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 oceanfront, sandy beaches, antique and rare book stores, and upscale and casual dining options. In Sanford and Alfred, west of I-95, you can watch performances by Maine’s only water ski show team, catch a game at a historic baseball park or learn about the origins of Maine’s Shaker culture.
1. 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. Congdon’s After Dark
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 with 10 there each night through early October, 4–9 p.m. (with a 10 p.m. closure on Fridays and Saturdays), 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. A Classic Car Cruise-In happens here every Monday 4–7 p.m. through Labor Day.
3. Woodies in the Cove
Nearly 100 vintage Woodies—automobiles with wood bodies—are headed to Maine for a car show Aug. 10, 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The cars will parade through Wells, Ogunquit and into Perkins Cove 2–3 p.m., starting at 974 Post Road in Wells. (Bonus: A four-piece rock ’n roll band will celebrate the music of the Woodies era Aug. 9 at 7 p.m. at the Meetinghouse at 938 Post Road, Wells; admission $8.)
4. Trail Rides with Living Wells Farm
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. Families and any level of rider is welcome.(livingwellsfarm.com)
5. Wonder Mountain Fun Park
Wonder Mountain Fun Park (270 Post Road, Wells) has a go-kart track (single and double-seated karts), two 18-hole mini-golf courses, a human maze, a game room and ice cream. (207–646–9655; wondermountainfunpark.com)
6. 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, wraps around Lord’s Lobster Restaurant and 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)
7. Wells Chili-Fest
Chili is serious business as winners in various categories (chili, chili verde and salsa) compete in the Maine State Cookoff Aug. 24 to qualify to advance to the World Chili Championship Cookoffs. The People’s Choice Competition is excuse aplenty to get tasting. The Chili-Fest is 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Wells Junior High School, 1470 Post Road (U.S. Route 1). (Free admission)
8. Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge
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 Carson Trail, a one-mile walking trail, is handicapped accessible and is 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. Maine Attraction Water Ski Show
Catch a free performance of Maine’s only water ski show team, demonstrating barefoot water skiing, human pyramids and jumps, Aug. 2 at 6:30 p.m. at Number One Pond. They’re good; in 2018 the team placed second in the Eastern Region Show Ski Tournament. GPS yourself to 27 William Oscar Emery Drive, Sanford. (Free admission)
10. Alfred Shaker Museum
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 (near Gray) 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 hosts special events occasionally. (alfredshakermuseum.org)