Nestled along the southern coast of Maine you will find a quaint and picturesque town that was first known as Cape Porpoise in the 1600s, Arundel in the 1700s, and finally in 1821, was named the now famous Kennebunkport. As a fishing village turned tourist destination, Kennebunkport has an old New England charm with a modern seaside flair, featuring rocky coastlines, a lighthouse, and beaches fit for picnics and sandcastles.
There are so many things to see and do in Kennebunkport, and if you’ve ever been, you know that its sights, sounds and tastes just leave a lasting impression on all who visit there. Here are just some of our top reasons why Kennebunkport and the surrounding area should be on everyone’s bucket list.
ONE-OF-A-KIND OCEAN VIEWS & SIGHTSEEING
St. Ann’s Church by the Sea
Take in some incredible ocean views at this charming church by the sea. St. Ann’s Episcopal Church is a summer parish located right on the ocean in Kennebunkport and is open for visitors to walk the grounds from mid-June to end of September. There is a seaside chapel which is popular for summer weddings as its pews look out directly over the Gulf of Maine, and a stone chapel with colorful stained-glass windows. People from all faiths are welcome to attend the Sunday services with some being at the seaside chapel overlooking the ocean (weather permitting). Every area, from the seaside chapel to the Memorial Rose Garden has its own story with many areas created in memory of a parishioner or from family donations through generations.
Learn more about St. Ann’s
Goat Island Lighthouse
What would a visit to Maine be without a trip to a lighthouse? Goat Island Lighthouse is located about a mile off Cape Porpoise. In 1998 the lighthouse ownership was turned over to the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust which has been spearheading an ongoing restoration to bring the lighthouse back to its former glory. It is said that the station is haunted by Richard “Dick” Curtis, a former caretaker, who drowned in 2002. There have been reports of the foghorn sounding without any fog to be seen in addition to things going missing and reappearing in different places in the station. Since the station and lighthouse could be seen from Walker’s Point and the Bush estate, during the presidency of George H. W. Bush and his son, George W. Bush, the secret service would station themselves at the lighthouse to keep an eye on the area. Read more about Goat Island Lighthouse
Seashore Trolley Museum
The Seashore Trolley Museum, the “First and Largest Electric Railway Museum,” is a great stop for kids of all ages. With artifact areas both indoor and out, there is much to see and do – learn more about the restorations and maintenance on railway vehicles, ride the heritage railroad in a vintage trolley, visit the museum gift shop, and even plan a party or upcoming event at the museum.
Plan your visit to the Seashore Trolley Museum
UNIQUE BEACHES & WILDLIFE
Goose Rocks Beach
One of the most popular public beaches in Kennebunkport is Goose Rocks Beach which is bordered by Cape Porpoise to the south and Granite Point to the north. Families can enjoy the gorgeous views, gentle waves, and powdery white sand. Goose Rocks Beach is also known as an essential habitat for endangered plovers, terns, and other shorebirds that nest along the beach. These migrating birds fly from six thousand to ten thousand miles each year and rest on beaches along the way. There is signage at the beach to warn of caged areas that indicate nests being protected from humans and dogs, the latter of which need to be leashed during certain times of the year. Beach passes are needed for parking, and there are also beach wheelchairs available to rent for a nominal fee which goes to the upkeep of the wheelchairs, so they are in top condition.
Close to the White Barn Inn you will find Gooch’s Beach, a great place to relax and sunbathe with picturesque ocean and sunrise views. At over 3300 feet long, it is a beautiful, sandy stretch of beach where visitors can swim, look for shells, fish, and body surf. Gooch’s Beach is located between rocky Oak’s Neck and the mouth of the Kennebunk River, so it gets some good-sized swells – big enough to try your hand (or board) at surfing. It does get crowded during the high heat of summer, but making new beach friends can be a benefit to your vacation!
Aptly named for the gentle waves and the playground on the beach, Mother’s Beach is popular with families with young children. A rocky outcropping that divides the beach into two sections creates a gentler surf that is a safer area for children to play in the sand and waves. The western beach has a playground and sandy beach, and the east side is rockier but has tide pools to explore where you can find hidden treasures such as snails, shells and other unique marine life.
Explore the Kennebunkport Area Beaches
Rachel Carson Wildlife Refuge
Head over to visit a portion of the Rachel Carson Wildlife Refuge in Wells to see the conservation of salt marshes, beaches, dunes, rocky coastline, estuaries, and wildlife such as the Piping Plover, New England Cottontail, and Saltmarsh Sparrow just to name a few. With three nature trails and multiple observation stations along the way, it is a great way to get an in-depth view of the landscape and species of animals that call the area home. Stretching over 50 miles along the coast of Maine, the refuge covers from Kittery to Cape Elizabeth.
Explore the Rachel Carson Wildlife Refuge
WORLD-CLASS RESTAURANTS & BREWERIES
The Clam Shack
A trip to Kennebunkport should always include a stop for an award-winning lobster roll and some fresh-squeezed lemonade at The Clam Shack. Their lobster rolls were a favorite of the late First Lady Barbara Bush and were voted “Maine’s Best Lobster Roll” by the Travel Channel’s Food Wars. They are open seasonally beginning in May.
Check out The Clam Shack
Federal Jack’s & Kennebunkport Brewing Company Their motto is “Great Maine brews with great Maine views” and if that doesn’t make you want to visit, then I don’t know what will! Federal Jack’s Restaurant & Pub serves up classic New England fare and a selection of draft beers (made on-site), wines, and cocktails. Some menu favorites include fried Halibut bites, lobster bisque, pan-blackened Haddock tacos, and the Fed’s stacker burger. The Kennebunk Brewing Company is the birthplace of the Shipyard Brewing Company’s line of award-winning handcrafted ales.
Raise a glass at Federal Jack’s & Kennebunk Brewing Company
The Boathouse Restaurant
On the banks of the Kennebunk River there is a waterfront restaurant (and hotel!) where fresh Maine seafood and nautical décor is top notch. The Boathouse Restaurant serves classic seafood dishes (think: crab cakes, raw oyster bar, New England clam chowder) plus Asian-influenced dishes such as Pancit Miki Bihon and Togarashi-Spiced Salmon.
Drop anchor at The Boathouse Restaurant
CHARMING NEW ENGLAND-STYLE ACCOMMODATIONS
The Nonantum Resort
This family-style resort is situated on the shore of the Kennebunk River and within walking distance of Colony Beach and Dock Square. In 2019 The Nonantum Resort was given the Maine State Governors award for Excellence in Tourism, and in 2022 the Traveler’s Choice Award from TripAdvisor in addition to being named in The Knot’s Best of Weddings Hall of Fame. They offer many activities during the summer for kids and families including (but certainly not limited to) – lobster boat tours, crabbing adventures, arts & crafts, walking tours, and private charters.
Be a guest at The Nonantum Resort
The Inn at English Meadows Bed & Breakfast
Just a half-mile walk from Dock Square with a charming and romantic setting is The Inn at English Meadows. The chef-inspired breakfast has been hailed as one of the best breakfasts in Kennebunkport with mouthwatering items on the menu like fresh-baked scones with cinnamon butter, goat cheese and garden chive slow-scrambled eggs, and prosciutto and lemony mascarpone breakfast pizza with eggs fried in olive oil…need I say more?!
Check in to The Inn at English Meadows
The White Barn Inn & Spa
Looking for a luxurious stay in Kennebunkport? Look no further than The White Barn Inn & Spa. Stay in the main inn or one of the waterfront cottages for a relaxing, world-class coastal Maine getaway. As part of your stay, you can pamper yourself with treatments at The White Barn Spa, cook alongside their chef, be a beekeeper for a day, or take a coastal skies seaplane adventure.
Luxury awaits at The White Barn Inn & Spa
We hope this glimpse into the small (with a big, charming attitude) New England town of Kennebunkport inspires you to add it to your bucket list. If you have visited or stayed in Kennebunkport and want to share your experience with us, please reach out to WinniWanderer@winni.com. Hearing from you will make our day!
By Staff Contributor