48 Hours in Freeport + Yarmouth

A pair of coastal towns just north of Portland, Freeport and Yarmouth offer a range of outdoor activities, extensive shopping, and creative cuisine.

A cozy night in

Tonight I’m traveling solo, without my kids and husband. Downtown Freeport looks magical, with the holiday lights and snow-covered ground. When I see the Harraseeket Inn I pinch myself; it looks like a quintessential New England inn you might find in a Norman Rockwell painting.

As much as I’m eager to explore, I know that one of the best restaurants in town is right here at the inn. The Broad Arrow Tavern has a wonderful, cozy bar, so I decide to sit at one of the high tops and order a glass of pinot noir. While scanning the menu I notice they have a lobster stew advertised as “award- winning.” The stew doesn’t disappoint, with huge chunks of sweet lobster meat in a beautifully seasoned cream broth. For my entree I decide on the halibut tacos, which pair nicely with the stew. I make sure to leave room for dessert on the advice of my colleague Nichole Heady, who raved about the turtle sundae. The waiter tells me in detail about the peach apple crisp just out of the oven, so I order that instead of the sundae. The crisp is just the right amount of tart and sweet and matches the comfy winter vibe in the room.


Bagels, books, and waterfalls

The inn has a lovely breakfast downstairs for guests, but I have my heart set on The Purple House in North Yarmouth, known for its wood-fired bagels and pastries. I order the Schmear with lox cream cheese spread, pickled radish, cucumber, and herbs, and sit down at a long barn table to enjoy my fresh hot cup of coffee.

One of my favorite things to do when visiting a town is to visit the local bookstore. Royal River Books on Yarmouth’s Main Street has a well-curated selection of titles for newborns to adults, plus pieces by Maine artisans, including jewelry by Chart Metalworks and hand-poured candles from Seawicks Candle Company. I have heard wonderful things about the kids’ boutique Pip and Squeaks. The racks are filled with fashionable clothes with amazing cuts and patterns, and literally everything I touch is super soft. Owner Jessica Lynch has sought out sustainable, quality garments from companies with ethical manufacturing and labor practices. My last stop on the street is at women’s clothing boutique Gingham, where I spot pieces from Campfire Studio, one of my favorite pottery makers, and bags with bold, bright hand- printed patterns by local designer Erin Flett. I take note of a gray cashmere sweater with a pink embroidered “Cheers” that I could see myself living in this winter. I resist the purchase for myself but buy a pair of beaded Amano Studio hoop earrings for my sister-in-law.

It’s time to reunite with my two girls and husband at Royal River Park in Yarmouth. There’s a great running trail here, but we’ve come to see the waterfalls. After a snowball fight we make our way over to see the three breathtaking waterfalls, two of which are former dams: the other is at a historic mill site.

Santa and his reindeer

It’s going to be a girls’ afternoon with my eldest. We meet two of her friends and their moms for lunch at Gritty’s. The brewpub’s eclectic decor and fun music get us ready for the afternoon ahead. The kids opt for burgers, chicken tenders, and fries. I go with a homemade veggie burger with all the toppings and a salad.

After lunch we head to the L.L.Bean flagship campus to go through the Northern Lights village. The girls can hardly believe that they get to see Santa’s reindeer hanging out and grazing. The line for Santa is short (a lovely surprise); my daughter is given a chocolate and whispers in his ear what she would like for Christmas this year. We gather the girls and make our way to the main entrance of the store to pose for pictures with the 161⁄2-foot- tall Bean Boot. We go through the store, visit the indoor trout pond, and eventually walk out with a new pair of winter gloves.

We decide to walk around Freeport a bit before we meet my youngest daughter and my husband for dinner. We stop at Rustic Arrow, where there is a rock display that keeps my daughter busy while I shop. I purchase a couple of gifts, including a lovely tourmaline necklace, a cozy pink knit hat, and, for my oldest daughter, a ring engraved with the word “Love.” We share a delicious pumpkin whoopie pie at Wicked Whoopies before stopping in Patagonia to get a new flannel shirt for my husband for his birthday.

Dinner with family

When I walk in to Royal River Grill House in Yarmouth I immediately recognize the design of Nicola Manganello of Nicola’s Home. The space has her signature warm aesthetic: stylish lighting, inviting materials, upholstered cozy seating with oversized throw pillows, and subtle natural accents throughout. We start with mussels in a Madeira, garlic, and butter broth and make sure to dip in every last piece of bread to soak up all the goodness. I decide on the panko pan-seared haddock with Brussels sprouts and mashed potatoes, topped with fried leeks. My husband goes with the wahoo that was flown in today from Hawaii, and the girls share a dish of pasta. Everyone leaves happy and full.

My husband takes our youngest back to our home in Portland, and my eldest comes back to the inn with me. We stop by the Broad Arrow to pick up some hot chocolates and bring them up to the room. We get into our pajamas, curl up in the red herringbone Brahms Mount throw from our bed, and plan our Sunday.

Sticky buns and blankets

We head to Isabella’s Cafe and Bakery to meet my friend Molly and her daughter Sophie. Isabella’s is known for its cinnamon buns, so we order a couple, along with some blueberry muffins. Not a crumb is left on our plates. Next stop is Island Treasure Toys. The girls play the floor keyboard like Tom Hanks in the movie Big and scream with delight. Next they point out all the stuffed animals they would like to invite to live with us, and everyone takes a jump on the trampoline.

Molly takes the girls for the rest of the day so I can do more shopping. A trip to Freeport isn’t complete without a visit to Sea Bags. While I look at their newest line for the winter, the shopkeeper gives me a little history about the bags, each one of which is made from recycled sails. My last stop is Maine Woolens, where there is a colorful array of blankets and throws made down the road in Brunswick. One of the newest woven masterpieces is the Sugarloaf Alpaca blanket, a throw with a marled combination of three colors of alpaca and cotton.

Antiquing on the way home

I check out of the Harraseeket Inn before a quick antiquing trip down Route 1 in Freeport. My first stop is the Freeport Emporium that recently moved down the street from its prior location. I’m overwhelmed with the amount of quality pieces in the shop. There’s an entire cabinet filled with a variety of antique bitters and medicine bottles in an assortment of colors, a nice selection of cast-iron toys from the 1920s and 1930s, and a sweet set of Raggedy Ann and Andy glasbake mugs. For midcentury-modern aficionados, there’s a lovely set of white leather and steel chairs and a shelf of vintage radios. Next stop is Maine Wicked Goods Mercantile, which has a medley of vintage, antique, and new items. I find the perfect Christmas present for my father-in-law who is a drummer in a local classic rock band: a set of coasters made from vintage records. After sifting through about 50 records I settle on the Kinks, the Beatles, the Monkees, and the Beach Boys.

I have one last stop before heading home to Portland: Maple’s in Yarmouth. I order a coffee and a colossal blueberry scone for lunch and some bagels to bring back to the family—a satisfying end to my weekend away.