Kennebunkport Travel Guide
My family has been visiting Kennebunkport since the 1970’s, so I’ve been fortunate enough to experience this beautiful seaside town at least once every year. I have not met an ocean drive, sandy beach, or fresh lobster that can top what KPT has to offer. It is no wonder the wealthy first chose to rendezvous here back in the late 19th century. This is the perfect destination for escaping daily life in pursuit of relaxation and leisure. In this article, I hope to share with you my favorite places to eat, shop, grab a drink, and relax by the ocean.
The original charm of this coastal haven has not been lost, even as its popularity grows. Although it formed as a working fishing harbor, Kennebunkport’s recreational appeal quickly turned it into a summer escape for elite New England Families. The shoreline is dotted with shingle-style cottages and mansions both, many almost two centuries old.
The town’s most notable residents are the Bush family, who have a large residence on Walker’s Point. World leaders such as Margaret Thatcher, Gorbachev, and Vladimir Putin have all visited Kennebunkport as guests of the Bush family. There must be something special about discussing global affairs while fishing for striped bass, or having drinks by the sea. In a day and age where society wants to modernize and commercialize our way of living, Kennebunkport holds steadfast to its historic and slow-paced lifestyle. Thank God that it does.
WHERE TO EAT:
- The Wayfarer
Local favorite in the village of Cape Porpoise. Enjoy a classic New England breakfast with some Southern twists. Extremely cordial staff. Recommendation: The “Wayfarer” (lobster) Benedict.
- Merriland Farm Cafe
Located off Route One in Wells, Merriland Farm is a family-owned cafe whose main
dining structure is over 225 years old. Enjoy a warm, sunny breakfast followed by nine holes on
the Morrison family’s golf course. Recommendation: Take advantage of the fresh berries.
- The Arundel Wharf
As featured in my “Secret to Lobster Bisque” article, The Arundel Wharf is a KPT restaurant in the heart of Dock Square. Deck-seating is a must on a beautiful day, the Kennebunk river will be alive with boats heading out to sea. Your gold standard for Maine fare, and few dishes will fall short of expectations.
Recommendation: A bowl of Lobster Stew.
- Bennett’s Store
A legendary seasonal sandwich shop. The biggest subs you could ever need, and all kinds of hearty New England paraphernalia.
Recommendation: 12-inch Cheesteak.
FOR HAPPY HOUR/APPETIZERS
- Tia’s Topside
Another Dock Square restaurant with outdoor seating and a view. 1/2-price drink specials and… $1 Oysters.
A relatively new player in town, David’s does not disappoint. Beautiful deck-seating with a view of the town bridge, water, and decorations of the closest holiday.
Recommendation: The bourbon Arnold Palmer, raw bar, and a lobster roll.
- Tides Beach Club
A beachfront hotel with a vibrant restaurant and social scene. TBC is one of the
“youngest” feeling restaurants in Kennebunkport. Great front porch for drinks, comfy indoor lounge, and a “just walked in from the beach” dining feel.
Recommendation: Oysters and the Buffalo Fried Shrimp
An elegant farm-to-table restaurant in a Revolutionary War home from 1774. This is the fanciest place on my guide, and you will need to make reservations extremely far in advance. Young children are not allowed.
Recommendation: Duck, Filet Migñon.
- Pier 77
Pier 77 is a Cape Porpoise restaurant that started out stuffy but has turned into a neat & classy dining experience. Formal dining room accompanied by a piano player and views of the harbor. Worth it for the drive to the tip of Cape Porpoise alone. Recommendation: Short Ribs and Crab Cakes.
- Goose Rocks Dairy
A tiny ice cream shop by Goose Rocks and Granite Point, off Mills Road. The compound GRD is located in is a bit perplexing, but prepare to be blown away. This is my go-to stop after 4th of July fireworks (and whenever else I have an excuse to get ice cream).
Recommendation: Moose Tracks and a t-shirt.
- Federal Jack’s
Federal Jack’s is a Dock Square restaurant where the locals go for a beer. It is located
right above the fantastic Shipyard Brewing (Kennebunkport Brewing Co. out of state) gift shop.
Recommendation: Shipyard Summer Ale, Chamberlain Pale Ale, and a XXX Smashed
Blueberry bomber to go.
- Cape Porpoise Kitchen
Great store in the middle of Cape Porpoise, right by The Wayfarer (see Breakfast) and
Bradbury Bros. Market. Grab all kinds of delicious sandwiches and salads (maybe a bottle of wine) to go!
- Market Day
Route 35 in Kennebunk. Family store with unique sandwiches, baked goods, wine, and
cheese. Recommendation: The fresh blueberry scones are amazing.
FOR EATING AT HOME
- Langsford Road Lobster and Fish House
A case can easily be made for saving the best for last here. Langsford’s buys directly
from the lobstermen off their own wharf… you cannot get much fresher or any cheaper unless
you catch something yourself. Call your order in ahead of time, then drive into Cape Porpoise
for one of the area’s best kept secrets. Recommendation: The freshest, cheapest, best lobster
on the East Coast.
WHERE TO STAY:
- Pack Maynard Real Estate, Holly Johnson
– Renting is the way to go in Kennebunkport. The Grand Hotels and boutique inns may look more appealing, but leave those to the tourists and weekenders. Staying in a beach home for two weeks is the best way to meld into KPT culture, and most ideal for a unique experience. Holly has been a resident of Kennebunkport for almost 30 years, and would constantly find
dream houses for my family back when they rented. Recommendation: Goose Rocks Beach,
Lord’s Point, Cape Porpoise – Pier Road, Cape Porpoise – Granite Point, Ocean Ave, Maine
Street, Port Road, and Beach Avenue.
HOTELS & INNS
- Nonantum Resort
Located in the heart of Kennebunkport, The Nonantum is one of only two Kennebunk Grand Hotels that survive today (the other being The Colony). Opened in 1883, the sprawling Nonantum has recently undergone completely new furniture and room renovations.
- Captain Jefferds Inn
Built in 1804 as one of Kennebunkport’s famous sea captain homes, the Captain Jefferds Inn is now a three-story Colonial bed & breakfast.
- Honorable Mentions: The Kennebunkport Inn, The Tides Beach Club, and the Captain Lord Mansion all provide more elegance and charm then you could possibly ask for.
… “But Jake, what about the Vineyard Vines room?” My preppy little heart has to stay in the Vineyard Vines room! – The rumors are true. Go to the Captain Fairfield Inn in town, and ask for “Room 2”. If it is available, live out #EDSFTG in the “vineyard vines Suite”.
WHAT TO DO:
There are a million things to do in Kennebunkport, more than I have ever been able to cover in a two week stay. I will give you a “Best of the Best”, but be sure to keep your eyes and ears open.
- Cape Arundel Golf Club
– Founded in 1896 and re-designed in 1920 by Walter Travis, Cape Arundel GC is where the presidents play. Try to avoid the sea breeze… and the Kennebunk river. Book your 18 early at the semi-private course, then cool off at “The #41 House”. Do not pass up on your chance to buy the same golf apparel worn by members George H.W. and George W. Bush. Another familiar golfer, Phil Mickelson, owns the course record once held by Prescott Bush.
Pro Tip: Bucky Bush (kid brother to H.W.) plays slow but pass him and you can kiss your welcome at Cape Arundel goodbye.
- L.LBean Flagship Store
The trad mecca sits 45 minutes north of Kennebunkport in Freeport. Be careful, because after gorging on Bean there are still Orvis, J. Crew, Vineyard Vines, Sperry, and Brooks Brothers outlets in town.
- Dock Square
The heart of Kennebunkport has plenty of stores, some earning the Navy Blazer “stamp of approval”. These include Dock Square Clothiers (Southern Tide, Comfort Colors, Tommy Bahama…), Three Dories (custom, high-end KPT merchandise), Maine Art Gallery (signature wind sculptures), and Down East Wine Imports (cigars too).
- Farm + table
A beautiful red barn in Cape Porpoise has changed hands a few times over the years. Currently it is occupied by “farm + table”, a small-batch artisan shop with nice crafts and treats.
… for waves – Fortune’s Rocks Beach
… for little children – Mother’s Beach
… for proximity – Kennebunk Beach
… for sea glass – Gooch’s Beach
… for 4th of July – Ocean Ave near Kennebunk Beach
- Ocean Avenue
This beautiful stretch of road offers the best views in Kennebunkport. Ocean Ave. is dotted with seaside mansions, picturesque views of the coastline, and plenty of places to pull over and take pictures.
- Walker’s Point
Do not worry, even the most seasoned of residents will still pull over to see what Mr. President is up to. The Bush compound was first built on in 1902, and has been the family’s summer destination since. Everyone’s favorite Bush, ¡Jeb!, just staked his claim on the point.
- St. Ann’s
St. Ann’s is a gorgeous stone church off of Ocean Avenue (yes the Bush family goes here). On top of its architecture, St. Ann’s features rustic pews, stained glass windows, and both Episcopal & non-denominational services.
- Steve Brettell
Captain Steve is one of the nicest men in town. Book him way in advance as he has a large set of returning customers. Steve will always put you on fish, and is an excellent storyteller. The captain’s real passion is decoy carving, and runs a well-known shop in the winter when fishing shuts down. He used to carve at L.L. Bean and learned under the great George Soule.
ONE-DAY EXCURSIONS –
Kittery Trading Post: This is L.L. Bean’s rough-and-tumble little brother. Come here for hunting, fishing, and hiking gear, Maine novelties, and delicious New England home goods.
Robert’s: The freshest and widest variety of Oysters you will have all trip. Enjoy.
- Perkins Cove
Great snapshot of the Maine coast. Come for the manual drawbridge, Marginal Way
trail, lobster shack, and artisan community.
– L. L. Bean: see Shopping above
– Orvis, Vineyard Vines, Sperry, Brooks Brothers, L.L. Bean Outlet, Patagonia, J. Crew,
Allen Edmonds, Dooney & Bourke, Coach, annnnnnnnddddddd Sea Bags. Phew.
– Wicked Whoopies: Fabulous whoopie pies in all shapes, sizes, and flavors.
– Linda Bean’s Restaurant: yes, the restaurant is almost as good as the store.
Must-have Recommendation: Maine Blueberry BBQ wings and “The Colossal” lobster roll.
- Kennebunk River Club
- Arundel Yacht Club
- Biddeford Pool Yacht Club
- Cape Arundel Golf Club
- Webhannet Golf Club
- Kennebunkport Beach Improvement Association