Originally established in the early 17th century, the town of Eliot is in Maine’s York County and has a population of about 6,000 residents.
Located in the state’s southern portion near its border with New Hampshire, it’s equidistant from South Berwick to the north and Portsmouth to the south, about 15 kilometers from each.
The town lies on the eastern bank of the Piscataqua River, which for much of its route is the dividing line between Maine and New Hampshire, and also a center of recreation for many of the area’s residents.
Below are 15 things to do in and around Eliot, Maine.
1. Raitt Homestead Farm Museum
Built in 1896, the Raitt Homestead Farm sits on more than 30 acres and for much of its existence was a sawmill, brick factory, and apple orchard.
Located in Eliot, it is now a museum and the perfect place to spend a few hours for those looking for a unique and educational insight into the lives of the farm’s original inhabitants.
The museum is inexpensive to visit, conveniently located near town, and full of period furniture, housewares, and farm implements that were pretty common for the time.
They also host an antique tractor show every year, so check their website for more details.
2. USS Albacore Museum
Located in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the USS Albacore Museum is an interesting historic site that’s based on a retired U.S. Navy submarine from the 1950s.
Submarines are pretty impressive machines, especially when they’re out of the water.
Self-guided tours inside the sub are a big hit with kids and adults alike, and there are audio narrations at different parts of the sub so you’ll learn about the things you’re seeing.
You’ll likely cringe at the sub’s cramped and claustrophobic interior that once housed an entire crew.
Admission is inexpensive, and there’s a 15-minute introductory video that you’ll want to watch before starting the tour.
3. Kittery Trading Post
The Kittery Trading Post is located just off U.S. Route 1 in the town of Kittery and is one of the area’s most popular shopping destinations for locals and tourists.
They carry a fantastic variety of items, many of which are well-known brands.
The trading post is part gift shop, part department store, and part outdoorsmen’s store, and should have a little something to interest, everyone, regardless of age and taste.
They’re particularly popular with hunters and fishers, who appreciate their amazing selection, competitive prices, and knowledgeable staff.
Open year-round, they are a great resource for visitors looking for some local insight into things to see and do while in the area.
4. Green Acre Baha’i School
One of Eliot’s most unique institutions is the Green Acre Baha’i School.
For those not familiar with the Baha’i faith, it’s relatively young by religious standards, and the school in Eliot is one of its most prominent centers in the United States.
The Green Acre Farm was established in the 1890s by a local woman who subsequently converted to the faith. She became ill and incapacitated in 1913, and shortly after that gave the land to the Baha’i leadership.
One of the religion’s main focuses is the study and eradication of racism.
You’ll need to check online before heading out, as it’s a functioning school that isn’t always open to visitors.
5. Odiorne Point State Park
The state of Maine and New England in general are home to some of the country’s most beautiful natural scenery.
Located near Portsmouth and Rye, Odiorne State Park is the perfect family getaway for those looking to distance themselves from the city and crowds and spend a day in the great outdoors.
In addition to its stunning ocean views and trails, the park is most well-known for its Seacoast Science Center, which includes aquariums full of fascinating marine creatures and a few recreations of whale skeletons.
They often host instructional and educational programs as well, so check out the calendar of events on their website.
6. Prescott Park
Located on Marcy Street in Portsmouth, Prescott Park is a convenient destination for those looking to enjoy the area’s beauty without spending half the day in the car coming and going.
The park includes unobstructed panoramic views of the river and hosts live entertainment during the spring and summer months.
The park was conceived by two local women in the ‘40s who donated land they’d inherited so that the scenic area could be enjoyed by generations to come, and avoid development.
It’s free to use, open from sunrise to sunset, and has a beautiful garden and picnic areas as well.
7. Market Square
Portsmouth, New Hampshire’s Market Square is set in the city’s downtown area, and due to its interesting history and quaint New England charm, is a favorite destination for out of state visitors.
Many guided tours are available for those who’d like to be shown around by a knowledgeable and enthusiastic local. If you’d rather see things at your own pace, the square is full of galleries, shops, bookstores, and eateries that are all worth a look.
Parking is limited and can be difficult to find, especially during peak times, so consider walking if you’re staying in town.
Many of the square’s buildings are well over a century old.
8. Fort McClary State Park
Kittery Maine’s Fort McClary State Park is an interesting historic gem that is one of the most well-preserved sites of its kind.
The state park’s grounds are open year-round, but the museum and building are only open from Memorial to Columbus Day.
Many of the fort’s defensive stone bulwarks and outbuildings are in amazingly good shape, giving visitors a unique look into the lives of the brave souls who called the fort home for much of its life, an era that spanned more than two centuries.
The majestic blockhouse is the fort’s heart and was the last line of defense against attacking foes.
9. Wiggly Bridge Distillery
Located just off U.S. Route 1 in York, the Wiggly Bridge Distillery was established by a father and son who share a love of spirits and are hopelessly inquisitive about how things are made.
The rest is history, and now they’re producing award-winning whiskey that’s gaining quite a reputation in the area.
In addition to the distillery, they also have a great gift shop on site that’s full of their products, unique clothing, and lots of interesting odds and ends used by those looking to do a little home distilling of their own.
Tours and tastings are available, so call ahead and let them know when you’ll be stopping by.
10. The Music Hall
For generations, The Music Hall on Chestnut Street in Portsmouth has been an entertainment destination for locals.
It’s changed a lot over the years, and though it features a cool and retro motif, these days it still retains much of its original, quaint New England charm.
Nowadays, the hall hosts a variety of live performances – from theater to opera and contemporary music.
Previous guests have noted that there’s not a bad seat in the house and that the whole experience far exceeded their expectations.
There’s plenty of parking nearby, and the tickets are a fraction of what you’d pay in larger cities.
11. Cape Neddick Nubble Lighthouse
If you’ve ever seen an original painting of a classic New England lighthouse, after visiting Cape Neddick Nubble Lighthouse, you’ll probably know exactly where the inspiration came from.
It’s one of the most iconic lighthouses in the region, which considering the competition is quite a statement.
At just over 40-feet tall it’s not the biggest in the world, but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in form.
From its tapered conical structure to the nearby boathouse and amazing views of the sea battering its rocky coast, it’ll probably be one of the most memorable things you’ve seen on your trip.
It’s part of Sohier Park in York Beach, Maine.
12. Hartley Mason Reserve
Also commonly referred to as Hartley Mason Park, Hartley Mason Preserve has been open to the public for more than 20 years.
Located on York Street in York Harbor, Maine, it’s comprised of nearly five acres that are elevated above sea level, giving visitors amazingly unobstructed views of the ocean and coastline.
The land where the park now sits was donated by a local woman, and there are plaques throughout describing interesting historical details about the area.
There’s ample parking, and trails lead to various parts of the park – including the scenic overlook, beach, and coast below.
13. Strawbery Banke Museum
Located in historic downtown Portsmouth on Hancock Street, Strawbery Bank Museum includes nearly ten acres of land that’s dedicated to the preservation of the area’s history, which stretches back almost 300 years to the days before the Revolutionary War.
The onsite buildings have been restored to near-original condition, and the museum houses tens of thousands of historical artifacts, nearly all of which are original and one of a kind.
It’s one of the area’s most complete repositories of all things historical and a perennial favorite with adults and children alike.
Guided tours are offered seasonally, so check their website before making a special trip.
14. Kittery Historical & Naval Museum
Due to its proximity to the ocean and the landing point of the first European settlers to reach the new world, New England is full of historical sites. Its naval tradition goes back hundreds of years to when what’s now America was the territory of the British Empire.
With its scenic harbors and stalwart forts, Kittery, Maine is the perfect place to take all the splendor in, and the Historic and Naval Museum is the crown jewel.
It’s open from April to November, and guided tours are available if booked in advance.
There’s a short introductory video that’s the perfect way to get things kicked off, and most visitors spend between one and two hours seeing everything.
15. Portsmouth Harbor Cruises
For those with stout sea legs and a desire to see things from a unique perspective, taking a harbor cruise is the perfect way to spend an afternoon.
Portsmouth Harbor Cruises leads guests through the maze of harbors, inlets, and bays that lie between the land and sea. Along the way, they’ll point out a number of historically significant sites, many of which date back hundreds of years.
The cruises get underway at the wharf at Ceres Street in Portsmouth, and the route taken will depend on the weather.
Remember to pack appropriately, as the conditions on the water can be much harsher than they are on land.