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Just an hour’s drive north of Portland lies the village of Boothbay Harbor, Maine — a seaside getaway embodying the quintessential midcoast. Its shoreline, fringed with evergreen forests and rocky outcroppings, is an idyllic setting for any weekend escape, and its downtown, filled with a variety of attractive shops and restaurants, ensures that the whole family will enjoy the trip.
Here’s what to do and see on your next trip to Boothbay Harbor, Maine.
A classic water view at Boothbay Harbor.
Things to Do in Boothbay Harbor, Maine
Boothbay Harbor is famous for its connection to the sea, so don’t leave without taking one of the many boat tours on offer here. Whales, puffins, seals, lighthouses, and lobster boats are just a few of the things you can spot as you cruise around the islands near Boothbay Harbor. Feeling more adventurous? Rent a kayak and do the seafaring yourself. There’s no better way to see Maine’s coast than from the water.
Picturesque Boothbay Harbor is known for its connection to the sea.
If you’d rather stay on land for the day, Boothbay Harbor offers several attractions within a 10-minute drive of downtown. Stop by the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens to reconnect with the beauty of nature. You can also check out the Boothbay Railway Village, an interactive history museum that depicts life in a rural Maine village from 1850 to 1950, and the Maine State Aquarium, complete with a 20-foot-long touch tank for guests to learn more about the aquatic animals of Maine.
Spend the whole afternoon wandering around the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens.
Barrett Park is one of several parks and nature reserves near Boothbay Harbor that are perfect for short hikes or walks by the water.
Boothbay Harbor’s downtown is filled with shops and restaurants that pack in as much history as they do souvenirs and seafood. Pick up a beach read at Sherman’s Maine Coast Book Shop, known as Maine’s oldest bookstore, and something sweet at Orne’s Candy Store, a Boothbay Harbor staple since 1885. Don’t miss Gimbel & Sons Country Store for everything from knickknacks and toys to sauces and jams; at Seawicks Candle Company, you can take home the scents of the coast.
Many shops and restaurants are located on Townsend Avenue and Oak Street —but don’t forget to check out the side streets as well!
Of course, a visit to Boothbay Harbor requires that you eat at least one lobster roll: We recommend the Lobster Dock or Shannon’s Unshelled for your fix. If you’re in the mood for Italian, try the lobster ravioli at Ports of Italy — you won’t be disappointed.
The Lobster Dock, one of many oceanfront eateries serving up Maine’s signature dish.
While you wander downtown, be sure to stroll across the famous footbridge and check out the bridge house. Built in 1901 to connect one side of the harbor to the other, this is the longest wooden footbridge in the country. The bridge house was built in 1902 and has served as a residence, a fish market, a gift shop, and an art studio, among other things.
Cross the famous footbridge to get an on-the-water glimpse of the harbor.
The bridge house has worn many hats over the years.
Finish off your trip with a visit to the Downeast Ice Cream Factory. The huge portions, central location, and 70-plus flavors combine to draw crowds almost every night. Plus, what getaway would be complete without a visit to the local-favorite ice cream spot? Not ours!
One of many islands surrounding Boothbay Harbor, McFarland Island helps make this the picture-perfect setting for a Maine vacation.
Have you ever visited Boothbay Harbor, Maine?
This post was first published in 2017 and has been updated.