shops, cozy inns and bed and breakfasts. Portland, Maine’s largest city, reigns over the region. Its famous Old Port section, characterized by gas-lit cobblestone streets, now bustles with trendy shops and charming restaurants and bars. To the northwest is one of Maine’s premier freshwater playgrounds, Sebago Lake. The towns that surround it boast long, proud histories predating the Revolutionary War and are themselves the gateway to New Hampshire’s lofty White Mountains. At the northeastern end of this region lies Freeport, home to L.L. Bean and dozens of other outlet and factory stores. Still, the South Coast has plenty to offer those who seek to cast off the cloak of civilization. From nature centers, bird sanctuaries and state parks in Scarborough to the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in Kennebunk to Bradbury Mountain State Park in Pownal, escape from the hustle and bustle is only minutes away. Here is the most detailed guide to the region, with color illustrations throughout. Earl Brechlin is a registered Maine Guide and a resident of Bar Harbor.