Gorham is a small town located in Cumberland County, Maine. It was incorporated in 1764, and the opening of the Cumberland and Oxford Canal in 1829, connecting Casco Bay with Sebago Lake, helped the town develop. The railroad may have led to the canal becoming relatively obsolete, but it made communications even easier.
Built on land given to those who fought in the Narraganset War in 1675, its industrial development was aided by the power provided by water, with lumber and the products it provided being the most important contributor to the economy.
Gorham is a community-conscious place, with regular initiatives promoting health and happiness. The bustling town center and the lovely immediate hinterland certainly helps those initiatives. If you want to know more, here are some ideas of the 15 Best Things to do in Gorham.
1. Baxter Memorial Library
This lovely building constructed in 1908 in pink granite with a red oak interior was a donation from James Phinney Baxter and was added to 15 years ago.
The Baxter home was moved to create the land for the library, which was meant to be a memorial for his father, Dr. Elihu Baxter. The initial exhibits include family journals and significant items representing the history of Gorham and the state of Maine.
JP Baxter was a successful industrialist, an expert on the history of the region, and father to Governor Percival P Baxter – though he never sought public office himself.
2. Baxter House Museum
This museum, which opens through the weeks of summer, was initially built in 1797 by a carpenter and later bought by Dr. Elihu Baxter in 1812. The Baxter home was moved to accommodate a library and became a museum in 1908.
Donations for the museum came from many local people, with furniture and books donated by James Phinney Baxter. Its aim has been to demonstrate what life in Gorham has been like since it was first settled.
3. Gambo Preserve & Shaw Park
Shaw Park offers three charming trails for tourists to explore. Gunpowder Mill, Canal Towpath and the Presumpscot River Trails are all interlinked; the latter actually starts outside the park and walkers can enjoy good visitor facilities along the way.
Down the trail, you will reach Gunpowder Mill Trail, which is a circuit of the mill’s land and includes ruins from former days. Once you finish ‘Gunpowder’, you will find the trail that follows the former route of the Cumberland and Oxford Canals.
4. Mountain Division Trail
Mountain Division Trail is almost 10 miles long. It links with the Presumpscot Trail, so is perfect for those outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy a longer hike.
With an asphalt and gravel surface, it follows an old railroad line. It is largely wheelchair-friendly; visitors can walk, jog, and cycle in the summer, or skate and Nordic ski in the winter.
In the future, this trail will form part of a 50-mile track between Portland and Fryeburg on the New Hampshire border.
5. Little River Preserve
This preserve covers just 28 acres but provides a pleasant walk through woods along the Little River. The paths are good and you have the chance of seeing wildlife as you walk among the lovely flowers in the spring.
Hunting is permitted on license, with most visitors preferring walking or jogging in the summer and Nordic skiing or snowshoeing in the winter. It is fairly short, but the white trail section is described as difficult, with some fairly steep and uneven steps.
6. University of Southern Maine Art Gallery, Gorham Campus
Southern Maine University is based in Portland but there is an art gallery section within Gorham. It has earned a reputation as a place that holds some excellent exhibitions – often containing contemporary art – as well as lectures, workshops and community projects.
You are invited to visit the gallery to see the work of students in a number of different art disciplines. The University does not operate in isolation; its links within the community and the region as a whole has firmly established its mission for all-inclusiveness.
7. Gorham Country Club
If you are in Gorham while the golf course at the Country Club is open, you are welcome to book a game, even as a non-member.
The Club supports the USGA and PGA initiative, whereby the choice of tee that golfers make should be based on ability rather than gender. It is one way to speed up play, which is an issue currently getting a great deal of attention in golf.
The shortest course here is just 5,400 yards, Par 71, for beginners and high-handicappers, with the longest course at 6,500 yards.
8. Babb’s Covered Bridge
This bridge was a vital component of the railroad linking Gorham with Windham. Several such bridges were constructed in Maine, but this was the oldest of ten still in existence when it was destroyed by arson in 1973. Clearly, it was important to rebuild it.
The Historical Societies of both townships ensured that restoration was done in such a way that the new bridge was an exact replica of the original. It was re-opened on the Bicentennial of the USA, 4th July 1976.
9. Orchard Ridge Farm & Speciality Food Market
You can purchase a range of foods – from fresh fruit to baked products – at this farm and market on Sebago Lake Road.
Ask the kids to pick apples while you look at the specialty foods for sale. Typically, these include jams and honey. After shopping, visitors leave with plenty of wholesome food, much of it ideal for a picnic in one of the local idyllic spots. The donuts and coffee are so tempting you will sample them on the spot.
Young children will enjoy feeding the smaller livestock like goats.
10. Kayaking at Dundee Dam & Lake
This dam on the Presumpscot River dates back over a century. Back in the early 90s, significant work was done to reveal the 19th-century canal that was once so important to the region’s economy
The worry was that one of the embankments needed strengthening, so the lake was drained, revealing a section of the old Oxford and Cumberland Canal that had been hidden underwater for 75 years.
With the lake then refilled, it became a beautiful setting and a popular spot for kayaking.
11. Headin’ North Guide Service
Some visitors to Maine come specifically for fishing, mostly fly fishing, for the different species in the waters.
This Gorham-based business offers several different locations in south and western Maine to catch brook trout and salmon that can no longer access the sea. If you are after smallmouth bass, you can catch them as well.
You don’t need to be an expert; the professional guides are happy to teach the basics to anyone, and of course, all equipment comes with the booking.
12. South Street Cemetery
The history of a place and its important citizens can often be told by its old cemeteries. In the case of this historic cemetery, you will see tombstones that date back to the Revolutionary Era.
Among the tombstones in South Street Cemetery are those of famous poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s grandparents, Dr. Nathaniel Bowman – who fell off the Meeting House of the 1st Parish in Gorham – and a clown, Sylvester Reynolds, killed in a circus accident in 1826, which resulted in the circus not returning for 30 years.
13. Little Sebago Lake
This lake has been cared for by an association that was first formed in 1924. It shows how important lakes, dams, and waterways have been to this region.
The quality of water and the fragile natural environment have been prioritized by the Little Sebago Lake Association.
It covers 2,000 acres, with a maximum depth of over 50 feet. Several activities are permitted on and in the water, though you should observe the boating and fishing regulations. Some shoreline properties are available for holiday rental.
14. Sebago Brewing Company
One of the brewery’s popular outlets in Maine is found in Elm Street, Gorham. The craft brewery is 20 years old and the range includes IPAs, Amber, Stout and Light Ales – as well as some specialty brews.
There is something for everyone on the menu, including things aimed specifically for kids. Some specials and promotions are available on particular days. The whole family will enjoy the atmosphere of this bar/restaurant with a local feel.
It even sells gift cards that you can buy for friends who intend to visit Gorham in the future.
15. Ocean Gardens Restaurant & Tavern
When in Maine, you should always try the fresh seafood. This restaurant in Main Street has earned a reputation for seafood, although other dishes are sold as well.
In the restaurant, you can start with Seafood Chowder, Crab Cakes or Crab Rangoon with that spicy Asian flavor, and follow up with Jumbo Shrimp or Fisherman’s Platter.
The tavern section has a smaller menu but just as appetizing if you want to eat and go.