The salty scent of the sea mingling with the sweet perfume of beach roses wafted into my car as I followed Route 9 past Kennebunkport, Maine — which was just named one of the best beach towns in New England in the July/August issue of Yankee— to the small fishing village of Cape Porpoise. I was in search of a hearty Maine breakfast — the kind that would fuel me through a morning of exploring one of York County’s most scenic coastal towns — which I hoped to find at the Wayfarer Restaurant.
Bonnie Thomas, our Crafty Yankee blogger, met me there, and we settled in to sample two of the Wayfarer’s breakfast specialties: The Raft – poached eggs perched atop a heaping pile of homemade corned beef hash with a side of toast for me, and a blueberry pancake so “ginormous” that it pushed right up to the rim of the plate for Bonnie. Neither of us was able to finish the generous portions of mouthwatering food the Wayfarer served up, and we certainly didn’t leave hungry.
After Bonnie and I parted ways, I meandered along the streets that ring the harbor. The sky was cast in gray and ribbons of fog were wafting in with the ocean breeze. Boats lay stranded on flats of mud, awaiting the return of the tide when they would again bob lazily on the waves, adding to the feeling of having stepped into a watercolor painting.
There’s no better time to visit the beach than low tide, so I traveled up Route 9 to Goose Rocks Beach. At the head of the beach path, I came upon an artist at his easel and asked if it looked like a promising day to be there. He assured me that it would be as long as I “stayed in the moment” and didn’t worry about whether or not it would rain. Good advice indeed.
Despite the spotty weather forecast, the beach was buzzing with activity: mothers were making castles in the sand with their children; teenagers tossed balls and flicked Frisbees between them; clusters of folks ambled along the water’s edge; and a crew that was busily preparing for a wedding was setting up a gazebo and freeing the seaweed from the sand with rakes. The morning melted away as I immersed myself in the pleasure of being at the shore.
With my stomach starting to rumble, I headed back down Route 9 to grab a late lunch. I’d intended to stop at Nunan’s Lobster Hut, but they don’t open until 5:00 PM, so I pushed on to the Port. Parking gets tight there during the summer season, but I lucked into a space at the honor system parking lot in the heart of Kennebunkport. After tucking the parking fee into the little red box that acts as toll taker, I made my way to Gran’s Chowder House for a bowl of haddock chowder. Delicious.
The afternoon was waning, so I took a stroll through Dock Square. The town boundaries between Kennebunk and Kennebunkport begin to blur at the river, and when you cross the bridge, you’re actually entering Kennebunk’s Lower Village. Should you hop aboard a whale watch or scenic lobster boat tour there, you just might hear the locals referring to this area as T’aint town, which “t’aint Kennebunk and t’aint Kennebunkport.”
Boutiques and gift shops are plentiful (and quite diverse) on both sides of the river, and I couldn’t resist poking around in a few of them. My first stop was at Saxony Imports, the ultimate souvenir shop that’s stuffed from floor to ceiling with New England novelty items like lobster-claw salt and pepper shakers, picks, ashtrays and bells. Just around the corner on Port Walk is Stem to Stern, a small shop specializing in home goods whose soothing hues of blues and greens may turn your thoughts to summer homes at the sea. A few purchases later, I looped over to Ocean Avenue and popped into The Good Earth – a fixture in Kennebunkport since 1974. All of the pottery displayed there is made locally by the shop owners and is lead-free and dishwasher and microwave safe. If you fall in love with their work, be sure to leave some room in your car because they don’t ship.
Before I knew it, it was time to meet my niece and mother for dinner at Bandaloop. This restaurant has everything you could hope for: locally sourced ingredients, a chef who puts his heart and soul into every dish, and a boisterous atmosphere where friends and families meet, the strains of their laughter drifting into the adjoining rooms. The scallops and haddock were fresh and flavorful, and the pasta is a decadent take on macaroni and cheese. Bottom line: the food’s great and it’s a fun place to be.
On the second day of my trip to Kennebunkport, I decided to follow Yankee’s advice and take a “two-mile jaunt” along Parsons Way. Despite having grown up in the neighboring town of Kennebunk, I had never viewed Kennebunkport’s rocky coast and stately homes on foot. It’s an easy walk that trails alongside Ocean Avenue. The path is dotted with benches overlooking jagged cliffs that slope down to the water’s edge, and it’s not hard to while away most of your day there.
Had I not been looking for it, I might have missed the painted white arrow on the sidewalk that marks the pathway to Spouting Rock, a natural blowhole that spews waves up in an explosion of water. There was no spouting going on, but when I looked to my left, I had a good view of the house that’s rumored to have been in the opening scenes of the original Dark Shadows T.V. series. Walk a bit farther and you’ll eventually end up at Walker’s Point where the Bush compound is located.
After winding my way back downtown, it was time to find lunch. In the winter months, I might head to H.B. Provisions in Lower Village for a lobster roll or one of their panini sandwiches and a visit with my niece and nephew who both work there. But with summer being prime seafood shack season and the Clam Shack – which has won countless accolades from winning food wars on the Travel Channel for best lobster roll to being named one of the best lobster shacks in New England by Yankee – was open for business. Their lobster roll is packed with a full one-pound lobster lightly tossed with mayo or drizzled with butter and served on a round, lightly toasted bun to satisfy any craving. The lunch box of fried clams and fries is equally enjoyable, and I challenge you to finish it.
I made two more stops on Route 9 before ending my two-day trip to Kennebunkport, Maine, and making my way back to New Hampshire: Snug Harbor Farm – named one of the best nurseries in New England – and Antiques on 9. It would take a much longer trip to explore all that Kennebunkport has to offer, but there’s always time to go back.
If you’re looking for a coastal getaway, be sure to pick up the July/August issue of Yankee to see which 25 beach towns we deemed the best.