Boothbay Harbor is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the MidCoast Maine region. This natural beauty is on display at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. Since it opened in 2007, it has become the largest botanical gardens in Maine and even the United States. If you plan to be one of its hundreds of thousands of guests this year, here are things you’ll want to know to be prepared for your visit.
The Botanical Gardens’ History & Future
The concept of this “People’s Garden” started in 1991 when a few residents dreamed of turning 148 acres of rocky, forested coastline into a world-class garden. Their mission was and still is to inspire meaningful relationships between people and nature through education, horticulture, and research.
After planning for 16 years, they officially opened the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. Although they put the original plan into motion in 1998, it wasn’t finished until 2004. The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens opened three years later, and the first phase of the plan was completed in 2011. Now, it’s one of the most popular and distinguished destinations in the nation, hosting more than 200,000 visitors in 2018.
Because of the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens’ popularity, it has great plans to expand. As of 2018, it started construction on a restaurant pavilion. It plans to expand its education campus and its plant nursery and horticultural research center too.
Hours & Admission Information
Unfortunately, the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens aren’t open all year. The regular season begins in mid-April and continues through October. However, they host a special Gardens Aglow event during the Christmas holidays.
Regular admission is $9 for children ages 3 to 17, $16 for seniors, and $18 for adults.
If you live nearby and plan to visit multiple times throughout the season, you can become a member to get free regular admission. In addition, special rates are available for groups of 10 people or more.
Parking at the Boothbay Botanical Gardens
Since the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens became so popular, it has expanded its original parking lots to accommodate 340 vehicles. (Originally, the lots could only accommodate 125 cars.)
The expanded lots feature accessible parking spots, and parking for staff and volunteers is separate. Additionally, there’s a separate parking area for recreational vehicles and buses.
295 Acres of Gardens & Garden Tours
There are numerous gardens across the 295 acres of Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens’ land. Of these, 17 gardens feature plants that are native to Maine and northern coastal climate conditions.
For a guided tour of the gardens, there are two main tour packages: Highlights Tour and Botany of Butterflies Tour. During all of the tours, staff members provide information about the plants and wildlife in the gardens.
The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens offer accessible cart tours for disabled individuals.
Art Exhibits in the Garden
Throughout the gardens are a variety of art exhibits. Some of them are temporary art and sculpture displays. However, there are dozens of permanent sculptures throughout the acres of gardens. Most of the permanent works represent the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens’ mission and were generously donated by regional artists.
Children’s Garden & Caterpillar Lab
The Bibby and Harold Alfond Children’s Garden offers garden activities for youths. Daily events are written on a chalkboard easel that sits at the building’s entrance. The children get to explore winding stone paths, rows of garden vegetables and a pond filled with fish and frogs. On the weekends, the children’s garden hosts storytime, a puppet theater, and chicken feeding.
The Caterpillar Lab sets up in July and is more than just a caterpillar exhibit. It’s a functioning facility for caterpillar education, rearing, research, photography, and filming. Anyone can visit to see displays of live caterpillars and participate in related activities.
Garden Etiquette & Accessibility
As the largest botanical gardens, Maine visitors can experience, the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens aims to make sure that everyone is safe and enjoys their time there. For that reason, it has established guidelines for garden etiquette. It’s important to review these before you arrive.
As part of the effort to make everyone’s visit enjoyable and safe, the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens is accessible for individuals with disabilities. Electric scooter and wheelchair rentals are available at the Visitor Center. There are also benches for guests to rest throughout the grounds.
The Visitor Center & Discovery Bridge
The original Visitor Center couldn’t accommodate the expanding gardens and influx of visitors, so a new one was constructed and completed in 2018. The new building has three times as much room and is where guests purchase their admission upon arrival. Along with guest services, it features a membership area, information kiosk, and restrooms.
When visitors exit the building, they cross the 200-foot-long Discovery Bridge. It’s 12 feet wide and serves as a transitional point from the Visitor Center to the gardens.
Garden Boat Arrivals & Tours at The Landing
Arriving at the botanical gardens via automobile isn’t your only option. If you want a more adventurous journey, you can take a boat from Boothbay Harbor or Southport Island Bridge to The Landing at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. It has four small boat moorings and one large boat mooring.
In addition, The Landing offers peaceful boat tours and kayaking on Sheepscot River from its docks. One of them is a sea adventure, and the other is a tour of the gardens with a view of the sea. It’s recommended that you make reservations for boat tours.
Gardenshop Gift Shop, Cafe, & Market
As part of the Visitor Center, the Gardenshop offers a collection of locally crafted and sustainable items. You can find houseplants, hand-printed hoodies and shirts, candles and soaps, and other gifts inside.
In the old Visitor Center building, you’ll find the restaurant pavilion. The Kitchen Garden Cafe and The Market are inside. The Market sells grab-and-go lunches. The cafe makes dishes with locally grown produce and other ingredients.
Eventually, the cafe will be turned into a more intimate, table-service restaurant, and pub-style food will be served on a terrace structure.
Events at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay
The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens has events throughout the regular open season for its members.
During the summer, Fairy Friday takes place each Friday. This half-day celebration for children features fairy yoga, arts and crafts, and a bubble machine.
Throughout the month of October, the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens host Scarecrows at the Gardens. This monthlong exhibit puts handcrafted scarecrows on display in celebration of the fall season. Visitors get to vote for the best one.
Although the regular season ends with October, the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens open for Gardens Aglow in mid-November through the end of December. During this event, you can see more than 650,000 Christmas lights in the central garden.
Best & Closest Hotel Near the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay
If you’re from out of town and need a great place to stay during your visit, Flagship Inn is the best and closest hotel to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens.
If you’re traveling with a pet, we have pet-friendly accommodations as well.
photos of the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens are from their website gallery