Located in Maine’s Kennebec County, Winthrop is a sleepy New England town of 6,000 for much of the year. But shortly after spring arrives, its population doubles with the influx of tourists who come to enjoy its quaint charm and incredible natural beauty.
The town is located between the larger towns of Augusta, Lewiston, and Waterville, and with so many natural and historic sites close by, finding ways to fill your vacation itinerary won’t be a problem.
It’s also close enough to the coast to make day trips to the beach a convenient option.
Below are 15 things to see and do in Winthrop, Maine.
1. Winthrop Beach
Located on Cobbosseecontee Lake in Winthrop, smart locals have chosen to call this local gem Winthrop Beach; it’s one of the few beach settings you’ll find within town limits – apart from those located on the Atlantic coast.
During the dog days of summer, the beach can get crowded, but it’s the perfectly convenient getaway for those looking for some quality beach time without spending half the day in the car.
Other than the lake and sandy beach, there isn’t much around in the way of amenities, but there are picnic tables and portable bathrooms, which is really all you’ll need so close to town.
2. Echo Lake Lodges and Cottages
Maine is known for its many lakes and pristine stretches of forest. For those who’d like to experience both, there are few places better than Echo Lake Lodges and Cottages.
Founded in 1937, they’re located about 20 minutes north of the capital city Augusta, just off Interstate 95.
In the warm spring and summer months, swimming, kayaking, and bird-watching are popular activities. The lake is home to a variety of game fish, like trout, bass, perch, and landlocked salmon that make it a favorite with anglers as well.
If you plan on visiting during the summer, it’s a good idea to make reservations in advance.
3. Camp Laurel
Since 1949, Camp Laurel has been providing summer camp opportunities for hundreds of boys and girls.
In the nearly 70 years they’ve been in business, they’ve drawn visitors from all over the country, and many of their original guests now send children of their own.
The camp’s schedule is full of activities to keep young minds and bodies busy and engaged; they offer programs in a variety of areas – including the arts, athletics, equestrian and tennis.
Their summer camp location is in Readfield, Maine, and their winter camp location is in Westport, Connecticut, so check their website carefully for details.
4. Theater at Monmouth
Located on scenic Main Street in downtown Monmouth, the Theater at Monmouth was originally constructed in the late 1800s and was considered the premier theater in the region at that time.
The theater features more than 200 seats and an opera-style balcony. Though it has undergone numerous repairs and renovations over the years, the old building still retains much of its original, quaint charm.
For those who are just passing through, it’s a good idea to check their website to see what’s on their calendar of events, and for those who’ll be around for a while, season passes are available.
The theater offers live music, dance, and drama productions.
5. Lakeside Orchards
New England’s climate is conducive to growing apples, and the states of Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire produce a healthy crop of the tasty fruit every year in a variety of sizes, colors, and tastes.
Rumor has it that the first apple tree was planted on the ground that’s now Lakeside Orchards in the 1870s – and they’ve been grown there ever since.
The orchard is now comprised of nearly 200 acres and thousands of trees and produces more than 10,000 bushels annually.
They’re located in Readfield, Maine, and for those who’d like to pick their own and take a guided farm tour, it’s a great place to spend a few hours.
6. The Milkhouse
Located near Winthrop – just south of Cobbosseecontee Lake – the Milkhouse is an organic dairy farm and creamery that’s been in business for seven years.
In addition to utilizing environmentally conscious and sustainable farming techniques, the owners view their farm as a community resource. It’s one that should be checked out, especially for those traveling with children.
In conjunction with another local farm, they make yogurt and bottled milk and raise pigs for meat.
A convenient function on their website allows you to order products online and schedule a time when you can swing by and pick them up.
7. Maine Discovery Museum
It’s often difficult to find kid-friendly activities when visiting a new area, especially if your goal is to keep your child interested and engaged.
Luckily, the Maine Discovery Museum is one such place. Many previous visitors have commented that their experience far exceeded their expectations and that even after a few hours, their children weren’t ready to leave.
The museum is full of interactive exhibits that are fun for adults and children; they cover topics like science, history, and the natural world.
They’ve got different hours for summer and winter, so check online before making a special trip.
8. Hallowell Powder House
So named because it was once a military storage depot that stored black powder, the Hallowell Powder House is located on High Street in Hallowell and was built in 1918.
One of only three facilities of its kind, it is the most well-preserved and is a great stop for those interested in learning about the area’s historical and military pasts.
There’s ample parking near the site, and it’s adjacent to a small playground with views of the river as well. There’s not that much to see, so you shouldn’t need to spend more than 30 minutes to get the full effect.
9. Vaughan Woods and Historic Homestead
Located in Hallowell, the Vaughan Woods and Historic Homestead is part natural preservation area, part museum, and part education facility.
The homestead is run by a not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving the area’s history and natural beauty, and educating visitors on the importance of both.
The home and its period contents give guests an interesting view into the lifestyle of those living in the area more than a hundred years ago.
The historic homestead portion of the facility is open to visitors during the times that they’re offering educational classes only, so before making a special trip, it would be wise to check their website or give them a call.
10. Wallingford’s Orchard
Located about an hour inland from the Atlantic coast in the tiny town of Auburn, Wallingford’s Orchard has been growing apples and cranberries for more than 200 years.
The farm is most well-known for its McIntosh apples, but they grow a range of other varieties as well.
They’re a u-pick-‘em farm, which means families can grab a bucket and head out into the orchard to pick their own fruit when the crop is ready. They also offer tours that include some child-friendly contact with a few of the farm’s animals.
The onsite farmer’s market is particularly well-known for its delicious cider and homemade donuts, which are made fresh daily.
11. Mount Apatite
For an exciting mix of exercise, the natural world, and out of place military history, there’s no better place to spend a few hours than Mount Apatite in Auburn.
The park is owned by the town, is free to use, and a favorite convenient getaway for locals looking to stretch their legs without driving into the country.
There are a variety of trails of varying lengths and degrees of difficulty that are enjoyed by hikers, runners, and mountain bikers. The view from the mount’s peak gives picturesque views of the surrounding town, farms, and lakes.
There is also an assortment of old military vehicles along the trails which is odd but interesting.
12. Thorncrag Bird Sanctuary
With its varied landscapes, large tracts of forested areas, ponds, lakes, and rivers, it’s no surprise that New England is home to such a fantastic variety of bird species.
The Thorncrag Bird Sanctuary is comprised of nearly 500 acres of preserved land and has been in existence for almost 80 years.
Located in Lewiston, Maine, the grounds contain miles of trails weaving their way through pristine forests that are home to a variety of animals.
Check out the Wednesday Bird Walks section of their website to see how you can join a free guided tour.
13. Wicked Illustration Studio Gallery
Located on Canal Street in Lewiston, Wicked Illustration Studio Gallery is a unique local business that’s dedicated to and passionate about the arts.
They’ve been in business since 2007 and offer a variety of educational and instructional opportunities for those interested in delving into the world of art.
For those who don’t consider themselves artsy types, it can be overwhelming, but the gallery’s approach is tried and true; regardless of age or level of ability, there’s likely a program that’s right for nearly every member of the family.
They also host art parties, which are great birthday ideas or a unique ‘girl’s night out’ activity.
14. Old Fort Western Museum
Constructed in the mid-1700s, Old Fort Western is a National Historic Landmark and is one of the country’s oldest wooden structures that’s still standing.
For much of its existence, the fort has played a role in the area’s history and is now a museum that’s open to the public.
Guided tours are available during the summer season. There are characters in period-accurate dress going about their lives, just like their counterparts did more than 200 years ago.
Kids get an especially big kick out of the actors, and there are a variety of plaques at various places that describe precisely what it is that you’re seeing.
15. Maine Duck Tours
Though at first, it may be a bit troubling when the bus you’re riding in plunges into the water, you’ll be relieved to know that the bus is actually a duck, or amphibious vehicle.
Duck tours begin with a brief tour overview. From there, guests will be led to some of Portland’s most historic areas. Along the way, you’ll get an interesting narration by a knowledgeable and enthusiastic local.
Then you’ll take the plunge, so to speak, as the vehicle and its passengers head for the water portion of the tour in Casco Bay.
Tours are very popular, so book in advance if you can.