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[Updated 2024] Starfish at Tidal Falls Preserve in Hancock Maine

By Thomas Tash

Tidal Falls Preserve
< class="bt_bb_headline_tag">Kid & Family FriendlySchoodic and Downeast Acadia
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A Day Trip to Tidal Falls Preserve: Exploring the Unique Ecosystem of Downeast Maine

Tidal Falls Preserve in Hancock, Maine, provides a beautiful setting for picnicking and exploring the unique tidal behavior and ecosystem of Downeast Maine. As with all public land protected and managed by the Frenchman Bay Conservancy, Tidal Falls Preserve highlights what makes this area of Maine so special. This guide will cover everything you need to know about visiting Tidal Falls Preserve, including directions, activities, facilities, and the unique opportunity to view starfish and other marine life.

As people traveling down the long and winding path of life, we come to many forks. In our mind, one of the most significant of these forks is on High Street in Ellsworth, Maine. Here, Route 1, 1A, and 3 all become one for a brief moment at the intersection of Main Street (S.K. Whiting Park). No matter how you get to Acadia National Park, you’ll find yourself on this stretch of road.

The tone changes on this short section of High Street, from rural or coastal Maine to Acadia-centric. You immediately pass by Cadillac Mountain Sports on your left, followed by L.L. Bean. It’s when you reach the fast-food region (McDonald’s, KFC/Taco Bell, and Wendy’s) that you’re given the option of continuing straight along Route 3 to Mount Desert Island, or turning left and taking Route 1 Downeast. For the purposes of this article, we’re doing the latter.

The Communities Downeast of Ellsworth

If you ask a local, they’ll probably tell you that “Downeast” Maine begins and ends in the Reny’s parking lot in Ellsworth. But, a few minutes east of Ellsworth, the roadsides give way to ocean views, small towns, and large wooded stretches.

The village of Hancock is the next stop on Route 1 east of Ellsworth. Home to cute shops, specialty food stores, and the Downeast mystique, Hancock is a postcard waiting to happen. Just before you leave Hancock to cross the bridge into Sullivan, there’s another fork in the road. This time, we’ll turn right and head to Tidal Falls Preserve.


A small Maine DOT road sign marks the turn to Tidal Falls Preserve. It’s a small sign, easy to miss. If you reach the bridge and Taunton Bay Gateway to the Schoodic National Scenic Byway, you’ve gone a bit too far.

From the turn, you’ll head up a residential road to a more formal sign for Tidal Falls Preserve on the left. It’s less than a mile to this sign. Turn down Tidal Falls Road, and you’ll pass more homes on each side of the road as you approach the preserve. Tidal Falls Preserve is located at the end of Tidal Falls Road.

Tidal Falls Preserve has a gravel parking area large enough for 6-10 vehicles.

Things to Do

Starfish Viewing at Tidal Falls Preserve in Hancock, Maine

Tidal Falls Preserve in Hancock, Maine, is a fantastic location to observe starfish in their natural habitat. An observation deck and wooden picnic tables provide an excellent vantage point to enjoy the falls and local wildlife. At low tide, Tidal Falls puts on an impressive show, with the starfish as the main attraction. Visitors often marvel at the diversity and vibrant colors of the starfish, which range from oranges and yellows to surprising purples. These sea stars, related to sand dollars, sea urchins, and sea cucumbers, can be found clinging to rocks and scattered throughout the tide pools. It’s important to respect these delicate creatures by observing them in the water without picking them up or collecting them in buckets, as human disturbance can harm their health and lead to population decline.

The best time to see starfish is during the tidepooling window, which occurs from 1.5 hours before to 1.5 hours after low tide. Start your tidepooling adventure before low tide and leave as the tide begins to rise to ensure the safety of both the starfish and yourself.

Picnic at Tidal Falls Preserve

The preserve itself is 4.2 acres in size. To the left from the parking area is a partly shaded picnic area with some tree cover. There are about a dozen picnic tables here that make for the perfect “base” for your day trip.

Facilities and Restrooms

To the right of the parking lot is the Exploration Center and office building. There are public restrooms and water fountains on-site. The exploration center provides a great opportunity to learn about the area’s tidal pools, tides, and the main attraction: the reversing falls. Guests are asked not to bring dogs to Tidal Falls in order to protect the grounds and wildlife. Here are some dog-friendly alternatives.

Kids Quest Program

Tidal Falls is also home to the Tidal Pools stop on the Schoodic National Scenic Byway Kids Quest program. This program, managed by the Schoodic National Scenic Byway Committee, provides a unique learning experience across multiple locations in the Schoodic region. The program aims to teach kids and their families about the region, its history, geography, and geology in a fun and immersive way.

Tidepooling at Tidal Falls Preserve

The rocky shoreline at Tidal Falls is a great place to get close and look at life below the surface. These micro-ecosystems are brimming with life just waiting to be discovered. One of the highlights is the opportunity to view starfish. These fascinating creatures are often found clinging to the rocks in the tidal pools. The best time to see them is during low tide when the pools are exposed, revealing the vibrant marine life that inhabits them. Make sure to tread lightly and leave the tide pools as you found them to preserve this delicate habitat.

Viewing the Reversing Falls at Tidal Falls Preserve

The best time to view the reversing falls at Tidal Falls Preserve is 2 hours before or after low tide. The falls are created by the dramatic tidal shifts in the narrow channel, causing the water to rush in and out, reversing direction with the changing tides. This natural phenomenon is a must-see and provides a captivating display of the power of nature. You can see the daily tide charts here.


The significant natural resources of the area make Tidal Falls a great place to view wildlife. Visitors often witness eagles, seals, osprey, kingfishers, otters, blue heron, and other animals in their natural habitat. The preserve’s diverse ecosystem supports a wide range of species, making it an excellent spot for nature lovers and photographers.

Exploring the Surrounding Area

While Tidal Falls Preserve is a highlight in itself, there are several nearby attractions and activities worth exploring:

  • Schoodic National Scenic Byway: This scenic drive offers stunning views of the coastline, forests, and mountains. It provides access to several points of interest, including Schoodic Point, a rugged headland known for its dramatic waves and beautiful vistas.
  • Hancock Point: A charming area with historic homes, quiet roads, and beautiful water views. It’s a great place for a leisurely drive or a peaceful walk.
  • Sullivan: Just across the bridge from Hancock, Sullivan offers more scenic beauty and access to the Taunton Bay Gateway, where you can learn about the local marine environment and enjoy the views.

Tips for Visiting Tidal Falls Preserve

  • Plan Your Visit Around the Tides: The reversing falls and tide pools are best experienced around low tide. Check the tide charts before your visit to make the most of your trip.
  • Bring a Picnic: The picnic area at Tidal Falls Preserve is the perfect spot for a meal with a view. Pack a lunch and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.
  • Wear Sturdy Shoes: The rocky shoreline and trails can be uneven, so sturdy shoes are recommended for exploring.
  • Respect the Wildlife: Keep a safe distance from animals and do not disturb the tide pools. Preserve the natural habitat for future visitors.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best time to visit Tidal Falls Preserve?

  • The best time to visit is around low tide to see the reversing falls and explore the tide pools. You can see the daily tide charts here.

Is there parking available at Tidal Falls Preserve?

  • Yes, there is a gravel parking area that can accommodate 6-10 vehicles.

Are there restrooms at Tidal Falls Preserve?

  • Yes, there are public restrooms available on-site.

Can I bring my dog to Tidal Falls Preserve?

  • No, dogs are not allowed at Tidal Falls Preserve to protect the grounds and wildlife. Here are some dog-friendly alternatives.

Is there an entrance fee?

  • No, Tidal Falls Preserve is free to visit.

What should I wear when visiting?

  • Wear sturdy shoes for walking on rocky terrain and bring layers to accommodate changing weather conditions.

Can I see starfish at Tidal Falls Preserve?

  • Yes, starfish can often be seen in the tide pools during low tide. Tread lightly and respect the delicate ecosystem.


While visiting the Schoodic region, book your tent camping trip at Acadia East Campground! We’re close to the action, with adventure in every direction.

Thomas Tash

Tom Tash is the Founder and Co-Owner of Acadia East Campground and Pocket Parks Campgrounds. Tom began his career in Outdoor Recreation at the University of Maine at Machias before joining the City of Portland Recreation Department and becoming the Recreation Director for the Town of Bridgton. Tom became deeply invested in the national parks as the Marketing Director for a national park travel guide company. He co-founded Acadia East Campground in 2017/18.

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