Southern Maine has been a summer tourist destination for centuries. The sand, surf, and seafood — and in recent decades, the arts and food scenes — are unparalleled. If you’re heading to the area this year, here are all the best things to do in Saco & Biddeford Maine, the twin cities.
About Biddeford & Saco Maine
Biddeford and Saco are twin cities in York County Maine and are two of the oldest and most important commercial sectors in New England history. Together, they comprise the major commercial center of the county with a population of 22,552 as of 2020.
Biddeford includes rest communities like Biddeford Pool, Granite Point, Fortune Rocks, and more. It’s home to the annual La Kermesse Franco-Americaine Festival and the site of the University of New England, a highly ranked college.
Additionally, Biddeford is home to the Southern Maine Health Care institution and the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine, the state’s only medical school.
Saco houses Funtown Splashtown USA, Ferry Beach State Park, General Dynamics Armament Systems (formerly Saco Defense), and Thornton Academy. It has a lot of tourist traffic in the summer because of its amusement parks and how close it is to Old Orchard Beach.
What to Know Before Visiting Saco & Biddeford
Before visiting Saco and Biddeford, you should know that the area is a close-knit community and a much-beloved coastal resort. Many tourists have been visiting the area for generations and consider it a second home.
Life doesn’t move fast in these communities. Instead, the atmosphere heavily focuses on community, nature and outdoor recreation, arts and culture, and local food.
Excellent Things to Do in Biddeford Maine
Play at the Beach
There are three beaches on the Atlantic Ocean in Biddeford Maine. Biddeford Pool is a popular spot for exploring tidal pools, while Fortune’s Rocks Beach is popular among surfers. Plus, Rotary Park has a swimming beach with lifeguards during the summer.
Visit the Biddeford Mills Museum
The Biddeford Mills Museum is dedicated to the history of industry in Biddeford. For decades, the town was home to textile mills that supported most of the community. The museum seeks to educate people on this bygone era and how it shaped Maine history and industry.
See Some Art at the Engine Gallery
The Engine Gallery is Biddeford’s community art museum. Here, you can find regular exhibits from local artists of all kinds.
The gallery is also a place for community events, local business, and other creative opportunities. Along with regular public art exhibits, you can find youth programs, music events, and more.
Go Bird-watching at the East Point Audubon Sanctuary
East Point Audubon Sanctuary is a small section of coastline located alongside Biddeford Pool. Here, birds of all kinds live and migrate, with more than 260 species making the spot their home. The sanctuary is widely considered one of the best spots for bird-watching in the state of Maine.
Admire the View From the Wood Island Lighthouse
The coast of Maine has plenty of lighthouses, but Wood Island Lighthouse is worth a visit. The lighthouse was first incorporated in 1808 and has had a storied history for more than 200 years.
These days, it’s a museum detailing the history of the keepers who managed it over the centuries, as well as some legendary ghosts!
Meet Animals at Blandings Park Wildlife Sanctuary
Blandings Park Wildlife Sanctuary is located in Biddeford. This wildlife sanctuary covers 225 acres of undeveloped land where visitors can hike, observe nature, and explore.
While a portion of the property is available for hunting, the vast majority of Blandings Park is a place to experience Maine wildlife in its natural habitat.
Awesome Things to Do in Saco Maine
Go to the Beach
When you’re in Southern Maine, visiting the beach is a must! There are countless beaches in and around Saco, each with its own unique features and offerings. Kinney Shores and Ferry Beach State Park offer great swimming and warm white sands.
Rent a Catamaran
Few places are better for sailing than the coast of Southern Maine, and there are many ways to do it! If you’re looking for a specialized, all-inclusive experience, consider renting a catamaran for an afternoon.
Bimini Sailing Charters offers the chance to have a truly personal adventure catered to your tastes, whether you want to snorkel, fish, or simply enjoy the view. During the summer and fall, excursions depart from Saco, as well as Kennebunkport and Portland.
Ride a Roller Coaster at Funtown Splashtown USA
Funtown Splashtown USA is undoubtedly one of Saco’s main tourist attractions. This combination water park and amusement park has been a part of the town since 1959.
The park includes the oldest roller coaster and the only wooden roller coaster in the state! From the top of some rides, you may be able to spot Old Orchard Beach.
Tour the Saco Museum
The Saco Museum is one of the oldest in the state of Maine. Established in 1866, it began as a place where residents could share personal artifacts.
Now, it features rotating exhibits on life and history in Saco, including photography, needlework, fashion, ceramics, family collections, fine art, and much more.
Hike to Cascade Falls
Southern Maine is home to many hiking trails, but the trail to Cascade Falls is considered unmissable. This short loop is connected to Old Orchard Beach, winding just half a mile through the forest.
The waterfall has been a hiking and snowshoeing destination for centuries, offering a breathtaking sight that’s accessible to everyone.
Raise a Glass at Barreled Souls Brewing
Beer lovers will want to stop at Barreled Souls Brewing. This locally-owned brewery uses centuries-old methods to brew the beer on site. You’re welcome to visit the tasting room to try a variety of unique craft beers, which always feature something new and exciting.
More Things to Do Near Biddeford & Saco Maine
Explore the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge
The Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in Wells runs along 50 miles of the Maine coast. It’s a natural migratory corridor for birds and fish.
Established in 1966, this wildlife refuge includes a stunning variety of plant and animal life, as well as land types from tidewater salt marshes to deciduous forests, sand dunes, and rocky coastline.
Interact With Wolves at Run With Wolves Sanctuary
The Run With Wolves Sanctuary in Limington is a wolf sanctuary and education center. This nonprofit organization allows visitors to view, interact with, and learn about wolves that have been rescued. Wolf types at the sanctuary include gray, arctic, and hybrid wolves.
Step Back in History at Victoria Mansion
Victoria Mansion is a historical family home located in nearby Portland. Originally built in the late 1850s, the home was a luxurious summer destination for the time.
Today, it maintains most of the original decor and architecture, the only remaining work of legendary 19th-century interior designer Gustave Herter. The mansion has been a museum since 1940.
See the Sights at Portland Head Light
Portland Head Light is a historic lighthouse-turned-museum in the town of Cape Elizabeth. It stands on the grounds of Fort Williams Park.
The park and lighthouse are popular tourist destinations and draw thousands of visitors each year for hiking, picnicking, boating, or simply admiring the breathtaking views of the Maine coast.
Dining Near Saco & Biddeford Maine
Like many other coastal towns in Southern Maine, this area is experiencing cultural and artistic revitalization. While it remains a popular summer tourist destination (as it has since the 19th century) the region is increasingly becoming known for its arts scene and local cuisine.
The culinary scene places an emphasis on fresh seafood and locally sourced, sustainable, farm-to-table meals with seasonal ingredients. Here are some of our favorite restaurants in Saco and Biddeford Maine.
Being in coastal Maine means you have to stop for some seafood. In Saco, Huot’s Seafood Restaurant is one amazing option that has been a local institution since it opened in 1935.
This charming seaside eatery offers a full bar, indoor dining room, and outdoor patio. You can enjoy fried fish, lobster, and jumbo shrimp.
Palace Diner is the best place in Saco to find farm-fresh comfort food. The diner has been a part of the town since 1927 and features an old-world dining room with classic bar stools. The menu includes old-world favorites, such as omelets, corned beef hash, and flapjacks, and a rotating menu of local beers.
Quiero Cafe is a unique, Mexican-inspired eatery. With its original location in Saco, it has now expanded to a second location in Portland.
Here, you can find unique tapas and small plates with menu favorites, such as yucca fries, handmade empanadas, and signature salsa. Saco might be a long way from the Southern border, but Quiero Cafe brings a slice of Mexico to the coast of Maine.
Lorne Wine in Biddeford is technically a bar, but you can find all kinds of good food and drinks here.
The menu features sustainably-made, locally-sourced wines, beers, and ciders, as well as a variety of small plates. The offerings change regularly but generally feature cheese plates, charcuterie boards, and other specialty snacks.
In Biddeford, Elda is the very definition of high-end dining. This restaurant features a seasonal, locally-sourced menu that changes regularly to prioritize the freshest ingredients.
Each night features a single tasting menu only for guests with reservations. You’re encouraged to block out three hours to enjoy the entire dining experience.
Lodging Near Biddeford & Saco Maine
Do you want to experience as many things to do in Saco & Biddeford Maine as possible? You can stay overnight or for an extended stay at one of these Saco and Biddeford Maine lodging options.
The Saco Motel is a comfortable, 1950s-style motel that has been in operation for more than 35 years. Until 2019, it was family owned, and the personal touch is evident from the decor to the service.
This peaceful motel has a pool for guests and is known far and wide as an affordable and comfortable place to stay in Saco.
Brookside Motel and Cottages is a peaceful seaside property located alongside Old Orchard Beach. You may stay in either a room or a separate cottage, depending on your needs. If you’re looking for a quiet and comfortable place with easy access to the beach, this is the place to be.
The Tides Beach Club is located just outside Saco in nearby Kennebunkport. The beachfront hotel features rooms and oceanside suites with views of the Atlantic Ocean.
This stunning resort is in a historic building with custom-designed decor by interior designer Jonathan Adler, with rooms and suites in stunning beach-inspired designs.
If you prefer to stay in a private vacation rental, there are many great options in Saco and Biddeford. This charming beach cottage vacation rental has room for up to six guests, with views of the surrounding marsh and the Rachel Carson Wildlife Nature Refuge. This is the perfect spot for a weekend party or family vacation!
Maine is the perfect place for camping. If you prefer a tent to a motel, you need to check out Homestead By The River Family Campground. This peaceful, family-friendly campground is located alongside the Saco River.
This campground has primitive, tent, and RV campsites. You can also take advantage of the children’s playground, basketball court, and horseshoe pits. Canoe rentals are available for riding on the river as well.
Saco & Biddeford Maine History
Biddeford and Saco Maine were first visited by European colonists in the early 17th century. Therefore, it’s one of the earliest and oldest European colonies in the United States. However, the towns were formerly Abenaki Tribe territory.
The Abenaki peoples had a fortified village located in what is now called Fryeburg, which is up the Sokokis Trail at Pequawket. The Abenaki Tribe lived near the mouth of the Saco River when the European colonists arrived in 1616, four years before the Mayflower’s arrival 100 miles south in Plymouth Massachusetts.
This fascinating fact doesn’t often make it into history books — even those focused on New England history. Like the other oldest settlements in the region, Biddeford’s name is engraved near the top of the Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown Massachusetts.
The Plymouth Company was granted land south of the River Swanchadocke in 1630. By 1653, the Massachusetts General Court incorporated Biddeford as Saco. Also, the government of Maine was located in Saco between 1636 and 1653.
Local textile mills brought many waves of Irish, French-Canadian, and Albanian immigrants to Southern Maine. These textile mills employed up to 12,000 workers at their peak of operation but have since experienced systemic decline like in other parts of North America.
The last remaining textile mill in the city, WestPoint Home, closed down in 2009. The mill property was quickly sold to be repurposed for housing developments and new business generation.
Saco River was once famous for its log drives, though the last one was in 1943. The last commercial log was sawed in 1948.
World War II
Also, the Biddeford Pool Military Reservation was operational from 1942 to 1945. The Reservation was a key point in World War II operations. Today, that site is owned by the Abenakee Golf Club. Three of the four circular concrete “Panama mounts,” which held 155-mm guns, are still standing.
Biddeford’s historic downtown is undergoing continued revitalization and redevelopment. The budding downtown revitalization efforts have brought interest in restoring old mills to use as retail stores, cultural centers, art studios, housing, and more.
Home to McArthur Public Library and Biddeford’s City Theater, the town also has two historic districts registered in the National Register of Historic Places. These districts offer insight into local history and culture, which is vital as Biddeford is one of the fastest-growing commercial sectors in the state of Maine.
Biddeford is experiencing rapid growth in large part because of how close it is to Northern Massachusetts and the Seacoast Region of New Hampshire.
Explore All the Things to Do in Saco & Biddeford Maine
Southern Maine is unlike almost any other place you may have visited. Visiting feels like stepping back into a simpler time when you could concentrate on the ocean and the community around you. Saco and Biddeford Maine remain beloved tourist destinations after centuries. One visit will tell you why!