3 Days Along the Androscoggin River
Local craftsmanship, towering mountains and tasty bites meet on the banks of this historic river.
Where in Maine
This itinerary follows the Androscoggin River and starts along the coast in Brunswick and Topsham, about 25 miles north of Portland. Exploring in the MidCoast & Islands and Maine Lakes & Mountains regions. It ends northwest in the town of Bethel, only a handful of miles from the border with New Hampshire.
Best Time to Go
Spring, Summer, Fall
What You'll See
Mill towns, historic downtowns and rural villages, lakes, mountains
Fishermen know the upper Androscoggin River for its salmon and trophy trout, and the lower for its northern pike and feisty smallmouth bass. But rest assured, you need not be an angler to enjoy this river that has transformed from one of the most successful river clean-ups in the nation to a truly stunning four-season recreational destination. Flowing south from New Hampshire, the river empties in the Gulf of Maine, close to where you’ll start your journey in Brunswick. Then you’ll follow the river inland for 65 miles over three days to Bethel, nestled in the Androscoggin River valley amongst some of the highest mountains in Maine.
The Androscoggin River is in the southern part of Maine. It flows south from Umbabog Lake to Gorham, N.H., east to Jay, Maine, and then south again to the Atlantic Ocean. In its 175-mile (280-kilometre) course, the river descends more than 1,245 feet (379 m), the two steepest drops occur at Berlin, N.H., and at Rumford, Maine. The major products of the communities in its drainage basin are pulp and paper (because of the abundance of waterpower, process water, and spruce-fir forests), textiles and shoes in Lewiston and Auburn. The Androscoggin (an Algonquian Indian word for “fish-curing place”) is known for its fishing, hunting, and boating facilities.
The name "Androscoggin" comes from the Eastern Abenaki term /aləssíkɑntəkw/ or /alsíkɑntəkw/, meaning "river of cliff rock shelters" (literally "thus-deep-dwelling-river"); or perhaps from Penobscot /aləsstkɑtəkʷ/, meaning "river of rock shelters".
Morning: Donut-fueled River Walks
Start your morning in the historic Main Street community of Brunswick with a treat from Frosty’s Donuts. This local institution has been serving up hand-cut donuts for over 50 years. But get there early, they usually sell out by 9am. They’re just that good. Grab a donut (and a nitro-infused coffee) to go and head to the Androscoggin Brunswick-Topsham Riverwalk, a 1.25-mile in-town loop linking the Frank J. Wood Bridge to the historic Androscoggin Swinging Bridge along the Androscoggin River. In the mood to roll instead of stroll? Rent a bike at Gorham Bike and Ski in Brunswick and then hit the riverwalk.
If you feel like getting some extra steps in, make your way to the Androscoggin River Bike and Walking Trail. This 2.6-mile, 14-foot wide paved bicycle/pedestrian path runs along the Androscoggin River. The path offers scenic overlooks while providing a pedestrian and bicycle connection between Brunswick and the Cook’s Corner area. The path can also be accessed from Topsham via bicycle and pedestrian lanes over the Merrymeeting Bridge.
Lunch: Explore the Frontier
Take your taste-buds on a spin around the globe at Frontier, whose mission is to connect people to the world through food, arts, and culture. This unique destination features a coffee bar and a full restaurant with an eclectic menu, alongside gallery space and a theater. Their food blends fresh local and seasonal ingredients with world flavors and culinary traditions inspired by the founder’s travels.
After lunch, head across the river on the Frank J. Wood Bridge to Sea Dog Brewing for a local take on craft brew. Don’t skip the Bluepaw Wheat Ale. It’s brewed with wild Maine blueberries.
Afternoon: Art, Antiques & More at Fort Andross
Spend the afternoon at Fort Andross. This unique mill complex, situated on the banks of the Androscoggin, has operated for 30 years at the foot of Brunswick’s downtown Maine Street (yep, like the state). The brick structure, once known as the Cabot Mill, has been rechristened Fort Andross after the original fort that was erected on the same site in 1688. Today it’s the biggest art studio complex in Maine, home to more than 50 artists, working alongside restaurants, a winter farmers market, indoor flea market and antique mall, and even a movie theater.
Dinner: A Confluence of Cuisines
Bounce around the world as you explore your options. Brunswick offers excellent takes on Greek, Italian, Mexican, and Asian cuisines. Of course, you can’t go wrong with some classic Maine seafood.
John A. Roebling’s Sons Company designed and built the Androscoggin Swinging Bridge in 1892 to connect the residents of Topsham to their work in the mills of Brunswick.
Spend the Night
If you’re looking to end your day with a dose of New England charm, head to The Brunswick Inn, located on historic Park Row in the heart of downtown. Stay in one of their 16 rooms and enjoy the experience only a small New England inn can provide, including a complimentary breakfast served by a roaring fire. Also located downtown, near Bowdoin college, is The Brunswick Hotel, known for its stylish interiors and phenomenal onsite restaurant, the Noble Kitchen + Bar. Hoping to bring the doggo along? The hotel welcomes four-pawed family members.
Nearby and Noteworthy
Immerse yourself in Maine’s vibrant fiberarts scene
Maine Fiberarts Visitor Center and Gallery features studios, shops, farms and more.
Explore one of the oldest collegiate art museums in the country
Bowdoin College Museum of Art is open, free of charge, with evening hours on Thursdays.
Enjoy a brew
Take a break at Flight Deck Brewing located at Brunswick Landing, a former air force base. Named twice by Downeast Magazine as best tasting room in Maine.
Experience American literary history
Take a tour of the Harriet Beecher Stowe House where Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Purchase tour tickets ahead of time online.
Theater and music
Maine State Music Theatre has been bringing professional music theater to Midcoast Maine since the 1950s. A summertime tradition.
Fat Boy Drive-In, 50s style drive-in diner serving up lobster rolls, burgers and frappes!
Morning: Breakfast and Butterflies
Route: Take Route 196 from Topsham to Lisbon.
Take a seat at the window bar of Blueberries, located on Bowdoin Mill Island in Topsham, for classic breakfast items. After breakfast, hit the road towards Lisbon and make your first stop at the Maine Art Glass Butterfly Exhibit and Insect Museum. Enjoy the work of local glass artists in the Sanctuary Gallery and then travel into the truly fascinating world of butterflies and some of the world’s largest insects as presented by Jim Nutting, owner of Maine Art Glass. Maine Art Glass offers classes too!
Take a Walk, Take a Run, Take a Bike, Take the Whole Family
Stretch your legs on the Papermill Trail in Lisbon. The southern portion of the easy 3.5 mile out-and-back trail follows the Sabattus River, while the northern half passes through gently rolling, open fields.
Lunch: Head to Lewiston
Route: Take Route 196 for 9 miles from Lisbon to Lewiston.
After your walk, make your way to DaVinci's Eatery, and acquaint yourself with some Italian cuisine comfort food. Rumor has it the housemade garlic knots won’t disappoint. For a late afternoon cocktail or brew, head to Sonder & Dram or The Pub at Baxter Brewing for burgers and more in the historic Lewiston Bates Mill. Check the brewery's events calendar to see what’s in store.
Afternoon: Celebrate a Vibrant Franco-American Culture
How does a town go from little agricultural hub to booming industrial center? Find out at the Museum L-A. Formerly a working mill, the museum was founded in 1996 and is now home to exhibits about the French-speaking laborers that built the textile, shoe, and brick industries and gave life to the original Lewiston-Auburn community.
Dinner: Canal-side at Fish Bones Grill
Fish Bones Grill opened in 2005 and focuses on seafood and classic American cuisine, with a belief that good food is a vital and vibrant part of their community. Enjoy a regionally focused menu as you sit outdoors and enjoy the views, and be sure to try the poutine, inspired by local Franco traditions.
Marsden Hartley, considered to be one of the most important American modernist painters, was born in Lewiston in 1877. Stop by the Marsden Hartley Memorial Collection at Bates College for a beautiful introduction to his work.
Spend the Night
Kick back for the day with a stay at the Hilton Garden Inn Auburn Riverwatch or the Hampton Inn Lewiston-Auburn. Both are located along the Androscoggin and within walking distance to shops, restaurants and attractions.
Nearby and Noteworthy
Enjoy unique pub fare with house-made sauces
Frank’s Restaurant & Pub is located in the historic Moxie building, which once housed the Kennebec Fruit Company.
From-scratch cooking in Lisbon
Savor modern American cuisine, like cast iron chicken with chanterelles, and authentic takes on Asian dishes at Flux. If it’s Wednesday, try some hand-made $1 dumplings, or wait till Thursday for ramen. Totally worth backtracking a bit.
Stock up for the trails
The Sausage Kitchen is a small, family-owned business specializing in traditional handmade jerky, sausages, and more.
Attend local Franco-American events and performances
Check out the calendar of events at the Franco-American Heritage Center, Central Maine’s premier performance and event center.
Follow in the history’s footsteps
Download the free Franco Trail L-A app and discover the area’s French-Canadian heritage on a self-guided walking tour.
Bite into the original Maine whoopie pie
A trip to Lewiston just isn’t complete without a stop at Labadie’s Bakery, famed for selling the first whoopie pie in Maine.
See a show
Voted best Theatre in Maine, DownEast Magazine Readers Poll 7 years in a row, The Public Theatre presents exciting contemporary plays from Broadway and beyond.
Morning: Bagel Breakfast and A Break Back in Time
When it comes to fueling up for the day, there’s nothing like bagels. And when it comes to bagels, there’s no place like Forage Market. Stop by their café on Lisbon Street to taste for yourself why they’ve been voted in the top 50 bagels in the U.S. by Saveur and others.
Or, pack a picnic and take a walk in the shoes of an 1870s farmer at the Washburn Norlands Living History Center. The past comes to life on daily tours and at year-round events where costumed interpreters recreate activities and display the skills of 19th-century rural Mainers.
Early Afternoon: Not Your Average Orchard
Route: After breakfast, head up Route 1.
If you love apple picking, you’re in luck. Or, if you just love spending time in stunning landscapes, you’re also in luck. After breakfast, take a short drive to Turner where you can explore Ricker Hill Orchard. You’ll be welcomed by, of course, beautiful apple orchards and a farm store, but you’ll also find unexpected fun like a hard cider tasting room and disc golf.
Seasonal Tip: In Fall check out Boothby’s Orchard and Farm Winery. You’ll find it nestled among rolling hills and fields of Livermore, where it’s been cared for by the same family for seven generations. Today, their wines are making waves across New England.
Mid-afternoon: Hike the Mahoosucs
Route: Head towards Rumford on Route 108.
After spending some time in the 1800s, you’ll have the chance to take in some views that are much, much older as you hike the Rumford Whitecap Trail. With panoramic views of both the White Mountains and the Mahoosucs, these trails provide a distinctly Maine experience. A sweet perk? The summertime blueberries that grow on the upper ledges.
Evening: Onward to Bethel
Cap off your day in Maine’s most beautiful mountain village. Bethel boasts top-notch outdoor recreation opportunities all year round, from mountain biking and hiking to fishing and kayaking in the summer, and some epic alpine and Nordic skiing in the winter. For anglers, the Western Maine Guide Service will have you out on the river and connected with nature (and fish) in no time.
The Sudbury Inn has been a favorite B&B for weary hikers, skiers, and adventures since 1873, and also happens to have three different dining choices under one roof: a AAA-rated dining room, a bistro serving classic French fare, and Sud’s Pub for pizza and other pub grub.
Located about four miles from downtown Bethel, the Sunday River Covered Bridge was built in 1872. Also known as the Artist's Covered Bridge because of its longtime reputation as being the most photographed and painted covered bridge in Maine.
Spend the Night
After dinner, head upstairs and spend the night in one of the Sudburys Inn's seven two-bedroom suites. Larger groups can take advantage of the three-bedroom apartment, and families with furry friends can take up lodging in their Carriage House. Want to wake up to a beautiful golf course? Then take up at the Bethel Inn Resort.
Nearby and Noteworthy
The Maine Mineral and Gem Museum houses the finest collection of Maine minerals and gems. It includes the famous Perham Collection.
Learn about local history at the Bethel Historical Society featuring two period homes.
Round of golf
Two 18 hole championship golf courses; Bethel Inn Golf Course and Sunday River Golf Resort.
Steam Mill Brewing located in downtown Bethel serves up small batch, made with love, craft beers. Check out their Lover’s Lane brew, 8% of all sales benefits, OUTMaine, a rural statewide organization that supports LGBTQ youth.
All together now. Depending on when you visit, your Androscoggin River adventure could (and should) include a stop at one of these great local festivals.
- Moxie Festival, Lisbon
- Bates Dance Festival, Lewiston
- Great Falls Balloon Festival, Lewiston
- North American Wife Carrying Contest, Bethel
As you follow our riverways, be sure to share your photos on social media using @visitmaine and #mainething. Have fun!