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Welcome to Wells & Sanford

Head east of I-95 at exit 19, and you’ll come into Wells, a beautiful coastal community with seven miles of sandy beaches, Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve, Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, and the ever-popular Maine Diner. The communities of Sanford and Springvale are located just eight miles west of I-95. Here, you’ll find a variety of businesses, entertainment, dining and recreational activities.

 

1. Wells Beach

Wells Beach

The jewel of this exit is, of course, Wells Beach, where you’ll find a stretch of white sand nearly 3 miles long. This time of year, Wells Beach is a quiet place to stretch your legs or rest your soul.

2. Hiking at Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve

The most popular hike at Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve is the Knight Trail to Barrier Beach Trail to Laudholm Beach. The best route to the beach starts with a broad view over grasslands with Mount Agamenticus in the distance. Continue through an abandoned apple orchard and an aspen grove, then over a dike and out the Drakes Island gate toward Laudholm Beach. High tide leaves little beach for walking, but otherwise plan for cobbles, sand, and ancient peat for walking and tide pools for exploring. The Little River mouth is a half-mile to the northeast, where barrier dunes protect a small mud flat. Entrance to the preserve is $7 or $15 for a family of three or more. (207–646–1555; wellsreserve.org)

3. Maine Diner

Maine Diner. Photo by Lauryn Hottinger

Come when you’re hungry—but not too hungry, because there’s likely to be a wait to get into this nationally known local diner. The Maine Diner is on Route 1 North in Wells, the last restaurant on the right before you get to Kennebunk. The diner opens daily at 7 a.m., and it’s just the place to stop before a trip to Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. (mainediner.com)

4. Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge

Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. Courtesy photo

Located off Route 9 in Wells, the “Carson Trail” is just one part of the extensive wildlife refuge. This 1-mile walking trail is handicapped accessible and open daily, dawn to dusk. The trail is a short, level walk along well-maintained paths through the trees, providing great views of the tidal marsh and local birds and wildlife. Pets on leashes are welcome. The Rachel Carson Wildlife Refuge headquarters is open to the public Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The entrance is on Port Road (Route 9) in Wells, just minutes from exit 19 on I-95. From exit 19, turn left on Route 9/Route 108. At the stop light, turn left onto Post Road (Route 1 North). Just past the Maine Diner, turn right onto Port Road (Route 9). (207–646–9226)

5. Merriland Farm Golf Course

This quintessential Maine golf course traverses the berry fields of Merriland Farm, a 200-year-old working farm run by the Morrison family in Wells. There’s also a driving range next to the 9-hole, par 3 golf course. The golf course is in Wells at 533 Coles Hill Road. (207–646–0508)

6. Shaker Woods Reserve

If you’re interested in a 2-mile round-trip walk in the woods, stop at the 34-acre Shaker Woods Reserve on Stone Road in Alfred, just off Route 4. The reserve is open to foot traffic only and is managed by Three Rivers Land Trust. Visitors are asked to practice carry in, carry out. Fires and camping are not allowed, but dogs on a leash are welcome. For more information, call 207–324–3733 or access a map at mainetrailfinder.com.

7. Sanford Trails Historic Urban Walk

This is by no means a walk in the woods. Rather, this 1.8-mile loop makes its way along Main Street and other downtown sections of Sanford. It officially begins in Central Park at the corner of School and Washington streets. Parking is available on the street and 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. (207–324–9135; sanfordtrails.org)

8. Apple Picking at McDougal Orchards

McDougal Orchards is a seventh-generation family farm in Springvale specializing in apples. Located a mile from downtown, the orchard’s scenic location and proximity to the beaches and lakes of York County make it a desirable day trip through the end of October. 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. McDougal Orchards is at 201 Hanson Ridge Road in Springvale. To confirm apples are still available for picking: 207–324–5054 or mcdougalorchards.com.

9. Alfred Shaker Museum

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

Maine’s Shaker roots began in Alfred around 1793. It was in 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.” Today, “Simple Gifts” is the official town song of Alfred. Though the remaining 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 is at 118 Shaker Hill Road in Alfred and is open Wednesdays and Saturdays from 14 p.m. through November. Check the website for information about events and workshops: alfredshakermuseum.org.

10. Birds of Prey Presentation

The Center for Wildlife at Cape Neddick, which helps care for orphaned or injured animals, is sending an expert on birds of prey—and a few animals—to give a presentation on Sunday, Oct. 14 from 1:30–4:30 p.m. at Alfred Shaker Museum, 118 Shaker Hill Road, Alfred.