What to do and where to stay for a long weekend in Kennebunkport, Maine

Kennebunkport puts a smile on your face because it doesn’t take itself too seriously. But it absolutely embraces its role as host to the many who visit, putting out the welcome mat. It invites visitors to slow down, relax and be a Mainer for a few days.

Who enjoys this little coastal village, home to former presidents and lobstermen? My husband is an IT executive – and loves it. One of our friends is a firefighter – and loves it. A nurse, a bartender, restaurant owner, an artist – they all consider Kennebunkport the perfect getaway.

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Too many travel destinations are little more than a collection of places to eat, drink, sleep and shop. Kennebunkport provides this, of course, but in a subtler way, giving visitors the chance to experience life at a slower pace. It lets us engage with like-minded travelers, with third-generation business owners, creative career-changers, and optimistic entrepreneurs. The net effect is transformative. And it draws us back time and again.

Places to explore

An example of the unique experiences is Ganny’s Garden. Situated about 100 yards from town, on Ocean Ave, the garden invites us to sit, listen and watch. It was built by townspeople in honor of former First Lady Barbara Bush and reflects Mrs. Bush’s love of books and her grandchildren. When we visited, two gardeners were weeding the flower beds. We asked them about the garden and they happily put down their tools to tell us about the trees and flowers and Mrs. Bush. And we left the garden somewhat refreshed.

Another example can be found on any of the beaches; our favorite is Parsons Beach. Just sit and listen. The high tide can be as much as 12 feet higher than the low tide. So, the water is always moving. The sound of the rolling rocks, the rolling water and the crying gulls soak into our souls and helps us gain perspective.

But with all of that, we don’t exactly like to ‘rough it.’ And in Kennebunkport, we don’t have to. Accommodations can be found at many price points. We recently stayed at the newly renovated Yachtsman Hotel and Marina. What a gem! Every room has a view of the harbor and includes a waterfront patio, a mini-frig and divine linens. The rates included breakfast and the use of bicycles and kayaks. The Yachtsman is about a five-minute walk to the center of town.

Lobster, blueberries and more

Restaurant choices are numerous and sufficiently varied to match your mood or interests. Because it’s Maine, a lobster shack visit always makes sense. One great example is Mabel’s Lobster Claw, a staple since 1953 and a short walk in the other direction from the Yachtsman. Owners Robert and Stephanie Fischer bought the business from Mabel Hanson forty-one years ago. Customers return year after year and take comfort in the fact that the service makes them feel at home and that the menu hasn’t changed. Last year’s favorite hasn’t been replaced by a trendy new dish. The homemade pies (blueberry!!) bring back generations of visitors. Robert boasts that he’s made over 30,000 of the pies without changing the recipe. All I can say is “I’ll have another slice, please.”

The Kennebunkport fishing village on Cape Porpoise is another great spot to relax for lunch or dinner. This is a place where generations of Mainers have worked hard for a modest living. We like to visit at midday and watch the fishermen return from their morning rounds of the lobster pots. That makes the lobster rolls even sweeter! Our favorite is at the Ramp Bar & Grill. The Ramp has a vibe influenced by Boston sports memorabilia and Maine folk art and service that recognizes that you want to enjoy yourself for a while. It’s located behind its sister restaurant, the more upscale Pier 77, and yes, you walk down the ramp to get there!

After a few days of casual meals in Kennebunkport, you may want to treat yourself to a fine dining experience. A nice option is the Tides Beach Club, a short drive from the village, located across the street from Goose Rocks Beach. It boasts beautiful views, sounds and smells and delivers delicious fish. I recommend arriving early and enjoying a cocktail out on the front porch. Linger after dinner with dessert and coffee around the fire pit. Don’t rush into anything in this town. And don’t rush to leave.

Start the day out right

Breakfast can set the tone for the day and you have great options. Salt and Honey in the center of town has a contemporary, creative feel (featuring local artists). We love the blueberry pancakes with lemon curd. The huevos rancheros is also to die for. And the service is attentive and relaxed – allowing you to be yourself. But make sure you leave room for a Satellite.

When is the right time to visit Satellite Doughnuts? Anytime you can. We’ve been there right after breakfast and right before dinner. We can’t refuse them. The delicious and interesting mini doughnuts at Satellite are creative jewels. My favorites are the mascarpone and lemon meringue! The staff packs them in a one-pint berry box. Honestly, we’ve never seen these treats survive the walk back to the hotel – they are just too tempting! Satellite Doughnuts was created by Colby Kingston. She was in search of an internship for her junior year at Colgate University, but couldn’t find anything as “alluring and exciting” as the restaurant business. So, she created a business plan for the colorful doughnut shop – and it proved to be the perfect fit for a small storefront property in the middle of town. It’s not hard to imagine a chain of these around the country, but for now, you’ll have to visit Spring Street to experience a Satellite.

The inspirational Jill Strauss

Another inspiring personal story is that of Jill Strauss – the “Queen of Woodfired Cooking.” Jill is the owner of Jillyanna’s Woodfired Cooking School and teaches people to think beyond the typical grilling experience. Her slogan is” You can make fun things with fire.” She not only makes it fun to learn, she makes you feel at home. Sitting at her great wooden table, you know it was worth the drive.

Following a career in communications, broadcasting and teaching, Jill enrolled in the culinary program at Johnson & Wales University and soon found herself heading to Naples, Italy to study under 4th generation pizzaiolo Enzo Coccia. A pizzaiolo is a certified master pizza maker and a serious title in Italy. Jill earned her own certification and may be the only woman pizzaiola in New England. She had Maine craftsmen build her gorgeous outdoor woodfired oven with stones from Maine and Italy. Here she teaches the craft of cooking classical Neapolitan pizza and other Mediterranean favorites. She brought her skills home from Naples – and after a respite in Kennebunkport, perhaps you’ll be inspired to bring some of that spirit back to your hometown.

Kennebunkport is about 90 miles from Boston and is an easy day trip on a summer weekend. Plan to spend a few days. This is not a drive-through type of place.

Where to Stay:

Yachtsman Hotel & Marina
59 Ocean Avenue
Kennebunkport Maine 04046
(207) 967-2511

Bufflehead Cove B & B
20 Bufflehead Cove Lane
Kennebunk, ME 04043
(207) 967-3879

Captain Lord Mansion
6 Pleasant Street
Kennebunkport, ME 04046
(207) 967-3141

Where to Eat:

Mabel’s Lobster Claw
24 Ocean Avenue
Kennebunkport, ME 04046
(207) 967-2562

Salt & Honey Restaurant
24 Ocean Avenue
Kennebunkport, ME 04046
(207) 204-0195

Satellite Doughnuts
4 Spring Street
Kennebunkport, ME 04046
(207) 502-7909

Ramp Bar & Grill
77 Pier Road
Kennebunkport, Maine 04046
(207) 967-8500

Tides Beach Club
254 Kings Highway
Kennebunkport, ME 04046
(207) 967-3757

What to Do:

Jillyanna’s Woodfired Cooking School
141 Wildes District Road
Kennebunkport, ME 04046
(207) 967-4960

Schooner Eleanor
43 Ocean Ave
Kennebunkport, ME 04046
(207) 967-8809

Vinegar Hill Theatre
53 Old Post Road
Arundel, Maine
(207) 985-5552

This article originally appeared on TravelSquire.

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