Good Sam RV Travel Guide & Campground Directory

Freeport, Maine - Stores, tours, ‘chowdah’ and coastal desert ... It’s all here.

By Lisa Halvorsen

Shopper’s Paradise

In addition to L.L.Bean, Freeport has more than 170 other retail stores, including everything from one-of-a-kind boutiques with Maine specialty foods, products and crafts to designer shops and outlet giants. This location is also home to the Thomas Moser Cabinetmakers and J.L. Coombs, considered by some to be the oldest shoe company in the United States.

Until June 2006, Freeport was also home to the 20th Maine Civil War Shop and American History Center. For 10 years, this establishment held one of the largest collections of Civil War books for sale, plus items relating to other wars and military conflicts. Although the Center is no longer here, you can purchase items from the shop online.

Pulling in and finding a place to park shouldn’t be a problem. The town of Freeport has created a
special, free RV-parking area, with room for even the biggest rigs, near the center-of-town shopping district.

Freeport’s Past Life

If you like history, take a stroll through Freeport’s downtown area. It has more than 40 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, including Harrington House, circa 1830, which houses the Freeport Historical Society, with its archives and rotating historical exhibits.

The oldest structure in town dates to 1789, the year that the town was incorporated.

You also should stop by the Jameson Tavern. It was here, in 1820, that documents were drawn up for Maine’s statehood and separation from Massachusetts. It’s a good place to try clam “chowdah” and “lobstah,” as well as other regional cuisine. Or dine at the Maine Dining Room or the more casual Broad Arrow Tavern at the Harraseeket Inn. This Main Street establishment is historically interesting, as it encompasses two period buildings built in 1798 and 1850.

The family-owned Harraseeket Lunch and Lobster, a local favorite located at the Town Wharf in South Freeport, also offers delicious “Down East” home cooking. Harraseeket’s lunch menu includes fried sea-food, clam rolls, chowder and a wide array of side dishes. While you’re there, be sure to stop by Harraseeket Lobster, a traditional lobster pound on the other side of the building, where you can purchase fresh lobster, steamers, corn on the cob and other necessities for a lobster bake.

Tour the Distilleries

Just down the road from L.L.Bean is another busy Freeport attraction, Maine Distilleries, home to Cold River Vodka, a super premium vodka produced from Maine-grown potatoes. Free 30-minute tours several times daily offer visitors a chance to learn about the vodka and observe the production process, from cooking to bottling.

Coastal Desert

One of the seaside town’s most unusual attractions is the Desert of Maine, a 40-acre sand dune that contradicts the lush, pine-studded image of the state. Visitors can hop on a tram for a narrated tour of this natural phenomenon (actually a glacial wash plain) that was exposed when overgrazing and other poor agricultural practices turned William Tuttle’s potato farm into a virtual dust bowl. The farm museum in the original 1783 barn contains a fascinating collection of antique farm tools, a world sand collection and sand paintings.

Nature-Lover’s Freeport

For bird-watching and nature walks, visit Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park or Mast Landing Sanctuary, which is run by the Maine Audubon Society. Pettengill Farm, with its heritage apple orchards and gardens, provides an insight into what it was like to live on a 19th-century coastal farm. You can visit the 650-acre Wolfe’s Neck Farm, walk the nature trails and learn about sustainable agriculture by observing the daily activities of this organic beef farm.

Bradbury Mountain State Park, located in Pownal, about 5 miles northwest of Freeport, is another great place to explore the natural world. One of Maine’s five original state parks, it is especially popular in the fall for its spectacular foliage as well as hawk and eagle migration.

The Atlantic Seal leaves from the Town Wharf for cruises of picturesque Casco Bay and the Harraseeket River, where you’ll spot playful seals, nesting ospreys and even a bald eagle or two. You will also see the well-known Portland Head Light-house, commissioned by George Washington in 1791, one of many lighthouses dotting Maine’s coast.

In addition to its nature and sightseeing cruises, the Atlantic Seal offers trips to Eagle Island State Historic Site, the beloved island home of Arctic explorer Robert Edwin Peary.

Brunswick’s Bowdoin College Museums

You can relive the hardships faced by Admiral Peary and his men on their North Pole expedition at the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum on the lovely Bowdoin College campus in nearby Brunswick. The museum includes Inuit art, Arctic exploration gear and memorabilia from the expedition.

The Bowdoin Museum of Art has an impressive collection of works by European and American painters, including Winslow Homer and Andrew Wyeth, both artists with strong ties to the Pine Tree State. There are also art objects from Asia and antiquities from ancient Mediterranean countries. Although currently closed for renovation, the museum is scheduled for completion this fall.

The Maine State Music Theater, also on campus, offers several theatrical productions throughout the summer season.

Other Brunswick attractions include the Pejepscot Museum, featuring photographs and exhibits on the area’s interesting history, and the Skolfield-Whittier House, a 17-room Victorian mansion, last occupied in 1925. This mansion is still furnished with the original furniture and possessions of the three generations of the upper-middle-class family who lived there. You also can take a guided tour of the Joshua L. Chamberlain Museum, once home to a former Maine governor and early Bowdoin College president. Although seasonally closed, make plans now to visit the Justin Chamberlain Museum and the Skolfield-Whittier House.