Where to see the beach for the forest
A presidential retreat, family treats aplenty along the Atlantic
Miles of scenic shoreline at Goose Rocks and Gooch’s beaches might be the chief attraction to Kennebunkport in the summer months. Yet, for those lucky enough to spend a weekend or a week in this coastal town, best known as the summer home of President George Herbert Walker Bush, there are backcountry roads that lead past historic captain’s homes to small fishing harbors where the lobster-trap-lined docks offer views of boats bobbing in the water and a lone lighthouse peering off into the distance. It’s a quintessential Maine seascape that deserves to be savored.
STAY Nestled in a forest of birches and pines a mile inland from the ocean, Hidden Pond (354 Goose Rock Road, 888-967-9050, www.hiddenpondmaine.com) has become a family favorite since it unveiled its stylish two-bedroom cottages in 2008. Each spacious cottage houses a full kitchen, screened-in porch, and indoor and outdoor showers. With the recent addition of 20 one-bedroom bungalows, three treehouse-style treatment rooms offering massages, and the debut of Earth, Ken Oringer’s first restaurant outside Boston, the resort hopes also to attract couples for an intimate getaway. An introductory special has bungalows priced at $399 a night, including a breakfast of fresh-baked muffins and a thermos of hot coffee delivered to your doorstep. Across from Goose Rocks Beach, The Tides (254 Kings Highway, 888-439-0973, www.tidesbeachclubmaine.com; double rooms start at $300 including continental breakfast) has been attracting luminaries since this Victorian inn opened in 1899 (when Teddy Roosevelt was a luminary). Under new ownership, all 21 rooms and the restaurant have recently been renovated. Located on Gooch’s Beach, at the head of the Kennebec River, is the Seaside Inn (80 Beach Ave., 800-967-4461, www.theseasidecottages.com; double rooms start at $229 in the summer months including breakfast). Since the inn opened in 1667, it has been owned by nine generations of the same family.
DINE What would a Maine vacation be without lobster in the rough? A couple of great options are Nunan’s Lobster Hut (9 Mills Road, 207-967-4632, www.nunanslobsterhut.com, $4.95-$22.95, no credit cards) or The Clam Shack (2 Western Ave., 207-967-3321, www.theclamshack.net, $3.50-$19) on the bridge in Dock Square. If the weather turns, nothing tastes better on a foggy day than a bowl of seafood stew, chock-full of mussels, clams, shrimp, and cod, in a tomato broth. Few do it better than The Ramp Bar and Grill (77 Pier Road, 207-967-7500, www.pier777restaurant.com, dishes from $4.50-$18), a small waterfront pub in Cape Porpoise that also serves chowder, lobster rolls, and fish and chips. If you find yourself in the mood for fine dining, try The White Barn Inn (www.whitebarninn.com; 207-977-2321; prix fixe menu $98 per person) where you can sample the innovative cuisine of chef Jonathan Cartwright. His four-course menu relies heavily on local fish and game, and can be paired with vintage wines from the inn’s 7,000-bottle cellar.
DURING THE DAY Most hotels have complimentary shuttles to the long stretch of beach, popular with walkers just as much as sun worshipers. Take time to bike, jog, or drive to all the distinctive and historical areas of town. Stand on the docks of Cape Porpoise, piled high with traps, and watch the lobster boats return with their catch. Or look straight ahead to see Cape Porpoise Light on Goat Island. Another scenic stroll is around Parson’s Way on Ocean Avenue where you can spot the sprawling Bush compound on a small peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic at Walk er’s Point. Kennebunkport is a shopper’s paradise, with the main hub being Dock Square. The husband and wife team at Minka (5 Union St., 207-204-1014, www.minkahome.com), perched on a hill next to Ben & Jerry’s, create jewelry from shells, sea glass, and other locally based materials. The Good Earth (7 Ocean Ave., 207-967-4635) has been displaying stoneware pottery in its showroom on the second floor since 1974. Walk upstairs to find hummingbird feeders and bowls for whisking eggs and slurping soup. On the outskirts of town, near the Breakwater Inn, Dannah (123 Ocean Ave., 207-967-8640, www.dannahkennebunkport.com) is overflowing with scarves, beaded purses, feather hair clips, hats, and glitter bangles. On rainy days, head over to the Seashore Trolley Museum (195 Log Cabin Road, 207-967-2800, www.trolleymuseum.org) to view its collection of more than 200 trolleys from across the United States, including numerous Boston subway cars from the past.
AFTER DARK “The Wizard of Oz’’ and “I Left My Heart: A Salute to the Music of Tony Bennett’’ are two of the musical theater productions slated for the second half of the summer at the nearby Arundel Barn Playhouse (53 Old Post Road, Arundel, 207-985-5552, arundelbarnplayhouse.com). In Dock Square, Federal Jacks Restaurant and Brew Pub (8 Western Ave., 207-967-4322, www.federaljacks.com) features the full line of Shipyard beer on tap and live music on weekends.
Stephen Jermanok can be reached at www.activetravels.com.