If it weren’t for the Main Street bridge over the Damariscotta River you’d be hard pressed to know whether you were visiting the town of Damariscotta or Newcastle. Known as the “Twin Villages” both towns will entice you with their rich history, exquisite examples of Federal, Greek Revival and Italiante architecture and natural beauty.
You’ll find them at the top of the Pemaquid Peninsula, a name derived from the Abenaki Indians which translates as “long finger.” Damariscotta is an Indian name that means “place of an abundance of alewives,” the small, salty fish which spawn in Damariscotta Lake.
The area was first settled in the 1600s. Struggles with Native Indians prevented permanent communities until 1730 when lumbering, shipbuilding and fishing brought prosperity to the area. Included in the ships built here in 1849 was the Excelsior, the first three-deck vessel constructed in Maine.
Another major industry was brickmaking. Many of the neighborhoods in Boston’s Back Bay were constructed with bricks from the area. You can see examples of this important contribution to the economy in the numerous brick buildings that line the streets of Damariscotta and Newcastle.
To get a sense of the long history of these town visit the Chapman Hall House, Walpole Meeting House, Colonial Pemaquid Restoration and Fort William Henry. Include the Pemaquid Lighthouse and Fisherman’s Museum as part of your tour for some fascinating information about the fishing heritage in the region.
Archeologists uncovered a massive deposit of oyster shells on the banks of the Damariscatta that date back 2,500 years. The amazing discovery on this site provides evidence of thriving communities of Native Americans in coastal Maine. Visit the Whaleback Shell Midden to learn more about the Indian rituals and feasts of that time.
Driving down the peninsula you’ll arrive at the communities of Bristol, Pemaquid, New Harbor and Round Pond among others. Legends persist that Captain Kidd and other unsavory brigands may have buried treasures in the sandy beaches or protected harbors.
Christmas Cove at the tip of the peninsula on Rutheford Island got its name from Captain John Smith when he landed there on Christmas Day in 1614.
Take time to enjoy the glacial lakes, shady woodlands and tidal rivers along the way. They’re great places for swimming, hiking, golfing tennis, riding and camping during the summer season. The 506-acre Dodge Point Preserve has miles of hiking and cross country trails. With so much water around you can go fresh and salt water sailing, boating and canoeing or deep sea fishing and on scenic cruises. In the fall you won’t find more colorful foliage anywhere. Bundle up and enjoy the cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and ice fishing in winter.
The kids will appreciate the Lonna Bunting Children’s Playground and the Central Lincoln County Family Recreational Center. Join them in the fun.
For a refreshing experience in the arts visit the Watershed Center for Ceramic Arts where artists first used clay taken from the banks of the river to produce their ceramic creations. The Round Top Center for the Arts showcases the works of talented artists in a renovated dairy barn.
In Newcastle you can take time for reflection at historic St. Patrick’s, the Oldest Catholic Church north of Boston built in 1803 and St. Andrews Episcopal Church built in 1833.