The city of Bath, Maine, has a nostalgic and peaceful atmosphere to it, a laid-back ambiance brought about by the cozy weather, colonial homes, and waterside sceneries.
It’s the seat of Sagadahoc County and is nicknamed the “City of Ships” for once being the center of shipbuilding in the region—a heritage still celebrated today.
Along with this history comes a maritime culture that permeates many of the town’s attractions and activities.
This is also reflected in the city's art scene, which is surprisingly thriving given the small population of Bath.
And if you like to commune with nature and find new adventures off the beaten track, the city is surrounded by a diverse set of natural features waiting for curious travelers.
From islands to creeks to forests, there’s plenty to explore around the town.
So for your next trip to New England, why not make this location your top choice?
Here are the 15 best things to do in Bath, ME:
Learn History at Maine Maritime Museum
Maine is well-known for its nautical culture, and the best place to see this heritage in its full glory is at Maine Maritime Museum.
This attraction is arguably the top spot here in Bath, as it houses many intriguing attractions within its 20-acre complex.
To gain important historical context of Maine’s contribution to the US maritime industry, check out the indoor galleries and exhibits that talk about these topics.
You’d get to see accounts, photographs, and artifacts that offer a glimpse of how lucrative the shipbuilding industry was during its heyday.
For those who want to see an actual shipyard, the complex has one on its grounds.
It’s a fascinating place to visit, as you’d see the various contraptions and learn about the processes used for creating the massive wooden ships.
Finally, there’s the 1906 Schooner Mary E, a restored fishing vessel that’s equipped with fluttering white sails.
During the deck tour, you’d get up close and personal to the fine craftsmanship that enables ships like these to cross the Atlantic even at the worst conditions.
Trek the Trails of Butler Head Preserve
The Butler Head Preserve is another natural attraction located northwest of Bath’s city proper.
Spanning 141-acre, this expansive woodland site is home to swaths of forests and many wildlife species, all of which are also under the care of the Kennebec Estuary Land Trust.
The destination has a small network of trails open for hiking and biking, crisscrossing across the landscape.
These will bring you to the hidden wonders of the preserve, such as scenic clearings, riverside lookouts, and various habitats similar to that of Thorne Head Preserve.
While exploring, make sure to watch out for the animals scurrying in the undergrowth or flitting about in between branches.
Snowshoeing is also a great activity during the frosty winters, as it offers many opportunities to view the pristine white landscapes typical of Maine’s forests.
Head to the Islands of Kennebec River
Kennebec River is a historical and scenic body of water that spans more than 170 miles, starting from Moosehead Lake.
A large segment of it runs on the eastern side of Bath, and it’s where the city’s ships first encounter water.
Because of its proximity to the Atlantic, this river has become an ecologically important spot.
It’s one of the main rivers used by saltwater species that spawn in freshwater, such as the endangered Atlantic sturgeon.
This migration is possible because there are no rapids in most of Kennebec River’s length, so fishes can swim far inland to lay their eggs.
So when exploring the scenic banks near Bath, you can expect calm waters and a tranquil ambiance.
For those who are feeling more adventurous, there are a few islands next to Bath that are great for backcountry trips.
Get Up Close and Personal With Maine’s First Ship
In 1607, the first ship built in the Americas, the Virginia, was launched.
The original ship has been lost in the annals of history, but after extensive research, plans to recreate it was pushed forward.
Thus, the “Maine’s First Ship” project was born.
The goal is to create a replica of the ocean-crossing pinnace, historically regarded as the first marker of the New World’s shipbuilding capabilities.
The project is still underway, but visitors are already invited to see the process and marvel at the craftsmanship that goes into creating the water vessel.
While at the site, you’d see seasoned woodworkers, engineers, historians, and shipbuilding experts work together to fashion the hull, oars, deck, mast, and other parts of the ship.
Bring Your Pooch to South End Park
One of the favorite community gathering places in Bath is South End Park, located near the Maine Maritime Museum and adjacent to the Kennebec River.
The 12-acre riverside attraction has wide and verdant grounds, tree-lined borders, and a deck the juts into the water.
But the most prominent feature of this destination is that it’s dog-friendly.
So if you’re bringing your pooch to your Bath trip, then make sure that you check out this park.
They can run off-leash and socialize with other canines, but be sure to keep an eye out to avoid any accidents or issues.
You can still visit the place if you want a relaxing afternoon with the family.
The best spot to unwind is at the wooden deck, as it has comfortable seating and beautiful views of the Kennebec River.
Go Restaurant Hopping Downtown
Maine is known for its seafood-centric cuisine, and what’s a better place to try out these delicious dishes than at the City of Ships?
Bath’s downtown is teeming with favorite local establishments, and they are usually just a few doors or streets away from each other.
So you can visit them all in one afternoon for an epic food trip!
Kennebec Tavern Restaurant & Marina is one of the most well-known amongst these, and they offer tasty lobster dishes, steaks, and a selection of refreshing alcoholic beverages.
At J.R. Maxwell & Co., you can enjoy American staples such as prime ribs, chowder, and tasty lobster recipes of various kinds.
The Cabin is a favorite pizzeria with a nautical-themed interior, so eating here would be like being aboard one of Bath’s ancient ships—it’s quite the experience!
Cruise the Gentle Currents of Whiskeag Creek
The Whiskeag Creek is one of the main water features in Bath, and it offers plenty of outdoor activities for all ages.
From Lily Pond to the Kennebec Estuary, this body of water follows a meandering path that passes through some of the areas under the Kennebec Estuary Land Trust.
It irrigates these lands, helping sustain the diverse animal and plant life living here.
Aside from being a vital resource, the creek serves as a recreational spot for those who want to try water-related activities.
Boating and kayaking are some of the favorite activities here, thanks to the gentle currents.
If you want to go fishing, there are plenty of deep segments with freshwater game like small and largemouth bass, northern pike, and perch.
There’s also the Whiskeag Creek Trail, a five-mile path that follows most of the creek’s length.
It’s an ideal route for those who want to explore the woodlands as well as key locations in Bath, such as Edward J McMann Outdoor Athletic Complex, the Thorne Head Preserve, and Oak Grove Cemetery.
Catch a Show at Chocolate Church Arts Center
To preserve an architecturally significant structure from demolition, a group of artists seized the opportunity and turned a religious building into a hub for performance art.
The Chocolate Church Arts Center is named for the brown color covering most of its exteriors, resembling luscious chocolate.
Upon arrival, you’d notice the intriguing Gothic Revival style of the exteriors and the medieval ambiance permeating the surroundings.
The interiors are very much like other churches, but instead of an altar, there’s a stage right at the front.
And there, you can watch thought-provoking plays and other performances by Bath’s talented companies and actors.
The halls also contain visual art exhibits that showcase the artistic prowess of local painters, sculptors, and photographers.
If you’re planning to catch one of the shows, visit their website and plan your itinerary around the dates.
Discover the Wildlife at Thorne Head Preserve
Up north from the city proper lies Thorne Head Preserve, a scenic attraction home to many of the region’s native flora and fauna.
This 96-acre preserve is under the care of the Kennebec Estuary Land Trust, which has made an effort to conserve the many important habitats of the region.
And there are six distinct ones in Thorne Head Preserve: freshwater marsh, mixed woods, vernal pools, tidal wetlands, riparian areas, and Kennebec River estuaries.
Each has a unique feature that makes it different from the rest, but they all come together to create an ecological hotspot that’s worth protecting.
There are many trails you can explore to find the best spots in the preserve, but the main one is the Thorne Head Preserve Trail Head.
It will bring you to riverside lookouts, ridges, and thick forests that abound in the area.
While trekking, you might encounter animals like salamander, mink, deer, and frogs.
So be sure to keep an eye out if you want to see the elusive wildlife of this natural attraction.
Take Landscape Photos at Linwood E. Temple Waterfront Park
The panoramic Linwood E. Temple Waterfront Park is another community attraction sitting next to the Kennebec River.
With its hilly, wooded grounds, brick walkways, and beautiful views, the attraction offers a rustic ambiance perfect for an afternoon of relaxation.
On the right side, you’d get uninterrupted views of the Sagadahoc Bridge, perfect for stunning landscape photos.
There’s also plenty of pavilions, benches, and shaded spots for small picnics or gatherings with the family.
If you’re looking for a good launching point for boats or kayaks, the park has one jutting into the river.
And on occasion, the destination serves as a venue for community festivals and events.
So if you happen to catch one during your stay, don’t hesitate to join in the celebrations and enjoy the festive community spirit.
Buy Fresh Produce at Bath Farmers’ Market
Bath has a budding agricultural industry, and the best way to partake in this bounty is by checking out the Bath Farmers’ Market.
This year-round attraction is open on Saturdays, hosting the local farmers and growers of the city.
Within the stalls, you’d find seasonal vegetables, various fruit cultivars, and premium root crops on display.
There are also other products like homemade preserves, baked goods, roasted coffees, and hand-spun wool.
Just be patient in your search, and you’d find something truly unique.
There’s also occasional live music that adds to the overall experience of shopping.
Other Things to Do Nearby
After your adventures in Bath, why not check out these other locations nearby?
Climb to the Top of Doubling Point Lighthouse
The Doubling Point Lighthouse sits on the opposite side of the Kennebec River, with its light visible in various points of Bath’s shoreline.
It’s a historic site that remains today as an aid to navigation, much like it did in the past for Bath’s nautical traffic.
Aside from being a guide, the lighthouse serves as a major tourist attraction in Arrowsic.
It’s accessible via a white, narrow bridge, and you can climb all the way to the top.
Once there, you’d be treated to marvelous views of the Kennebec River and Bath covering the horizon.
Explore the Wonders of Hamilton Sanctuary
Just ten minutes away from Bath is Hamilton Sanctuary, a 93-acre protected area in West Bath.
This attraction is home to many native and migratory avian species, prompting the Maine Audubon to turn it into an important birdwatching and educational site.
From coastal forests to open meadows, from tidal flats to salt marshes, many types of habitats are found here.
They serve as home to ospreys, great blue herons, shorebirds, and many varieties of waterfowl.
Go Camping at Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park
Located in Freeport, Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park is less than 30 minutes away from Bath.
The destination covers 244 hectares and includes salt marshes, rocky shores, hemlock forests, and other habitats unique to this part of the US.
You’re welcome to explore these natural wonders by hiking, biking, and snowshoeing during the winter months.
Camping is also a great option, especially during summer when the weather is milder, and the forests and meadows are at their greenest.
Tour the Bowdoin College Museum of Art
The Bowdoin College Museum of Art is an exquisite attraction located in Brunswick and is only 12 minutes away from Bath.
Listed under the National Register of Historic Places, the building has been around since 1894 and continues to be the premier art museum in the region.
It’s a must-see destination for those who like art history and magnificent works, both seen in the exhibits and the exteriors of the building itself.
As the City of Ships, Bath offers nautical-themed adventures that will bring you up close and personal to its history and culture.
It also has many natural attractions that make it an important ecological hotspot in this region of Maine.
Reference this list when planning your itinerary so you won’t miss the top destinations of this charming town.