This Small Maine Town Has Some of the Best Beaches in the State — Plus a Great Food Scene and New Boutique Hotel

Here's why Biddeford, Maine, will be your new favorite summer vacation destination.

When planning a trip to Maine, we all know the likely contenders: Kennebunkport, Ogunquit, and Acadia. But just 90 minutes north of Boston lies a lesser-known destination worth adding to your list: Biddeford.

Located roughly 20 minutes south of Portland, Biddeford was once a bustling mill town with a robust textile manufacturing industry. The brick structures of these factory buildings line the historic downtown area and are now home to breweries, bakeries, restaurants, and other food and beverage venues. Recently featured in the Netflix show Somebody Feed Phil and lauded as an up-and-coming culinary destination, the youngest city in Maine is drawing praise from local and national headlines. Here's how to plan the perfect escape to Biddeford, Maine.

Aerial view of a woman biking across a bridge over a river by the historic textile mill in Biddeford Maine
Visit Maine.

Best Things to Do in Biddeford, Maine

Just a 10-minute drive from the downtown area lies two miles of sandy beach. There are three public beaches along the ocean at Fortune’s Rocks Beach, Middle Beach, and the Biddeford Pool. Parking permits are required and can be purchased at kiosks in each of the beach parking lots for one, three, or seven days.

Don’t expect your standard busy beach town here, thanks to the zoning restrictions of the Marie Joseph Spiritual Center. Founded as the Ocean View Hotel in the late 1800s, the property now operates as a seaside convent offering private retreats. This means that beachgoers should be prepared with their own packed provisions or can stop by nearby Goldthwaite’s Pool Lobster for sandwiches and snacks. One unique advantage of the beaches in Biddeford is the ability to have a campfire along the water — with a valid fire permit, of course. 

Bridge over marsh, Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge

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At the other end of the two-mile stretch of coastline is Timber Point Trail, part of the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. Situated where the Little River meets the Atlantic Ocean, this 1.4-mile loop takes visitors through salt marshes, forest areas, and sandy shores. Be sure to visit at low tide for access to Timber Island. 

The Wood Island Lighthouse is the fifth-oldest lighthouse in the state. Visitors can book approximately two-hour guided tours to see the lighthouse via ferry, offered by Friends of Wood Island Lighthouse. During this seasonal tour, guests can explore the grounds and keeper's house, as well as climb the 60 stairs to the top of the lighthouse tower. 

In downtown Biddeford, don’t miss a trip to Rabelais, located in the Pepperell Mill. Currently only open on Fridays, Saturdays, and by appointment, the shop is home to one of the largest selections of rare cookbooks in the nation. Nearby Elements is a bookstore and cafe serving beer, wine, and its own roasted coffee. It also hosts occasional events like trivia, game nights, and live music. Pop into the Biddeford Vintage Market for a chance to score some classic L.L.Bean threads, perfect for chillier nights on the ocean. 

Best Places to Stay in Biddeford, Maine

Lushly decorated lobby of the Lincoln Hotel
Lincoln Hotel.

Located in one of the former mill buildings, the newly opened Lincoln Hotel is a 33-room boutique property. The lobby is dramatic and features bold colors, elegant furniture, and local art. Guest rooms feature exposed brick, tall ceilings, gas fireplaces, and peekaboo showers. The property also boasts amenities such as a rooftop pool and bar, an on-site gym, and dining options like Spinning Jenny’s Coffee Bar, which doles out local favorites, including Rover Bagel and Time & Tide Coffee, both made and roasted just blocks away in the Pepperell Mill. Guests can imbibe at the lobby cocktail bar, too, as well as a Biddeford outpost of Batson River Brewing & Distilling. Don’t miss out on the selection of craft beers brewed within the fleet of Batson locations, especially their Pilsners. 

A dessert and drinks from Batson River Right: Drinks from Banded Brewing
Visit Maine.

For those looking to spend more time in town or who are traveling in a larger group and want more space, consider renting a house through Maine Seaside Rentals. The company offers properties directly alongside the beach in a variety of sizes and price points. Try and book as early as possible, as these properties do fill up quickly during peak times. 

Best Places to Eat and Drink in Biddeford, Maine

A group of friends gathered on a back patio at a bar/restaurant
Visit Maine.

Over the last several years, the city has experienced lots of growth when it comes to its dining and drinking scene. Perhaps one of the most noteworthy destinations is Palace Diner, a dining car outfitted with just 15 counter stools and serving tasty buttermilk flapjacks. This establishment is often credited as putting Biddeford on the map as a dining destination, and just like the city, its popularity only grows each year. Late risers, take note: These perfect pancakes are typically available before noon, but rarely after as they do sell fast. The tuna salad with iceberg lettuce piled high, the fried chicken sandwich with tangy cabbage slaw, and the Palais Royale (a double cheeseburger) are all excellent options as well, though. Wait times tend to get long as the morning stretches, so keep in mind that takeout is always an option, too. 

Magnus on Water is an intimate neighborhood bar and restaurant featuring a stunning seasonal patio. The menu focuses on small plates made with local ingredients, like fried fingerling potatoes with mackerel mayo, though there are several entree options on offer as well. Magnus is also home to a stellar bar program, which includes cocktails crafted with sea salt extracted from the water at nearby beaches and other foraged ingredients.

Visitors wanting to experience fine dining while in town can plan ahead and book a table at Elda. The tasting menu features locally sourced and foraged ingredients. A meal here will set you back $160 to $175, in addition to a mandatory 22 percent service charge. It's worth noting that due to the size and scope of the restaurant, they are unable to offer vegan, vegetarian, or dairy-free menus.

Fish & Whistle, meanwhile, serves crispy yeast-battered fish, squid sandwiches, and a rotating soft-serve menu. Don’t expect to find haddock or cod here, though; the restaurant sources "lesser loved" fish from the Gulf of Maine for their sandwiches so they can support the local fishing industry. 

Located on the first floor of a residential building outside the downtown area, Coletti’s Pizza Factory is an unassuming spot that serves contemporary Neapolitan-style pizza. With simple ingredients, thin crusts, and fresh ingredients, the pizza here is perfect. While there are a couple of tables to dine in, takeout is the more popular choice. Be sure to call your order in early as they close by 7 or 8 p.m., depending on the day. 

Pair a pie with a bottle of wine from Lorne, which offers craft beer, natural wine, and cider. With stellar options from near and far, this neighborhood bottle shop and bar focuses on sustainable and minimal intervention wines. The shop also regularly hosts classes with area experts and pop-ups from local restaurants, so be sure to check their Instagram page before your visit. And don't miss out on Sunday night, when they pour whatever is open for $5 a glass. 

Biddeford is home to a handful of breweries and distilleries. Sacred Profane, the first tankpub in the country, brews Czech-style lagers in two styles: light and dark. In addition to the signature drafts, there's a food menu featuring classics like schnitzel, poutine, and beef tartare. Just down the road in the Pepperell Mill, you'll find Banded Brewing and Lucky Pigeon, Maine’s first dedicated gluten-free brewery. Round Turn Distilling is a small-batch distillery and cocktail bar serving drinks made with their award-winning gin, Bimini. In a nod to the roots of its mill building, the distillery utilizes a still powered by steam. And at the heart of the soon-to-be developed RiverWalk project is Blaze Brewing.

Part & Parcel is a neighborhood grocery where you can stock up on locally made drinks and snacks. The store also has a cafe serving breakfast and lunch sandwiches and salads.

Time & Tide Coffee, both a roastery and a cafe, offers pastries, toasts, and signature espresso drinks like the pistachio cream latte. Their coffee can be found on menus around town at The Hamburger Stand and Suger Bōle, as well as in cocktails in the area.

Note that many of Biddeford’s restaurants and and bars operate on a somewhat limited schedule, and some locations are closed Sunday to Wednesday.

How to Get to Biddeford, Maine

Biddeford is located less than two hours north of Boston and about 20 minutes south of Portland. There is an Amtrak station in neighboring Saco, just minutes away from downtown Biddeford. 

Best Time to Visit Biddeford, Maine

The best time to visit Biddeford is when you can enjoy the outdoors and explore the local coastline. If you like to swim, June to early September is best for tolerable ocean temperatures. If cool weather isn’t a deal breaker, the foliage come fall is the perfect backdrop for a weekend trip. 

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