Bath, Maine Vacation Guide
In Midcoast Maine, white and red lighthouses dot the headlands and chiseled peninsulas hook into the blue Atlantic like lobster claws. This is shipbuilding country. From barnacled lobster boats and shipping vessels to pleasure craft and Aegis-class destroyers, on any given day it is possible to see more boats in Maine’s marinas and harbors than cars on the roadways (except for on Route 1 in the middle of summer, of course). While many towns and cities in coastal Maine celebrate their venerable shipbuilding history, Bath is still a leading powerhouse in the industry. In the greater Bath area you will also find Topsham and Woolwich, smaller villages that have their own distinct charm.
As soon as you see the hulking cranes glinting in the sun along the Kennebec River, you know you have entered the City of Ships. The shipyard looms over Bath. It is a beautifully industrial, tangled network of buildings and complexes, boats, barges and sky-rise cranes, and the whole setting has the workman-like precision of a Charles Sheeler painting. It is said that half the ships built in the U.S. during the 19th century were constructed in Bath. Today, shipbuilding takes place in the Bath Iron Works. Founded in 1889, the Bath Iron Works is the lifeblood of the city. Roughly 6000 shipbuilders continue to work on Navy contracts, and when you drive through Bath it is not uncommon to see these naval destroyers docked in the river. In other words, if you are planning to spend any time in the area, it is essential that you pay a visit to the Maine Maritime Museum.
Is there more to the City of Ships than monstrous seafaring vessels? Absolutely. Bath is not only an architectural gem and vibrant Midcoast cultural center, but there are enough green spaces and special events to pique the interest of any traveler. Bath’s historic district is dominated by 19th century sea captains’ homes. Front, Center and Washington Streets are lined with Federal and Greek revival mansions. A walking tour is an excellent way to get acquainted with some of New England’s best architecture, and a stop at the local Historical Society will help complete the picture.
Perhaps it has something to do with that soft and magical seaside light. In coastal Maine, downtown arts scenes are just as prevalent as lobster boats in the harbor. Bath is no exception. From the Five Rivers Arts Alliance and the Studio Theatre of Bath to the whimsical Chocolate Church Arts Center, there are shows, concerts and performances throughout the city. Be sure to check out the Chocolate Church. Gothic-spired and painted a rich Hershey brown, this former Congregational Church hosts all sorts of community exhibits and events but specializes in concerts.
Get outdoors and take in the legendary Maine air. Refreshing and invigorating, a deep breath of Maine’s salty breeze is like spending the day at a Zen-like spa. The Sagadahoc Preservation and the Kennebec Estuary Land Trust are scattered with waking/hiking trails and scenic watershed vistas. Miles of coastline, flats and tidal runs make Maine a preeminent northeast fishing destination, and the 17 Rivers Striper Tournament is your one chance to angle for trophy-sized fish just like Ernest Hemingway. Bath Heritage Days, which is held every July, is a four-day festival celebrating Bath’s shipbuilding history. Highlights include a boat parade and fireworks.
Topsham, Maine is a classic New England mill town. However, it is a quainter version of one-time industrial powerhouses like Lowell or Lawrence, which are located in northern Massachusetts. Topsham looks like a vintage illustration from the Saturday Evening Post. The town is picturesquely situated on the Androscoggin River. The Pejepscot Falls have generated power for many industries over the years, including tanneries, saw mills, a paper mill and a nail factory. Today, this town of 9000 is best known as the home of the Topsham Fair. The popular summertime agricultural festival has been celebrated for over 150 years. Carnival rides, fried food, a tractor pull, country music and fireworks are just some of the events you will find on the itinerary.
Originally built in the 1890s, the Androscoggin Pedestrian Swinging Bridge connects Topsham and Brunswick. The same engineering firm that constructed the Brooklyn Bridge designed the pedestrian swinging bridge, and it was used by workers who needed to cross the Androscoggin River to work at the Cabot Mill in Brunswick. In 2006, the historic bridge was updated and revitalized. The pedestrian bridge might no longer be a vital economic link from one town to the other, but it is considered to be one of Topsham’s outstanding tourist landmarks.
It would not be Maine if there were not some tranquil and scenic places to hike and commune with nature. Bradley Pond Farm Preserve and the Cathance River Nature Preserve are popular outdoor destinations. Rivers, forest trails and vernal pools await you.
Located on the east side of the Kennebec River, Woolwich was settled in 1638. A suburb of Bath, this town of 3000 is situated twelve miles from the Atlantic Ocean and is bordered by a series of waterways. The Sasanoa, Back and Sheepscot Rivers all converge around Woolwich. In the old days, the area was densely wooded and provided an excellent source of timber for shipbuilding. The rich soil also made it an important agricultural center. The Woolwich Historical Society and Museum will give you a broader understanding of life in this small town. If you prefer the great outdoors to local history, then be sure to explore the Montsweag Preserve and the Robert P. Tristram Wildlife Sanctuary.
Dining and Lodging
As is the case with most of Maine, in Bath and the Midcoast you can choose from a variety of seafood shacks that all seem to be in competition for The Best Lobster Roll in Town. In fact, you can even find a lobster roll on the menu of America’s favorite fast-food chain. Whether you sit in a dining room that displays half-hull models of ships built in Bath or opt for a canopied, red picnic table on a waterfront deck, seafood is the name of the game in Maine. While haddock sandwiches and fried clams are New England culinary staples, why not live a little and order the local scallops stuffed with crab meat or choose the sweet-potato encrusted haddock instead of the traditional sandwich? Top off your meal with some homemade Maine ice cream. Moose Tracks is a popular flavor. From sea captains’ and shipbuilders’ homes to oceanfront cabins and budget-friendly motels, you can find a comfortable room with a scenic view throughout the Bath region.
Bath – Southern MidCoast Directories
Visit the following directories to find lodging, dining, attractions, shops, services and recreational activities in the Bath, Maine area.
- Arrowsic Maine
- Bailey Island Maine
- Bath Maine
- Bowdoin Maine
- Bowdoinham Maine
- Brunswick Maine
- Dresden Maine
- Edgecomb Maine
- Georgetown Maine
- Harpswell Maine
- Orrs Island Maine
- Phippsburg Maine
- Richmond Maine
- Sebasco Estates Maine
- Topsham Maine
- West Bath Maine
- Westport Maine
- Wiscasset Maine
- Woolwich Maine