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Welcome to Wells & Sanford

Head east off I-95 at Exit 19, and you’ll come to Wells, a beautiful coastal community with seven miles of sandy beaches, as well as protected estuaries, antique and rare book stores, and upscale and casual dining options. In Sanford, Springvale and Alfred, west of I-95, you can walk a history trail, pick apples or learn about the Maine’s Shakers.

 

1. Wells Beach

Wells Beach

The jewel of this exit is, of course, Wells Beach, a white sandy beach nearly three miles long. The village of Wells Beach, at roughly the midpoint of the beach’s length, has everything you need for a day at the beach: a few shops and snack bars, an arcade and restrooms. Parking is available here or at either end of the beach for a fee. Most of the rest of the beach is lined with cottages.

2. Wells Family Jamboree

Fall farm and fair fun—at the sea! The annual Family Jamboree features games, crafts, food and shopping at Wells Harbor Park (331 Harbor Road, Wells) Sept. 14, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. No charge for parking or admission. Dogs on leashes are welcome. (wellschamber.org)

3. Trail Rides with Living Wells Farm

Living Wells Farm. Photo courtesy of Christine Brickett

Horseback riding and boarding center Living Wells Farm (282 Allen Road, Wells), less than 10 miles from the beach and resort areas, offers trail rides year-round. A staff member will lead the way off the farm and through miles of conservation land—one of the more relaxed ways to explore Wells. All levels of rider are welcome. (livingwellsfarm.com)

4. Punkinfiddle

Punkinfiddle is an old-timey good time at Wells Reserve at Laudholm (342 Laudholm Farm Road, just off Route 1 in Wells) on Sept. 28, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., rain or shine. The fun includes old-fashioned music, games and crafts, tasty food and hands-on learning in celebration of National Estuaries Day. No smoking or pets. ($7 for adults, $5 for members, free for kids under 16; 207–646–1555; wellsreserve.org/punkinfiddle)

5. Marsh and Estuary Paddle Adventures

Webhannet River Kayak Rentals makes it easy to explore Wells Harbor in a solo or tandem kayak for a couple hours. One of the suggested routes is dubbed the Marsh and Estuary Paddle Adventure. Kayak around the town dock into Wells Harbor, where there are two main estuary “brooks” to choose from. The first, Lower Landing, carries you into the estuary along the Harbor Road. The second entrance, Upper Landing, is toward Drakes Island and winds on a scenic path through the estuary. (webhannetriver.com)

6. Apple Picking at McDougal Orchards

McDougal Orchards is a seventh-generation family apple farm, a mile from downtown Springvale (201 Hanson Ridge Road). Customers pass through the dooryard of the historic farmhouse on their way to pick apples in the orchards or buy ready-picked fruit in the barn salesroom. There’s a corn maze, a picnic area with a tire swing and a farm store with homemade donuts. The busiest apple picking times are the last two weekends in September and the first two in October. But the first weekend of picking Honeycrisp (usually in September) is the busiest of all. (mcdougalorchards.com)

7. Sanford Trails Historic Urban Walk

By no means a walk in the woods, this 1.8-mile loop makes its way along Main Street and other downtown sections of Sanford, starting at Central Park at the corner of School and Washington streets. Street parking available as well as at the municipal parking lot across the street. The self-guided trail is marked with signs offering a brief history of such sites as City Hall, the Goodall Mansion and Goodall Public Library. All signs describing historical locations are easily viewed from the sidewalk and include photos from the historical archives of the late photographer Fred Philpot.

8. Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge

Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Gordon Chibroski/Portland Press Herald

The Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, established to protect valuable salt marshes and estuaries for migratory birds, is a beautiful place for a hike. The headquarters are just minutes from I-95 on Route 9 in Wells (321 Port Road). The one-mile long Carson Trail is handicapped accessible and open daily dawn to dusk. The trail is a level walk along well-maintained paths through the trees, providing views of the tidal marsh and local birds and wildlife. Pets on leashes are welcome. (fws.gov/refuge/rachel_carson)

9. Alfred Shaker Museum

Alfred Shaker Museum. Photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald

It was at Alfred that Shaker elder Joseph Brackett wrote what is perhaps the best-known Shaker song, Simple Gifts, in 1848. The composer Aaron Copland later made this melody famous in the score of his ballet Appalachian Spring. Simple Gifts is now the official town song of Alfred. Though the Alfred Shakers merged with the Shaker community at Sabbathday Lake in 1931, folks in Alfred have preserved their Shaker heritage by renovating a Shaker carriage house as a museum and educational center. The museum (118 Shaker Hill Road) is open Wednesdays and Saturdays, 1–4 p.m., through November and occasionally hosts special events. (alfredshakermuseum.org)

10. Congdon’s After Dark

Congdon’s After Dark. Photo by Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald

The only food truck park open nightly in the summer throughout New England, Congdon’s After Dark (1100 Post Road, Wells) hosts dozens of food trucks on a rotation. The fun continues on Fridays, Saturdays and Sunday through early October, 4–9 p.m., weather permitting. Regular food trucks include Hoss & Mary’s, Big Grampa’s Grill, Tasting Maine, What-a-Wrap, Fahrenheit 225 BBQ, Palm to Pine Empanadas, Nom Bai Street Kitchen, Mr. Tuna and Congdon’s Donuts, among others. A beer garden features brews made with Congdon’s Doughnuts.

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