Ahhh … Kennebunkport, Maine. It’s a breath of fresh air just reciting the name. Closing my eyes, I can smell the salty sea water, hear the shrill of seagulls, and almost taste the buttery lobster. This small town, a picturesque postcard, seems to wash away all of your troubles as soon as you see the welcome sign.
Kennebunkport, (pronounced: ken-uh-buhnk-port) whose population was recorded at 3,474 in the 2010 census, is nestled along the Kennebunk River, near the mouth of the Atlantic Ocean and has its own marina embracing the town, where it’s not uncommon to see masted ships and schooners tied to their docks.
Historically, a shipbuilding and fishing village, the small town is also a summer getaway and seaside tourist destination. You get that sense when you enter the area in and around Dock Square, which is home to several souvenir shops, art galleries, bed and breakfast inns, and seafood restaurants, which boasts the finest, freshest seafood around.
Don’t let its simple charm and small size fool you, though, because no matter the weather conditions, traffic can be jammed, bumper-to-bumper, with parking spots tricky to find; however, if you remain undeterred, the reward is fantastic. A word of advice though: bring plenty of pocket change with you to feed the parking meters, because you might just need to use one. Yeah, it’s that packed, but completely worth it. Oh, and bring good walking shoes too. Trust me.
To this day, Kennebunkport retains its’ reputation as a summer haven for the upper-class and is one of the wealthiest communities in all of Maine. Former United States President George H.W. Bush has a summer home on Walker’s Point.
The home was built by Bush’s grandfather, George Herbert Walker and has been the family home ever since. During his presidency in the 1980’s, Bush often invited world leaders, ranging from Margaret Thatcher to Mikhail Gorbachev, to the quaint summer village. In 2007, Vladimir Putin was a guest of his son George W. Bush, the 43rd President of the United States. When both were serving their terms in office, the Presidential flag was hoisted below the national colors to indicate their presence. Today, the United States Flag flies at all times.
Even though the elite (and former Presidents) are full- or part-time residents, there isn’t any snobbery or pomp and circumstance surrounding the local citizens. They welcome everyone with warm open arms with a down home country feel, and can point you to the best place to eat clams or, “lobstahs.”
Long known for its’ fishing industry, Kennebunkport is the perfect place to find a great catch of any seafood delicacy. The culinary scene continues to grow, with award winning chefs migrating to the area, and the aroma wafting up and down the streets will only serve to make your mouth water, which in my book, is not a bad thing at all. While any seafood can be found in any of the fancy-schmancy restaurants in the area, the best usually comes from any of the one-room shacks that dot the harbor, like this one:
Just step up the window, place your order, and when it’s hot and ready, plop down on a picnic table nearby and chow down on all that wonderful seafood that was caught offshore and brought into the marina that morning. By the way, The Clam Shack is best known for their lobster rolls, and while the wait in line can be lengthy, it’s definitely worth its “wait” (pun intended) in fresh lobster goodness.
There are also plenty of things to do in Kennebunkport on any given day, during any season. Besides browsing the charming shops and galleries, you can explore the rugged coastline as you stroll along the shore with spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean.
Maine is known for its’ rocky coastline, called bedrock, and is a result leftover of the formation of the Appalachian Mountains.
Not to be missed is the Brick Store Museum, even if you aren’t fond of antiques, which contains a vast array of family heirlooms and art from early settlers. There are quilts with secret pouches and handwritten inscriptions, a chest dating back to 1685, a painting that was found floating at sea from the ship of a Kennebunkport captain, and various pieces salvaged from area shipwrecks.
If you are looking for more adventure, be sure to climb aboard a lobster boat, take on a whale watching tour, or charter your own boat, kayak, or canoe.
You can take a drive down Ocean Avenue where you can not only rest your eyes on the Atlantic Ocean, but also stop to photograph several blow holes along the way. They are an amazing sight and when the water blows through the hole, the sound of rushing water will leave you gasping for air after you realize you’ve been holding your breath, as if you’re being pulled back out to sea.
Do yourself a favor while visiting Kennebunkport and travel down Route 9, heading toward Cape Porpoise Pier, so you get a fantastic view of the Goat Island Lighthouse.
Built in 1833 at a cost of $6,000, its first keeper was paid an annual salary of $350. Dangerous rocks surround the tiny island, and while the lighthouse didn’t prevent all shipwrecks, no deaths occurred due to the ability of the keepers to pick up survivors.
Before you leave the area, head back to Dock Square to do a little shopping. Pick up a T-shirt, handmade pottery, kitschy knickknacks, or even a lobster-designed handbag. If shopping is not on your to-do list, then explore the towns’ great architecture, ranging from churches to inns, seaside homes and several mansions, some from previous sea captains. All are within walking distance and after gorging on the local food scene, you’ll need it.
Whether you’re a day traveler or desire to spend your entire vacation in Kennebunkport, you will not be disappointed, and the only time you will be is when it comes time for you to leave. But don’t worry, because this is a place that will call out your name over-and-over, like the breeze that drifts ashore and back out to sea, beckoning for your return. And, you know what? You’ll be back. You’ll definitely be back.