Neil St. John enjoys a ride on rope swing while beating the heat at Craig Pond in Orland in 2015. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik

This story was originally published in July 2018.

Man, it’s a hot one. We’re talking temperatures that are predicted to soar into the 90s. When it comes to staying cool, you’ve basically got two options: find air conditioning and glue yourself to it, or get in the water.

Where can you swim in Greater Bangor, that doesn’t involve spending money or hours in the car battling traffic?

We’ve got seven great options for you, all of which are within 40 miles of Bangor, and all of which are easy to find with easy swimming for all ages. Please swim responsibly. Most of these places do not have a lifeguard on duty.

Stillwater River, Orono and Old Town

Credit: Gabor Degre

One of the most accessible swimming spots in the region is just a few minutes north of Bangor. Brownie’s Park, located just outside downtown Orono, offers an easy way to get into the moderately cool, lazily flowing Stillwater. You can either bob around in the shallows or swim out to a partially hidden rock pile you can sit on.

There’s a grassy area that is great for sunbathing, as well as a granite canoe and kayak launch for paddlers. Parking is available at the corner of Noyes Drive and Bennoch Road.

Jackson Beach, Hermon

Credit: Kevin Bennett

The town beach on Hermon Pond in Hermon is a scenic little spot with great picnicking amenities and public swimming. It can get a little mucky toward the end of summer, but earlier in the year it’s quite nice and often uncrowded.

To get there, head out Route 2 from Bangor. Turn down the Klatte Road, across from Ecotat Gardens, then take a left down Newburg Road. Follow Newburg Road until you see Hermon Pond Park on your left; Jackson Beach Road will take you to the water. There are changing rooms and toilets.

Alamoosook Lake or Craig Pond, Orland

Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik

Coming from Route 1 in Orland, turn down Hatchery Road. You’ll eventually come upon the Craig Brook Fish Hatchery, a large complex in between Alamoosook Lake and Craig Pond.

There are pleasant, winding trails that connect both bodies of water, and both offer swimming, picnic areas and boat launches. Plus, during operating hours you can take a tour of the hatchery itself and take a gander at all the little fishies.

Northern Pond Nature Preserve, Monroe

Credit: Courtesy Landmark Heritage Trust

BDN writer Aislinn Sarnacki visited the Northern Pond Nature Preserve in Monroe (just north of Winterport) in the winter, but it’s just as good in the summer because there’s lovely swimming to be had.

From the parking area, it’s a short hike to the pond, where there are ledges to crawl on and make your way into the clean, cool waters. To get there, from Route 139 in Monroe turn left onto Monroe Road; 1.2 miles later, turn left onto Dahlia Farm Road. 1.5 miles after that, there will be a small sign for Northern Pond Natural Area, and parking.

Branch Lake, Ellsworth

Credit: Linda Coan O’Kresik

Though this swimming spot is much less of a hidden gem now than it was just a few years ago, when the city of Ellsworth installed a boat ramp and improved the access road, Branch Lake is still an absolutely lovely place to swim. The water is crystal clear, and except for a few big boulders, the lake bottom is nothing but gravel and sand.

To get there, take Happytown Road in Ellsworth until you reach Branch View Drive; follow that road all the way to end, and you’ll see the boat launch and swimming area. It can get busy on the weekends.

Molasses Pond, Eastbrook

Credit: Courtesy of Clare Davitt

Molasses Pond is in a quiet little corner of Maine, tucked inland halfway between Hancock on Route 1 and Aurora on Route 9, with a generations-spanning community of people spending summers on its shores. At the northern tip of the pond, there’s a public swimming area that’s sunny, sandy and easy to access.

To get there from Bangor, drive down Route 9 until you reach Route 179. Take a left, and drive until you reach the intersection of 179 and Route 200. From there, it’s just a few miles to downtown Eastbrook; turn onto Molasses Pond Road, and the swimming area will be to your right.

Sandy Point State Park, Stockton Springs

Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik

Somewhere in between river and ocean swimming, Sandy Point features a long, sandy beach that’s got some of the gentlest cold water swimming in the state.

It’s cold, yes. But when compared with, say, Sand Beach in Acadia National Park, it’s practically a bathtub. It’s also a mere 25 miles from Bangor, just a few miles down Route 1 past the Prospect end of the Penobscot Narrows Bridge.

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Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.