(Brunswick Downtown Association)

Brunswick is a great choice for those out and about with their dog, with plenty of the breathtaking natural beauty and relaxed vibes that make Maine so dog-friendly for visitors and locals alike. Come summer, sidewalk cafes pop up downtown. The parkland mall (not “town green”) and Bowdoin College’s quad offer shade and open space in the heart of town. Just a half hour from Portland, Brunswick is loaded with parks and trails, and more await next door in coastal Harpswell and inland Topsham. State parks and historic sites further afield make nice daytrips, as do neighboring Freeport and Bath.

Our guide for getting out and about in the Brunswick area with your dog—or dogs—includes suggestions, tips and, oh woof, some rules. Please note: “Off-leash” (and on-leash!) references presume voice control of your dog, in keeping with local laws.

DOG PARK Many good-sized Maine towns lack a dog park, but not Brunswick:

Merrymeeting Dog Park: Water St. (brunswickme.org/departments/parks-recreation/parks-facilities/merrymeeting-dog-park) Nearly two acres, this off-leash zone along Androscoggin River Bicycle and Pedestrian Path has water views.

BRUNSWICK PARKS AND TRAILS The town of Brunswick has descriptions and photos of its 20-some diverse parks and outdoor recreation spots at its website (brunswickme.org/departments/parks-recreation/parks-facilities/parks-natural-areas). There’s a link atop the page to a guide with more information. Some picks of this great litter:

Town Commons and Greater Commons: Harpswell Road Celebrating its 300th anniversary, Town Commons is now a 71-acre wooded park with picnic areas and trails—on one you’ll see a rare pitch pine heath barren. Trails connect “seamlessly” with those in adjoining 112-acre Greater Commons, where trails link with neighborhoods. From the north side, pick up a trail that continues to the town’s Coffin’s Ice Pond (off Harpswell Road) and on to Bowdoin College.


Androscoggin River Bicycle and Pedestrian Path: north of Route 1 The 2.6-mile paved riverside path links in-town Brunswick with Cooks Corner.

Cox Pinnacle: Hacker Road Hike to the town’s highest point at this 103-acre park in West Brunswick.

250th Anniversary Park, Maine Street: On the Androscoggin River below a hydroelectric dam, the park has outstanding river views, a put-in for canoers and kayakers, and a fishing area on the river bank.

Swinging Bridge Park, Route 1: Not far from downtown, the tiny park is the gateway to the historic pedestrian bridge crossing the Androscoggin River to Topsham, where a river path awaits.

TOPSHAM PARKS AND TRAILS At Topsham’s Head of Tide Park, the trail system follows the Cathance River, but DON’T cross the aluminum bridge to Cathance River Nature Preserve—dogs aren’t allowed at the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust (btlt.org) preserve, though leashed dogs are welcome at many of its other trail systems. The town of Topsham website lists area parks, preserves and trails (topshammaine.com/?SEC=110F5165-62BE-4EA4-BA45-2FD9CDBB42D2); none have off-leash dog areas. HARPSWELL HERITAGE LAND TRUST (hhltmaine.org/get-outdoors) Below Brunswick, long narrow bays and jagged fingers of land juxtapose in Harpswell, a haven for summer folk. The land trust’s website lists 20 preserves, trails and recreation spots that allow dogs on-leash. Information on outdoor recreation is also at the peninsular town’s website (harpswell.maine.gov).

STATE PARKS (maine.gov/dacf/parks) Dogs must be on-leash in state parks and historic sites and aren’t allowed on park beaches (lake or seaside) April–Sept. So skip Popham Beach below Bath and daytrip to:


Bradbury Mountain State Park: 528 Hallowell Road Pownal ($4 adults, $6 nonresidents) This 800-acre park near Freeport offers hiking, wonderful summit views, shaded picnic sites and a campground.

Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park: 426 Wolfe’s Neck Road Freeport ($4 adults, $6 nonresidents) A respite five minutes from Freeport’s outlets, the park has shoreline on Casco Bay and the Harraseeket River.

Reid State Park: 375 Seguinland Road Georgetown ($6 adults, $8 nonresidents) Swimming is the big draw at this park below Wiscasset, but you can soak up sea views from a headland, and trails traverse woods, follow a river, and pass a pond and bog.

Historic fort sites: Fort Baldwin and Fort Popham, below Bath in Phippsburg; Fort Baldwin is off Route 209, Fort Popham at its end (both free). Fort Edgecomb, near Wiscasset, 66 Fort Road Edgecomb ($3 adults, $4 nonresidents) Great spots for the family, dog included, to shake off energy, amble about, and enjoy some scenery (humans learn some local history, too!)

BOWWOW! Save a Stray 5K & Festival: L.L. Bean Discovery Park, Freeport, Sat. Aug. 24. (saveastray.midcoasthumane.org/festival) Benefits Midcoast Humane; includes canine contests and Dock Dogs performances.

DOGGIE DIGS Campgrounds usually welcome dogs, but so do many other lodgings. When making reservations, ask about dog weight limits and fees (sometimes per reservation, not nightly). Two dogs may be allowed. Some pet-friendly lodgings in and near Brunswick:


Brunswick Hotel & Tavern: 4 Noble St. Brunswick (thebrunswickhotelandtavern.com) No digging for dog accommodation information: “Pet-Friendly Rooms” is right under “Accommodations” on the website homepage for this well-appointed in-town hotel. Doggies get “VIP treatment” and are greeted with a “swag bag” of biscuits.

Best Western PLUS: 71 Gurnet Road Brunswick (bestwestern.com) Like many of the chain’s hotels, the one in Cooks Corner is dog-friendly, as is Freeport’s Best Western (31 U.S. Route 1). Ditto for the one (yes, another one) opening there Memorial Day weekend.

Harraseeket Inn: 162 Main St. Freeport (harraseeketinn.com) The large downtown inn has pet-friendly rooms and townhouses (“Pet Friendly Service” is under “Rates/Accommodations” on the website’s homepage). Roger Dodger, “official spokesdog,” notes that the lawns are herbicide-free!

DINING AND DRINKING OUT WITH DOGGIE Many restaurants set up al fresco dining on downtown Brunswick’s wide sidewalks in-season, and diners with dogs are often welcome at these outdoor spots (state law only allows service animals inside restaurants). A sampling, plus a Freeport bite:

Joshua’s Restaurant & Tavern: 123 Maine St. Brunswick (joshuastavern.com) Paying tribute since 1990 to Joshua L. Chamberlain—the Civil War general who became Bowdoin College president—the restaurant allows diners with dogs at its good-size sidewalk cafe. Big E’s: 111 Maine St. Brunswick (bigesmaine.com) Serving burritos (gluten-free options) and salads, the eatery puts out a handful of tables and a water bowl for dogs.

Wild Oats Bakery & Cafe: 149 Maine St. (part of Tontine Mall) Brunswick (wildoatsbakery.com) Serving quiche, soups and lunch items plus baked goods, diners with dogs sit at patio and deck tables.


Maine Kitchen & Topside Tavern: 88 Main St. Freeport (lindabeansperfectmaine.com) Waitstaff have gratis dog biscuits on hand and sidewalk tables are out year-round (“fire” tables in winter) at the large downtown restaurant across from L.L. Bean’s flagship store. Linda Bean, granddaughter of Bean’s founder, operates the restaurant (and many other Maine hospitality businesses).

FARMERS MARKETS: Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust’s (btlt.org) farmers market at Crystal Spring Farm on Pleasant Hill Road doesn’t allow dogs (leashed ones are welcome on trails here), but it’s bring on the dogs at Brunswick Farmers Market on downtown’s Lower Mall (8 a.m.–2 p.m. Tuesday and Friday, May–November).

TOURISM PROMOTION RESOURCES Chamber of commerce and tourism promotion agency websites and visitor guides often have information for folks recreating and traveling with their dogs. At trade organization Hospitality Maine’s website (hospitalitymaine.com), search for pet-friendly hotels, inns, cottages, etc. (follow links from “Visiting Maine”).

Mary Ruoff is a freelance writer in Belfast.

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