Neither Bowdoin nor Bates award much if any merit aid. This is generally true of the selective LACs in New England and the Mid-Atlantic, with the exception of women's colleges or military academies.
Check out the Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM ? Associated Colleges of the Midwest — Home
). Most of these schools (other than Carleton, the most selective one) do offer merit aid, as well as a college experience similar to what you'd find at Bowdoin or Bates.
You also might want to check out 2 public LACs, SUNY Geneseo and St. Mary's College of Maryland. SMCM is about $10-$15K cheaper for OOS students than a school like Bowdoin, has a beautiful campus and good academics, and would be a good choice for someone who wants the more laid-back atmosphere you describe.