The historic town of Wiscasset is fondly known as the prettiest village in Maine. Situated just under 45 miles from Portland, it overlooks the Sheepscot River and spans roughly 28 square miles. It has a population of 3,732.
From the small town charm to intriguing attractions, here are five reasons to visit.
The history. Originally a Native American settlement, Wiscasset was first settled by European immigrants in 1663. In 1802, it adopted its Abenaki name, Wiscasset, meaning “coming out from the harbor but you don’t see where.” The seaport town was a center for shipbuilding, fishing, and lumber and, until 1807, was the busiest seaport north of Boston. When Maine first became a state in 1820, the village was in the running for state capital, but lost because of its proximity to the ocean. Throughout the years, the town has brought in multiple sources of infrastructure, from railroads to Maine Yankee—the state’s only nuclear power plant, which is now inactive. The town was also home to two of the most photographed objects in Maine: Hesper and Luther Little, two schooners abandoned near the U.S. 1 bridge.
The charm. You don’t have to walk far to witness Wiscasset’s historical charm—there are interesting sites on just about every corner. The town boasts some of the region’s most famous architectural landmarks. The Nickels-Sortwell House on Main Street features Federal-style architecture, with an elliptical stairway with rope-like carvings and the noted oval skylight. Castle Tucker is another must-see. The Victorian-style mansion is known for the upstairs piazza: two-story high windows overlooking the river. In the downtown streets, you’ll find a range of restaurants, shops, and attractions, including the 1812 Jail, the Lilac Cottage, the Wiscasset General Store, the Musical Wonder House, and the Octagon House.
The sites. Wiscasset is also known for a few newer attractions as well. Drive down Route 1 and stop by the five-year-old Maine Heritage Village, a collection of shops, food, and exhibits. Take a step back in time at Judi’s Country Store, an old-fashioned-themed shop selling local, Maine-made goods. Fresh pies, fudge, and more are baked right on the premises in an open kitchen and they have the largest penny candy selection in the state. They also sell toys and souvenirs. If you really want to get away from the old and try something new. Monkey C Monkey Do is Maine’s only zip line and adventure park. With over 50 obstacles, ranging from 12 to 50 feet high, guests can also test out one of the eight zip lines and the giant swing. The course is fit for any skill level. Perfect for families and groups.
The food. Media put Wiscasset’s Red’s Eats on the map, dubbing it the home of the best lobster roll. Locals will agree—big chunks of juicy lobster meat are lightly coated in butter (not mayo) and are piled on top of a toasted roll. However, during the late spring and summer, it’s known for the long line and long wait. Delicious alternatives are Sarah’s Cafe, Le Garage (historically known for its view of the famous schooners), and the Sea Basket, to name a few.
Small-town surprises. Wiscasset made the Guinness Book of World Records for having the smallest church in the world. A replica of the building is sometimes displayed at the Ripley’s Believe it or Not museum in Las Vegas. The town is also rumored to be the site of Marie Antoinette’s escape house before her execution during the French Revolution. Local ship captain, Stephen Clough, made his way to France to rescue his daughter who, coincidently, was in the same prison. Clough’s wife even prepared their home for the queen. Legend says she nearly escaped but refused to leave without her son. The house can be seen across the river at Castle Tucker.
Check out 5 Reasons to Visit Newburyport