The Kennebunk region of southern Maine offers visitors a taste of old New England charm by the sea. Find out what family-friendly attractions this area has in store, from fabulous seafood to beautiful beaches and resorts, all in the air of a rustic sea town.
Just across the southern border of Maine, about a six-hour drive from New York City, are the rustic sea towns of the Kennebunk region. Home to delicious seafood, great family-friendly resorts, beautiful beaches, authentic New England culture and even the summer home of President Bush, Sr., the Kennebunks are the ultimate family-fun destination.
Touring the Area
Dock Square is the heart of town, where Kennebunk and Kennebunkport meet. Here the streets are lined with small shops selling everything from clothing, sports memorabilia, toys and paintings to yummy salt-water taffy and souvenirs. Rocking Horse Stables has a horse-and-carriage ready and waiting near the Landing Restaurant on Ocean Avenue to take families on a tour of the town. The 20-minute ride runs every day, weather-permitting, and is $10 per adult and $5 per child. The tour is narrated and guides visitors through the picturesque town on the transportation of a time forgotten.
If a stroll through town is more your speed, the Kennebunkport Historical Society offers a one-hour guided walking tour to help visitors explore the area's rich architecture. Tours depart from the Nott House, 8 Maine Street, at 11am on Thursdays from mid-July through August, and Saturdays through mid-October. The tour is $7 per adult and children under 18 are free.
Planning to explore the Kennebunks beyond Dock Square? If so, consider the Intown Trolley Company. Running a circuit from 10am-5pm daily, the narrated trolley sightseeing tour is a great way to see all the environs have to offer. The tour, which stops by President Bush Senior's estate at Walker Point, a Franciscan monastery, Spouting Rock, Blowing Cave and all of Kennebunk's beaches, runs in a 45-minute loop. The personable drivers recount the 300-plus year history of the region, and guests can get on and off as they please (also making it a great shuttle service). The trolley runs through the summer until Columbus Day; the fare is $15 for adults and $5 for children ages 3-17 years old.
Where To Stay
One of the major appeals of the Kennebunks are the incredibly welcoming resorts. A staple of this inn tradition is the 127-year-old Nonantum Resort, where families can enjoy unique lodging with adjoining rooms that are big enough to house the entire brood. Rest assured that guests will get a good night's sleep even though they are staying at a busy family resort: The Nonantum has quiet hours from 11pm-7am, thus assuring that the older kids do not get too rowdy when mom, dad and the little ones are trying to get some shuteye.
Sunday through Friday until Labor Day there is a fun-filled activities schedule from 7:30am-9pm. The majority of the activities, including treasure hunts, mat Pilates, core conditioning, guided hikes and the "Kids' Hour of Fun" cost a minimal fee. However, many of the activities, such as, the S'Mores Sing-Along, Movies Nights, Family Limbo, Poolside Bingo, Tug O' Fun and other lawn games are free of charge.
On the Water
Make sure to take advantage of the Nonantum's Marina on the Kennebunk River. Simply rent a kayak and spend the day paddling and exploring the banks, inquire about hopping on board one of the boats that calls the Marina its home. Take a ride on the Rugosa, a lobster boat that offers a hands-on approach to lobstering. The tide on the Kennebunk River is intense (there is a 13-foot difference between high and low tides!), but if the weather is nice you should be able to venture off the river for a coastal excursion into the waters of the Atlantic. A one-and-a-half-hour ride on the Rugosa is $30 per adult, $20 per child.
If you prefer sailing, the Pineapple Ketch is the vessel for you. Accommodating up to 12 people, this sailboat lets its guests get involved as they haul lines and take a turn at the helm. If you're not a sailor, be at ease and enjoy the seawater breeze. A two-hour sail on the Pineapple Ketch is $40 per person.
Finally, if you wish to do some deep-sea fishing, contact Tidewater Fish Charters. The crew customizes each charter to fit the skill of the guests, so don't worry about bringing the kids. A two-hour trip including everything from fly-fishing to light tackle fishing is $200. And if you require longer, four-hour and full-day charters are also available.
Can't Go Now?
While there are tons of things for the family to do in Kennebunkport and at the Nonamtum during the warmer months, December hosts the annual Christmas Prelude, a 10-day event that features tree-lighting ceremonies, a live nativity, bonfires, craft fairs, appearances from Old St. Nick and parades. The celebration is huge and growing bigger every year, with 2010 marking the Prelude's 30th Anniversary.
For more information on the Kennebunk region, visit www.visitthekennebunks.com.