From Bath to Belfast and beyond, Maine's midcoast is the perfect vacation destination. Made up of four coastal counties, the midcoast is known for quaint towns, great sailing, and its plethora of island havens.
With only 257 square miles, Sagadahoc is Maine’s smallest county. Bath, located along the Kennebec River, is the county's largest city, with a population of 8,959. Bath has been a shipbuilding center since the eighteenth century, and the tradition continues today at Bath Iron Works, where massive ships are constructed for the navy. Bath boasts handsome homes and a brick downtown as well as the Maine Maritime Museum.
Topsham, with about nine thousand residents, is the next-largest community, as well as the area’s fastest-growing town. The communities of Bowdoin (2, 934) and Bowdoinham (2,748) are bucolic villages near massive Merrymeeting Bay, where six rivers meet and where migrating ducks and geese rest en route to warmer climes. Woolwich (2,911) is a rural town located across the Kennebec from Bath.
Most people think this county is named for our country’s sixteenth president, but actually it is a tribute to Thomas Pownal, a Massachusetts governor whose home was Lincoln, England. Lincoln County is home to approximately thirty thousand Mainers and is a mix of coastal and inland towns and offshore islands such as the artist colony of Monhegan.
Lincoln County contains no cities, and the area’s largest town is Waldoboro, with a population of about five thousand. Waldoboro was settled around 1740 by German families who were brought to America by General Samuel Waldo. Wiscasset (accent on the second syllable) is the next largest community with 3,793 residents. This town bills itself as “the prettiest village in Maine,” and it is indeed a charming place of fine architecture nestled alongside the Sheepscot River. Other communities in Lincoln County include Boothbay (3,223), well-known resort Boothbay Harbor (2,279), and Newcastle (1,748). Damariscotta (2,041), located between the ocean and lovely Damariscotta Lake, is a bustling place during the warmer months and has seen an influx of retirees in recent years.
Monhegan, reached by ferry from Port Clyde, New Harbor, and Boothbay Harbor, is probably Maine’s most famous island, thanks to the work of such internationally known artists as Rockwell Kent, Edward Hopper, and Jamie Wyeth. Located about ten miles out to sea, Monhegan is less than a mile wide and about two miles long, yet seventeen miles of trails wind around its nature preserves and spectacular cliffs, including the legendary Cathedral Woods. The island has a year-round population of about seventy-five and no automobile traffic.
Established in 1860, Maine’s youngest county is named for General Henry Knox, George Washington’s chief of artillery during the American Revolution and, later, his secretary of war. A replica of General Knox’s mansion, Montpelier, stands in the coastal town of Thomaston (3,675). The largest city is Rockland (7,480), an eclectic mix of working waterfront and artsy downtown, which is currently enjoying great cultural prosperity thanks in part to the Farnsworth Art Museum, one of the nation’s best small museums. In recent years this part of Maine’s midcoast region has experienced growth due to the major expansion of the credit card bank MBNA, and then uncertainty as the company first downsized and then was sold to Bank of America.
Several towns in Knox County, including Rockland, Rockport (3,513), and Owls Head (1,601), flank Penobscot Bay, world renowned for its fine yachting. The Camden Hills, a ridge of low mountains that stretch along the coast, offer sweeping views of Penobscot Bay and its two-hundred-odd islands. Snuggled between the mountains and the sea is the town of Camden (5,235), a vacation hotspot.
Knox County is a mix of bustling tourist towns, quiet fishing villages, rural inland communities, and hundreds of islands — some of them inhabited year-round. North Haven and Vinalhaven, known together as the Fox Islands, are both serviced by ferries from Rockland. A genuine working island, Vinalhaven has approximately 1,300 residents, while the more genteel North Haven has 381. Matinicus, about twenty miles offshore from Rockland, is Maine’s most remote inhabited island, with a year-round population of about fifty.
Belfast (6,754) is the largest community in Waldo County and the area’s only city. Once known more for its chicken processing plants than its lovely harbor, Belfast today is a mix of lively downtown shops, businesses, and elegant homes from the 1800s. Deemed “culturally cool” in USA Today, the city is home to a number of artists, has a theater troupe, a good-size co-op, a dance studio, and a movie theater.
Waldo County’s coastal towns include Lincolnville (2,179) and Searsport (2,610), famous for its sea captains’ homes. Several of its small inland communities bear patriotic names: Liberty (927), Freedom (645), and Unity (2,135). Waldo County has grown in recent years, thanks to the expansion of credit-card giant MBNA in the 1990s (now owned by Bank of America) and smaller local heroes such as Moss, Inc. There is a small but excellent hospital — Waldo County General — in Belfast. Islesboro (603) is home to a tony island community where actor John Travolta has a summer place.
Welcome to Bath, Maine… Enjoy Maine’s Cool Little City!
Big enough to be a commercial and cultural hub and compact enough to be intimate and walkable, Bath is vibrant, friendly, and a Maine visitor’s paradise. The historic downtown is lined with shops and restaurants, while inns and B&B’s dot the surrounding neighborhoods, and just 2 miles down river is a world-class maritime museum.
Bath, ME 04530