Kennebunkport, ME Review
A weekend trip to Maine - obviously full of blueberries and lobster. Duh. Just kidding, there's more! Read the review and report now.
Let's once again take a small weekend getaway to that wonderful region of the world that is New England. There really are so many little towns that are worth visiting. Now, yes, I hear you. A lot of these little towns DO in fact offer similar experiences. But, it's the sheer charm of them, and the quality of their seafood, that should keep you coming back and exploring different ones. They make the perfect weekend away that doesn't break the bank, but also can be packed full of value. This time, we went to Kennebunkport, ME. Let's get into it and why you might like it.
Like so many other towns dotting the coast of the North East United States, this town originally focused on fishing and shipbuilding. And you'll see that vibe right away when you get to the town center. It's very small, with a population of only just north of 4,000 people. The "port" is on the water, and there is actually a second village, known only as Kennebunk, that also has a main street - though it's a bit more modern. You can, and should, pop over there too for some good food.
Kennebunkport kind of came off like a bit of a chocolate truffle to me - with a wealthier, upscale outer edge and a more blue collar middle (town center). I found it worked well. I'll give you idea of what to expect, and how you can fill a weekend here just like I did.
This is my Kennebunkport, ME weekend report and review.
What To Do In Kennebunkport
I was there in the winter, so things were a bit more paired down than in summer. I didn't do the beaches for swimming, some stores were closed, and of course the "shacks" - those seasonal seafood joints that we're famous for up here - were closed for the season, too.
But hey, that just means you have the little stores and shops, and the beach paths, all to yourself! Which we loved. All the main restaurants are pretty much open year round, because hey the locals need to eat too. So I found it a good balance.
The first thing you're going to want to do is spend an afternoon walking around the village center, known as Dock Square. You've got lots of little shops down here that you'd come to expect in these kinds of areas - t-shirt stores, a store focusing on Maine products, souvenir stores, handmade home goods, ice cream, sweets, etc. The good stuff! Sleep late, grab a coffee at Dock Square Coffee House (actual third wave brew) and enjoy the walk. We enjoyed Copper Candle, as well as some of the natural home goods stores there. I always keep my eye out for "made in Maine" stuff. Help promote the local small businesses when you are there vs the importing business.
You can definitely do this in a couple hours, and at a nice leisurely pace. But hey, you're on a weekend away. Don't make this one a go-go-go stress fest. This town is more of a laid back vibe, especially in the winter. Take in the quiet!
For your next afternoon or late morning, I'd suggest some good old fashioned walking. Head down to Gooch's beach for a nice, crisp walk. (That dramatic, sunny beach picture is Gooch's). I would also then recommend heading back into the village, and turning out onto Ocean Ave. This is a lovely, scenic drive past some of the nicer resorts, and even nicer homes along the sea. Keep going, and park on one of the parking areas and you can proceed to walk quite a ways on a nice pathway. Go all the way up to Blowing Cave Park, a small little viewpoint named for how the waves shoot up through the rocks. It's a wonderful view here, and a good spot to stop and gaze at the rock formations and sea. I mean, you like gazing right? RIGHT? OK then. And hey, this is also the perfect spot to get a photo opp of Walker's Point across the inlet. This is the Bush family summer compound! Can be seen in one of the banner pics below, it's pretty cool looking. Imagine having your own peninsula?
Don't let that be the definitive list, however. Definitely pop over to Kennebunk village too. If you have kids, or are into trains, there is a Trolley Museum nearby. Goat Island Lighthouse can give you a slice of tradition. Or, you can take a quick drive over to Cape Porpoise, another little village in the area. All up to you. It's not a town you're going to spend a week in, unless you're up there to go to the beach every day - or I don't know, are a writer and only work in environments like writers in the movies. But a weekend will be great. Certainly a good place to stop off for a couple of days if you're doing a road trip around the area.
What To Eat In Kennebunkport
I would actually consider Kennebunkport and it's sister village to be a very strong culinary destination. Yes, I mean that. Now, obviously if seafood is not your thing, then the answer is maybe not. But if that's the case, you're probably not that excited about New England towns to begin with. For those that ARE into seafood - and a super local scene - this place has you covered.
The best way to breakup your day, is of course with a good lunch at one of the local joints! In this town, it doesn't get any more local than Alison's. A clear favorite of the people that live in town, it's got all the usual classics, a casual pubby atmosphere, and seems to have a ton of local brews on tap as well if that's your gig. We had a lunch of steamed mussels, and some amazing lobster mac and cheese. We're talking down home, cheesy mac, with absolutely local lobster thrown in. None of that shipped in stuff. Get it. Please.
For Day 2 lunch, I'd recommend Hurricane Restaurant, just a few doors down from Alison's. I would say it's a nicer setting, right on the water, but it's not TOO fancy, if that makes sense. For dinner it's definitely one of your choices for finer dining in the area. But for lunch, even though it was a nice setting, it still felt casual to me, which was perfect. We loved our food: fried oysters, half dozen local raw oysters, and some french onion soup (you HAVE to get this in the winter in New England!).
There are quite a few great choices for dinner here too. We drove down into Kennebunk one night, and went to 50 Local. Was great. Lovely choices, great vibe full of locals, and of course, seasonal food on offer. Really enjoyed our dinner of some local haddock, crab cakes, etc. Oh and of course - more raw oysters. Now another great choice for fine dining, which I did not get a chance to go to because it's seasonal and closed in winter, is Earth. Gets rave reviews so check that out. I've also been recommended The Tides Beach Club. Also seasonal, but I trust this old New Englander that gave it to me (this one is a short drive out of the village, however, so keep that in mind). Our hotel also recommended The Boathouse for a nice dining experience for lunch or dinner.
For coffee, I'd recommend the Dock Square Coffee House as I already mentioned. And, up in Kennebunk there is a great bakery that you should give your business to, simply called Boulangerie. Get your morning pastry fix there. Keep in mind that it closes at 12 on Sundays, we learned the hard way!
Now for the BIG one. If you're in the mood for fine dining, Kennebunkport has a surprise for you. It's got what is widely considered the best or second best restaurant in New England, depending on who you ask. That would be the Restaurant at the White Barn Inn. That little lobster further up the page was part of our dinner there. Just a wonderful meal with some really nice touches. Unfortunately, Michelin doesn't go to this region of the US, so you won't find them starred. If they DID, I would feel confident saying this place would earn a star (I say this having just eaten at a two-star in Barcelona, so some good measurement sticks). The lobster was amazing. The duck I had was superb. I had a fois gras torchon that was actually like butter. And my dessert of "peanut butter and jelly" was DELICIOUS. Peanut butter mousse, jelly dots, toasted brioche ice cream. It really did taste like the classic treat, but transformed into a refined plate. Not to mention, the breakfast here was the same quality of food. Absolutely reserve here if you are looking for fine dining. Tell them Always Wander sent you. No just kidding, don't do that, they'd look at you like you were insane. They've not heard of me. Some more pictures here (please excuse the lighting, it was a nice romantic-dark in there, which is not good for pictures):
Where To Stay in Kennebunkport
You've really got a lot of choices up here, believe it or not. Quite lot, for such a small place. And you can see why things are closed down a bit in the winter. With so many hotels and seaside resorts, it creates a lot of summer demand that goes way down in the winter.
I'd honestly say that by checking out the 10 Best on Tripadvisor, you'll have your fill of choices. I don't think you'll go too wrong there. It's got a number of budget levels, so you should find a good choice no matter what your range. And some are classic, some are chains, etc. Bed and Breakfasts are always a good choice in a place like this. And, I was pleased to find a number of solid choices for Airbnb up there. It's not too pervasive in Kennebunkport - so I'd feel comfortable recommending it in this case.
A morning shot of the White Barn Inn, part of the Auberge Group.
If you want to go luxury, there are some very good choices up here. I was lucky enough to have a room in the White Barn Inn (which I mentioned for eating) and it was just a lovely place to stay. It was once upon a time, partly a barn of course, that has been turned into a quaint, old-school New England inn complete with a spa. Our room was really big, had an amazing bathroom with double sinks, and we had a fire place in the room as well (gas). Perfect. Like I also mentioned, the breakfast here was some of the best I've ever had. If it's included in your room, they actually encourage you to try a few things on the menu, which is a la carte, and use wonderful, quality ingredients in their dishes. Fresh banana bread with every sitting also won some points from me.
Beyond that the hotel had just really nice accents all over, like the old building it was. Lovingly restored and kept up - the dining room was beautiful. And, they also had a sitting room with a giant fireplace, tea and finger foods every afternoon, and free Port or Brandy to help you through the day. I actually spent some time in this room writing for the site - the only thing I was missing was a smoking jacket.
I can one thousand percent recommend the White Barn Inn for your stay. I was really, really lovely. The staff was very well trained as well, so it certainly always FELT like a luxury spot as well as looked the part.
Final Thoughts On My Kennbunkport Review And Report
And there you have it, wanderers. Kennebunkport, ME isn't the place you're going to head to for that wild, summer boardwalk feel. And frankly, those the call this town home (and the people that vacation here regularly) - are just fine with that. What you're going to get is some of the freshest lobster and lobster dishes you can find, a wealth of other local seafood dishes, and a surprisingly "local" focused food and shopping economy. Beyond that, you're going to get what you came for, and that's a nice escape from where ever it is you live for a weekend in a quaint New England town that's also full of it's own real world history.
The locals are friendly up here and won't mind you there at all so long as you're friendly, too. If you're into Boston sports, well don't worry about being a few hours from Boston - Maine is rabid for the New England teams. And if it's summer, you can add onto your trip a few days of sunning on the beach and relaxing on the deck of your AirBnB.
Whether it's a weekend here as the destination, or as part of planning a New England road trip while stopping for a few days in each spot - bring your tourist investment here. It's not over run with people, there's no cruise ship landings, and it's all very fairly priced to boot. Just do us fans a favor - don't tell TOO many people about it. Everyone will be just fine if it stays that way.
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