Your guide to experiencing Freeport like a local
- By: Virginia M. Wright
Photograph by Kyle Allen
Freeport is famous for shopping, and rightly so. But how do you find all the secret attractions the town has to offer on — and off — those traffic-clogged streets? You ask a local, of course. We prodded several longtime Freeporters into revealing some of their favorite places.
On the Waterfront
Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park
426 Wolfe’s Neck Rd., Freeport. 207-865-4465
Just five minutes from the village, Wolfe’s Neck Woods sits on a tranquil peninsula separating the Harraseeket River from Casco Bay. Several miles of trails wend through two hundred acres of pine and hemlock forest, but Wolfe’s Neck’s breathtaking coastal views tend to encourage laid-back pursuits rather than sweaty exertions. People gravitate to the rocky shore to picnic, sun, poke around in the tide pools, and watch two pairs of ospreys tend to their young in impressive nests made from sticks and flotsam on nearby Googins Island. “The park is one of the gems of Freeport,” says Deede Montgomery, owner, with Kathy Heye, of Bessie’s Farm Goods. “It’s one of my favorite places to walk.”
Winslow Memorial Park
50 Winslow Park Way, Freeport. 207-865-9052
Freeport moms and dads have been taking their young children to the beach at Winslow Park for generations. “It’s a fabulous park for families,” says Judy Brown of Freeport’s venerable jeweler, Brown Goldsmiths. “The beach is safe and small, and the water is shallow. You need to check the tides because when the tide goes out you can’t see water for miles. But when the tide comes in over the mud flats, the water is warm — it’s not cold like Popham or Reid State parks.” Even when the tide is out, the town-owned park is a great place to while away the afternoon, thanks to a massive lawn with picnic tables, swings, and jungle gyms. Some area residents treat the waterfront campground like a second home, settling in for the entire summer. The park is located at the tip of Staples Point, so the views are spectacular in all directions.
Harraseeket Lunch and Lobster
36 Main St., South Freeport. 207-865-3535. harraseeketlunchandlobster.com
“The locals like to go to Harraseeket Lunch even though it is a big tourist place,” says Katrina Van Dusen, executive coordinator of the Freeport Conservation Trust. Indeed, every Freeporter we asked put this seasonal seafood shack, located in South Freeport village, about three miles south of L.L.Bean, at the top of the list of restaurants they would recommend to out-of-town guests. And, they added, they look forward to May, September, and October when they have the place pretty much to themselves. Best bets, besides the steamed lobster dinner, are the fried clams (Harraseeket is one of the few places that offer a choice of batter or crumbs), the fried haddock sandwich, and the incredible coconut cream pie.
Broad Arrow Tavern Harraseeket Inn,
162 Main St., Freeport. 207-865-9377. harraseeketinn.com
“If you have a diverse group — one wants pizza, one wants lobster, one wants something else — you’ll find it at the tavern,” says Freeport Police Lieutenant Susan Nourse.
Buck’s Naked BBQ
565 Rte. 1, Freeport. 207-865-0600. bucksnaked-bbq.com
Beloved for its smoked, rubbed meats (served “naked” with the sauce on the side), Buck’s, located just south of Freeport center, merges a roadhouse atmosphere with a family-friendly vibe. The play area with Kids Crooked Houses, notes Judy Brown, of Brown Goldsmiths, buys parents some time to eat in peace.
115 Main St., Freeport. 207-865-4196. jamesontavern.com
“The tavern is where the papers giving Maine independence from Massachusetts were signed,” says Bow Street Market’s Adam Nappi. “That’s why they call Freeport the birthplace of Maine.” Served alongside history: chowder, burgers, steamed clams, and other hearty pub fare.
Old World Gourmet 117 Rte. 1, Freeport. 207-865-4477. oldworldgourmet.com “They make the world’s best chocolate chip cookie!” says Judy Brown. Old World, home to Freeport’s landmark Big Indian, makes delicious paninis and sells a wide selection of jams, flavored oils, and other specialty goods, too.
Bow Street Market
79 Bow St., Freeport. 207-865-6631. bowstreetmarket.com
This family-owned grocery has not merely survived Freeport’s transformation from “shoe town” to shopping mecca; it has thrived. Outgrowing the building it occupied since 1946, Bow Street moved into new digs a year ago, and the space has been designed as a gathering place. Regulars tend to shop European-style, stopping in daily (and often twice daily) to pick up the fixings for that evening’s meal.
“It’s a great place to stop in for a quick something and also a great place to do your regular shopping,” says Susan Nourse, of the Freeport Police Department. “The people are friendly, and you see a lot of folks from the community. Some of the town councilors hold informal sessions in the café area — they have certain hours when they are there and people can come in and talk with them.”
Bow Street owner Adam Nappi credits his father, John, with the grocery’s success. Back in the eighties, when national chains were nudging out the small markets and variety stores that had served townspeople for generations, John saw an opportunity. “For many years, Bow Street was the only market in town,” says Adam, who with his wife Karen bought the store from his parents ten years ago. “In 2004, the big national chain — Shaw’s — came to town. The locals rallied around us and helped us focus our business on what we do well — our custom meat department and deli. “The store has become more eclectic as the community has become more diverse,” Nappi says. “Our customers include everyone from local clammers to lawyers to L.L.Bean executives.”
Freeport First Friday Concerts
Freeport Community Services, 53 Depot St., Freeport. 207-865-3985. fcsmaine.org
How can you beat dinner and a show? How about dinner and a show for just fifteen dollars? That’s the Freeport First Friday deal. The catch: This series, which takes place on the first Friday of the month from October to May, is exceptionally popular, so you have to plan ahead if want one of the sixty tickets available for each show. Musical acts — the 2011–12 season has included, among others, Pan Fried Steel, a steel drum band; the acoustic trio Pound of Tea; and the eclectic Not Too Shaap quintet — are booked by Maryellen Carew and Sam Hunneman of MASISTA (Maryellen and Sam in Support of the Arts). The dinner is cooked and served by Freeport Community Services volunteers. Also on First Fridays at FCS: the Chamber ME Music Series, featuring 11 a.m. classical concerts by area musicians.
Performing at various stages around town. 207-865-2220. fcponline.org
Freeport has a rich theater scene, and the Freeport Players, with a twenty-three-year stage history, is at its center. “We’re doing the Mikado this summer,” Maryellen Carew says. “If you like Gilbert and Sullivan, it’s a riot.” Carew’s personal favorite in the Players repertoire is The WFCP Home Time Radio Hour, which she describes as a “home-written, home-grown” show that has a brand new script every year. Radio Hour, a December tradition, blends sketches and music in the style of an old-fashioned radio variety show. “There’s lots of really good talent and a small orchestra,” Carew says.
Wolfe’s Neck Farm
184 Burnett Rd., Freeport. 207-865-4469. wolfesneckfarm.org
When your children are on the brink of a meltdown after a morning of shopping, head over to Wolfe’s Neck Farm, whose barn is open to the public every day from dawn to dusk all year-round. The menagerie at this 626-acre saltwater farm includes sheep, cows, goats, rabbits, turkeys, and chickens. Spring, when the lambs and calves arrive, is an especially charming time to visit. Truth be told, this nonprofit farm with an educational mission is not just for kids. Adults find plenty of interest in the demonstration gardens farms and workshops and classes on a variety of topics. And the farm’s Recompence Shore Campground overlooking Casco Bay may well be Freeport’s most gorgeously situated lodging. The most popular sites, according to campground supervisor Corie Learned: number 92 for tent campers and number 168 for RV campers.
Shopping Off the Beaten Path
The Thrift Shop
Freeport Community Services, 53 Depot St., Freeport. 207-865-3985. fcsmaine.org
Freeport Community Services (FCS) is the nucleus of everything Freeport. It’s a meeting place, an event space, and a provider of services and food for people in need. Residents show their appreciation by volunteering — five hundred people give their time and services to the organization — and by donating goods to the Thrift Shop, downtown’s most eclectic store. “It’s the best thrift shop in New England!” FCS Executive Director Bill Lyman believes. “People rave about it, and it’s known for high-quality stuff.” The shop sells housewares, furniture, clothing, books, artwork, and pretty much anything else as long as it is in good condition. A quarterly furniture sale and the occasional estate auction are always well attended.
Bessie’s Farm Goods
33 Litchfield Rd., Freeport. 207-865-9840. bessiesfarmgoods.com
Knitters and spinners while away the hours at Bessie’s, working on their projects by the woodstove or on the deck, which overlooks the gardens on Kathy Heye’s farm. Well off the beaten path in east Freeport, this charmingly rustic store and de facto community living room is the realized dream of Heye and Deede Montgomery, best friends and retired Freeport Middle School teachers who built it themselves with the help of Heye’s son, Sam, a carpenter. “It was the most empowering thing we ever did,” Montgomery says.
Heye and Montgomery spin and dye their own alpaca and mohair fiber, and the store shelves are brimming with arts and crafts made by more than fifty local people — turned-wood bowls, hand-dyed silk scarves, pottery, herbal bath and body products, and the like, as well as Heye’s farm produce. Hikers on the Freeport Conservation Trust’s Kelsey Brook and Antoinette Jackman trails often stop at Bessie’s Farm Goods to fuel up on the delectable baked goods (on a recent morning, the selection included blueberry sour cream coffee cake, lemon squares, and brownies). Heye and Montgomery also offer workshops for children and adults in topics ranging from vermiculture to pasta-making to beading.
“It’s become a gathering place, which is just what we wanted,” Montgomery says. “We’re both about to turn sixty-two, and we’re having the time of our lives.”
Take a Walk
“I moved to Freeport from Marblehead, Massachusetts, in 1985 when the factory outlets were moving onto Main Street, and I thought, ‘This place has lost its soul,’“ says Katrina Van Dusen, executive coordinator of the Freeport Conservation Trust. “Then I got a winter rental on the Harraseeket River and all of a sudden I realized what incredible natural resources there are here. Freeport is more than its downtown.” And you don’t have to go far from Main Street to find it, as these parks and preserves prove. For full descriptions and a Freeport Center Trail Map, visit the Freeport Conservation Trust Web site at freeportconservationtrust.org
Leon Gorman Park School St. The town-owned park, located within walking distance of L.L.Bean, has a short (less than half a mile) loop trail with picnic tables and a lawn.
Quarry Woods Lower Mast Landing Rd.
One and a half miles of wooded trails pass by an old apple orchard and a former granite quarry.
Audubon Mast Landing Sanctuary Upper Mast Landing Rd.
Surprisingly tranquil considering its proximity to the village, this 140-acre preserve has three miles of trails and a mix of orchards, fields, and forest.
Pettengill Farm Pettengill Rd.
The pride of the Freeport Historical Society, this two- hundred-year-old farm, with saltbox farmhouse intact, is a mix of forest and fields on the Harraseeket River. There are four miles of trails.
Tidebrook Bartol Island Rd.
Several trails loop through this forty-four-acre preserve composed of fields, gardens, and woods on the shores of the Harraseeket River.
- By: Virginia M. Wright