Madawaska, Maine Vacation Guide
Nestled in the wilds of Aroostook County, Madawaska — the northernmost town in New England — sits across the St. John River from Edmundston, New Brunswick. The two cities are connected by the Edmundston-Madawaska Bridge, but that’s not the only thing that connects them: More than 83% of its residents speak French at home.
Madawaska’s multicultural traditions stretch back to 1785, when Acadian settlers from Nova Scotia landed on the banks of the St. John River after fleeing British persecution in their homeland. Fast-forward 50 years to the Aroostook War, a non-violent border dispute between the U.S. and Britain that began in 1838. Also known as the Pork and Beans War, the skirmish centered on ownership of the Madawaska area. Though both sides massed troops at the border, no blood was shed and the Webster-Ashburn Treaty ended the dispute in 1842. Many families were caught in the middle, however, leaving French-speakers “stranded” on the southern side of the border.
Today, Madawaska and its neighbors — Edmundston, St. David, Frenchville, Grand Isle, and St. Agatha and Sinclair – attract visitors year-round. Known as the Heart of the St. John Valley, this scenic region offers a range of diverse recreational, cultural and historic attractions.
Madawaska’s rich past is evident in its many attractions, such as the Acadian Landing and Tante Blanche Museum. Open from June through September, this National Register Property commemorates the spot where Acadian settlers first set foot in the St. John Valley with the Acadian Cross Historic Shrine, a 14-foot marble monument. The nearby Tante Blanche Museum, set in a log building, contains 18th century artifacts and commemorates the selfless actions of Marguerite Blanche Thibodeau, a healer who helped the community survive a famine in 1797. Other buildings on site include a 19th century school house and the Fred Albert House, an example of the distinctive Maine Acadian architectural style. All are maintained by the Madawaska Historical Society.
Celebrate local culture at the Madawaska Acadian Festival. Since 1978, this annual event has grown; today, it’s Maine’s largest festival. Every August, residents and thousands of visitors come together to celebrate the region’s unique cuisine, art, music and hospitality. Events include the Acadian Triathlon, dances, live performances, historical reenactments, talent shows, fireworks and parades.
Nature lovers will find a paradise in Madawaska; the region is known for its scenic, rugged beauty, and the proximity of the St. John River, and Long, Mud and Cross Lakes – part of the Fish River Chain of ponds — mean that excellent fishing, canoeing, kayaking and boating is never far away.
In addition, Madawaska and the surrounding area is dotted with campsites, parks, and miles of hiking and biking trails. The fun doesn’t end in winter, either; cold-weather activities include cross-country skiing, ice fishing, ice skating, snowshoeing and snowmobiling.
Just a few miles southwest of Madawaska, the town of Frenchville was incorporated in 1869. Historic attractions in the area include the Frenchville Railroad Station and Water Tank. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the station and water tank – known as the Green Water Tower — were constructed by the Bangor and Aroostook Railroad in 1910. The tank was used to replenish steam locomotives until 1958, when diesel engines became popular. Frenchville’s historical society maintains the tower and a restored caboose that contains period artifacts.
Also listed on the National Register, the Corriveau Grist Mill was constructed in 1907 and was used to mill buckwheat and other grains for the surrounding community. Visitors can tour the mill and see the wool carding machine. The town is home to the Northern Aroostook Regional Airport, which serves the Fort Kent and Madawaska areas.
St. Agatha and Sinclair
The towns of St. Agatha and Sinclair may be small, but they attract visitors year-round with their recreational opportunities. Both towns sits on Long Lake, a 12-mile-long, 6,000-acre lake that offers year-round fishing. The lake is home to landlocked salmon, carp, and brown, brook and lake trout, and in winter, the frozen lake is transformed into a village of ice shacks. Other activities include camping, boating and swimming, as well as walking, snowmobiling and ATV trails. Bird watchers flock to the area to see resident loons, mallards and other waterfowl, while fall visitors are treated to a colorful foliage show that’s mirrored in the lake’s surface.
Take a trip across the St. John River to Edmundston, New Brunswick. This bustling city, home to about 17,000 residents, is home to scenic natural attractions, such as the 17 restful acres of the New Brunswick Botanical Garden, as well as recreational opportunities that range from canoe or kayaking tours on the Riviere-Verte to biking on the Petit Temis biking trail, which stretches more than 80 miles from Edmundston to Riviere-du-loup, Quebec.
Get a taste of local history at the Du Reel au Miniature Railroad Interpretation Center, a museum that highlights the important role of railways in the region, and the Petit-Sault Blockhouse, a recreation of a blockhouse from the Aroostook War.
Edmundston hosts many festivals and events throughout the year. Among the largest, the annual Edmundston Jazz and Blues Festival draws thousands of spectators to hear musicians from around the region and the world. It takes place in June. For a dose of Acadian French culture, attend La Foire Brayonne. Each August, this fair highlights the music, culture, art and food of the region.
Lodging & Dining
Visitors to this region can find lodging on both sides of the river. For lake views, rent a cabin or vacation home on scenic Long Lake. If you’d rather be close to town, try one of the cozy bed and breafkasts, inns or motels in Madawska; some even sit on the St. John River. Edmundston also offers accommodation options, including large national chain hotels as well as smaller motels and inns.
As for dining, bring an appetite: The Madawska-Edmundston area is known for its French influence, and that means good cooking! From sit-down dining to pizza parlors, quick fast-food bites to casual bistros, the region is filled with eateries that are sure to satisfy your appetite.
Madawaska Area Directories
Visit the following directories to find lodging, dining, attractions, shops, services and recreational activities in the Madawaska, Maine area.