Camel statues and a welcome sign; the desert in the background.
Camels forever ready for your arid land adventure.

Desert Of Maine

Field review by the editors.

Freeport, Maine

Maine residents insist that it doesn't rain all the time in their state, but you wouldn't know it from our visits. Horrible blinding downpours; it just works out that way. So, what better time to visit that mainstay of New England tourism, that arid anomaly -- the Desert of Maine.

Collection of sand in the barn.
Collection of sand in the barn.

As it turns out, the Desert of Maine is not considered a true desert by scientists because it receives too much rain.

The story is that bad farming practices on this farm near Freeport -- mostly overgrazing by sheep -- destroyed its protective layer of grass. Sand dunes (actually dunes of glacial silt) rose to the surface and then rolled across 40 acres of once arable land.

In 1919 Henry Goldrup bought the abandoned land and, after years of frustration, began to exploit its unique characteristics as a tourist attraction in 1925.

Snow globe: Sunken ocean liner and palm trees.
Snow globe: Sunken ocean liner and palm trees.

The current owners bought the Desert in 2018 and continue the tradition. Today, a large gift shop provides entry. You can take a narrated tour, wander on your own path, or enjoy the wasteland from the picnic area. Or maybe not!

"Every weekend's been beautiful up until today!" insisted the gift shop lady, but the London Fog outlet down the road hints at a different story. Between torrents, we scamper over dunes to peer at half-buried shacks, camel statues, sand, and more sand. The Sahara effect is tarnished by perfectly healthy, green trees visible in all directions. More than a local dirt biker's pleasure pit, but somewhat less than a "desert" by any stretch of the imagination.

A pleasant surprise awaits in a sheltering barn -- the Sand Museum. Small samples of sand have been collected or donated from all over the world. You can gawk at vials from Atlantic City's beach; White Sands, NM; magnetic sand from Lappollar, Chile; and from President Eisenhower's Gettysburg putting green. The collecting seems to have stopped many years ago.

Another bright spot -- an excellent gift shop. Our pick was the Desert of Maine snow globe with the ocean liner inside (instead of a camel), "a mistake at the factory" offered at discount price! Not exactly the "ships of the desert" they had in mind....

Desert Of Maine

95 Desert Rd, Freeport, ME
I-295 exit 20, then drive west on Desert Rd to its end.
Daily 9-5 starting Jun 15 (Virus outbreak may affect access to attraction. Call to verify.)
$10 inc. hourly tours.
RA Rates:
Major Fun
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

The Big F IndianThe Big F Indian, Freeport, ME - 3 mi.
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Eartha: World's Largest Rotating GlobeEartha: World's Largest Rotating Globe, Yarmouth, ME - 4 mi.
In the region:
Lenny, the Chocolate Moose, Scarborough, ME - 22 mi.

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