The Kennebunks & Southern Maine

Photo Courtesy of Robert A. Dennis

Photo Courtesy of Robert A. Dennis

Kennebunk is located on the southwesterly coast of Maine just 90 miles north of Boston and 25 miles south of Portland. The Kennebunks are made up of both the towns of Kennebunk and Kennebunkportl Like many of Maine’s coastal towns, Kennebunk and Kennebunkport first prospered as a shipbuilding center. In the late 1800s, affluent summer visitors would arrive by train from Boston and stay at more than 30 grand hotels and mansions along the coastline in the two towns. They came to enjoy the beaches, rivers, and small town life. The nature of tourism in Kennebunk gradually changed with the arrival of the automobile. "Touring" and "day tripping" led to the disappearance of the many large wooden hotels that lined Kennebunk's beaches, replaced by tourist cabins and more recently with today’s inns and bed and breakfast.

One of most revered more recent developments (1985-1995) was the designation in 1974 of a historic district, which runs from Main Street to Kennebunk Landing's village. This pointed the way to an appreciation of the architectural riches of the town. Today, the town remains a popular year-round tourism destination offering a vibrant downtown shopping and dining destination.

Southern Maine is filled with wonderful towns and villages.  Near the Kennebunks visitors love to visit Kittery for its outlet shopping, York Beach and York Village for its fabulous beaches and Historic  area and zoo, Ogunquit for its lovely restaurants, shops and scenic walks, and Portland, for all its fabulous foodie finds.

KENNEBUNK AREA BEACHES

Photo courtesy of Robert A. Dennis

Photo courtesy of Robert A. Dennis

There’s plenty of outdoor adventure well beyond the downtown sections too. Maine has more than 5000 miles of waterfront and The Kennebunks are bordered by some of the most beautiful and accessible beaches on the Atlantic Seaboard. Year round visitors often plan a beach day at one of several beaches in Kennebunk and Kennebunkport, sunning on the talcum powder sand in summer or a brisk walk with a four-legged friend in winter.

In Kennebunk, Mother's & Gooch's Beach on Beach Avenue, off Routes 9 & 35 are the perfect place to walk, sun yourself, play in the surf, look for sand dollars or just enjoy the sight of the waves rolling into shore. According to the local chamber’ there's no better place to be on July 4th, when fireworks explode overhead in a myriad of glittering lights. 

Goose Rocks Beach on King's Highway, Off Route 9, North of Kennebunkport Village is a favorite with walkers as well as the sand pail set. It's 3-miles long with a wide, smooth and sandy, and offers up views of Eastern Goose Rocks and Timber Island, just off the coast.  

Some call the Kennebunkport Beach the "Kennebunk Workout." We call it spectacular. This string of offers some sandy and some rocky beaches stretches along Beach Avenue from Gooch's Beach past Lord’s Point are all connected by sidewalks. Take an early morning stroll past long stretches of beach, shorefront homes and inns before the sun worshippers spread their towels on the sand. Enjoy the warmth of midday or the romance of an orange and purple sky reflecting off the water at sunset. Kennebunk Beach is readily accessible. There are plenty more beaches for consideration.  Simply click here for more information and directions.  Please note parking passes may be required for some beaches.  Talk with your innkeeper about access to the beaches.

Just down the road, the beaches in York and Ogunquit offer another option for those who would like to venture outside Kennebunkport.

KENNEBUNK, & SOUTHERN MAINE DINING & SHOPPING

Photo courtesy of Robert A. Dennis

Photo courtesy of Robert A. Dennis

While you'll find plenty of fine dining in Kennebunk and Kennebunkport, you can also still find moderately priced places to enjoy too. Some of the best spots to dine are low-key lobster pounds where you can find great food at a good price. Choose from casual fare to candlelit ocean front options.  When you check into your inn, talk with the innkeeper about your dining preferences.  Inns Along the Coast innkeepers are “in the know” about local dining, often including special offers and two-fers, depending upon the time of year.

For shoppers, The Kennebunkports offer an eclectic and upscale collection of galleries, apparel shops and souvenir or t-shirt options too. Unique shops in both towns abound, from Minka, a modern boutique featuring all-natural, locally made accessories, home goods and apothecary, Maine-ly Drizzle with over 50 olive oils and vinegars to taste and buy, to Maine Art with wind sculptures by Lyman Whitaker.

Perhaps the most famous shopping and dining area is Kennebunkport’s Dock Square.  Filled with gift shops, apparel boutiques and art galleries, not to mention everything from lobster and clam shacks to fine dining, visitors love to stroll Dock Squares eclectic businesses to find unique reminders of Maine to take home.

For a true foodie experience, venture just 20 minutes up the road to Portland, Maine, well known as a foodie haven.  Portland has been named among the top ten foodie towns over and over again.  From specialty food purveyors to unique restaurants to a great collection of food trucks, here’s a perfect day trip for those who love to eat and shop.

OUTDOOR ADVENTURE & LIGHTHOUSES IN SOUTHERN MAINE

Portland Head Light

Hoping to visit a Maine lighthouse? Take a drive along Ocean Avenue, which runs along the Kennebunk River to the ocean, eventually arriving in Cape Porpoise, a small coastal village with a view to Goat Island Lighthouse, built in 1835. Other lighthouses within a short drive from Kennebunk/Kennebunkport accessible by foot or boat, are the Nubble Light in Cape Neddick, Wood Island Lighthouse in Biddeford Pool,  and the famous Portland Head Light (commissioned by George Washington and the second lighthouse ever built in the US) in Cape Elizabeth, all within about a half hour drive of Kennebunkport.

If the outdoors calls you, try fly-fishing on the Mousam River, hiking and biking trails, a lobster boat ride, sailing or a whale watching cruise anytime from May through October, all available in or around Kennebunkport and Portland. Bicycle and scooter rentals are always an option or if you wish to get out on the water, rent a kayak locally too.

SOUTHERN MAINE MUSEUMS & HISTORY

Brick Store Museum

There are two museums you won’t want to miss when visiting the Kennebunkports.  Open from May through October, the Seashore Trolley Museum includes rides on a restored and an extensive collection of locomotives, Interurbans, trackless trolleys and other vehicles. Arts and heritage attractions provide alternative visitor enjoyment at the Brick Store Museum or the historic Nott House.  Open year-round, the Brick Store Museum celebrates the human experience in the Kennebunks through art, history and culture, while the Nott House, or “White Columns”, built in the late 1800’s by a wealthy shipbuilder, offers tours and a wonderful carriage barn gift shop.

We can’t deny that Kennebunkport has become a recognized destination due to its connection to the Bush family. The Nott House is home to The First Families’ Kennebunkport Museum-a photographic exhibit of Kennebunkport’s two US Presidents. Photos of both Presidents Bush and their families at Walkers Point, their summer home located along Ocean Avenue in Kennebunkport, are displayed.  Take a drive along Ocean Avenue and you’ll easily spot the Bush compound from afar. And that’s just about as close as you’ll get to it!  You’ll get a flavor for life there though.

Venture a little further up the road to Portland, and you’ll find the Portland Museum of Art, the largest and oldest museum of art in Maine, and the brand new Portland Science Center, both offering changing exhibits.

SOUTHERN MAINE EVENTS & FESTIVALS

Photo courtesy of Robert A. Dennis

Photo courtesy of Robert A. Dennis

To round out the year in Kennebunk and Kennebunkport, Christmas Prelude is a family holiday affair with tree lightings, holiday fare and entertainment, live nativity, caroling, holiday shopping and a magnificent fireworks display.  Filled with plenty of Santa sightings, and signature tours, this festival inspires the holiday spirit in everyone who participates.

The Kennebunkport Festival in June offers a week-long celebration of foods and wines too.  For six days each year this festival celebrates the excellence of Maine’s chefs, artists, musicians, wine purveyors, and beer makers while surrounded by the beautiful scenery, people, and enduring charm of Kennebunkport. Demonstrations, tastings, art tours, and more from the finest in Maine talent are showcased during this chic event.

Harvestfest in Kennebunk offers up a traditional fall festival with costumes, crafts and food. This year, the Zombie walk and food drive was added making for some colorful photos.

Nearby in Ogunquit, a spectacular fireworks display celebrates July 4th and an August Sidewalk Art Show rounds out the summer in Ogunquit.  In Portland, the October Harvest on the Harbor has become one of the top food, wine and tasting events in the country.  It’s a don’t-miss for visitors to Southern Maine.

Your Inns Along the Coast innkeeper is there to help assist you in planning and booking your activities during your stay.  You’ll find plenty of brochures and materials about what to do in the region, and better yet, a wealth of knowledge from your innkeeper about how to fill your day for a memorable getaway.

SOUTHERN MAINE DAY TRIPS

  • Kennebunkport is located in the region of Maine known as the Southern Maine Beaches. Accordingly there are white sand beaches in York, Ogunquit and Wells as well as Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, Biddeford/Saco, Old Orchard Beach, Scarborough and Cape Elizabeth. All beaches are within ½ hour’s drive either South or North of the inn ask your innkeeper for directions.

  • 30 min. South is the village of Ogunquit where you can walk 1 mile along the coast on the “Marginal Way”; shop in the unique shops in Perkins Cove; attend plays and musicals at the “Oqunguit” Playhouse; or visit the “Ogunquit Museum of American Art”.

  • Further South is the Village of York, home of “Stonewall Kitchens” a wonderful place to shop eat or take cooking classes. You can also visit the York Historical Society and “Jefferds Inn” that at one time was owned by Captain Jefferd’s father.

  • While in York be sure to look at  “Nubble Light” and visit York Beach, then in Cape Neddick, and climb or drive to the top of Mt. Agamenticus, the tallest spot in Southern Maine, and the first mountain spotted in the Northeast by John Cabot in 1497.

  • Portland the largest city in Maine is 40 minutes north where you can walk in the “Old Port” with its many shops and restaurants; take the Casco Bay Line Ferry to the islands in Casco Bay, and visit the the Wadsworth-Longfellow House.