Laughing and learning in Brunswick, Maine
College town, river town, coastal town: Brunswick is a bit of each. A thriving downtown with a lovely green, called The Mall, is anchored by Bowdoin College on one end and the Androscoggin River’s roiling waterfalls on the other. Both the Amtrak Downeaster train and Concord Coachlines bus dock downtown, so even though it’s only a tank away, there’s no need for a car, unless you want to explore the scenic — but sleepy-in-April — Harpswell and Bailey/Orr’s Island peninsulas.
Two accommodations are ideal for car-free travelers. The Brunswick Inn (165 Park Row, Brunswick, 207-729-4914 or 800-299-4914, www.brunswickbnb.com, from $169 with breakfast), a stately 30-room Federal mansion built in 1848 and facing the town green, has 15 comfortable guest rooms split between the main house and the renovated Carriage House. Inside the main inn is a laid-back lounge with occasional entertainment. The Brunswick Hotel and Tavern (4 Noble St., Brunswick, 207-837-6565, www.innatbrunswickstation.com, from $149), a boutique hotel opened in 2011, has a tavern serving all meals and a fitness center. Within walking distance of downtown Brunswick, but across the bridge spanning the Androscoggin River, is the Black Lantern B&B (57 Elm St., Topsham, 888-306-4165, www.blacklanternbandb.com, from $95), a charming 1860s riverfront home, with three guestrooms. On the rural waterfront site of the former Pennell Brothers, Middle Bay Farm Bed and Breakfast (287 Pennellville Road, Brunswick, 207-373-1375, www.middlebay
farm.com, from $150 with breakfast) shelters guests in the restored 1834 farmhouse and sail loft.
Frosty’s (54 Maine St., 207-729-4258) has been Brunswick’s go-to for doughnuts since 1965. Cafeteria-style Wild O.A.T.S. Bakery and Cafe (149 Maine St., Tontine Mall, 207-725-6287) turns out terrific scratch-made breads and pastries, healthful salads, and scrumptious sandwiches. Oompah! Greek and Italian fare with a local twist colors the seasonally changing menu at Trattoria Athena (25 Mill St., Brunswick, 207-721-0700, entrees from $24). Tao Yuan (22 Pleasant St., Brunswick, 207-725-9002, $6-$16, tasting menu $45), an Asian tapas-style restaurant, wows guests with fresh and innovative cuisine masterfully prepared by chef-owner and 2014 Beard Rising Star Chef semifinalist Cara Stadler. Eat, drink, and make merry at Frontier Cafe (Mill 3, Fort Andross, 14 Maine St., Brunswick, 207-725-5222, entrées from $14), a combination cafe, gallery, and cinema inspired by founder Michael Gilroy’s world travels. World-class beer, with an emphasis on Belgian, is the focus at Ebenezer’s Brew Pub (112 Pleasant St., Brunswick, 207-373-1840), where the menu ($8-$30) is geared around the brews.
White linens drape the tables at Henry and Marty (61 Maine St., 207-721-9141, $11-$14), which does fresh, local, and organic right, along with offering gluten-free and veggie fare. Thirteen scenic miles south of Brunswick, the oceanfront Dolphin Marina and Chowder House (515 Basin Point Road, South Harpswell, 207-833-6000, $7-$26) tops lots of lists for Maine’s best fish chowder and lobster stew. Save room for dessert from The Gelato Fiasco (74 Maine St., Brunswick, 207-607-4002).
DURING THE DAY
View an impressive permanent collection of 19th- and 20th-century American art as well as Greek and Roman artifacts and other works at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art (207-725-3275, www.bowdoin.edu). Dip into the cultural and natural world discovered by Arctic pioneers Robert E. Peary and Donald B. MacMillan in the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum (207-725-3416). The Pejepscot Historical Society’s downtown Pejepscot Museum & Research Center (159 Park Row, 207-729-6606, www.pejepscothistorical.org, free) specializes in local history. Maps for self-guided walking tours, including “Joshua L. Chamberlain’s Brunswick,” “Brunswick Women’s History,” and “From the Falls to the Bay: A Tour of Historic Brunswick, Maine,” can be downloaded from the website. While strolling Maine Street, cast your eyes downward. Four bronze sidewalk plaques honor Brunswick’s most famous writers: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Robert P. T. Coffin. Maine Street is lined with independent specialty stores and galleries, including Bayview Gallery (58 Maine St., Brunswick, 800-244-3007), Wyler’s (150 Main St., 207-729-1321), Day’s Antiques (153 Park Row, 207-725-6959), Wilbur’s Chocolates (143 Maine St., 207-729-4462), and Gulf of Maine Books (134 Maine St., Brunswick, 207-729-5083). Across the bridge is Maine Fiberarts (13 Maine St., Topsham, 207-721-0678, www.mainefiberarts.org), a must-stop for anyone interested in fiber-related artwork. The riverfront Fort Andross Mill houses Cabot Mill Antiques (14 Maine St., 207-725-2855) as well as a winter farmers’ market and a flea market.
Sip and nibble at Enoteca Athena (97 Maine St., 207-721-0100), a wine and cocktail bar with a Mediterranean accent. Both Frontier Cafe and Sea Dog Brewing Co. (1 Main St., Topsham, 207-725-0162) sometimes have evening entertainment. The Five Rivers Arts Alliance (207-798-6964, www.5raa.org) maintains a calendar of area concerts, gallery openings, art shows, and other arts-related events. Many of the concerts, lectures, performances, and other activities at Bowdoin College are open to the public. See what’s on the screen at the independent Eveningstar Cinema (Tontine Mall, 149 Maine St., 207-729-5486, eveningstarcinema.com, $8.50).
Correction: An earlier version included Lion’s Pride, which changed it’s name to Ebenezer’s Brew Pub.