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Beyond Bean: 10 things to love about Freeport, Maine

This town on Casco Bay offers much more than fleece and fly rods.

Set between the Harraseeket River and Casco Bay, Wolfe’s Neck State Park offers five miles of hiking trails, and views like this. Don’t miss the Casco Bay Trail.Diane Bair for The Boston Globe

The big news in Freeport, Maine: L.L. Bean’s flagship store is open 24/7 again (as of May 3), after limited hours during the pandemic. Who actually goes to the store in the middle of the night? Folks who hate crowds, early-bird fishing enthusiasts, local insomniacs, and us: We once spent the night at Bean’s mothership, perched amid a display of kiddie snowshoes, signing copies of our latest outdoor guidebook. We stuck around in the wee hours just for the heck of it, and discovered this fun fact: The middle of the night is also the time celebrities choose to visit the store. We’re not saying we actually saw a Marvel movie actor that night, but we’re not saying we didn’t. Sadly, we didn’t get a selfie alongside the 20-foot-long Bootmobile.

Besides the Bean campus, Freeport is known for its full mile of outlet stores. But this town on Casco Bay offers much more than fleece and fly rods. We shopped around to see what else Freeport has in store (pun intended), and found excellent craft beer, lobster rolls, whoopie pies, and wonderful hikes with ocean views. It’s Maine’s greatest hits, Freeport-style. Enjoy.


The Amtrak Downeaster passenger train pulls out of the station, Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021, in Freeport, Maine. Robert F. Bukaty/AP/file

Amtrak Downeaster

You could drive two hours north from Boston to get here, but you don’t have to — not when there’s the Downeaster train, that’ll get you from North Station to Freeport in three hours, typically for around $50 round-trip. The Freeport station is located right in the heart of the action. www.amtrakdowneaster.com. (Note that some places mentioned in this story are not reachable by foot. You’re allowed to bring a bike on the train; reservations are required.)

Barely 500 feet tall, Bradbury Mountain isn’t exactly lofty, but its bare summit has great views, and kids can often handle the climb. Diane Bair for The Boston Globe

Wolfe’s Neck State Park

Just a few minutes from downtown, this wooded peninsula, a “neck” of land between the Harraseeket River and Casco Bay, offers beautiful hiking along well-marked footpaths. Bearing the name (minus an O) of Henry and Rachel Woolfe, who settled here in 1733, the former farmlands are now a forested, 245-acre state park. Five miles of walking trails, including a wheelchair- and stroller-accessible path, meander through stands of white pine and hemlock, a salt marsh estuary, and the rocky shorelines 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.


The pizza that comes out of the Tuscan Brick Oven Bistro's brick oven is unbeatable. Diane Bair for The Boston Globe

Tuscan Brick Oven Bistro

Freeport has several restaurants, but we keep going back to this one, with its massive brick oven and outdoor seating along Main Street. (We even braved that patio during a pandemic winter, quickly gobbling pizza before ice crystals formed on it, wearing mittens. Not recommended.) As the name implies, the theme is Italian, and they make a good Bolognese with braised black angus beef and fennel sausage ragu, 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. Perhaps the spicy Bee Sting (three cheeses, pepperoni, pepperoncini, honey, chili flakes, and rosemary), paired with an apple-cranberry salad? Order this to share at lunch; you won’t be sorry. Pizza $14-$17 at lunch; $18-$21 at dinner; 140 Main St., 207-869-7200; www.tuscanbrickovenbistro.com.

In this May 7, 2015, file photo, craft beers are served at the Maine Beer Company in Freeport, Maine. Robert F. Bukaty/AP/file

Maine Beer Company


Got a beer lover in your party? Two of the state’s top-rated craft beers come from this Freeport brewery, according to Beer Advocate (www.beeradvocate.com) — IPAs called Dinner and Lunch, taking the top and the tenth spot, respectively. Founded in 2009 by brothers David and Daniel Kleban, the company is known for its IPAs and pale ales. There are typically 10 varieties on their tap list, plus some bottled beers and a small menu of seasonal pizzas and a popular cheese and charcuterie platter. Also notable: they donate one percent of gross annual sales to nonprofit environmental groups. The tasting room offers indoor and outdoor seating and lively vibe. 525 US Route 1, 207-221-5711; www.mainebeercompany.com.

Wilbur’s of Maine has won Downeast Magazine’s Readers Choice poll as Maine’s best chocolate and candy shop for 11 consecutive years.Diane Bair for The Boston Globe

Wilbur’s of Maine

This family-owned chocolatier has won Downeast Magazine’s Readers Choice poll as Maine’s best chocolate and candy shop for 11 consecutive years. If you’ve ever seen a tiny chocolate Bean boot, you’ve seen their work. The company opened its first sweet-scented shop in 1983; now the founders’ son, Andy Wilbur (inventor of their meltaway truffles) runs the show. Wilbur’s relies on locally-sourced ingredients whenever possible, and they make regional favorites like Needhams, made with potatoes. Tourists can’t resist the chocolate-covered blueberries (available with a blue-colored white chocolate coating, or dark or milk chocolate.) They operate a small shop on Bow Street but we like the abundance of their pumpkin orange-painted factory store. 174 Lower Main St., 207-865-4071; www.wilburs.com.

Bradbury Mountain State Park offers gentle, woodsy hikes with an easy climb to the 485-foot summit. Diane Bair for The Boston Globe

Bradbury Mountain State Park

Located about six miles west of Freeport, this is a popular spot with families since little folks can ‘climb a mountain’ here. Barely 500 feet tall, Bradbury Mountain is basically a hill, but this 800-acre state park offers some nice shared-use trails. (Mountain bikers tend to use the eastern side of the park, while hikers stick to the west.) Paths are short, with some easy-going routes (like one-mile Northern Loop Trail) and some steeper routes to the flat, open summit. 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 that range from tent-only size to 35-foot camper size, with picnic tables and fire pits. If you want to stay over on the cheap, this is a fine option (we’ve done it) and a bargain at $25 per campsite (up to six people.) Day use, $6 per person (nonresident); 528 Hallowell Road, Pownal; 207-688-4712; reserve online at www.maine.gov.


It’s practically the law: no one leaves Maine without consuming a lobster roll. Diane Bair for The Boston Globe

Harraseeket Lunch & Lobster Company

It’s practically the law: no one leaves Maine without consuming a lobster roll. Where to get one in Freeport (OK, South Freeport)? Head to this waterfront lobster pound, where the Coffin family has been slinging lobster meat since 1970. Besides lobster rolls, the menu typically features Maine shrimp, clams, and scallops, boiled lobsters, steamers, and corn on the cob, along with homemade desserts. There’s an inside dining room, but everybody opts for a seat at one of the picnic tables. It’s BYOB, open only from May to Columbus Day, and it’s a cash only operation — just what you expect from a lobster pound. Even if TV shows like The Chew and Rachael Ray have discovered it, this place still feels authentic. Lobster roll, currently $27; 36 Main St., South Freeport; 207-865-3535; www.harraseeketlunchandlobster.com.


Wicked Whoopies has flavors like Red Velvet, Banana Cream, and Orange Creamsicle.Diane Bair for The Boston Globe

Wicked Whoopies

We featured this Freeport whoopie whiz in our “Best Whoopie Pie” story recently — so good. Founder Amy Bouchard and her team create toothsome whoopies, in flavors like Red Velvet, Banana Cream, and Orange Creamsicle in a commercial bakery in Gardiner, Maine. They bake 10,000 whoopie pies a day in 20 different varieties, including mini whoopies and giant-size versions. Stop by their colorful shop on Main Street and leave with Maine’s Official State Treat. If you love a chocolate chip cookie, go for the light and cake-y whoopie version of same, or some chocolate-dipped Whoop-de-doos. $34.50 per dozen; 100 Main St., 207-865-3100; www.wickedwhoopies.com.

An eastern bluebird brings a pine needle to use in nesting box, Tuesday, April 12, 2022, in Freeport, Maine. Robert F. Bukaty/AP/file

Mast Landing Audubon Sanctuary

This one’s a perfect escape from the retail bustle, but it’s fairly undiscovered. Located just a mile from downtown, 145-acre Mast Landing is set along the Harraseeket River estuary. Three miles of trails wind along a stream and tidal marsh, traversing apple orchards, fields, and forest of white pine and hemlock. Mill Stream flows past a historic dam and mill site before flowing into the tidal waters of the Harraseeket River. Mill Stream once powered a saw mill, a textile mill, two grist mills, and a woodworking shop. The c.1795 mill master’s house still remains; now it’s a private residence for sanctuary caretakers. Free; 65 Upper Mast Landing Road; 207-781-2330; www.maineaudubon.org.

Among the places to stay in Freeport, the family-owned Harraseeket Inn is the classic choice.Maine Office of Tourism

Harraseeket Inn

Among the places to stay in Freeport, the family-owned Harraseeket Inn is the classic choice. At the north edge of town, within walking distance to retail stores and the Amtrak station, this homey 94-room inn offers plenty of charm and several different room options. That includes two- and three-bedroom townhouses, pet-friendly digs, and even a three-bedroom L. L. Bean Guest House, outfitted in Bean’s finest. There’s an indoor heated pool and two on-site restaurants (we like the Broad Arrow Tavern and its festive outdoor patio.) Book directly with the inn and get free breakfast and afternoon tea with your stay. Rates from $242; 162 Main St., 800-342-6423; www.harraseeketinn.com.

For more information, www.visitfreeport.com.

Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at bairwright@gmail.com