Southern Belle in Training

Fashion, Travel & Lifestyle Blog || Est. 2012 || Charlottesville, VA

April 16, 2020

TRAVEL GUIDE: Ultimate Guide to Kennebunk & Kennebunkport Maine.

    Welcome to my hometown region in Southern Maine! I'm excited to finally bring you this Travel Guide, which is quite honestly many years overdue. The Kennebunks is a charming region of Maine to plan a visit to, and I'm excited to share a local's perspective with you. I was born and raised in Kennebunk, and I lived there until moving away for college. Although I've never moved back home as an adult, my parents are still there so I do enjoy visits home a few times a year. Even though I know Kennebunk as my hometown, it could be a perfect summer vacation spot for you!

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     It might seem a bit strange to be sharing a Travel Guide in the middle of a pandemic where no one is traveling, but my hope is that things might be well enough for domestic travel by mid-summer. If so, the Kennebunks is an area that should be on your travel radar if you're wanting to explore New England! Worst comes to worst- it could be a trip to think about for 2021. Either way- it's time I got this guide up! I've gotten lots of DMs and emails over the years asking my travel recommendations for my hometown, so it's about time I compile everything into a blog post. 

     ABOUT:
     The Kennebunks are two towns located next to each other in Southern Maine, right on the coastline. They're 90 minutes north of Boston, and split equally 40 minutes between Portsmouth, NH and Portland, Maine's largest city. A lot of people don't know that Kennebunk and Kennebunkport are actually two separate towns. The Kennebunk River separates the two towns, and you can walk on the bridge between them (pictured below). They share a middle and high school and some other things, but they are mostly governed separately. This area of Maine has been a popular vacation destination for a long time, especially in the summer months.
     Kennebunk: The larger and more residential of the two towns. This is where I am from! Kennebunk is where most of the schools are located, and things like the grocery store, most businesses, etc. Something that most people don't realize is it's Kennebunk, not Kennebunkport, that has most of the public beaches! There are three in Kennebunk, as well as one private beach with public access. Nickname: The 'Bunk
     Kennebunkport: The more well-known of the two towns, but it actually has about half the population of Kennebunk! Kennebunkport however is home to the majority of the lodging options, as well as the better known restaurants. It is one of Maine's most popular tourist destinations, especially in the summertime. Home also to the fishing village of Cape Porpoise, and two small public beaches. Nickname: The Port

     The main claim to fame for the Kennebunks is that President George H.W. and Barbara Bush have their summer home, Walker's Point, in Kennebunkport! Before their passings, they both celebrated their 90th birthdays in Kennebunkport a few years ago. The rest of the Bush family still visits the home regularly today. A more little known claim to fame for the Kennebunks is that Taylor Swift filmed her music video for her 2010 song Mine in both towns! (My dad and I actually got to see her filming part of it outside of a church in Kennebunk.) 

     I recommend visiting The Kennebunks, or really anywhere in Maine, in the summer months, unless you're coming for Christmas Prelude in December (which I'll touch on later in the post). Fall can be pleasant, but there are better places in New England for foliage. Winter is long and cold. Spring doesn't really kick into gear until mid-May usually, and is dreary before that. Yes, summer is the height of tourist season and the most expensive time to visit... but it's for a reason! There is no place like the Maine Coast in the summertime! It's so worth it to see it then, please take my word for it. June-September are your months to make it happen. As someone who now considers Maine a vacation destination, I would rather visit in the summer over any other season. 


     TRAVEL: 
     If you happen to live within New England, you'll probably want to drive here. If you're coming from another part of the country that would require a longer drive, I highly would recommend flying. Most interstates are toll roads in the New England states, and traffic can also get bad in the summer coming into Maine.
     You will have several airport options to choose from. Sadly none of them are right in the Kennebunks, but there's several options under two hours away:
  • Portland, ME - Maine's main airport, about 40 minutes north. Flights offered daily to 20+ cities around the country, including most hubs on the East Coast. Flights can be expensive here in the summer season, but the convenience factor is high. I always prefer to fly into PWM if I can. If you don't rent a car, Uber prices range from $50-70 one way to get from the airport to downtown Kennebunkport. 
  • Portsmouth, NH - There is a small passenger terminal at the Pease Air National Guard base in Portsmouth, NH, 40 minutes south. Currently this airport only offers flights from Allegiant to Florida and South Carolina, but if you're visiting from one of these places I'd look into this as a cheap option!
  • Boston, MA - The largest airport in New England and always the cheapest to fly into. Located 90 minutes south of the Kennebunks. You can rent a car and drive to Maine, or look into the C&J bus line. The plus side of flying into here is that you might also have time to explore Boston!
  • Manchester, NH - Also 90 minutes away, but in a southwest direction. This airport is about the same size as Portland's (flights to most East Coast hubs), and can sometimes be cheaper than flying directly to Maine. 

   STAY:
     Kennebunkport has the majority of the lodging options for the area, and you'll want to stay within walking distance of Dock Square (downtown) if possible. Both towns are unique in that chain hotels are in the minority here. If you like charming inns and historic local hotels, this is the destination for you. The first four options listed below are all very close to Dock Square, Kennebunkport's downtown. Parking near Dock Square is very tough in the summer, so the closer you can stay to the area the better, since everything is walkable.
     Since I am from the area, I should give a disclaimer that I personally haven't stayed in any local hotels, as I always stay with my parents when I'm home. But I have eaten in the restaurants in most, and have friends/family that have stayed in them, so I assure that you can still trust my opinions. 😊
  • The Grand Hotel (1 Chase Hill Road, Kennebunk)- A newer boutique hotel (by newer I mean the last 10 years or so- most of the lodging options in the area are more historic!) that features elegantly designed guest rooms, and an art gallery on site. It's located on Kennebunk side of the pedestrian bridge between the two towns- a great location.
  • The Kennebunkport Inn (1 Dock Square, Kennebunkport) - A well-known inn in the heart of Dock Square, so location-wise you couldn't pick a better spot to stay. It has serious Independence Inn vibes à la Gilmore Girls- think very classic and historic New England. They also have a bar and restaurant on property that you can check out if you aren't staying here. 
  • The Nonantum (95 Ocean Ave, Kennebunkport)- This is the Kennebunkport hotel that holds the most meaning to me- my cousin got married here, and both of my high school proms were here as well! It's one of the two larger historic hotels in Kennebunkport, and about a five minute walk to Dock Square. It's located right on the scenic Kennebunk River, about a half mile before the river meets the ocean. 
  • The Colony (140 Ocean Ave, Kennebunkport)- The other large historic hotel in Kennebunkport. It boasts stunning views of the ocean, a beautiful outdoor pool, and it's the hotel with the closest beach access. Colony Beach, which does have public access, is across the street. It's about a mile from Dock Square- so a slightly longer walk to get downtown, but not horrible.
  • Hampton Inn (6 Independence Dr, Kennebunk) - Did you know that up until a couple years ago, both Kennebunk and Kennebunkport didn't have any chain hotels? So it was big news when our Hampton Inn came to town! This is located in West Kennebunk, right off I-95. It's about a fifteen minute drive from here to Dock Square in Kennebunkport. While it is further away from the beaches and attractions, this would definitely be the most budget-friendly option in the summer. 


     EAT:
     I always look forward to enjoying meals at my favorite restaurants when I am back home! Obviously Maine is well known for its abundance of lobster and seafood, but as someone who doesn't eat most seafood, I can tell you there are lots of other types of great dining options as well! Out of this list: my two absolute must-visits on this list would be Mornings in Paris for breakfast and Pedro's for lunch or dinner.
     Since I don't personally eat lobster (bad Mainer I know!)- I am not sure where to best recommend for classic Maine lobster. What I will tell you is that most restaurants in the area do offer lobster dishes of some sort, so there is a lot to choose from! If you want to eat a Maine lobster roll, my mom recommends asking your server at a restaurant if they use fresh or frozen lobster, and if they use real mayo or salad dressing- she says fresh meat and real mayo will make all the difference in taste in a lobster roll. 
   
     Breakfast:
  • Mornings in Paris (21 Western Ave, Kennebunk) : A charming French bakery with a nice variety of beverages and pastry options. Before this was Mornings in Paris, it was a traditional bakery called Chase Hill, which was actually my first job in high school! I still miss Chase Hill dearly, but Mornings in Paris is a wonderful substitute. I always meet girlfriends for breakfast dates here when I'm home. I highly recommend the lavender iced tea in the summer!
  • Boulangerie (5 Nason's Court #12, Kennebunk): A brand new bakery in the heart of downtown Kennebunk (10-15 minutes from Kennebunkport), but a lovely option for breakfast or pastries. I went for the first time last summer and thought everything was absolutely delicious!
  • Buffet at The Nonantum (95 Ocean Ave, Kennebunkport): If you're looking for a nicer, sit-down breakfast, The Nonantum Hotel has a great breakfast buffet in their restaurant, which also has beautiful views of the river. You don't have to be a hotel guest to enjoy breakfast here. 
     Lunch/Dinner:
  • Pedro's (181 Port Rd, Kennebunk): My FAVORITE restaurant in Maine! You'd probably never believe me when I tell you I go home to Maine... the seafood capital of the East Coast... to eat Mexican food... but it's true! Pedro's is my very favorite Mexican spot. Their food is fresh and well seasoned, and never overly greasy. The Mexican Street Tacos with a side of rice and beans are literally one of my favorite meals on earth (and pictured below!). This is the #1 spot that I go eat at with high school friends when I am back in town, and I love it every time. It is a fairly small restaurant and service can sometimes be slow on busy nights in the summer- but I promise the food is worth it. 
  • Roma Pizza (5 Union St, Kennebunkport): The best little grab n' go spot for authentic NY style pizza! Perfect for lunch or dinner on the go if you're having a busy day.
  • Federal Jack's & Kennebunkport Brewing Company (8 Western Ave, Kennebunk): This would be my second favorite restaurant after Pedro's! This combo restaurant and brewery (lovingly nicknamed Fed's by locals) is a great spot. My family used to eat here often when I was growing up, and I still enjoy eating here with friends or family on trips home. I would say Fed's has typical brewery type food (lots of apps, burgers, and a few fancier main dishes) but everything is delicious. They do American food well. They also have a lot of seafood options!
  • Hurricane (29 Dock Square, Kennebunkport): Hurricane is a little bit of a nicer option than the ones listed above. It's located in the heart of Dock Square, and they have a good wine selection and wonderful seafood dishes. This would be a good date night spot for sure! 
  • The Boathouse (21 Ocean Ave, Kennebunkport): This restaurant definitely has the coolest vibes and ambiance out of all of my favorites listed! A+ to them for the decor. They also have a diverse and delicious menu, and fabulous drinks. Another spot that would be good for date night or a nice girls' night. 
      Drinks:
  • Baston River (12 Western Ave, Kennebunk): A new distillery and bar with really cool vibes and outdoor views! The drinks pictured below are from here. A great spot to meet up with friends at- try and sit outside if you can! 
  • Old Vines Wine Bar (173 Port Road, Kennebunk): The premiere upscale wine bar in the area! I wasn't able to visit here on my last few trips home, but I went a few years ago with high school friends and really enjoyed it. They also have a good selection of other drinks besides for wines! 
  • Arundel Wharf (43 Ocean Ave, Kennebunkport): This is a floating restaurant and bar on a wharfside deck! I've eaten there a few times- I think it's okay. What I would recommend is coming here for drinks before or after dinner, and taking advantage of the beautiful river views! 



     SHOP:
     A couple years ago, I actually did publish a complete guide to my favorite shopping in Maine- where I shared stores both in Kennebunkport and in the Portland area. I'll just touch quickly on my Kennebunkport favorites:
  • The Pink Tangerine/The Green Tangerine (11 Western Ave, Kennebunk): Pink Tangerine is Maine's only Lilly Pulitzer signature store! It's also the place where I bought my very first Lilly dress years ago. For a signature store, they have an excellent selection of Lilly and I highly recommend a stop here! Green Tangerine is their sister store next-door that sells other designer brands. 
  • The Best of Everything (9 Western Ave, Kennebunk): I have been shopping here since high school, and I still love it so much! This wonderful store sells very affordable and cute jewelry, as well as tons of fun accessories. I've gotten to partner with them a few times on Instagram which is so fun. A lot of my jewelry is from here- it's a must visit!
  • Abacus (2 Ocean Ave, Kennebunkport): I worked here every summer and winter break in college! Abacus is a super unique store- they sell the most unique art, crafts, and artisan jewelry, as well as some fun books and accessories as well. 
  • Mountain Tops (6 Ocean Ave, Kennebunkport): Your one stop shop for any fun tourist apparel! They have an endless selection of Kennebunkport and Maine branded t-shirts and sweatshirts. 


     BEACHES / TRAILS:
      The main attraction here in the summer months? The beaches!! Maine's beaches are very different from those in other parts of the country. They're a lot more rural and untouched- you'll just see small beach homes- there aren't really hotels or big developments right on the beaches, and definitely not in the Kennebunks. Most Maine beaches are rocky, and even in the heat of summer the ocean temperature rarely gets past 65. But the beaches are so beautiful and unique- it's my favorite thing about being home! Kennebunk's beaches do require parking passes in the summer. I believe that in the last year or two they have installed machines so you can purchase day passes when you park! 
    I also wanted to include information about a few beautiful local walking trails- which are another lovely way to get time outside!

      Kennebunk Beaches:
  • Gooches Beach: My favorite beach in the world. It's pictured in the first photo below! It's big and beautiful and when I think of Maine beaches, I think of Gooches Beach. There's a rock jetty at the end that you can walk out on, and it'll give you a great view of The Colony Hotel in Kennebunkport!
  • Parsons Beach: This is a private beach that has a public access spot. Gooches Beach is my favorite beach, but I think Parsons is the prettiest Kennebunk beach for sure (photo number four below!). It has an even more natural and untouched feeling to it than the other local beaches. Parking isn't the best here, you do have to walk a ways. But it's worth it!
  • Mother's Beach: The best beach for family groups, as they have a large public playground on site! I used to love going here as a kid. It's not my favorite now since it's normally filled with families, but if you do have kids this is ideal. 
  • Middle Beach: Located in between Mother's and Gooches- hence the name "Middle!" This beach is all rocks, no sand. I definitely prefer sandy beaches, but sometimes a day on the rocky beach is a nice change of pace. And it's never as crowded here!
     Kennebunkport Beaches: 
  • Colony Beach: This beach is across the river from Gooches Beach- both are located where the river meets the sea. Colony Beach also has a rock jetty that you can walk on and enjoy! It's a nice beach, just small so it can get busy in the daytime. 
  • Goose Rocks Beach: Another private/public beach, similar to Parson's! This one is also beautiful,  but it's the furthest one out from town from all the ones listed. I've spent the least amount of time here compared to the others. 
     Trails:
  • Franciscan Monastery (28 Beach Ave, Kennebunk): The Catholic Church operates a monestary in Kennebunk. In addition to having a guest house, gift shop and church on-site (with masses that the public can attend), the monastery is also home to several beautiful trails that go alongside the Kennebunk River. It is such a beautiful place, and whether you are religious or not I think you will find it to be such a peace filled place!
  • Rachel Carson Wildlife Refuge (321 Port Road, Wells): Rachel Carson was a famous nature conservation activist, and in 1966 a wildlife refuge was established in Southern Maine in her name. A part of it on the Wells/Kennebunk town line is open to the public, with beautiful walking trails! (This is about 10-15 minutes from Kennebunkport- easy drive.)



     CHRISTMAS PRELUDE:
     If you don't visit my hometown in the summer, the other time of the year that I must recommend is coming in early December for Christmas Prelude. This is a town-wide celebration in Kennebunkport for the first two weekends of the month, and the best way I can describe it is that it feels like a festival straight out of a Hallmark Christmas movie. There is a town tree lighting, fireworks caroling, and all of the shops and restaurants get completely decked out for the holidays. Despite the cold weather, it's a magical time to visit! This website has more information about Christmas Prelude specifically. 



    Whew- I'm pretty sure this is my longest and most detailed travel guide ever on the blog! I hope that you enjoyed learning more about my hometown area, and that this will be helpful if you do want to visit Maine. At some point I'd also like to write a guide for Portland, and possibly for other parts of Southern Maine as well.

    Please feel free to email or DM me on Instagram if you have any additional questions!


     God Bless,


     xoxo Annaliese

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2 comments

  1. Jake's best friends girl friend family has a place in Maine and they're always telling us how beautiful it is there. I am dying to go. I wish we had a little longer when we went to Boston, that would've been so cool to go then. How neat that Taylor Swift filmed her music video in that area.

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  2. I love love love looooove everything about this post and really want to go this summer! I've never been to Maine and have a few friends up there that I'd love to visit. Thanks for this treasure trove of information. Definitely bookmarking!

    xo,
    Britt
    www.basicbritt.com

    ReplyDelete

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