25 Reasons to Drive to Kennebunkport, Maine

Outdoor dining, charming inns, and gorgeous beaches.

Almost one year into the pandemic, and stir craziness has overtaken us all. It’s high time to get in the car and take a safe trip somewhere, anywhere. For us it’s all about the Kennebunks—that’s Kennebunk and Kennebunkport—a mere 90 minutes north of Boston. Even in the off-season and in the middle of a pandemic, this coastal respite is the perfect spot to pause and recharge. Hotels and inns are operating safely, several restaurants have devised clever outdoor eating options, and the beaches are empty, lovely, and dog-friendly. There’s a reason Kennebunkport calls itself “the place to be all year.”

There are several great overnight options

It’s true that the Kennebunks are a seasonal getaway, which means a lot of hotels shutter for the winter. But not all! The Boathouse Waterfront Hotel offers water views and urbane designs, while the White Barn Inn Auberge Resorts Collection is your place for luxurious pampering (breakfast in bed feels like a must). The Breakwater Inn and Spa and The Grand Hotel are also offering some fantastic room deals right now. If it’s a B&B experience you seek, the luxurious Waldo Emerson Inn is all fireplaces and 18th century charms.

They’re figured out the outdoor eating and drinking thing

Why would Mainers fear dining outdoors in winter? On the contrary, they’ve seized the moment. Striper’s has set up several waterside igloos and is doing weekly dining specials like its Wednesday Burger & Brew deal for $15. Both the Boathouse Restaurant and Batson River have constructed tiny, heated fish shacks for private dining. And the firepit at Ryan’s Irish Pub is still going strong.

...And the dining scene overall is still stellar

For every beloved spot that has shuttered its doors for winter (don’t worry, Mabel’s Claw, we’re coming for you in April), there’s another local gem that’s still going strong with takeout and delivery. Alisson’s is a local favorite that offers a lobster roll done five different ways (hello, truffle mayo!)  Musette, in the tiny fishing village of Cape Porpoise, is doing contactless curbside pickup of its small but mighty seasonal lunch and dinner menus, and also offers breakfast Friday through Sunday. A special-occasion meal can be had from 50 Local, which also blessedly delivers.  Pedro’s is a must for authentic Mexican (the house made corn chips are a must); you can warm yourself outside by the firepit while you wait for your order. And look for Old Vines Wine Bar to reopen its heated tent area in the coming weeks.

Wintertime lobster is the best lobster

Did you know that after December, lobsters begin getting bigger and meatier? They’re adding weight ahead of their next molt in the spring, which means more succulent meat for you. Port Lobster is open Thursday through Saturday during the winter and will steam your lobster for you ahead of time (also check out their lobster rolls and $19.95 twin lobster dinner deal).

Nature activities abound

Want to try your hand—or rather, foot—at some cross-country skiing or snowshoeing? Harris Farms offers rentals of both and is open every day until dusk. If it’s a simpler nature walk you see, Wells Reserve offers plenty of guided tours as well as miles of well-marked trails for those who want to go off on their own. And don’t laugh: Wintertime surfing is totally a thing here. If you’re one of the mighty few who already partakes, head to Aquaholics to rent your wintertime wetsuit.

The beaches are still gorgeous in the winter

Fresh air, crashing washes, expansive sandy stretches. A beach walk is the best way we know to get your daily exercise and your daily dose of sanity. Goose Rocks Beach is the star here, what with its gorgeous white sand and island views,  but Parsons Beach is equally lovely this time of year, and the Kennebunk Beaches are perfect for a quick stroll, a little beachcombing, or a place to park and wave-watch on stormier days. And yup, pups are welcome and plentiful.

You can still commune with a horse

Yup, off-season horseback riding is a thing. Riverhurst Farm offers private guided beach rides for up to two people through Memorial Day. If you’re looking for something a bit more sedate, Rockin’ Horse Stables is doing private sleigh rides this winter (and will get back to its public rides once COVID is over).

Now’s a great time for antiquing

No really, it is. The crowds are thin and the store owners grateful. Just double-mask and limit your time indoors. Route 1 is the mecca, of course, which is why they call it the Maine Antique Trail. Start at Americana Workshop, then work your way either south through Arundel, Wells, and York. And don’t miss Old House Parts, on historic Summer Street in Kennebunk—the stained-glass window collection alone will impress.

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Meaghan Agnew actually took her own advice—she’s writing this article while in Kennebunk! Check out her photos by following her on Instagram.
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