South Berwick, Maine is one of the oldest European-founded communities in Maine. Hard by the banks of the Salmon Falls River – and just across that river from New Hampshire – this town in southern Maine was settled by the English in 1631. They had help from Scottish prisoners of war, sent as indentured servants from Britain’s long civil wars.
Things to Do in South Berwick
The past is easily visible in South Berwick today, especially in its architecture. Several noted houses, operated by Historic New England, are open for visitors. The Sarah Orne Jewett House Museum and Visitor Center includes two houses that sit next door to one another – one built in 1774, the other in 1854 – at the center of South Berwick. Those houses were owned by the family of Sarah Orne Jewett, one of Maine’s most noted authors. Both houses have been restored and honor Jewett, her work and her family.
The other Historic New England property in South Berwick, Hamilton House, was built in 1785 on a bluff above the Salmon Falls River. Its original owner built the house next to his trading and shipbuilding businesses. Later, the house became a family farm and, finally, the seat of a grand summer estate. Exhibits by Colonial New England show visitors how the house changed over the centuries. Events are held at the house throughout the year, so check its calendar. And it’s a wonderful place for a picnic.
For more on South Berwick’s long history, check out the Counting House Museum. Built in what was the counting house of the long-gone Portsmouth Manufacturing Cotton Mill, the museum shows how the region was transformed over the centuries, particularly by trade and manufacturing.
How about something outdoors? In 1949, some of the woodlands in the Hamilton House estate were donated to the State of Maine and were transformed into Vaughan Woods Memorial State Park. The park has a number of popular hiking and walking trails.
For something a little larger, consider Mount Agamenticus in neighboring York. This 10,000-acre conservation area includes miles of trails, including trails to the top of the mountain (don’t worry; the summit’s just under 700 feet).
If you visit in winter, you can ski Powderhouse Hill Ski Area. It’s not Maine’s biggest – it’s got a vertical drop of 175 feet and a rope tow – but you can boast of skiing at Maine’s southernmost ski area.
In neighboring Berwick, theater lovers can enjoy the Hackmatack Playhouse, a classic summer-stock theater built in a rambling Maine barn. The theater, open since 1972, has a dedicated following. And it has an adjacent bison farm!