With the completed rehabilitation of 30 miles of Pan Am Railway this past fall, Amtrak’s Downeaster line extended its route along the New England shoreline between Boston and Portland to include the towns of Freeport and Brunswick.
“Enhancing our infrastructure has never been more important,” said Maine Governor John Baldacci about The Downeaster Expansion Project. “Expanded service…gets more cars and trucks off our roads, reducing congestion and keeping the environment in this beautiful area clean.”
While many first-timers to the “Vacationland” state go to Portland or Acadia National Park, Brunswick makes a strong case for a little detour to the north.
At the corner of Maine and Noble, opposite the new Amtrak stop and adjacent Bowdoin College, the recently opened Inn at Brunswick Station (4 Noble St.; 207.837.6565; innatbrunswickstation.com) is an ideal base for exploring the town where Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin in the early 1850s.
The Inn’s “Train to Maine” package offers guests an overnight stay plus two round-trip Amtrak tickets from Boston (valued at about $106) for $139 per night Monday through Thursday and $169 over the weekend.
Brunswick can be done on a dime in a day if time and budget are limited. After a cup of free fresh brewed coffee at the hotel, grab breakfast at Wild Oats Bakery (149 Maine St.; 207.725.6287; wildoatsbakery.com) then stroll up the road to the Federal Street and Lincoln Street Historical Districts. Take a self-guided tour of the stately mansions of shipbuilders and sea captains (and Harriet Beecher Stowe), built in the style of Greek Revival, Late Victorian and Federal, that are now on the National Register of Historic Places.
Get inspired to roam the rockbound coast at the Bayview Gallery (58 Maine St.; 207.729.5500; bayviewgallery.com), showcasing American impressionist and realist paintings by prominent New England artists. Tour the beautiful Bowdoin campus, made up of historical landmarks, modern buildings and at least one Romanesque church of undressed granite. Bowdoin College Museum of the Arts (5600 College St; 207-725-3433; bowdoin.edu) offers donate-as-you-wish admission, and rotating collections might range from Rembrandt and 19th century Japanese prints to post-impressionist paintings by Maurice Prendergast.
Stop by the perennially free Pejepscot Historical Society’s Museum (159 Park Row; 207.729.6606; pejepscothistorical.org) to learn about the fascinating history of Brunswick, founded in 1628, and delight in exhibits like “Vote, Pejepscot!” featuring election paraphernalia from the early 19th century and “Home Decoration” about the local Martha Stewarts of the 1800s.
Bike or walk the scenic 2.63-mile Androscoggin River pathway, which runs from downtown Brunswick to Cook’s Corner. Follow the path over the truss bridge to the Sea Dog Brewing Company (1 Main St., Topsham; 207.725.0162; seadogbrewing.com) for a Maine-brewed Bluepaw Blueberry wheat ale ($4) and clam chowder ($5.99). Or just have a schluck of beer and save room for homemade pork chorizo and sweet potato ($11.50) or Achiote chicken braised in banana leaves ($11.50) at the locavore’s lair El Camino (15 Cushing St.; 207.725.8228; elcaminomaine.com). Head back up to the Inn for a cozy night by the fire, feeling pleased with your decision to squeeze in an extra New England adventure before returning home.
How to get there: Visit Amtrak.com for tickets to Boston, and call the Inn at Brunswick Station to make your room reservation, Boston to Brunswick fare included.
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Photos: cmh2315fl, Inn at Brunswick Station, Pejepscot Historical Society