With tourist favorites like Kennebunkport and Ogunquit on either side, Wells can get treated a little like that sometimes overlooked middle child.
Maybe it doesn’t have a lengthy list of pricey, white-tablecloth restaurants. Maybe it doesn’t have the longest, widest beach, or the luxury compound of not one, but two, former presidents. But those who take the time to get to know Wells a little better will discover that it has plenty of its own coastal charm.
Some people like to sit on the beach. Other people like to walk along the beach. In Wells, it’s easy to do both.
For lounging, head down Mile Road to Wells Beach. It’s small but it’s clean, there are public restrooms nearby and the paid parking is reasonable. You can also do some shopping with little walking needed or get lunch at Forbes Seafood Restaurant & Take-Out just steps from the sand.
For walking, your spot is the Moody Beach community. Park along Webhannet Drive (there are some free spots) and stroll along the curving road that hugs the coast. It’s a beautiful spot – some parts have pedestrian/bike “lanes” – and you can sneak down to the beach and rocks in a few areas. Be considerate of homeowners’ beachfront property, but definitely admire their houses as you wander by.
You can’t go wrong at Wells Reserve at Laudholm – even if you get turned around on the 7 miles of trails. One will steer you through an abandoned apple orchard, another to Laudholm Beach. All offer picturesque views, as does every part of the campus.
The entry fee is a mere $5 for adults, and there are restrooms and ample parking. Loop around the interior parts of the campus, traipse through the salt marsh or bring a towel and head for the beach with your picnic. Unfortunately, Fido will have to stay home.
Less than a mile from Laudholm is the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Reserve.
Carson, the longtime biologist and then writer for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service who was one of the first to speak out against pesticide use, summered on Southport Island near Boothbay Harbor. Many acres of wildlife refuge lands in Maine now bear her name, including a tract on Port Road in Wells.
Here you’ll find the easy 1-mile Carson Trail, where you can view the salt marsh and read about what you’re seeing on a handy trail map. The loop trail is fully accessible and easy walking for older folks or young children. Leashed dogs are welcome. There’s no admission fee.
Who would have thought the line at the doughnut counter would be nearly out the door at 10:45 a.m. on a Monday?
Regulars of Congdon’s Doughnuts, that’s who.
Having never had the pleasure of biting into one of the freshly made options at the longtime Route 1 staple, my wife and I were surprised when we walked in the door. Obviously, the staff at Congdon’s is used to dealing with lines. Despite the crowd, it was just a few minutes – not really even enough time to ponder all the choices – before our order was taken.
We bought a honey dip and a lemon filled to share and a small honey bun because two doughnuts is never enough. And, wow, they were some of the best doughnuts we’ve eaten. We took ours outside to one of the picnic tables and enjoyed them in between taking photos of each other in the silly put-your-face-in-the-doughnut board.
When you aren’t filling up on doughnuts, the other Wells must-try for eats is, of course, the Maine Diner. Located a couple miles north on Route 1, it’s a no-frills spot where you can get big breakfasts, a variety of seafood, terrific desserts and most any type of comfort food you can think of. There’s always a line here. Always. If the counter’s an option, sit there, listen in to the hustling waitstaff and admire all the heaping plates that come out of the kitchen.
The menu’s huge, so if you can’t decide what to order you should know that Guy Fieri sampled lobster pie, seafood chowder and codfish cakes when he featured the diner on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.”
So many Maine towns are now home to brewing companies, and Wells is included on that list. We’ve likely driven past Hidden Cove Brewing Co. (formerly known as Captain Dick’s Brewing) several times on our way back from Wells Beach before recently pulling into its 73 Mile Road location.
It’s a small brewery with five beers available in the tasting room. Locals seem to hang out here, playing cribbage while enjoying a $6 pint. You can try a 5-ounce sample of any of the beers on tap for $2.50 or get a paddle of four for $8. I sampled the Summer Ale, light with a bit of citrus, and the seasonal Booty Raspberry Golden Ale, a Belgian with significantly more flavor. I’d drink either one again.
Don’t expect food other than popcorn. While we were there, one threesome actually brought their own takeout dinner.
Fall is here, so you’ll be thinking apples and pumpkins when you head to Spiller Farm on a pick-your-own excursion. But keep this in mind: Next year you should make the trip in August for pick-your-own everything.
Spiller’s is a one-of-a-kind farm where owners Anna and Bill hand you a bag – or a cart – and let you loose in their field to have your way with row upon row of kale, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, broccoli, squash, zucchini, even sunflowers. How much fun is that?
When you’ve picked everything you want, it gets weighed and you pay whatever the cost is per pound. (You’ll want to bring a knife, scissors or pruning sheers to get at some of the plants.)
There’s a big variety of apples currently ready in the trees across Route 9A from the vegetable field, and when the pumpkins are ready, the hay rides will be rolling.
If you need a snack, a drink or any other supplies, Spillers’ Farm Store is also just across the street. You’ll find more fresh produce, sandwiches and a deli counter, pizza, chips and some baked goods.
Hint: If you happen to have a hankering for a chili dog, this is a good place to take care of it. You can be healthy tomorrow when you tap into that big bag of apples.