Lisbon in Androscoggin County, Maine, gets its name from the Capital of Portugal. These days, it has a population of around 9,000, although there were small beginnings back at the end of the 18th century when it was part of a district known as the Little River Plantation.
In 1799, a section of Little River Plantation was incorporated as Thompsonborough. Three years later, it became Lisbon. The proximity of the Androscoggin River was a major factor in its development because of access to power. Indeed, Lisbon comprises 12,000 acres of land bordered by the Little River to the east and with the Sabattus River running north-south through the town.
In common with most places in the State of Maine, visitors to Lisbon can enjoy the great outdoors as well as family activities and a good visitor infrastructure. Here are the 15 Best Things to do in Lisbon to give you a flavor of the town.
1. Androscoggin Swinging Bridge
The Androscoggin River was central to the development of Lisbon. Built in 1882, the historic Swinging Bridge is something all visitors to Lisbon should visit even though it is a few miles away.
Its style is similar to the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City and others in the world; the designers and builders were the same for the Swinging Bridge and Brooklyn. It has needed repair and renovation over the years.
In 2003, it was added to the Maine Historic Resources Inventory list; there is a commitment to continue to do whatever is required to preserve it.
2. Papermill Trail
There are plenty of opportunities to walk and enjoy the natural environment in Lisbon and the immediate hinterland. The Papermill Trail trailhead is at Lisbon Community School, with the paved trail for walkers and bikers following the Sabattus River.
It is certainly hiker-friendly, passing through fields and woodland of poplar, oak, and pine. You can learn more about the history of the area in a visitor kiosk. There are also plans in place to extend the trail in response to its popularity.
3. Maine Art Glass Studio & The Sanctuary Gallery
You may be surprised what can be done with glass. At this studio and gallery, you will see the talents of its experts, who not only restore antique glass but also create an impressive range of glass products.
They accept commissions for practical glass products for home and office, as well as producing artistic creations in glass. The range of techniques employing glass with other metals and elements can transform ideas into reality. Go along, see the displays, and talk to talented experts.
4. Beaver Park
The trails in Beaver Park make it a great place for walking and cycling, but there is much more on offer as well. If you are looking for a family day out, Beaver Park has fitness workstations along the trails, as well as ponds where you can swim, good picnic facilities, and play areas.
The best time for fishing in the ponds is spring through to early summer, while in mid-winter, you can go ice skating on the Middle Pond.
The park is fairly flat, with plenty on offer throughout the year during daylight hours.
Good fishing opportunities exist elsewhere in Lisbon. The Lisbon Falls Dam on the Androscoggin River has created the chance to fish. Indeed, there are 13 lakes, reservoirs and streams locally, as well as the option to hire equipment and buy bait and fishing guides. You will need a license and to follow the regulations, of course.
There are a few species you can expect to catch, including smallmouth bass and the major predator, pike.
6. Cathance River Preserve
This 230-acre nature preserve on the Cathance River is a great place to enjoy fresh air and the natural environment. Several trails allow you to enjoy the charming area, and you can expect great views of rapids, stretches of calm water and the impressive Heath Bog.
Biking and camping are not permitted and you cannot take your dog with you. An ecology center is open during limited hours; its plea to visitors is that they leave no trash after their visit.
7. Springworks Farm
Trevor Kenkel’s farm aims to counteract the negative impact that agriculture can have on the land. His answer is aquaponics, which involves growing plants without the need for soil, and breeding fish within the same system.
His greenhouse system has 2,000 gallons of water and can produce plenty of ‘’greens’’ for food. Kenkel is happy to show his system to everyone in the hope of educating people about the alternative possibilities of food production. Perhaps you might convert your aquarium into such a system?
8. Willow Pond Farm
While the best time to visit Willow Pond Farm is in the fall when the apples are ready for picking, you are welcome to visit any time you are in Lisbon.
There are pleasant picnic areas, where children can run free, climb trees and play.
The farm sells a range of organic products including pumpkins. You can buy the cider that the farm produces itself, or even try making it from the apples you buy. Several varieties are grown here and the staff will happily advise you on the best use of each.
9. Miller Park
Miller Park is located where the Sabattus and Androscoggin Rivers meet. This is a great place to head out on a kayak. It is a popular place for locals and visitors alike to walk; dogs are welcome, kept strictly on leads, of course.
Trails are paved and bikers are welcome. The walks are fairly easy and there are plenty of benches along the way.
You can fish on the Sabattus River, whose depth varies seasonally, with the most water in the spring.
There is a kiosk at the entrance to the park for more information.
10. Maine Fiberarts Visitor Center
It is worth heading out of Lisbon a short distance to go to this superb Visitor Center. It is in the Main Street of Topsham, less than 15 minutes away. The old building itself adds to the enjoyment of a visit.
There are always some lovely exhibits in the center; fabrics, woven hangings, and paper art are generally particularly impressive. Exhibits change regularly and you will certainly learn more about ‘’fiberart’’ by making a visit.
11. Sabattus Disc Golf
Disc golf is a sport that can include everyone, even those who are wheelchair-bound. You can walk through the woods, playing under no pressure with the rest of the family, young and old.
The site includes three 18-hole and a single 9-hole course. The atmosphere is great and you will find a mixture of skillful players, professionals, and complete novices.
All the equipment that you need to play is in the Pro Shop.
12. FLUX Restaurant and Bar
FLUX in Main Street is a relatively new establishment offering good food, craft beers, and an interesting wine list. The chef was formerly based in Portland and earned a solid reputation.
If you want some ideas on what to order, why not go for any of the dishes using locally produced beef or freshly caught seafood? You cannot go wrong with either. Local chickens are another alternative, with the vegetables in season straight from the fields.
13. Railroad Pub
Don’t take any preconceived ideas with you to this Lisbon Street Pub; it is clean and friendly, with good service and, most importantly, excellent food.
The clams come highly recommended; wash them down with anything you like, from beer and wine to cocktails.
The crowd is a real mix, creating a great atmosphere. Live music nights are particularly special.