Saco, original territory of the Abenaki Indian tribe, was first visited by a company of Europeans in 1617, led by Richard Vines. Permanent settlers arrived in Saco in 1631, attracted by the abundance of natural resources in the region, including hunting and fishing. For the next century, the area was sparsely settled due to frequent wars with the Natives and the French. It lay in contested territory between New England and New France, which recruited the Indians as allies. The French were defeated in 1745 at the Battle of Louisburg, and hostilities ended at that time. The town was first named Pepperrellborough, after Sir William Pepperrell, the hero of that Battle. However, the inhabitants, finding that name quite cumbersome, renamed it Saco. Saco became a center for lumbering, producing millions of feet of lumber, some used for shipbuilding.
By 1842, Saco developed into a major manufacturing center, boasting of dozens of industries, to become a leader in the industrial age. Extensive brick mills dominated the waterfront. Saco was incorporated as a city in 1867, and enjoyed prosperity for the next one-hundred years. This era ended as industry faded. However, much fine architecture, left behind, has much to tell about Sacos development, dating back to the eighteenth century.
Tourists are attracted to the variety of beautiful buildings of Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival, and Victorian styles, some listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Many families come to play at Funtown Splashtown USA, located in Saco. The park features Maines only wooden roller coaster, named Excalibur, and a 220-foot-tall Drop Tower called Dragons Descent, as well as many other family and kiddy rides. The Splashtown segment features Pirates Paradise, a large interactive waterpark playground which dumps hundreds of gallons of water onto its guests every few minutes. Two new thrill slides have recently been added, Tornado and Mammoth.
Saco is also home to Ferry Beach State Park, and is in close proximity to Old Orchard Beach.