Kennebunkport is one of New England’s premier summer destinations. It is ideal for long weekends by the beach or for relaxing in its lush countryside. This is what makes the destination so unique and fascinating: take a lobster excursion in the morning, take a bike ride in the afternoon and watch the sunset during happy hours by the beach. Here’s how to have the perfect weekend in Kennebunkport, Maine.
How to get there
For the majority of visitors, Kennebunkport is a relatively smooth ride. Bostonians can arrive after 90 minutes on I-95; other New England cities average about three hours; even New Yorkers can do it in less than five hours (the same for foreign tourists from Montreal). But for those who come from further afield, there is also Portland International Jetport (PWM). It’s just under 30 minutes south of Kennebunk and is a convenient option for connecting the rest of the country to this coastal town.
Where to stay
Yachtman Hotel & Marina Club
As a port town, people inevitably flock to Kennebunk to experience its seaside landscape, including its beaches, harbors and lighthouses, but also a charming town center aptly named Dock Square. Built around the Kennebunk River which flows into the Atlantic and some of the area’s famous beaches like Goose Rocks, it’s the perfect base for any beginner. In this case, checking in at Yachtsman is your best bet; Slightly removed from the main square, the harbor property is an eight-minute walk from town. It’s only a three-minute bike ride to the center (which also serves as a popular pastime and mode of transportation in Kennebunk).
Nautical bungalows offer a playful splash of color against sliding glass doors that open to your private patio along the hotel’s on-site marina. For guests looking to mingle, the Yachtsman offers a private marina bar for guests only, or their floating “pool boat,” the S.S. Sundaze, which is the place to be on a summer weekend. And for any guests looking to get away from marina life, Yachtsman partners with Kennebunkport Marina next door, to offer rentals to explore the area’s waterways at your own pace.
About 15 minutes from Dock Square, it’s a stark contrast to the waterfront appeal of Kennebunkport, but it has an allure of its own – one you won’t want to miss. Spread over 60 acres, Hidden Pond offers 36 private cabins in the form of treehouses, bungalows and two-bedroom cottages for the ultimate secluded getaway, all with the amenities of a luxury resort (like daily delivery of coffee and pastries at your doorstep).
Each accommodation has a name rather than an impersonal number that another guest has checked in and out and is surrounded by nearly four acres of lush forest. The cabins offer outdoor showers, gas fireplaces and a veranda equipped with cozy blankets for a cozy experience. Decor wise, 20 of the bungalows have just been revamped by menswear designer Todd Snyder, depicting three of Maine’s main themes – country, mountain and seaside – once again linking the separate location from Kennebunkport. There are two pools on the property, multiple fire pits with daily s’more kits provided, and a farm-to-fork restaurant concept that serves breakfast but is renowned for its evening tasting menu.
What to do
To the beach
Whenever you visit Kennebunkport, you just have to visit the beach – Goose Rocks Beach, to be precise. The three-mile stretch of fine sand along a calm cove is an idyllic way to kill a few hours on a sweltering summer day, as is an off-season beach stroll. You will notice that beachfront properties are rare, as the lots are orderly, ensuring views and privacy are protected along this popular site.
Although lobsters are a year-round menu item throughout Maine, June is the unofficial peak season for the namesake variety of this red crustacean. Summer visitors should take advantage of the warmer weather and book a lobster boat tour. They can learn about the specifics of Maine lobster and the restrictions surrounding permits, measurement requirements, and more. Captain Bob Danzilo of Rugosa Lobster Tours takes you out to the Gulf of Maine, pulls a few traps, walks you through the basics of lobster fishing, and gives you a fun yet informative 90 minutes that will give you a whole new appreciation for the lobster you’re bound to eat during your trip to Kennebunk.
Local boutiques and a fair share of classic souvenir shops populate Dock Square. If you are a buyer, you could make a day out of it. If you’re more of a stop-over type if it strikes me, you can easily visit all the stores in just a few hours. Either way, it’s worth walking around town to experience traditional Kennebunkport. If you catch a nasty spell of weather in New England, you might want to shop indoors; there are a number of antique shops around Kennebunkport that are worth visiting for unique finds.
Where to eat and drink
The clam shack
A symbol of Kennebunkport, The Clam Shack is recognizable by its quirky signage covered in Coca-Cola and the throngs of customers lined up below waiting for fried clams and a lobster roll. While there’s definitely no “right” way to order a lobster roll, there is a Maine way. And it’s cold, with lobster and mayonnaise. If you’re more of a butter connoisseur (it’s the Connecticut way), The Clam Shack won’t judge. They have a “both” option, which combines a mayonnaise spread and a drizzle of hot butter to combine the best of both styles. Grab a local beer on tap and sit on a picnic bench while you wait for your order. Dip into the hot fried clams first, then tackle the roll.
Land at Hidden Pond
Whether you’re staying at Hidden Pond or just looking for a taste of the woodland property’s specialty farm-to-fork restaurant, be sure to arrive hungry. Earth uses farm-fresh ingredients, some even grown on site, to create an indulgent three- or four-course menu that rotates with the season. The decor and cuisine reflect its namesake, a bite-sized reminder of what fresh ingredients really taste like. Arrive early to enjoy an aperitif with house spirits at the Perfect Farm Bar. Or, stay later for a nightcap by one of the private fire pits overlooking one of the resort’s three ponds.
With an expansive wooden deck, Arundel Wharf is a casual restaurant on the quayside, perfect for a sunny lunch, a cheeky midday cocktail and snack, or happy hour at sunset. There are plenty of appetizers to share for a large group, or even a smaller one looking to try the wealth of seafood available here. Think traditional New England steamers, shrimp cocktail, lobster stuffed avocado and mussels.
White Barn Inn
Whether you are celebrating a special occasion or simply celebrating a reservation at this fine dining restaurant, the restaurant at the White Barn Inn sets the tone for an elegant evening. The AAA Five Diamond, Forbes Five Star Restaurant is led by Executive Chef Mathew Woolf. It showcases the best of Maine’s farmers, fishers, and gatherers. It’s an old-fashioned place for the region, still encouraging gentlemen to wear jackets, and why not? Again, it’s an opportunity in itself to eat here.
Rococo ice cream
Every coastal town needs a famous ice cream showcase, and in Kennebunkport, it’s Rococo. Every day, this outpost offers 14 different flavors. You’ll find signature flavors like goat cheese chambord, blackberry, and maple and fig jalapeño, as well as seasonal options. They also make an amazing affogato; espresso served over your choice of ice cream for a midday pick-me-up.
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