Anchored by the historic shipbuilding communities of Bath to the west and Waldoboro to the east, the counties of the southern midcoast - Sagadahoc and Lincoln - form one of the state's tiniest, yet most picturesque, regions. All of the midcoast's population centers are located on or very near Route 1, which runs roughly parallel to the coast and provides the region's economic and cultural backbone.
Formerly a mill town and bedroom community to Brunswick, Topsham sits just off Route 1 along the Androscoggin River at the point where it converges with Merrymeeting Bay, one of the largest confluences of rivers in the East and a body of water rife with birds. Topsham still has quiet neighborhoods of fine old homes, but increasingly it is becoming a retail center to rival Brunswick. The rural communities of Bowdoin and Bowdoinham, with few stores and much open space, lie just north of Topsham.
Not far to the east is Bath, home of Bath Iron Works, a century-old shipbuilding yard dependent on defense contracts and one of the state's largest private employers. Perched on the bank of the Kennebec, Bath's well-preserved downtown provides services to the residents of the peninsula and island hamlets of Arrowsic, Robinhood, Georgetown, and Popham. Some of the finest Federal architecture in Maine can be found by driving Bath's neighborhood streets, once the home of wealthy ship captains and shipping magnates. The city celebrates its long and proud tradition of boatbuilding at the highly regarded Maine Maritime Museum.
Wiscasset and Damariscotta, a bit farther along Route 1 to the northeast, are the economic and social centers of Lincoln County, hubs for the many small towns along the harbors, inlets, and islands that reach out to sea from Route 1.
Once an important shipbuilding center, Wiscasset now bills itself as "the prettiest village in Maine," and can make an argument for its claim with block after block of beautiful old sea captains' homes overlooking the tidal Sheepscot River. Today it's known for its fun downtown, a tidy mix of antique shops and restaurants, and for the defunct Maine Yankee power plant, the state's sole nuclear facility. The towns immediately inland - Alna, Dresden, and Whitefield are rural, riverside communities of gently rolling countryside.
Damariscottaa, like Wiscasset, is also defined by a river. It even takes its name from the sleepy waterway that loops south from Damariscotta Lake through the Great Salt Bay and out to sea. The community has many handsome old homes and a postcard-pretty downtown, lined with red-brick shops overlooking the town landing. Damariscotta and the coastal villages of Pemaquid, Christmas Cove, New Harbor, and Round Pond to its south, have increasingly become a haven for retirees, as well as longtime summercaters.
One of Maine's most famous summer playgrounds, Boothbay Harbor, is located on a peninsula between the Sheepscot and Damariscotta rivers. Tourism is Boothbay Harbor's bread-and-butter industry, but lobstering and deep-sea fishing play important roles as well. Among the earliest settled places in Maine, Boothbay is now home to many excursion vessels, restaurants, boutiques, and inns.