Experience Maine's true charm when you to visit the beautiful coastal villages and pristine seaside communities of Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, Cape Porpoise, and Arundel, known as the "Kennebunks." Many returning visitors recapture childhood memories of sun-drenched days spent at the beach.
Whether your interest lie in the arts, architecture, antiques, sports, shopping, golfing, museums or water activities, the Kennebunks have it all and is a year-round vaction destination. Explore the beautiful sandy beaches, award-winning restaurants, stay in gracious accommodations, or shop in many fine stores.
Tree-lined streets showcase historic homes and a working waterfront harbor is home-port to lobstermen, fishermen and recreational boaters. Kennebunk and Kennebunkport are just 90 miles north of Boston and a short drive from several major airports and a taxi ride from the Downeaster train stop.
Like many of Maine’s coastal towns, Kennebunkport first prospered as a shipbuilding center. In the late 1800s, affluent summer visitors would arrive by train from Boston and stay at the more than 30 grand hotels and mansions that peppered the coastline. Today, the town is a year-round community and remains popular among the well heeled as a summer destination.
Kennebunkport is chock-full of fine dining establishments and high-end accommodations. However, you can still find moderately priced places to stay with a little planning, and some of the best spots to dine are low-key lobster pounds where great food at a good price can be had. Boutiques, some with sister locations in exclusive Palm Beach, Fla., line the streets. Visitors will enjoy taking the scenic drive along Ocean Avenue, which runs along the Kennebunk River to the ocean. The route provides equally stunning views of the Maine coastline and the palatial homes of Kennebunkport’s rich and famous, including the summer retreat of the 41st U.S. President George Herbert Walker Bush.
Native Americans inhabited the Kennebunk area and traded with early European settlers. The local Historical Society has a collection of buildings and displays that trace the evolution of The Kennebunks when it was a booming ship building and marine trade port making it one of the wealthiest towns in New England. The Brick Store Museum offers permanent collections, special exhibits and impressive architectural walking tours through the Kennebunk's National Register Historic District depicting architectural styles of Colonial, Federal, Queen Anne, Greek Revival and Italianate. The Seashore Trolley Museum houses the world's largest collection of operating mass transit vehicles and offers rides on an open air electric trolley across a three mile rail.
Thousands of years ago, Native Americans made seasonal trips over land to the Kennebunk Plains to hunt, and the name "Kennebunk" is believed to be an Indian word meaning "long cut bank" a likely reference to Great Hill at the mouth of the Mousam River (at Parson's Beach).
In the early 1600s, Europeans explored the Kennebunk River, and by the 1620s, permanent settlements were in place. Early settlers harvested the abundant timber and built sawmills along the rivers. Twenty years later, coastal and inland land grants were being parceled out. These were difficult times punctuated by Indian unrest, until a truce in 1760. The hardiest settlers continued to live near the Mousam and Kennebunk Rivers in what was referred to as the "Kennebunk Grants."
As the lumber industry grew, vessels came to load sawn timber for houses and ships. The local shipbuilding industry began first on the Mousam River in the 17th century and then on the more navigable Kennebunk River. Shipbuilding continued into the early 20th century, making wealthy men of the area's shipbuilders, merchants and sea captains. Their prosperity is evident in the beautiful mansions along Summer Street. America's trade grew, necessitating larger ships, and the Kennebunk River was simply too shallow to accommodate larger vessels. The last sailing ship to be launched on the Kennebunk River was in 1918.
As shipbuilding was waning, new industries were taking its place.By the early 1800s, power generated industries were already flourishing along the Mousam River, giving rise to Kennebunk factories that made cotton, thread, twine, shoes and even trunks. By 1872, the Boston & Maine Railroad was carrying a new cargo on the three-hour trip to and from Boston: tourists. Just as today, tourists came to this "watering place" to swim in the ocean, canoe on the rivers and enjoy the simple elegance of the towns. That same year, a group of men from Boston and Kennebunk formed the Kennebunkport Seashore Company and bought more than 700 acres along five miles of coastline from local farmers. The idea was to create the ideal vacation spot. They built hotels and created the necessary infrastructure for a delightful getaway.
The group of "cottages" that started going up at Cape Arundel in 1874 represents one of the finest examples of a turn-of-the-century colony in Maine. By then, Goose Rocks Beach and Cape Porpoise were established resort destinations as well. The number of large hotels dwindled with the increasing popularity of the automobile and the opening of the Maine Turnpike.
Vacationers could come and go on their own schedules, and soon, extended stays became weekend visits or daytrips.With that change came the charming inns, B&Bs and tourist cabins for which the Kennebunks are famous.
In the 1970s and 80s, easy access to the Kennebunks' attractions made them appealing year-round destinations.The Main Street village area has been carefully revitalized with keen attention to its history and architectural integrity. Kennebunkport too has maintained its "old Maine" charm with a vibrant commercial district and scores of historical buildings on lovely elm-lined streets. Few destinations offer today's visitors the opportunity to experience hundreds of years of America's past.The Kennebunks are alive with history, coupled with the luxury and convenience of the modern age.
Kennebunk, Mother's & Gooch's Beaches
These long, wide sandy beaches are the perfect place to walk, sun yourself, play in the surf, look for sand dollars or just enjoy the sight of the waves rolling into shore. There's no better place to be on July 4th, when fireworks explode overhead in a myriad of glittering lights. Gooch's Beach is the largest part of Kennebunk Beach with talcum powder sand and is often referred to as "Kennebunk Beach."
Goose Rocks Beach
At three miles long, Goose Rocks Beach is a favorite with walkers as well as the sand pail set. It's wide, smooth and sandy, and affords wonderful views of Eastern Goose Rocks and Timber Island, just off the coast.
This 150-foot beach at the mouth of the Kennebunk River is also known as Colony Beach and is much appreciated by those who love to scramble on its rocks and watch the surf dash the shore.
The Kennebunk Beach
Called the "Kennebunk Workout," this string of beaches, some sandy, some rocky, stretch along Beach Avenue from Gooch's Beach past Lord's Point and are connected by sidewalks. Stroll past long stretches of beach, shorefront homes and enjoy the warmth of midday or the romance of an orange and purple sky reflecting off the water at sunset. Kennebunk Beach is readily accessible by car, or you can take the trolley and leave your car behind.
The Goose Rocks Beach
Goose Rocks Beach, soft sand stretching approximately 3 miles, is one of the best stretches of fine silver white sand on the East Coast and great for walking. At low tide, you can just see a barrier reef rock formation offshore known as "Goose Rocks." It is said that migrating geese use this reef as a navigational point. The shoreline of Goose Rocks Beach weaves gently into two broad half moons and the sandy dunes and beach grass provide a sheltered nesting ground for piping plovers and lesser terns.
In a walking tour of the Kennebunks National Register Historic District you will see the evolution of architectural styles—Colonial, Federal, Queen Anne, Greek Revival and Italianate—in churches and homes built from the mid 1700s to the mid 1800s.
Goat Island Light is rumored to be haunted and was the last manned lighthouse in Maine. It has been used as a security post when former President George W. Bush was in residence at his summer home. Many unexplained and mystical happenings are documented by the Kennebunk Conservation Trust. Ask about the faces which appear on the walls.
Presidential Walker's Point
Visit the overlook at the Bush compound, originally Walker's Point, the summer home of the 41st President of the United States, George W. Bush. Located adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean in southern Maine, near the town of Kennebunkport, the property has been a family retreat for more than a century.
The estate was purchased in the late 19th century by St. Louis banker George H. Walker, a mansion was built in 1903. Later, the estate passed on to his daughter Dorothy Walker Bush and her husband Prescott Bush. The estate has since remained in the Bush family.
President George H. W. Bush spent much of his childhood at the Kennebunkport estate. He inherited the property after the passing of his parents. As an adult, Bush, his wife Barbara, and their children George W., Jeb, Marvin, Neil, Dorothy, and Robin spent most summers at the estate. The estate has been a backdrop of family weddings, holidays, and receptions. While at the "Summer White House," Bush hosted world leaders including Margaret Thatcher and Mikhail Gorbachev for informal and private meetings. As a young man, Bush relocated to Houston, Texas and today the Bushes maintain a working residence in Tanglewood, where they spend most of their time.
Bush's son, President George W. Bush, visits with family in Kennebunkport several times a year. His "Summer White House" also known as the "Western White House" was the Prairie Chapel Ranch in Crawford, Texas.
The estate is situated on the strip of land called Walker's Point which juts out into the Atlantic Ocean. The large central house, built in the New England shingle style, has nine bedrooms, four sitting rooms, an office, a den, a library, a dining room, a kitchen, and various patios and decks. Next to the main house are a four-car garage, a pool, tennis court, dock, boathouse, and guesthouse. There are spacious lawns on either side of the house, on which there is a small sportsfield.
The entrance is gated and guarded by Secret Service officers, though visitors can see the driveway leading up to the main house and a circular driveway, in the middle of which is a large flagpole flying the American Flag. When either President Bush was present at the compound while in office, the Presidential Flag was hoisted below the national colours; the flagpole was a popular backdrop for television journalists during the elder Bush's presidency.