Located in Maine’s York County, South Berwick lies in the southern part of the state near the Atlantic coast and the neighboring states of Vermont and New Hampshire.
The area around what’s now South Berwick was once referred to by the Native Americans as ‘the river with many falls,’ referring to the Salmon Falls River which is dotted with falls along much of its course.
For much of its existence, the town relied on timber and timber processing to drive its economy. Though that’s still the case, the industry isn’t what it once was.
Renowned for its natural beauty and wide variety of historical attractions, finding ways to fill your time while in South Berwick won’t be a problem.
Below are 14 of the best things to see and do in the area.
1. Hamilton House
Built in the latter part of the 18th century, the Hamilton House was originally the home of a wealthy transportation magnate named Jonathan Hamilton.
In those days, the nearby Salmon Falls River was a key shipping corridor, and by the standards of the day, the home was considered luxurious and even extravagant.
It was built in the revival and colonial styles, which was typical of the homes of New England’s wealthy at the time.
The Hamilton House is located in South Berwick and is full of period furniture, art, and housewares that were acquired over generations by the original and subsequent owners.
2. Sarah Orne Jewett House Museum and Visitor Center
Sarah Orne Jewett was an author and poet that lived in the area around Berwick and South Berwick for much of her life.
Of her works, the most popular were set along the Atlantic coastline and featured ordinary people and the trials that they experienced in their daily lives.
Though she’s not very well known outside local and regional literary circles now, the home and her past are interesting slices of local history that are worth checking out.
The museum is inexpensive to visit, and the visitor’s center next door features works by local artists and a variety of travel maps and brochures that are free for the taking.
3. Marginal Way
There’s no better way to get a dose of fresh sea air, stretch your legs, and burn a few excess calories than by taking a brisk walk along the shore.
Marginal Way is a 1 ½-mile trail that sits on a bluff overlooking the ocean in the town of Ogunquit; it’s free to use and is open year-round.
It’s beautiful no matter when you visit, but is particularly so in the winter when the beach and cliffs are covered with a light dusting of snow.
The sun and wind can be harsh at times, so bring sunblock, sunglasses, and dress accordingly.
4. Governor John Langdon House
Located on Pleasant Street in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the Governor John Langdon House was built in the 1780s by a wealthy businessman, shipbuilder, rabble-rouser, and patriot.
John Langdon lived from 1741 to 1819 and served three terms as the state’s governor, in addition to being a Revolutionary War general, friend, and confidante of George Washington and a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
It’s a pretty impressive resume by any standards, and the home is now one of the region’s most fascinating historical sites.
The house features traditional aesthetic architecture and has been a National Historic Site since the 1970s.
5. Wiggly Bridge and Steedman Woods
For travelers visiting a new area, it’s often tricky finding things to do that don’t cost an arm and a leg; when you’re traveling with children, that can be especially true.
Wiggly Bridge and Steedman Woods are a great place to spend a few hours getting some exercise while conserving those hard-earned vacation dollars.
There are plenty of trails leading around the York River, and it’s an excellent place to see some local wildlife, especially during the low light morning and evening hours.
The views of the river are amazing and often include roiling skies and lobster boats heading in and out to sea.
6. Children’s Museum of New Hampshire
Located on Washington Street in Dover, New Hampshire, the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire is the perfect place to entertain, educate, and engage children who may have had it with boring historical sites.
Full of interactive exhibits, it’s a place where children will learn about science, history, and the natural world while having a great time.
There’s an outside section to the museum as well. At different times during the year, they host a variety of events, live performances, and educational and instructional activities tailored toward families with children.
The museum is open year-round but has changing hours at different times of the year.
7. Ogunquit Playhouse
Ogunquit, Maine is well-known for its fantastic beaches, popular restaurants, and quaint New England charm. In addition, it’s home to a local playhouse that’s been exceeding visitor’s expectations for nearly 90 years.
It just goes to show you that you don’t need to travel to New York and spend a bundle to see a great show.
Nearly all the people responsible for the productions are locals. Not only is it a fun and inexpensive way to spend an evening, but it will help support the local economy as well.
Previous guests have mentioned that there isn’t a bad seat in the theater, even for those sitting in the venue’s least expensive areas.
8. The Rundlet-May House
Located on Middle Street in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the Rundlet-May House was built in 1807 and is one of the most well-preserved homes of its type in the area.
Originally the home of a wealthy businessman, the home was built in the federal style and is now owned and operated by a not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting and preserving the area’s rich history.
By the standards of the era, the home was pretty swanky, and is full of period housewares and art, much of which is original.
It’s not open year-round, so it’s best to check online or give them a call before making a special trip.
9. Sayward-Wheeler House
For nearly two centuries, the Sayward-Wheeler House in York Harbor, Maine was owned by the family that purchased it in 1720.
Many of the home’s furnishings are original, and there are diary entries from previous residents that are interesting in that they describe the trials and tribulations that people experienced centuries ago; they’re not that much different than those common in our modern times.
The families that owned the house were wealthy, but one of them, in particular, fell on hard times and needed a public bailout that was pretty controversial.
The museum is inexpensive to visit and conveniently located just off Interstate 95.
10. Woodman Institute Museum
For sheer volume and variety, there’s no better place to visit in Dover, New Hampshire than the Woodman Institute Museum.
The museum’s exhibits are displayed in four separate buildings and feature an array of items on science, history, art, and the natural world.
It’s a great destination for adults and children alike and has won many awards for its impressive and eclectic collection over the years.
Founded in 1916, it is located on Central Avenue and is only open to the public seasonally, so check out their website to make sure they’ll be open when you’re in the area.
11. Vaughan Woods State Park
Comprised of nearly 250 acres, Vaughan Woods State Park’s amenities include nature trails, a historic home, and cultivated garden that are some of South Berwick’s most underrated attractions.
The park is mainly forested and located on the shores of the Salmon Fall River, which provides some amazing photo opportunities you’ll want to take advantage of.
The home and garden are available to be seen by guided tour, and the outdoor trails can be enjoyed on your own any time.
The river is home to a variety of birds, including ospreys, which can often be seen snatching unsuspecting fish from the river.
12. Raitt Homestead Farm Museum
Located in nearby Eliot, Maine, the Raitt Homestead Farm Museum includes more than 30 acres of land set aside for the community to learn about the area’s cultural and farming history.
Throughout the year, they host a variety of special events as well. Events on the calendar for 2019 include a vintage car show, dog show, and antique tractor show.
The museum’s facilities are available to rent for special occasions like birthday parties, and the museum is a great place of education and exploration that’s suitable for adults and children alike.
Check out their website’s calendar of events to see what’s on the horizon.
13. Tall Ship Distillery
Located in Dover, New Hampshire, Tall Ship Distillery is one of the area’s most popular local distilleries and is particularly known for its rum and vodka.
It’s a great place to visit for those interested in learning how simple and mundane ingredients are turned into the tasty and intoxicating spirits that have been so popular since man discovered the process.
Tours are informal and won’t take more than a few minutes. You’ll probably want to pick up a bottle or two to take with you before heading off to new adventures.
Their rum offerings come in a variety of flavors, from traditional to contemporary.
14. Tendercrop Farm
Located on Dover Point Road in Dover, New Hampshire, Tendercrop farm is known for its high quality produce that’s available to the public seasonally.
Much of it is pricy when compared to the national chain supermarkets, but you’ll be getting the freshest items that haven’t spent half their lives in warehouses and refrigerated trucks.
In addition, they sell fresh bakery items, wine, prepared food, and dairy products like eggs, cheese and yogurt.
If you happen to stop by with your kids in tow, ask about their friendly farm animals out back; if your timing is good, you may get to see them up close.