10+ Spectacular Things To Do In Bethel Maine Beyond Ski Season

Situated among the stunning Mahoosuc Mountain Range and alongside the winding Androscoggin River, Bethel, Maine is a mecca for nature enthusiasts and those looking for a taste of New England charm. From its world-class ski resorts to its vibrant local culture, Bethel offers a plethora of experiences year-round. Here’s your ultimate guide to the best things to do in Bethel, Maine.

Most people find their way to Bethel ME, just 12 miles from the New Hampshire border, via the boarding school, Gould Academy, or for outdoor recreation at Sunday River Ski Resort. But even when school is out, and the snow melts, this small artsy town is a classic outdoor adventure getaway.

In the early 1900’s three stately hotels swarmed with summer visitors. Now, only one – the 1913 Bethel Inn – remains, but there are other more intimate inns here as well, and of course we’ll let you in on the best.

covered bridge bethel me

Bethel, too, is known for some very quirky reasons. For example, it’s where the World’s Biggest Snowman (113’ 7”, 1999) and Biggest Snowwoman (122’ 1” 2008) were built.

Come for the scenery, to hike, play golf or just take a casual walking tour through a classic New England town, then cap it off with a specialty martini. We tell you how here:

Where Is Bethel Maine?

Bethel is located in Oxford County, in the western part of Maine, approximately 70 miles northwest of Portland ME and around 40 miles from the New Hampshire border. Situated near the Androscoggin River and surrounded by the Mahoosuc Mountain Range, Bethel serves as a popular destination for outdoor activities such as hiking, skiing, and river sports.

The town is particularly well-known for being near Sunday River, one of New England’s most popular ski resorts. Bethel offers a mix of natural beauty and small-town charm, with a range of amenities including shops, restaurants, and cultural attractions that make it a vibrant year-round destination.

Things to Do In Bethel Maine

coos canyon rest area Route 17 maine

DRIVE: Route 17 To or From Oquossoc

If you’ve timed your visit to coincide with Fall Foliage, this has got to be one of the most astounding drives in New England. I say that as a New Englander who loves her fall foliage outings. From Bethel, begin by heading west on Rt. 2, and then, in the industrial town of Rumford, hook onto 17N and stay on it for about 30 miles.

Rangeley Lake Region in Fall, Maine

You’ll meander along a stony river on a road canopied by multi-colored trees. Stop at Coos Canyon Rest Area for a waterfall scene witnessed mostly in magazines.

But the kicker vista is a couple of dozen miles further – at Height of the Land Overlook. Majestic at any time of year, this panorama encompassing the Rangeley Lakes and mountains beyond is particularly glorious. Step outside your car, put your camera/phone down for a minute, and drink in the view.

Bethel Historical Society, Bethel ME

TOUR: Bethel Historical Society

Made up of two homes – the 1821 Federal Robinson House (with 1881 Italianate expansion) and the 1813 Dr. Moses Mason House, the Bethel Historical Society is a perfect way to dive deep into the history of the town.

I love history focusing on real people, like doctors. In particular, docs who double as postmasters and cabinetmakers. Or who, over 100 years ago, attributed psychological ailments to Nature Deficit Disorder, enticing those in psychic pain to come up to the mountains.

At the tail end of the 1800’s Dr. John Gehring opened the Gehring Clinic for Nervous Disorders in Bethel, believing that city living caused all kinds of psychological problems.

One of his patients was William Bingham, who arrived here in 1911 and fell in love with the area’s natural beauty and tranquility. At his death, Bingham endowed Gould Academy, then a small residential school, with enough money to grow and prosper.

The Robinson and Moses Mason Houses

Post Office, Bethel Historical Society

The Robinson Home, in private hands until 1923, is now used to house temporary exhibits about this area on the Eastern Slope of the White Mountains (which extends into New Hampshire).

Of the two homes, the restored Moses Mason House best showcases an important figure in Bethel history. In the early 1880’s, Dr. Moses Mason served as both doctor and Postmaster of Bethel. The post office in the back of the house remains one of the most popular parts of the tour.

Like the iconic Winterthur in Wilmington Delaware, you’ll wander through a series of recreated period rooms. Woodwork throughout the house was elaborate for the day, as was the two-story mural, hand painted by famous muralist Jonathan Poore, preserved, quite astoundingly intact, for visitors to ogle. If you only have a short time, be sure to stop in just to see these works of art on the walls.

Maine Mineral and Gem Museum

VISIT: Maine Mineral And Gem Museum 

Are you into awesome rocks, gems and meteorites? Would you like to see the “largest piece of Mars on Earth?’ You’ll love this relatively new multi-media museum on Main Street in Bethel. Galleries and the Rock Garden outside tell the geologic history of Maine from around the state.

Slice of iron Imilac Meteorite, Maine Mineral and Gem Museum, Bethel ME

The Maine Mineral and Gem Museum showcases slices of iron meteorites – like the stony iron Imilac Meteorite, discovered in 1822 in Chile, and a smashing collection of Maine’s most celebrated gemstone, Tourmaline.

Discovery of the green-rimmed red stone, known as Watermelon Tourmaline put Maine on the rock-hound map.  

Grafton Notch SP, Maine

HIKE: Grafton Notch State Park.

Route 26N runs through an area more reminiscent of New Hampshire’s White Mountains than any part of Maine. Turn off of 2 onto 26N, go about 10 miles to the State Park entrance.

Be sure to stop at several trail heads where you can see waterfalls, gorges, or just take a nice nature hike. Grafton Notch includes 12 of the most challenging miles of the Appalachian Trail, with stunning views from the summit.

Screw AugurFalls Grafton Notch SP

Most visitors will want to stop at Screw Auger Falls – a short walking path to a 23 ft. waterfall, Mother Walker Falls – which is more like a gorge than falls, and Moose Cave – a quarter mile hike to a 45 ft. deep canyon where water disappears into a cave beneath a granite slab.

Sunday River Resort in Fall, Maine


Not only is Sunday River New England’s second largest ski resort (largest is Killington in Vermont) with 131 trails, it’s got a brewery – Sunday River Brewery – nearby, and two hotels right on the slopes – Grand Summit and Grand Jordan.

Though most well known for winter sports, there’s something going on here in every season. Scenic lift rides, zipline tours, bungee trampoline, disc golf – even a mountain bike school in warmer months.

Bethel ME Swimming Holes

SWIM: Frenchman’s Hole and other Hidden Swimming Holes

The Sunday River Valley, along the Androscoggin River and Sunday River, is known for its swimming spots. Most are on meandering dirt roads with no signage. So, you’ll have to stop in to the Bethel Chamber of Commerce where in-the-know docents guide you to their favorite parts of the river.

PADDLE: The Androscoggin River

Whether you’re into kayaking, canoeing, or stand-up paddleboarding, the Androscoggin River provides a peaceful setting for a day on the water. Local outfitters such as Bethel Outdoor Adventures offer guided trips that can help you make the most out of your aquatic adventure.

SEE: Covered Bridges

The Bethel area is home to a number of picturesque covered bridges that add a touch of historical charm to the already scenic landscape. These wooden structures, often painted in traditional barn red or left in natural wood tones, serve as functional crossings over rivers and streams while also acting as nostalgic reminders of a bygone era.

One of the most notable is the Artist’s Covered Bridge, also known as the Sunday River Bridge, which was built in the 19th century and is one of the few remaining examples of the Paddleford truss design. These covered bridges not only provide a glimpse into the region’s architectural past but also offer excellent opportunities for photography, picnics, and even plein air painting, making them a worthwhile stop for anyone exploring the surrounding area.

Downtown Bethel ME

SHOP: Bethel Village

Do make time to explore the beautiful mountain village of Bethel. You’ll find mix of historic buildings and quaint shops typical of New England towns. Look for the secondhand clothing and first-hand artwork at Phillbrook Place – a “mall” consisting of five shops. My favorite shop by far, though, was Nabos – a colorful emporium of fun and funky gifts and clothing where irreverence reins.

Bethel Maine Restaurants

EAT: Sunday River Brewing Company

This brewery and restaurant has become a go-to spot for both locals and tourists seeking a blend of hearty food and craft beers. With a menu featuring a wide range of pub favorites, from burgers to wood-fired pizzas, and an extensive selection of house-brewed beers, it offers the perfect setting to unwind after a day of outdoor adventures. The relaxed, rustic atmosphere, complete with a large outdoor deck and mountain views, only adds to the overall experience.

GRAB & GO: The Good Food Store

The Good Food Store in Bethel, Maine, is a local grocery store with a focus on providing organic, locally-sourced, and high-quality products. Situated conveniently along Route 2, this store has garnered a reputation for its selection of fresh produce, artisanal cheeses, and specialty foods that cater to a variety of dietary needs, including gluten-free and vegan options.

In addition to groceries, the Good Food Store also features a deli and café area where customers can enjoy freshly made sandwiches, soups, and baked goods. Its commitment to sustainability and community involvement make it more than just a grocery store; it’s a staple in the Bethel community for those seeking wholesome, good food. And it’s the home of the Smokin’ Good BBQ for “pit-style” ribs, brisket and pork.

EAT: Sud’s Pub

Sud’s Pub, located in the heart of Bethel, Maine, is a lively bar and eatery known for its casual atmosphere and extensive beer selection. Featuring live music, pool tables, and sports on big-screen TVs, this pub serves as a social hub for both locals and visitors alike. With a menu that includes classic pub fare like burgers, wings, and nachos, Sud’s Pub offers a quintessential New England pub experience, making it a popular choice for those looking to unwind and enjoy some local flavor.

Bethel Maine Hotels

Holidae House Bethel ME

STAY: Holidae House

Owners, John and Jeanette Poole oversee this cozy bed and breakfast right on Main Street, steps from shops and  restaurants. Thanks to Jeannette’s masterly baking skills, afternoon treats are to die for.

holidea house guest room bethel me

Rooms exude Victorian charm. Mine, on the main floor, featured navy blue walls, a four-poster bed with quarter canopy, and a cool wainscoted bathroom suffused with light from two stained glass windows.

Common areas invite conversation. Holidea House is the kind of place where well-traveled folks from around the world are primed for interaction.

Complementary cordials set out for guests are another wonderful perk.

As you might expect from Jeannette’s baking props, the morning’s gourmet breakfast is exceptional – one of the best B&B breakfasts I enjoyed in nearly two weeks on the road in Maine. She and John will accommodate guests with dietary needs as well; just let them know ahead of time.

STAY: Bethel Inn Resort & Suites

The Bethel Inn Resort is a historic property offering a blend of traditional New England charm and modern amenities. Established in 1913, the resort spans over 200 acres and features a range of accommodations, from traditional inn rooms to spacious suites and private townhomes, making it ideal for both romantic getaways and family vacations. The resort is just minutes away from the renowned Sunday River Ski Resort, making it a popular choice for winter sports enthusiasts, but its appeal extends far beyond the snowy season.

Beyond its proximity to skiing and cross country ski trails, Bethel Inn Resort offers an array of on-site activities and amenities. Among them are a championship 18-hole golf course, a heated outdoor pool, and a comprehensive wellness center that includes a spa, saunas, and fitness facilities.

For dining, guests can choose between a formal dining room that serves classic New England fare and a more casual tavern for lighter meals and drinks. With its diverse range of amenities and its beautiful setting amid the Maine mountains, the Bethel Inn Resort serves as a year-round destination for relaxation, recreation, and a taste of New England hospitality.

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  • Malerie Yolen-Cohen

    Malerie Yolen-Cohen is the Author of the cross-country travel guide, Stay On Route 6; Your Guide to All 3562 Miles of Transcontinental Route 6. She contributes frequently to Newsday, with credits in National Geographic Traveler, Ladies Home Journal, Yankee Magazine, Shape.com, Sierra Magazine, Porthole, Paddler, New England Boating, Huffington Post, and dozens of other publications. Malerie’s focus and specialty is Northeastern US, and she is constantly amazed by the caliber of restaurants and lodging in the unlikeliest places.