Like forts? If so, when you visit Maine you’ll want to tour some of the dozens of historic edifices built and utilized from Colonial times to World War I and World War II. Many of these sentinels, built by our ancestors to protect the state’s more than 5,000 miles of coastal waters and connecting river inlets, have been lovingly preserved or restored.
Some of Maine’s battlements saw action during fights with the French, the English, and tribes of Native Americans, even British Canadians in a dispute over timberlands. Some were built during the Civil War, while others were constructed in later years to defend the state’s shipping trade.
There are forts in Maine—not just along the waters but some along the 611-mile border with Canada—where you can take the family and have a picnic. There are forts where you can crawl through catacombs and peer through embrasures cut through thick granite walls. There are forts where you can climb up several stories for a bird’s eye view of possible enemy attackers.
Which forts to visit depends on what you like to see and whom you ask for a recommendation. The Maine Office of Tourism suggests Forts Popham and Baldwin (both near Bath); Fort William Henry (New Harbor); Fort Knox (Bucksport); Old Fort Western (Augusta); Fort Halifax (Winslow); Fort McClary (Kittery); Fort Edgecomb (Wiscasset); and Fort O’Brien (Machiasport).
Other fort aficionados, including author Harry Gratwick (The Forts of Maine: Silent Sentinels of the Pine Tree State), recommend these sites (from south to north):
- Fort Foster, Kittery
- Fort Williams, Cape Elizabeth
- Forts Allen, Gorges, Lyon and McKinley, Portland
- Forts Baldwin and St. Georges, Phippsburg
- Fort William Henry, Bristol
- Fort Pownal, Stockton Springs
- Fort George, Castine
- Fort Sullivan, Eastport
- Fort Kent, Fort Kent
Each of these forts has a fascinating story of adventure and bravery to tell. As Gratwick writes in his guide, they “sheltered Maine’s towns and people” from invaders during several wars and, lucky for us, “Maine’s preservationists have protected many of these citadels.”