The City of Biddeford in York County, Maine, on the North East Seaboard of the USA, acts as the commercial center for the immediate region. It has a population of just over 21,000 people. With the resort districts nearby, it has become an important tourist destination for visitors wishing to enjoy the rugged coastline and pristine natural environment of Maine.
The first settlement here was constructed in the mid-17th century on either side of the Saco River. It took its name from the town of Bideford, Devon, in the UK, from where many of its inhabitants had originated. It was formerly an important textile region, evidenced today by the number of old mills that have fortunately found new uses.
Its rich history includes several skirmishes with local Native Indian tribes and struggles in the War of Independence, so there is much of interest for visitors spending time in Biddeford. Here are the 15 best things to do in Biddeford, to get you started in your exploration of this town.
1. Fortunes Rocks Beach
Fortunes Rocks Beach holds a special place in my heart. As a local resident of this coastal community, I’ve had the pleasure of spending countless hours on this expansive stretch of sand. Whether you’re seeking relaxation or seeking adventure, this beach offers something for everyone, creating cherished memories for all who visit.
Walkers, joggers, and sunbathers find solace in the rhythmic crashing of the waves. It’s a picturesque scene that embodies the essence of coastal living.
While visiting Fortunes Rocks Beach, it’s important to note that a parking permit is required. This ensures that the beach remains accessible and well-managed for all who wish to enjoy its beauty. Though there may not be extensive amenities available, the beach is closely monitored by dedicated lifeguards during daylight hours throughout the season. Their watchful eyes provide peace of mind as we revel in the ocean’s embrace.
Furthermore, the local staff and volunteers take great pride in maintaining the pristine condition of Fortunes Rocks Beach. They conduct regular checks to ensure the absence of pollution and diligently uphold the cleanliness of the sand and water. It’s a collective effort to preserve the natural splendor of this cherished coastal gem.
2. Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge
Established over five decades ago, the refuge serves as a vital sanctuary for preserving the delicate marsh and estuary ecosystems that provide a haven for a diverse array of migrating birds. It’s a breathtaking sight to witness these majestic creatures in their natural habitat, soaring through the skies or gracefully wading in the marshlands. However, it’s not just the avian wonders that call this refuge home; you can also expect to encounter an assortment of fascinating mammals, such as deer, as you explore the trails.
Speaking of trails, the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge offers a network of well-maintained paths that wind their way through the enchanting landscape. These trails are a paradise for nature enthusiasts and avid walkers alike. As you stroll along the peaceful paths, a sense of tranquility washes over you, engulfing you in the beauty of the surrounding flora and fauna.
Birdwatchers are particularly drawn to this refuge, as it provides a prime vantage point for observing and studying various species in their natural environment. With binoculars in hand, you can patiently wait for that rare sighting or simply marvel at the symphony of birdsong that fills the air.
It’s worth noting that the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge prides itself on maintaining a serene ambiance, free from the hustle and bustle of bicycles. This creates a peaceful atmosphere, allowing visitors to fully immerse themselves in the sights and sounds of nature.
3. Old Orchard Beach
When it comes to finding a beach destination with all the amenities, Old Orchard Beach, located just north of Biddeford, is the perfect choice.
Stretching an impressive seven miles along the coastline, Old Orchard Beach boasts a well-maintained and pristine sandy shore. Whether you’re looking to soak up the sun, take a refreshing dip in the ocean, or build sandcastles with your family, this beach has it all.
One of the highlights of Old Orchard Beach is its iconic pier and boardwalk. Here, you’ll find a plethora of entertainment options to keep the whole family amused. From classic arcade games to thrilling amusement park rides, there’s something for everyone. As you stroll along the boardwalk, the tantalizing aroma of delicious food wafts through the air, enticing you to explore the diverse dining options available. From mouthwatering seafood delicacies to international cuisines and delectable sweet treats, the restaurants in Old Orchard Beach cater to all palates.
Shopaholics will be delighted by the variety of stores lining the streets near the beach. Whether you’re in search of unique souvenirs, trendy apparel, or charming beach-themed trinkets, the shops in Old Orchard Beach offer an extensive selection to satisfy your retail cravings.
While the town experiences a quieter period as winter approaches, there’s still something enchanting about taking a brisk stroll along the beach during this time. As long as you bundle up warmly, you can enjoy the tranquil beauty of the shoreline while relishing the crisp ocean breeze.
4. Shevenell Park
Nestled in the heart of Biddeford on Main Street, Shevenell Park may be small in size, but it holds great value for the community. Measuring just 36 feet wide and 50 feet deep, Shevenell Park may be modest in its dimensions, but it has quickly become an esteemed asset for the residents of Biddeford. The community recognizes the park’s potential and ongoing discussions are taking place to further enhance and improve it in the years to come.
When you visit Shevenell Park, you’ll find a serene oasis adorned with wrought iron tables and chairs, nestled beneath the comforting shade of trees. It’s the perfect spot to take a momentary respite, allowing you to relax and recharge before continuing your shopping endeavors or embarking on a quest to find a delightful local restaurant.
What adds to the appeal of Shevenell Park is the dedicated team of volunteers who generously give their time to maintain its cleanliness and beauty. These passionate individuals tirelessly pick up litter, sweep the paths, and carefully prune the trees, ensuring that the park remains a pleasant and inviting space for all.
5. Biddeford and Saco Chamber of Commerce Welcome Center
I can confidently say that the Welcome Center, jointly run by Biddeford and Saco, is an invaluable resource for obtaining information and maps about our vibrant area. Conveniently located on Water Street in Biddeford, this center has a primary focus on tourism and serves as a one-stop hub for all your inquiries.
When you step inside the Welcome Center, you’ll find a wealth of knowledge about local restaurants, transportation options, businesses, and upcoming events in Biddeford. Whether you’re a visitor or a resident looking to explore the best our city has to offer, the Welcome Center is your go-to source for everything you need to know. Their dedication to promoting local businesses is evident, and many establishments in the area find it advantageous to become members and collaborate with this valuable resource.
The staff at the Welcome Center truly go above and beyond to assist you. Although they generously volunteer their time, their commitment to providing exceptional service is unwavering. You can trust that they will always go the extra mile to find the answers to your questions, even if the information isn’t readily available.
6. Saint Brendan’s Chapel
I familiarized myself with the charming Saint Brendan’s Chapel, a beautiful wooden Roman Catholic chapel that holds a special place in our community. While it may lack modern amenities such as heating and insulation, it exudes a unique appeal that has captured the hearts of couples planning their weddings in the local area. It is worth noting that during the winter months, when the chapel closes, the local congregation gathers elsewhere within the Good Shepherd Parish for their prayers.
In 2017, Saint Brendan’s Chapel proudly celebrated its centenary, marking a century of serving the spiritual needs of our residents. Nestled in the peaceful residential neighborhood of Biddeford Pool, the chapel enjoys a serene setting that adds to its allure. It’s important to note that parking in the vicinity of the chapel is limited, and visitors should be mindful of ramps and observe the posted speed limits, respecting the rights of the residents in the area.
While Saint Brendan’s Chapel may be modest in size and lack certain modern conveniences, it holds a special place in the hearts of those who appreciate its historical significance and the intimate atmosphere it provides for weddings and other sacred ceremonies. Its rustic charm and tranquil surroundings make it an enchanting venue for couples seeking a unique and meaningful setting for their special day.
7. City Theater
City Theater, a beautifully restored Victorian theater located on Main Street. Since its opening in 1895, this historic venue has been a centerpiece of our community’s cultural life. Thanks to recent renovations, every seat in the theater now offers maximum comfort and an unobstructed view of the stage, while preserving the original internal architecture and design that adds to its charm and character.
When you visit Biddeford, it’s highly recommended to catch a performance at the City Theater. The diverse range of shows ensures there’s something for everyone’s taste, whether it’s captivating music and dance performances, hilarious comedy acts, or compelling dramatic productions. The theater’s mission is to cultivate an appreciation for the performing arts within our community, and the consistently high quality of performances has garnered excellent reviews from both locals and visitors alike.
Stepping into the City Theater is like stepping back in time, with its elegant Victorian ambiance and rich history. The attention to detail in the restoration process has truly created a magical atmosphere, allowing audience members to fully immerse themselves in the artistic performances on stage. The theater’s commitment to preserving its heritage while providing a world-class experience for theatergoers is truly commendable.
8. Rotary Park
I was also excited to rave about the charming Rotary Park that graces the southern banks of the magnificent Saco River. This park holds a special place in my heart, offering a wealth of recreational opportunities within its expansive 72-acre expanse.
As you step foot into Rotary Park, you’ll be greeted by a delightful array of amenities. The park boasts not just one, but two well-maintained playgrounds, ensuring that children of all ages can frolic and have a blast. From swings to slides, there’s no shortage of fun-filled activities to keep the little ones entertained.
Sports enthusiasts will be thrilled to discover the floodlit softball area, soccer pitch, and skate park. Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or just looking for some friendly competition, these well-designed facilities provide the perfect space to showcase your skills and engage in exhilarating matches.
For those who love exploring the calm waters, Rotary Park offers a designated craft launch area along the river. Whether you prefer kayaking, canoeing, or any other watercraft adventure, you’ll find this launch spot to be your gateway to endless aquatic exploration and enjoyment.
When it’s time to refuel, head over to the inviting picnic area, thoughtfully equipped with grills, chairs, and tables. Gather with loved ones, savor a delicious meal, and bask in the serene surroundings of the park. Just a friendly reminder, though—smoking is not permitted anywhere within the park premises, ensuring a clean and healthy environment for all visitors.
9. Biddeford Mills Museum
I am thrilled to also share the remarkable story of the Biddeford Mills Museum, a true testament to our town’s rich industrial heritage. Once a bustling textile mill, it played a vital role in shaping the local economy of York County. In fact, many individuals in our community dedicated their entire working lives to the renowned Pepperell Manufacturing.
Around a decade ago, the visionary idea of creating a museum that would authentically capture the mill environment began to take shape. It was a collaborative effort fueled by the passion and dedication of our community members and volunteers. Through their hard work and commitment, the Biddeford Mills Museum came to life, offering visitors a captivating glimpse into our industrial past.
Stepping inside the museum, you’ll be instantly transported back in time. The carefully preserved interior faithfully recreates the ambiance and atmosphere of a working mill, allowing you to truly immerse yourself in the experience. Take a moment to appreciate the worn stairs and well-trodden floors—each step a testament to the countless individuals who once walked these halls during the mill’s heyday.
As you explore the museum’s exhibits, you’ll gain a profound understanding of the mill’s significance and the impact it had on the community. From machinery and artifacts to personal stories and photographs, every corner of the museum holds treasures that bring our history to life. It’s a journey that unveils the toil, perseverance, and ingenuity of those who made the textile industry thrive in Biddeford.
10. Mechanics Park
One of my favorite places to unwind and enjoy the outdoors is Mechanics Park, nestled at the corner of Water and Main Street. This charming park boasts a picturesque river frontage that adds to its allure. Once the winter temperatures retreat, Mechanics Park comes alive with a myriad of open-air events that draw in the community.
Immaculately maintained, the park offers a variety of seating options, ensuring that everyone can find a comfortable spot to relax and take in the tranquil surroundings. Lush green grassy areas invite impromptu picnics or leisurely strolls, while the floodlit walking paths along the river provide a safe and enchanting ambiance for an evening stroll.
A highlight of Mechanics Park is the presence of picnic tables and a splendid gazebo, perfect for gathering with family and friends, enjoying a delicious meal, or simply basking in the natural beauty that surrounds us. These designated areas provide an ideal setting for socializing and creating lasting memories.
For those seeking to stay active and maintain a healthy lifestyle, Mechanics Park offers two convenient workout stations. Equipped with carefully illustrated instructions, these stations cater to a range of exercises suitable for individuals of various fitness levels. It’s a wonderful opportunity for local residents to engage in physical activity while enjoying the fresh air and scenic views.
11. Wood Island Lighthouse
As a local traveler, I am fortunate to have the opportunity to visit the historic Wood Island Lighthouse, which has stood proudly just off the coast of Biddeford Pool in Saco Bay since the early 19th century. This captivating lighthouse, nestled on its own island, offers a glimpse into our maritime heritage and provides breathtaking views of the surrounding area.
To reach the Wood Island Lighthouse, a short 15-minute boat ride is required, adding to the sense of adventure and exclusivity. Once you arrive on the island, you can embark on a memorable journey by climbing the tower, capturing stunning photographs from its vantage point, and immersing yourself in the lighthouse’s rich history.
For those seeking a more informative experience, the dedicated Friends of Wood Island Lighthouse organization offers guided tours during the weeks of July and August. These tours, which last approximately 90 minutes, provide invaluable insights into the lighthouse’s architecture, maritime significance, and the daily lives of its keepers. As passionate volunteers lead you through this cherished landmark, you will gain a deeper appreciation for its historical and cultural significance.
I must emphasize that these tours are not only enriching but also completely free of charge, thanks to the commitment of the volunteers who tirelessly share their knowledge and passion for preserving this maritime treasure. However, donations are highly encouraged and warmly welcomed, as they contribute to the ongoing maintenance and conservation efforts of the Wood Island Lighthouse.
To ensure availability and avoid disappointment, it is advisable to book your tour in advance. By contacting the Friends of Wood Island Lighthouse, you can secure your spot and make arrangements for convenient transportation to the island. The dedicated volunteers will gladly assist you in planning an unforgettable visit to this iconic landmark.
12. Engine Gallery
I have had the pleasure of witnessing the proactive community engagement at the Engine Art Gallery, particularly in fostering artistic endeavors. This gallery truly goes above and beyond in encouraging a vibrant community spirit, particularly when it comes to all things related to art.
Visiting the Engine Art Gallery promises an abundance of captivating displays, but it’s the additional activities that truly make it a special place. Regular evening storytelling sessions and lectures draw in a lively audience, as talented storytellers weave narratives inspired by one of the gallery’s captivating images. It’s a unique and immersive experience that brings art to life through the power of storytelling. Even when the weather doesn’t cooperate for open-air events, the gallery serves as a reliable venue, ensuring that these events can proceed rather than being canceled.
Beyond storytelling and lectures, the Engine Art Gallery also plays a vital role in nurturing artistic talent within the community. Their practical classes have proven to be transformative for aspiring artists, providing them with valuable guidance and support to hone their craft. These classes serve as a catalyst, empowering individuals to persevere with their artistic abilities and pursue their creative passions.
The Engine Art Gallery truly stands as a beacon of community engagement and artistic inspiration. By fostering a supportive environment and offering a diverse range of activities, they have succeeded in bringing art to the forefront of community life.
13. Banded Horn Brewery
I’ve also had the pleasure of discovering the Banded Horn Brewery, nestled within the walls of an old mill building on Maine Street. Despite its relatively young age, locals have quickly come to cherish this brewery, considering it an indispensable part of their drinking experience. The exceptional range of brews offered here perfectly complements the beloved local pies, creating a match made in culinary heaven.
Stepping into the Banded Horn Brewery, you’ll find a welcoming atmosphere that invites you to sit back, relax, and savor the moment. The ambiance is enhanced by the presence of music, creating an enjoyable backdrop to your brewery experience. What’s more, families are welcome inside, ensuring that everyone can partake in the brewery’s warm and inviting environment. When the weather permits, the brewery’s delightful patio offers a pleasant outdoor space to unwind and enjoy your favorite brews.
One aspect that truly adds to the charm of the Banded Horn Brewery is its role in revitalizing an old building. By breathing new life into this historic mill, the brewery has not only preserved a piece of local heritage but has also become a catalyst for rejuvenation and community spirit.
14. Round Turn Distilling
Nestled within the walls of a historic textile mill that boasts a remarkable 150-year-old legacy, you’ll find the Round Turn Distilling—a small yet extraordinary distillery. Paying homage to its industrial roots, this distillery harnesses the power of steam, reminiscent of the mill’s original water-powered looms, to fuel its still.
The name “Round Turn” derives from a simple yet robust maritime knot, favored by sailors for its reliability. Situated along the serene banks of the Saco River, just 5 miles inland from the captivating Atlantic Coast, Round Turn Distilling has established itself as a true gem in the heart of Maine.
At the core of Round Turn Distilling’s offerings is the highly acclaimed Bimini Gin, boasting an impressive 47% alcohol content. This award-winning spirit perfectly complements classic gin and tonic pairings or shines in the array of meticulously crafted cocktails devised by the distillery’s skilled mixologists. Every sip takes you on a journey of flavors, meticulously balanced to delight even the most discerning palates.
The resounding success of Round Turn Distilling has led to its products gracing the shelves of numerous retail outlets throughout the state. This widespread availability allows gin enthusiasts and curious imbibers alike to partake in the exceptional creations born within the distillery’s walls.