48 Hours in Brunswick + Harpswell
Pairing Harpswell’s small-town charm and stunning coastal vistas with the diverse culinary, cultural, and retail options on Brunswick’s Maine Street makes for an eventful and picturesque weekend experience.
Swinging bridge and shopping Maine Street
Originally built in 1892 for mill workers, the Androscoggin Swinging Bridge is an iconic first stop on the way into Brunswick. This pedestrian suspension bridge connects Brunswick and Topsham over the Androscoggin River. With convenient parking on either side, it’s an accessible and easy way to lose yourself in nature. Watching the dark flowing water, rocky shoreline, and gentle sway of the bridge, you’ll forget how close you are to Brunswick’s lively downtown.
The Brunswick Hotel is a short drive away, perched above Maine Street, just on the edge of Bowdoin College. It’s both cozy and modern, with a knowledgeable staff, spacious rooms, and the full-service Noble Kitchen and Bar on-site. It’s also pet-friendly.
Once you’ve settled in, set off on foot to explore the nearby shops and restaurants. Just around the corner on Maine Street, you’ll find Discover on Maine. Opened in fall 2019, the consignment store has a curated collection of jewelry, clothing, and accessories that you’ll want to take some time to peruse. For crafted goods and unique gifts, Wyler’s is a short walk up Maine Street. Originally opened as a pottery studio, Wyler’s now has a vast selection of both functional and novelty goods, including many by local makers.
Mediterranean happy hour and brewery games
When you’re ready to rest your feet, cozy up to the bar at Enoteca Athena for happy hour. The constantly changing menu at this elegant yet homey wine bar includes a dreamy combination of Italian and Greek dishes and expertly crafted cocktails. If it’s on the menu, don’t miss out on the chianti butter with a warm baguette. After an olive oil tasting and a negroni, you’ll have trouble pulling yourself away.
For a more lively happy hour, walk up the street to Moderation Brewing Company to play a board game or two and enjoy a beer from the rotating selection. Choose from the more quiet upstairs seating or the bar area and enjoy offerings from pop-up vendors like oysters from Mook Sea Farm.
At dinnertime, follow the lead of the locals and head to Frontier. Open Tuesday to Sunday in Fort Andross, Frontier has a restaurant and cafe and also hosts films, musical acts, and other arts and cultural events. If you’re going to a show, arrive with plenty of time to order something off the restaurant’s diverse, globally inspired menu, like the harissa-buffalo fried chicken sandwich.
Exploring the markets at Fort Andross
Wild Oats Bakery and Cafe is a must-stop for breakfast or lunch in Brunswick. On Maine Street inside the Tontine Mall, the casual cafe has an extensive range of delicious and healthy from-scratch prepared foods and baked goods. Snag a latte and a slice of crab and swiss quiche to get your day started.
Make the trek back to Fort Andross for the Brunswick Winter Market. Wander through crowded rows of more than 40 local vendors selling dairy, produce, meats, baked goods, crafts, and personal care items. Held each Saturday morning from November through April, the farmers’ market also often features live music.
Stay in the mill for the Waterfront Flea Market and get lost among the vintage clothing and accessories, unique furniture, collectibles, records, tools, and more. You’ll want to give yourself plenty of time to explore if you plan on walking through the entire flea market, which is open every weekend from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sightseeing and lunch in Harpswell
After a morning of shopping, make the 30-minute scenic drive through Harpswell to Land’s End on Bailey Island. A handful of small islands are visible from the rocky shore, including Little Mark Island and its historic Little Mark Island Monument. Built in 1827 as a navigation aid and a haven for ship-wrecked sailors, the 50-foot-tall stone tower is shaped like a narrow pyramid.
Less than a mile back up the road is the Giant’s Stairs Trail, a short coastal path along the eastern side of Bailey Island leading to dark step-like slabs of rock that descend toward crashing waves below.
Make a pit stop for lunch at Cook’s Lobster and Ale House. Located on a jetty, the restaurant offers classic Maine fare and ocean views from every seat in the house, including views of Bailey Island Bridge. The cribstone bridge, made with slabs of granite and no mortar or cement, allows tides to flow through it with-out damaging the structure. Don’t leave Harp-swell without stopping at Lookout Point. At low tide, you can walk across a sandbar to explore two small islands just offshore. The view is especially dramatic at sunset, when the sun dips behind the islands and over Casco Bay.
Craft cocktails, sushi, and bowling
After resting at the Brunswick Hotel, walk a few minutes to Vessel and Vine, an eclectic and welcoming space with a thoughtful menu of small plates, unusual cocktails, and interesting wine. Go for a quick drink, check out the vintage clothing and glassware in the retail space, or see what upcoming classes and events are scheduled.
For dinner head to Little Tokyo, another favorite among locals. The Japanese restaurant serves up classics such as gyoza dumplings and seaweed salad, along with a generous selection of maki rolls, nigiri, and sashimi. If you still have energy, cross Maine Street and try your hand at candle-pin bowling. Bolos Kitchen, Cantina, and Candlepin is a Tex-Mex restaurant and bar at a vintage candlepin bowling alley.
Local shops and Maquoit Bay
You don’t have to travel for the brunch at Noble Kitchen and Bar, the Brunswick Hotel’s restaurant. The brunch, on Sundays from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., features $5 Bloody Marys and live music.
Walk up Maine Street to visit a pair of neighboring shops, Nest and Hatch on Maine. Nest carries a wide array of home furnishings, gifts, and novelty items, while Hatch on Maine sells vintage and upcycled goods, crafted baby toys, and clothes. Be sure to check out the charming window displays. For some late-morning fuel, cross the street to The Little Dog Coffee Shop, which has coffee, homemade baked goods, and soups and sandwiches, with an emphasis on local ingredients.
Craving another sea view? Just a ten-minute drive from Brunswick’s downtown is Wharton Point. The boat launch offers access to Maquoit Bay and the opportunity for some seaside peace and quiet. The nearby Maquoit Bay Conservation Land has walking trails along the coast.
Art viewing and sandwiches
Take the afternoon to view the collections and current exhibitions at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art. On Bowdoin’s campus in the historic Walker Art Building, the museum is used as an educational facility for the college, but it is also free and open to the public.
A visit to Brunswick isn’t complete with-out a stop at Big Top Delicatessen. This circus-themed eatery has been serving up mouthwatering sandwiches, burgers, soups, salads, and breakfasts for 14 years. It’s the perfect hearty, no-fuss last stop for fueling up before hitting the road.
Centrally located near the Brunswick town green and Bowdoin College, The Brunswick Hotel is a pet-friendly hotel with more than 50 modern and cozy guest rooms and suites.
Another downtown lodging option, The Brunswick Inn is historic and elegant, with 16 guest rooms and suites. It serves a complimentary breakfast to guests.
The Harpswell Inn features stunning ocean views from its two-and-a-half-acre property near Lookout Point and offers a traditional Maine bed-and-breakfast experience.
While Brunswick offers a lot, Tao Yuan alone would make the trip here worth it, thanks to its inventive, Asian-inspired small plates and tasting menu.
From April to November, the Dolphin Marina and Restaurant serves classic Maine seafood dishes at its picturesque location on Basin Point in Harpswell.
At the Brunswick Landing, Flight Deck Brewing has an expansive tasting room with plenty of beer on tap and a food truck from Cook’s Lobster and Ale House.
Downtown Brunswick is home to a handful of art galleries, including Frank Brockman Gallery, which features abstract contemporary work, and Icon Contemporary Art, which has been showing art in a former home on Mason Street for 30 years.
The Bowdoin Museum of Art has more 20,000 objects, and one of its current exhibitions celebrates the legacy of artist and inventor Rufus Porter.
Held from June through September, 2nd Friday Brunswick is an art walk through the downtown that highlights shops, restaurants, and local artists.