Augusta is the capital city of Maine and the nation’s third-smallest capital, with a population of 18,500. Located on both sides of the Kennebec River, Augusta is the center of commerce and employment for Central Maine, serving a larger metropolitan area of about 70,000 people and attracting many to its retail shopping. For Augusta visitors, however, much of the city’s appeal lies in the natural beauty of its lakes and streams, rolling hills, statuesque forests, and the majestic Kennebec River. Maine's capital city also offers rare insights into its past with numerous landmarks from a rich and distinguished history.
A must-see for Augusta visitors is Old Fort Western, the oldest surviving wooden fort in New England and a National Historic Landmark. Built in 1754, the fort’s original purpose was to encourage colonial settlement and expand the British influence along the Kennebec River, in lands granted to the Pilgrims more than 100 years before. No one ever attacked the fort directly, however. It served primarily as a fortified storehouse until 1775, when Benedict Arnold used it as a base from which to launch his assault on Quebec during the American Revolution.
One of Augusta’s main attractions is the Blaine House, the official residence of Maine’s governor and his family. Declared a National Historic Landmark in 1964, the Blaine House is open to the public year-round, and the home’s New England Garden is open for self-guided tours by appointment from May through September. Built by a retired ship’s captain in 1833, the house was bought by Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, James Blaine. His youngest daughter later presented it to the state. Across the street is another of Augusta’s most popular attractions, the Maine State House, by which the state’s capitol building is known. The State House features historical collections including four wildlife dioramas, the State House portrait collection and Maine’s historic flag collection.
Adjacent to the State House is the Maine State Museum. Visitors can study Maine’s history from its prehistoric past and European settlements through the Revolutionary War and the late 1800s. The Cabinet of Curiosities presents natural science specimens that were on display when the museum opened in Augusta in the 1830s. Other highlights are an authentic 1846 steam locomotive and a working three-story, water-powered woodworking mill.
Continue browsing at the Viles Arboretum, a 224-acre park with more than 200 species of trees, shrubs and plants set against a breathtaking view of the Kennebec Valley. Wander the grounds and identify different flora species, all of which are labeled, and discover several grown from seeds that journeyed on the Space Shuttle.
For active outdoor recreation, the Kennebec River Rail Trail stretches more than six miles between Augusta and neighboring towns Hallowell, Farmingdale and Gardiner, with spectacular river views for bikers, walkers and runners. The Greenway in Augusta provides a shorter river walk, while the University of Maine at Augusta invites the public to its forested hiking and running trails of all levels.