Before we had visited Maine, we knew that we were interested in Portland, its oceanside big city: Perhaps we would co-work a bit and visit the children’s museum or scoot around a boulevard. I had been doing my campground recon long before our arrival, so I was familiar with some of the names and amenities surrounding metro Maine. Recompence Shore Campground kept popping up as a great place to camp. Once we arrived in Maine, we met other campers who were heading to Recompence just for this working farm camping experience itself. An acquaintance of Scot’s also recommended camping there. Finally, as we made our way through, up, over, down and around to our last Maine destination, Recompence Shore Campground became our destination, too, trumping our visit to Portland altogether. Hands down, Recompence made it to the top of the list of favorite campground of our journey to date, one which we recommend highly just for the experience, a place to which we will return again. Camping on a giant working farm along the ocean is unique, special and simply a load of fun for all ages.
Enter downtown Freeport, Maine, and you will find what appears to be an outdoor outlet mall. At every corner is any variety of high-end offshoot of popular names like The North Face, Orvis, J. Crew, Coach, Cole Haan, Brooks Brothers and, of course, the L.L. Bean Flagship Store (though not the original) and much, much more. It is quite a spectacle, and, honestly, was very surprising to us. Once again, we found ourselves in a changed Maine town. Dodging and weaving shoppers and tourists with loaded bags of name-brand merch while we tried to make a left turn was stressful. It was all very unexpected and just not our thing. If you do like that kind of thing, you will love downtown Freeport: It is pretty, clean, historic and trendy. Thankfully, our campground wasn’t any part of that Freeport traffic jam. Our Freeport was a rural one: Recompence Shore Campground at Wolfe’s Neck Farm seemed a world unto itself.
Cows in the field, moon over the meadow, trails to tides, organic food for study and sale is what you get at this campground and farm. Spread over six hundred acres, this working saltwater farm offers farm camps, organic farming, hayrides, visits to the farm, classes and more. It was a gift from the Smith family of Philadelphia, who believed in preservation, protection and sustainable use of open, public lands. After farming the land for many years, the Smiths gave it to the community, and Wolfe’s Neck Farm continues to remain free and open to the public, “from dawn to dusk,” all year round.
Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park, also a gift from the Smith family and just down the road from the farm, encompasses two hundred-plus acres of marshland, salt marsh estuary, white pines and hemlocks and a special group of ospreys set along a rocky and clay embankment. You will find similar terrain along the shores of Wolfe’s Neck Farm and the campground. Trails and dirt roads connecting the two premises bring bikers, hikers, kayakers and joggers, who park somewhere along the road and embark on their journey of interest.
For us, camping on this working farm created plenty of special occasions. It was easy to walk to the inlet to examine the tides, then walk back up to the West Bay campsites on the southern part of the grounds, cross a few boardwalks and bridges along the farm’s marked trail to the East Bay campsites and back around to the main road. At any given time, we hung out with the sheep and cows, or went behind the barns to check out the pigs, ducks, geese and hens. Sometimes we fed the cows or tallied the outbound eggs while in the barn, or headed into the farm stand to buy some recently picked produce. We took pumpkin hayrides or long walks with Luna, kept track of the moonrise over the open meadow and tried to catch the sunsets. When the tide was out, we ambled along the shore and rocks to search for clams.
The campground itself is set up for hardcore tenters and RVers, too. One can camp in utter solitude right on the water (tents, not RVs) or nearer the main road and shower, laundry and snack shack. Recompence offers recreational rentals, including bikes and kayaks, available for all-day use. And, although in rural Freeport, it is not far from town. I found myself at Bow Street Market a lot and Casco Bay Cutlery and Kitchenware for supplies and a little taste of hometown shopping.
Speaking with locals, one learns that Freeport is mostly still Freeport. When L.L. Bean went big time, all of the other famous name brands sprouted up around it. There are still lots of local, homegrown shops around Freeport; park and walk and you will find them. Older Freeport residents tell stories of mingling with the Bean family, when shoes were still made exceptionally well and were kept and maintained for life. They also talk highly of the Smith family, who gave such a huge plot of land to the community for forever use. And, if you want to catch a glimpse of what Freeport used to look like, just head to South Freeport, just a short drive from Freeport proper.
We enjoyed our time at the campground and farm that we didn’t leave much. One day I took Luna to the Maine Wildlife Park so that she could actually see a moose, as well as other animals native to Maine. I also found a tremendous woodpile for sale en route, so I picked up eight bundles for our campfires, which made for great fires in our beautiful setting until is simply became too cold.
Indeed, two very cold nights in Freeport, Maine, determined our fate. We knew that the cold would eventually kick us out of Maine, but it became quite clear when our water pressure went to nil in the camper. Then the heat kicked on throughout the night, rapidly depleting our propane, and the windows continued to collect condensed water, making my morning ritual of wiping away the condensation an absolute chore. We were so cold in our not exactly efficient RV. The toilet seat was an ice block. All layers of clothes and blankets were on duty. Our time in Maine had finally come to an end.
And, oh boy, did we enjoy it. It was everything we had imagined and more. We have no idea when we’ll return, but we have no doubt that we will. What a beautiful state.