Welcome to Falmouth, Cumberland, Yarmouth & Freeport
When you exit the Maine Turnpike in Falmouth, you can take U.S. Route 1 north up to the Midcoast area, or take I-295 to Cumberland, Yarmouth or Freeport. Stretch your legs at beautiful Mackworth Island in Falmouth. If retail therapy is what you have in mind, keep going to Freeport, where there’s a sprawling but quaint shopping district downtown (with free parking). Or maybe catch a boat there to visit the former island home of a famed Arctic explorer.
1. Mackworth Island Hike
For a unique perspective of Casco Bay, take this 1.25-mile hike around an island—little more than a walk, really—turn off U.S. Route 1 in Falmouth onto the Andrews Avenue Causeway. With tall pines at water’s edge and views of Portland on one side and the islands of Casco Bay on the other, walking the perimeter of Mackworth Island is a concentrated dose of Maine’s natural beauty. There’s a sandy beach along the way. Parking is limited, there’s a small fee and the trail is not wheelchair accessible. (trails.org)
2. Gilsland Farm Audubon Center
This 65-acre historic farm and environmental center along the Presumpscot River estuary is just five minutes from Portland. Visitors enjoy two miles of trails, winding along a pond and through woods, meadow, orchard and salt marsh—and a gift shop. There’s a Maine crafts event the weekend Sept. 28–29 featuring more than 70 local artisans and fall events include the 32nd Annual Apple Day Celebration, starting Oct. 5. (maineaudubon.org/visit/gilsland-farm)
3. Tour an Arctic Explorer’s Island
Seacoast Tours of Freeport runs tours to Eagle Island in Casco Bay, which was for many years the summer home of Admiral Robert E. Peary. Now a state park, the island tour offers a chance to look around the perfectly preserved home of Peary, who was obsessive about reaching the North Pole (his claim that he did so, finally, in 1909, is disputed). The trip along the way from Freeport Harbor through Broad Sound to the island, is half the fun. Open daily, 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., through Labor Day, limited tours after that. ($40 for adults, $28 for children, under 2 are free, plus the price of admission to the park; 207–798–2001; seacoasttoursme.com)
4. Shop (or Play) at L.L.Bean
A stop at L.L.Bean is foremost on the minds of tourists visiting southern and Midcoast Maine. The Flagship Store is the focal point, but L.L.Bean also has a home store with unique Maine-made goods and an outlet. L.L.Bean also hosts lessons and events at its nearby Outdoor Center, covering everything kayaking to stand up paddleboarding. They host tours as well; sign up online for birding by kayak with Maine Audubon and other fun activities at llbean.com under the Outdoor Discovery tab.
5. Freeport Folk Festival
A one-day music festival on a beautiful Midcoast farm, hosted by the Arts & Cultural Alliance of Freeport in partnership with the Wolfe’s Neck Center for Agriculture & the Environment. Expect two stages of music, art and artisan wares for sale, and Americana, folk, and Irish traditional music on two stages. Plus workshops. Sept. 14 from 2–4 p.m. Free to all, donations gratefully accepted and will benefit the Arts & Cultural Alliance. (freeportartsandculture.org)
6. Bradbury Mountain State Park
Bradbury Mountain State Park is a woodsy oasis in Pownal, only a few miles from busy Freeport. It’s an easy 10- to 15-minute hike to the summit, which is only 485 feet high but affords sweeping views of Casco Bay, and is a great spot to witness migrating hawks. More than 21 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails, camping, a playground and family-friendly activities year round. The camping area is on the other side of Route 9. Open 9 a.m. until sunset and is the only park in the area to offer shared-use trails for horseback riders and mountain bikers. (bradburymountain.com)
7. Farmers Market at Crystal Spring Farm
Pop up to Brunswick for a peak at what’s frequently called Maine’s prettiest farmers market. From the bread to the oysters to the locally roasted coffee to fresh greens and fall vegetables, the offerings are spectacular. But so is the setting, on the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust’s Crystal Spring property on the outskirts of Brunswick (277 Pleasant Hill Rd.). It’s a scene worth catching. The market runs outdoors through October, Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
8. Cumberland Fair
The greater Portland area’s big agricultural fair starts Sept. 22 and runs through the 28th. It’s a major event, now in its 148th year. With everything from ferris wheel rides to farm animals to Rawhide Rodeo. And food, lots of fair food. Located at the Cumberland Fairgrounds, 197 Blanchard Rd., Cumberland. Free parking. ($12 for 13 and up; cumberlandfair.com)
9. Desert of Maine
One of Maine’s more bizarre attractions, this “desert” at the end of Desert Road on the outskirts of Freeport is 40 acres of silty sand dunes. The Desert of Maine was a thriving farm in the 1700s. Then poor land management (rotate your crops people!) led to erosion that exposed the glacial silt and made farming impossible by 1919. In 1923, Henry Goldrup bought the land and began marketing this novelty as a tourist destination. Daily tours and a country store with essentials as well as tent camping. New owners plan to restore a historic barn and create an arts and music venue. If the desert makes you thirsty, one of Maine’s premier craft brewers, the nearby Maine Beer Company (525 U.S. Route 1) features great beer and wood-fired oven pizza. (desertofmaine.com)
10. Blueberry Pond Observatory
Did you know that Maine has the largest light-pollution-free area in the eastern half of the United States? At this observatory in Pownal, see the moon, planets, galaxies, nebulas, star clusters and supernovas through a 12-inch telescope, then digitally photograph your favorites to print and take home. Evening tours start at about 9:30 p.m., are by appointment only and customized to experience level with stargazing. The observatory is located at 355 Libby Road, Pownal. ($140 for two adults for two hours, free for children under 12; blueberryobservatory.com)