There’s a reason Kennebunkport is one of Maine’s most popular summer retreats, though there’s plenty to do in every seasonal trip to this seaside village.
Its location between Boston and Portland makes Kennebunkport a quintessential New England getaway, where river meets ocean, and fishing and shipbuilding roots give way to modern dining and chill coastal lounging.
The town’s most alive from Memorial Day to Labor Day, when boats cruise in and out of the marina, beachgoers flock to the water and shoppers roam the historic streets of Dock Square.
Summer weekends are busy, sure, but this seaside escape is still a peaceful hiatus from New England’s larger cities. And fortunately, the window for a good Kennebunkport trip isn’t confined to summer: an off-season weekend here includes many of the perks without the crowds.
No matter when you visit, here are 19 of the best things to do on your next visit to the Kennebunkport area.
1. Dock Square
Dock Square is the beating heart of Kennebunkport, where you’ll find some of the town’s best boutique shops, restaurants and art galleries. For a full day of strolling, check out Daytrip Society for Maine-inspired goods, Fine Print Booksellers for your next beach read, and Dock Square Coffee House to keep you goin’ all weekend.
There are also a number of great galleries to peruse, including Compliments and Abacus, and don’t forget to browse the handmade pottery and stoneware at The Good Earth. When you’re done on the Kennebunkport side, cross the bridge for grub at The Clam Shack (more on that later).
2. Gooch’s Beach
Gooch’s Beach is technically in Kennebunk, but it’s a must-do stop for Kennebunkport visitors. The stretch of beach between Oaks Neck and the Kennebunk River is the area’s most popular sandy beach for a reason: it’s long, flat and perfect for long walks at sunset, as you can see from the incredibly romantic stock photo above.
It’s also dog-friendly: from June 15th to Labor Day, Gooch’s Beach is open to dogs before 9am or after 5pm, and during the off-season dogs can run the beach all day long. Permits are required to park at the beach, or you can find parking along the streets, though available spots fill up fast on holidays and summer weekends. For nearby stays, check out Seaside Inn or nearby Airbnbs like this one.
3. The Clam Shack
The bridge connecting the Kennebunks is home to The Clam Shack, a seafood staple whose reputation far exceeds its humble appearance. Since 1968 the Shack’s been slingin’ some of Maine’s best fried seafood, and their lobster rolls were once named the best in America.
Today, the food is still locally sourced, from lobster whisked in from nearby harbors to the round buns that break the mold of typical split-top lobster rolls. The lines get long, nearby seating can be limited and the prices aren’t exactly cheap, but it’s a New England icon so people deal with it.
4. Ocean Avenue
Head south on Ocean Avenue from Dock Square for a picturesque drive along the coast. It’s only a few miles long, but this stretch from downtown takes you past the Kennebunkport Marina, a handful of beautiful resorts and hotels, and finally to the water.
The views really start once you pass Colony Beach and curve toward St. Ann’s church, a bucolic spot to stop and take in ocean views. The street follows Cape Arundel – check out Cape Arundel Inn & Resort for a gorgeous stay in this area – before passing Walker’s Point and small crowds of people spying on the Bush compound.
From there, it’s a short drive to wrap back up to town through beautiful neighborhoods and stunning coastal homes.
5. Parson’s Way
The drive along Ocean Avenue is beautiful, but it goes fast and it can be difficult to take in all the scenic details. To slow things down, take a stroll on Parson’s Way, a paved walking path that follows Ocean Avenue around Cape Arundel.
Start at Colony Beach and follow Ocean Avenue east toward Blowing Cave Park. Benches, side paths and grassy areas make it easy to stop and enjoy rocky coastal views and impressive homes along the way.
6. Colony Beach
After walking Parson’s Way, check out Colony Beach, a sandy stretch between the mouth of Kennebunk River and the rocky shore below Ocean Avenue. There’s a small parking lot by the beach (no permit needed), but you can also park off Ocean Avenue and walk down to the beach through a few paths cleared in the foliage.
Colony beach is small and has some rocky areas, but there are plenty of sandy stretches to relax and watch boats dart in and out of the marina – look for the signature tanbark sails of the Pineapple Ketch as it follows the coast on daily tours.
If you dig this beach, consider a stay at nearby Colony Hotel overlooking the area. It’s one of Maine’s oldest hotels still in operation and one of the most eco-friendly resorts in the state.
7. St. Ann’s Episcopal Church
Construction of St. Ann’s Episcopal Church began in 1887 and it was consecrated five years later, in 1892. Parts of the summer chapel have been restored over the years, and today it still serves the local community with Sunday services and private ceremonies.
A large grassy area around the church offers space to relax and enjoy the vistas – some folks set up beach chairs to take in the ocean scene without the sand and rocks. You won’t need a long time to appreciate the scene here, but it’s definitely worth a stop on your Ocean Avenue cruise.
8. Walker’s Point
Take Ocean Avenue around Cape Arundel and you’ll come to Walker’s Point, home of the Bush family compound for more than 100 years. It’s a beautiful property, but the surrounding scenery is arguably more impressive than the compound itself.
The history of the place is interesting – the complex hosted world leaders like Margaret Thatcher – and the landscape is gorgeous. It’s unlikely you’ll see any Bushes frolicking about, but it’s still worth a visit if you’re cruising Ocean Avenue. Pull off at Blowing Cave Park for a good view of Walker’s Point from the west.
For more Bush family history, check out the First Families Kennebunkport Museum back in town.
9. Seashore Trolley Museum
Kennebunkport’s Seashore Trolley Museum is the “first and largest Electric Railway Museum in the world” and if that sounds boring to you, CLEARLY YOU AREN’T INTO ELECTRIC RAILWAY MUSEUMS.
Joking aside, this place is amazing – particularly for kids with a train obsession – and the museum does a great job of bringing these old beauties back to life. “Outstanding collection of public transportation vehicles,” said one Google reviewer. “Wide variety of course of namesake trolley but also lots of buses.”
Hours of admission vary by season, so check the museum’s site before heading out.
10. Intown Trolley
Back in the early 1900s, trolleys were the way to get around the Kennebunks, assisting summertime visitors to their summer homes with (relative) ease. Today, you can still ride around Kennebunkport in a trolley, this time as part of an hour-long tour on the history of the area.
It’s one of the most popular attractions in Kennebunkport because of its wealth of information – stuff you won’t hear just by passing the town’s main sights. Tours run from Memorial Day through Columbus Day and you can purchase tickets online ahead of time.
“Wish that hour had lasted for two more hours – it was that good,” said one Triapdvisor review.
11. Sailing Tour
The Pineapple Ketch and the Schooner Eleanor both offer sailing tours in Kennebunkport. The Pineapple, which began tours in the area in 2005, offers 90-minute tours along the coast throughout the day, and the Eleanor, in operation since 1999, offers a similar itinerary with Captain Rich, whose family’s shipbuilding roots run deep in the Kennebunks.
On each trip, you’ll likely come across lobstermen at work, various seafaring birds and prime coastal views, though the sweet ocean breeze is the main attraction here. Each has excellent reviews and plenty of return visitors, so you can’t go wrong with either vessel. The Pineapple departs from Nonantum Resort and the Eleanor crew meets up at Arundel Wharf Restaurant.
12. Rugosa Lobster Tours
If you’ve come to Kennebunkport for the seafood, go the extra mile with a Rugosa Lobster Tours trip, where you’ll learn about the lobster business, head out to live traps and get a taste (SORRY HAD TO DO IT) for Maine lobster life.
Daily summer trips leave from Nonantum Resort, and if you’re wondering how good the tour is, check out their stellar Google reviews. This isn’t a fluffy tourist trap: it’s the real deal.
13. Guided Kayak Tour
Coastal Maine Kayak and Bike offers guided kayak tours of Kennebunk River and Goat Island. The 2-hour trip on the Kennebunk focuses on the river’s role in developing the Kennebunks, and the 3-to-4-hour Goat Island trip includes a picnic on the island – and the chance to climb the lighthouse.
Both trips are led by registered guides and offer a unique way to view the region in a way that’ll make you appreciate the geological makeup of Kennebunkport: nearly 29 square miles of the town is water.
14. Whale Watching Tour
The coast of Maine is a summer feeding ground for a number of whale species, including Humpback whales, Finback whales and Minke whales. You can catch those and more species on whale watching tours from First Chance Whale Watch and New England EcoAdventures, both operating out of Kennebunk.
Nick’s offers a 4.5-hour ride that starts at $54 for adults, and EcoAdventures features a 4-hour ride starting at $119 for adults. Both tour companies have excellent Google reviews and offer free return passes for visitors who don’t see whales, though EcoAdventures claims a 97% sighting rate, so there’s a good chance you’ll spot something while you’re on the water.
15. Rococo Ice Cream
A list of things to do in Kennebunkport wouldn’t be complete without ice cream somewhere, which means Rococo Ice Cream, the Dock Square shop that makes Baskin Robbins seem straight up boring.
Rococo, named after the 17th century art movement, offers more than 15 flavors, all inspired by art and culinary trends far more interesting than just chocolate and vanilla. Goat Cheese Blackberry Chambord, for example, is the shop’s signature flavor, and other bestsellers include Maine Whoopie Pie, Orange Jaffa Cake and Vegan Creamsicle Chocolate Chip.
If you’re an ice cream connoisseur, you’ll dig Rococo’s interesting arrangements – maybe enough to later take ’em up on their nationwide shipping.
16. Alisson’s Restaurant
Alisson’s Restaurant is a staple of the Kennebunkport food scene – and has been since 1973. Today, the business employs its fourth generation of family workers, who keep the food fresh, the atmosphere bustling and the casual vibe off Dock Square always welcoming.
Steamed lobster and lobster rolls are the meals of choice, but there’s a full menu of classic seafood fare for discerning diners. The restaurant’s open ‘til 9pm daily, so it’s one of the better places to eat if you like a late dinner and everything else in town is closed. There are no reservations, so waits can get long in the summer, but there’s a bar and the service is good so things move quickly.
17. Goat Island Lighthouse
Goat Island is one of several islands in Cape Porpoise Harbor, and home to a lighthouse that’s been in operation since 1833. Today, keepers Scott and Karen Dombrowski man the lighthouse and offer informal tours when they’re home and available.
The lighthouse can be seen from the Cape Porpoise Pier, or reached by boat – book the two-hour tour of the area from New England EcoAdventures for the most up-close experience. And if you’re looking to rough it in the harbor, check out the series of island campsites managed by the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust.
18. Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge
Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, named after esteemed marine biologist, is a haven of coastal meadows, uplands and marshy shore that’s home to birds like the Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow and the Piping Plover. More than 7,000 acres of land are preserved to explore, hike, fish and hunt (with permits).
If you’re making a road trip through Ogunquit to Wells and Kennebunkport, it’s a perfect place to stop off and roam before getting to town. Trails in the reserve are relatively short and easy – try the Cutts Island Trail, a breezy loop that takes you through the refuge’s signature marshes (remember bug spray!).
19. Sandy Pines Campground
Over the years, USA Today, Parents Magazine, Down East and other publications all named Sandy Pines Campground – just a few miles north of Kennebunkport – one of the best glamping destinations in New England.
Their glamping tents, cottages and campground offer some of the best scenic stays in Maine, and the amenities aren’t shabby either. It’s an award-winning glamping spot for a reason, and it’s worth the drive out of town if you’re hanging around Kennebunkport for the weekend and want to ditch the traditional inn stay.