As summer is well underway and states are reopening from the pandemic, we hope you and your sailor can sneak away for a weekend.
While it can be known as a tourist trap, Kennebunkport, Maine hides it well. Unlike the popular towns along the Washington and Oregon coasts, there’s no glaring signs. You wont find any tacky souvenir shops, no neon t-shirts hanging from the windows. You won’t find over-the-top candy stores or sad, dilapidated arcades and fun houses.
Kennebunkport is beautifully authentic.
Located on the southern tip of Maine, Kennebunkport dates back to the 1600’s as a lobster-fishing harbor. Once upon a time the river banks saw five-masted ships and schooners on their way out to sea. The town is home to beautiful Victorian mansions, once built by sea captains, now preserved as lovely inns. The downtown village offers antique shops, boutiques and fantastic restaurants.
This town has so much pride in its history, as well as its presidential ties. The Bush compound is the summer home of President George H. W. Bush, located on Walker’s Point. The property has been a family retreat for more than a century, starting with his father and mother, Prescott Bush and Dorothy Walker. As you venture around town, you will see framed photographs of George and Barbara, posing with restaurant and shop owners.
My husband and I visited Kennebunkport over Labor Day weekend two years ago. If you need a great weekend getaway from Groton (3 hour drive) or day trip from Portsmouth (35 min drive), we highly recommend it. Here’s some notes from our trip:
Where We Stayed:
Airbnb, Quiet, Cozy Cottage | For this trip we opted to stay at an Airbnb. This quiet, cozy cottage lived up to its name in every way and was perfect for what we needed. The house was located only a quarter of a mile from town, so we didn’t even touch our car the entire weekend. If you prefer a hotel, Nonantum Resort and the Boathouse Waterfront Hotel looked very promising!
What We Did:
Coastal Maine Kayak and Bike | Since we wanted to remain completely car-less this trip, we ventured to Coastal Maine Kayak and Bike on Saturday and Sunday! Saturday we opted for an afternoon of kayaking the Kennebunk River, and Sunday we went riding to Goose Rocks Beach for a picnic. For a three day weekend, this place booked up quickly. Make sure you plan ahead and make reservations!
Walker’s Point – Bush Family Compound | OK – you don’t get to go onto the compound, but you can drive right past it and take photos. We zipped by on our bikes and took pictures at a lookout point. Fun fact? You can also spot the Secret Service boat at the harbor. Apparently in Bush’s younger days, he was known to take his boat out on the ocean and speed away from security.
Sunset Sail with Pineapple Ketch | This was such a sweet treat on our last night in town. Pineapple Ketch is a lovingly restored 38′ Downeaster Ketch. On the two hour trip the captain guides you along Maine’s coastline, as you explore the landscape, homes and resorts. We learned a lot of fun history along the way!
Goose Rocks Beach | We rode our bikes about six miles to this gorgeous, neighborhood beach. The expansive beach hugs the shore, providing lots of space for walking, combing and lounging. We enjoyed a quiet, picnic lunch.
Shopping | Downtown Kennebunkport is home to so many cute boutiques, shops and galleries. The charming shops occupy old canning warehouses and buildings, many of which are hidden along alleyways, attics and basements. Our favorites included Beach Grass, Minka, and so many others.
Where We Ate:
The Clam Shack | Perched at the bridge over the Kennebunk River, the Clam Shack is your idyllic, quintessential seafood shack with fried delicacies like lobster rolls, clam strips, chicken fingers, onion rings and more. To make it even sweeter, the shack has a pop-up lemonade stand, with freshly-squeezed juice. When you order a lobster roll they ask you if you want it with mayonnaise or butter. Then depending on your answer, you’ll receive a keepsake pin that proudly dons your preference (ours was “BOTH”). We saw these pins all around town!
Salt & Honey | We stumbled onto this place by a happy accident. Most restaurants in town were at least an hour wait for a table, we moseyed on over to this bar without a problem. The restaurant offers traditional New England comfort foods with a Southern flare — think southern fried chicken, seared day boat scallops, and lobster succotash.
Hurricane Restaurant | For our last night in town we waited and dined at one of the more popular, quintessential Kennebunkport restaurants. Hurricane was a gorgeous, maritime-themed restaurant complete with white tablecloths and bread baskets. Unfortunately for us many of the items had been sold out already (we had to wait til nearly 9pm to get a table), but the food was superb. We started with the cesar salad and lobster chowder, then moved onto garlic shrimp and slow roasted rack of American lamb. Yeah, I don’t know how we walked home that night.
Where We Drank:
Federal Jacks/Kennebunkport Brewing Co.| When we arrived in town Friday night this was our first stop! While the brewery sits in the basement, but our hungry selves ventured upstairs to the restaurant. Go for the beer, not the lackluster service and food.
Old Vines Wine Bar |This chic little wine bar operates out of converted barn, with quality wine, craft cocktails and small plates you’d expect to find in any major city. The restaurant specializes in tapas, and we enjoyed the fried shishito peppers and calamari. The restaurant is a bit pricey, but their happy hour was perfection.
Pilot House | After our afternoon of kayaking, this little dive bar pulled us in with their live music and outdoor beer garden. The bar sits right on the harbor, quite literally in the back parking lot of the boating dock. We opted for cheap beers, but the food looked good!
Mornings in Paris | This was our go-to breakfast/coffee joint every day. The authentic, European-style cafe hand roasts their own coffees and teas, and offers a variety of homemade pastries, from scones and croissants to muffins and quiches.
To learn more about Kennebunkport, visit www.visitkennebunkport.com. Have you been to Maine? I’d love to know some of your favorite places.