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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

Mackworth Island. Photo by Taylor Roberge

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. Music in the Park

Falmouth hosts a series of summer concerts in the park. On Aug. 12, the featured performers are Married with Chitlins, an acoustic trio featuring guitar, bass, fiddle and vocals. They’ll perform traditional American music, old time country and blues and some jazz and Celtic gigs. All concerts are from 6:30–7:30 p.m. in the Village Park Gazebo, behind Walmart on U.S. Route 1. In rain, they move to the school buildings on Woodville Road. (Free admission; Rain updates day of, 207–699–5302)

3. Tour an Arctic Explorer’s Island

Seacoast Tours of Freeport runs daily 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, meet at the Town Wharf or in designated downtown locations. ($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

Kayaking with L.L.Bean. Photo courtesy of 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 has made itself a social and cultural centerpiece, with free concerts in its adjacent park all summer (Anderson East plays on Aug. 17), free movie nights (like A Bug’s Life on Aug. 2) with food trucks, as well as lessons (from kayaking to stand up paddleboarding) at its nearby waterfront center. They’ll host the Watermelon Festival, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Aug. 10, a fundraiser for Camp Sunshine but free to the public. (llbean.com)

5. Wolfe’s Neck Center for Agriculture & the Environment

Wolfe’s Neck Center. Photo by Brianna Soukup/Portland Press Herald

Wolfe’s Neck is a one-of-a-kind place on the coast of Maine that connects farmers, eaters and learners to the land and animals at the core of our food systems. Wolfe’s Neck has an oceanfront campground, a leading demonstration farm—recently converted to showcase regenerative, climate-change fighting agricultural techniques—and an educational resource center. It is open to the public daily from dawn to dusk. There’s a summer ice cream social at the Mallet Barn on Aug. 18 from 2–4 p.m., featuring MDI ice cream (yum). (wolfesneckfarm.org)

6. Desert of Maine

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)

7. Maine State Music Theatre

Head up to Brunswick to catch a show at this showcase for musical theater. Founded in 1959 as the Brunswick Summer Playhouse, the theater operates out of Pickard Theater at the Bowdoin College draws many New York performers to the state for full-scale productions of major shows. In August you can catch the tail end of the production of Hello Dolly, then starting the 7th in previews The Wizard of Oz and later in the month, a co-production with Portland Stage of Ain’t Misbehavin’. (msmt.org)

8. Circus Smirkus

Circus Smirkus. Photo by Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald

You’ve got four potential opportunities to see this circus at the Maine Coast Waldorf School in Freeport on Aug. 5 and 6. The Vermont-based group features professionally trained teen performers and a live band. They perform under traditional European-style tents all around New England. The Maine Coast Waldorf School received a grant from the New England Foundation for the Arts this year to make the event available to thousands of low-income children. Maine Coast Waldorf is at 57 Desert Road, Freeport. (smirkus.org)

9. Bradbury Mountain State Park

Bradbury Mountain. Photo by Taylor Roberge

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)

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)

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