You can drive two hours north of Boston to get here, but you don’t have to – not when there’s the Downeaster train, which will take you from North Station to Freeport in three hours, usually for around $50 round trip . Freeport Station is located right in the heart of the action. www.amtrakdowneaster.com. (Note that some places mentioned in this story are not walkable. You are allowed to bring a bicycle on the train; reservations are required.)
Wolfe’s Neck State Park
Minutes from downtown, this wooded peninsula, a “notch” of land between the Harraseeket River and Casco Bay, offers great hiking along well-marked trails. Named (minus an O) for Henry and Rachel Woolfe, who settled here in 1733, the former farmland is now a 245-acre wooded state park. Five miles of walking trails, including a wheelchair- and stroller-accessible trail, wind through stands of white pine and hemlock, a salt marsh estuary, and the rocky shores of Casco Bay and the Harraseeket River. Don’t miss the Casco Bay Trail, a route that traces Maine’s dazzling coastline with views of Eagle and Cousins Islands. $6 per person (non-resident of Maine); 426 Wolfe’s Neck Road, 207-865-4465; www.maine.gov.
Brick Oven Tuscan Bistro
Freeport has several restaurants, but we keep coming back to this one, with its huge brick oven and terraces along Main Street. (We even braved this patio during a pandemic winter, quickly gobbling down a pizza before ice crystals formed on it, wearing mittens. Not recommended.) As the name suggests, the theme is Italian, and they do a good bolognese with braised Black Angus beef and fennel sausage ragout and a solid fried eggplant sandwich on focaccia. But the pizza that comes out of that brick oven is unbeatable. They change the menu with the seasons, but there’s always a pie that will send you into spasms of joy. Maybe the Spicy Bee Spice (three cheese, pepperoni, pepperoncini, honey, chili flakes, and rosemary), served with an apple-cranberry salad? Order this to share at lunch; you won’t be sorry. Pizza $14-$17 at lunch; $18 to $21 at dinner; 140 Main Street, 207-869-7200; www.tuscanbrickovenbistro.com.
Maine Beer Company
Do you have a beer lover in your party? Two of the state’s highest-rated craft beers come from this Freeport brewery, according to Beer Advocate (www.beeradvocate.com) — IPAs called Dinner and Lunch, taking first and tenth place, respectively. Founded in 2009 by brothers David and Daniel Kleban, the company is known for its IPAs and pale ales. There are usually 10 varieties on their tap list, along with bottled beers and a small menu of seasonal pizzas and a popular cheese and charcuterie platter. Also worth noting: They donate one percent of their annual gross sales to nonprofit environmental groups. The tasting room offers indoor and outdoor seating and a lively atmosphere. 525 US Route 1, 207-221-5711; www.mainebeercompany.com.
Wilbur of Maine
This family-owned chocolatier has won Downeast Magazine’s Readers Choice poll as Maine’s Best Chocolate and Candy Store for 11 consecutive years. If you’ve ever seen a little chocolate bean boot, you’ve seen their work. The company opened its first scented boutique in 1983; now the founders’ son Andy Wilbur (inventor of their melting truffles) runs the show. Wilbur’s relies on local ingredients whenever possible, and they make regional favorites like potato-based Needhams. Tourists can’t resist the chocolate covered blueberries (available with a blue-colored white chocolate coating, or dark or milk chocolate.) They run a small shop on Bow Street but we love how abundant their store is. factory painted pumpkin orange. 174 Lower Main Street, 207-865-4071; www.wilburs.com.
Bradbury Mountain State Park
Located about six miles west of Freeport, it’s a popular spot with families as the little ones can ‘climb a mountain’ here. At just 500 feet high, Bradbury Mountain is essentially a hill, but this 800-acre state park offers beautiful shared-use trails. (Mountain bikers tend to use the east side of the park, while hikers stick to the west.) Paths are short, with easy routes (like the one-mile Northern Loop Trail) and steeper routes to the top flat and open. . Feldspar was mined here in the 1920s and you’ll see remnants of an old quarry near Northern Loop Trail. And there’s this: a 35-site wooded campground, with sites ranging from tent-only size to 35-foot RV size, complete with picnic tables and fire pits. If you want to stay cheap, this is a good option (we did) and a bargain at $25 per campsite (up to six people.) Day use, $6 per person (non-resident) ; 528 Hallowell Road, Pownal; 207-688-4712; book online at www.maine.gov.
Harraseeket Lunch & Lobster Company
It’s practically the law: no one leaves Maine without eating a lobster roll. Where to find one in Freeport (OK, South Freeport)? Head to this waterfront lobster pool, where the Coffin family has been cooking lobster meat since 1970. Besides lobster rolls, the menu typically includes Maine shrimp, clams and scallops, boiled lobsters, steamers and corn on the cob, as well as homemade desserts. . There is an indoor dining area, but everyone opts for a seat at one of the picnic tables. It’s BYOB, open only from May through Columbus Day, and it’s cash-only – exactly what you’d expect from a lobster. Even though TV shows like The Chew and Rachael Ray have discovered it, this place still feels authentic. Lobster roll, currently $27; 36 Main Street, South Freeport; 207-865-3535; www.harraseeketlunchandlobster.com.
We recently featured this whoopie genius from Freeport in our “Best Whoopie Pie” story – so Well. Founder Amy Bouchard and her team create delicious whoopies, in flavors like Red Velvet, Banana Cream and Orange Creamsicle at a commercial bakery in Gardiner, Maine. They bake 10,000 whoopie pies a day in 20 different varieties, including mini whoopies and giant versions. Stop by their colorful shop on Main Street and walk away with Maine’s official state candy. If you love chocolate chip cookies, opt for the light, cakey whoopie version of the same, or chocolate-dipped whoop-de-doos. $34.50 per dozen; 100 Main Street, 207-865-3100; www.wickedwhoopies.com.
Audubon Sanctuary Mast Landing
This one is a perfect escape from the retail hustle and bustle, but it’s fairly undiscovered. Located just one mile from the city center, the 145-acre Mast Landing is located along the Harraseeket River estuary. Three miles of trails meander along a creek and tidal marsh, passing through apple orchards, fields, and forests of white pine and hemlock. Mill Stream passes a historic dam and mill before emptying into the tidal waters of the Harraseeket River. Mill Stream once powered a sawmill, a textile mill, two flour mills and a carpentry shop. The house of the master of the mill of around 1795 still remains; now it is a private residence for the keepers of the shrine. Free; 65, upper mast landing route; 207-781-2330; www.maineaudubon.org.
Of the places to stay in Freeport, the Harraseeket family hostel is the classic choice. On the northern outskirts of town, within walking distance of retail stores and the Amtrak station, this welcoming 94-room inn offers plenty of charm and several different room options. This includes two- and three-bedroom townhouses, pet-friendly digs, and even a three-bedroom LL Bean guesthouse, outfitted with the best Bean has to offer. There’s a heated indoor pool and two on-site restaurants (we love the Broad Arrow Tavern and its festive outdoor patio.) Book direct with the hostel and get free breakfast and afternoon tea with your stay. Rates from $242; 162 Main Street, 800 342-6423; www.harraseeketinn.com.
For more information, www.visitfreeport.com.
Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be contacted at [email protected]