Are you looking for things to do in Kennebunk Maine? Check out our extensive guide!
Kennebunk Maine holds the potent potion of New England charm, dynamic beaches, colonial homes, and well-preserved history that simply feeds the souls of its guests. Add in the seagulls, salt air, and super-sized lobster rolls, and you’ll forget about the hectic life you left behind.
If this is the kind of getaway experience that you’re looking for, you’ll get it by exploring the best things to do in Kennebunk Maine. This guide will give you plenty to add to your Southern Maine Coast itinerary.
Kennebunk Maine Overview & History
Kennebunk Maine proves that a town doesn’t have to be big to be grand. The name “Kennebunk” translates from an Abenaki word to mean “long cut bank,” a milestone on the jagged coastline that looks like fresh ice cream scoops dipped right out of the shoreline.
The town was built on shipbuilding and agriculture, and now it thrives as a tourist destination. In 2021, Kennebunk Maine celebrated its 400th anniversary and plans to continue preserving the small town’s nature for the next 400 years.
Before you arrive in Kennebunk, it’s helpful to know that the town is split into several sections:
- West Kennebunk: This section is west of the Maine Turnpike (I-95). More chain hotels and residential neighborhoods are here than tourist attractions.
- Main Street: This downtown corridor is reminiscent of a Hallmark movie and is home to Maine’s first National Historic District.
- Lower Village: This seaport village is west of the Kennebunk River and connected by a bridge to Kennebunkport to the east.
- Beaches: Kennebunk has three main beaches — Gooch’s, Middle, and Mother’s.
TRAVEL TIP: As you head south from downtown to the Lower Village on Summer Street, don’t miss the rows of historic sea captains’ homes along the way.
About the Kennebunks
A river and bridge separate Kennebunk from Kennebunkport. While each is its own village, you don’t have to think of them as either/or — consider each a wonderful extension of the other. In fact, the collection of Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, Arundel, and Port Porpoise create an area known as The Kennebunks.
Kennebunk Maine Weather
The Kennebunks is a four-season destination area, and each season brings its own pros and cons.
Summers are swamped with tourists seeking sun and seaside fun in near-perfect weather. Temperatures rarely get above 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and evenings are cool in the 60s.
Fall brings a crisp air, welcoming the abundant fall foliage. Moderate temperatures and smaller crowds make this shoulder season an ideal time to visit. Don’t miss trick-or-treating through the historic homes on Summer Street.
In Kennebunk Maine, the cold weather starts in early December and lingers through March, so visitors should plan for at or below-freezing temperatures during this time.
Many shops and stores will close up through the low season, but there are enough places open and one of the best Christmas festivals in America (Christmas Prelude in Kennebunkport) to make winter lovers make the trek.
April and May bring a slow climb of temperatures through the 40s, 50s, and 60s until summer starts again. It is a great season during which to visit if you want to avoid crowds, but the freeze/thaw cycle of snow and earth makes for muddy trails and unpaved roads that require mud-worthy footwear.
Outdoor Things to Do in Kennebunk Maine
Kennebunk’s outdoor adventures bring excitement through four seasons and several districts. Of course, the main outdoor draw is the beach, but there are several other outdoor activities to experience as well.
Kennebunk Area Beaches
Forget anything you might assume about large parking lots and acres of beachfront. The beaches in Kennebunk Maine are a little more intimate and run along a two-lane road.
NOTE: Kennebunk’s beaches go by different names to different locals. Below, we’re using the names adapted by the town for clarity and convenience.
This is the first beach that you’ll come to on Beach Avenue. It’s the largest and most popular during the high season, and parking is available along the shoreline. The beach is sandy, not rocky, and it’s open to the public with lifeguards available from mid-June through early September.
Next on Beach Avenue, you’ll come across Middle Beach, and there’s a reason it’s nicknamed Rocky Beach. The sand gives way to rocks and pebbles on this narrow stretch of shoreline. You’ll find parking for this public beach along the shoreline.
One of the rumors about the name Mother’s Beach comes from it being on calm waters and having a playground, perfect for mothers to watch their children play safely. This public beach has fewer than 40 parking spots, and lifeguards are available from mid-June through early September.
On the opposite side of the Mousam River from the main Kennebunk beaches, Parson’s Beach has smaller crowds and easy parking if you get there early. To get to this beach, follow Brown Street from downtown, and you’ll come to the beach about a half-mile after the road turns into Parson’s Beach Road.
BEACH TIP: To make the beaches accessible to as many people as possible, a specialized beach wheelchair is available for rent through the Kennebunk Parks & Recreation Office.
The mystery around this elegant and intricate home makes it all the more appealing. It has a storied history, starting as a wedding gift from parents to their son and daughter-in-law. The “icing,” known as the extravagant (yet gothic) trim on the home, was added years later.
NOTE: In 2023, the home underwent a massive restoration, with future plans for tours still up in the air. It’s still worth stopping to get an Instagram shot of “the most photographed home in Maine.”
The Wedding Cake House is just one of 25 stops on the Museum in the Streets tour that shows living history in architecture and industry. Stop by 16 Water Street to get more historical information from the Kennebunk-Kennebunkport-Arundel Chamber of Commerce to understand the stories behind the stops.
We recommend downloading or printing a copy of the map of tour stops since mobile device service could be spotty.
Walk the Lower Village, and don’t be in a rush to get to the Kennebunkport side. Fine art galleries are mixed in with shops and cafes, while several tour vendors line the streets for scenic boat tours and fishing charters, with stores for all the necessary equipment to enjoy the water.
Main Street Historical District
From Friend Street in the west to Summer Street in the east, take a half-mile stroll down York/Main Street. You’ll cross over the Mousam River and see modern businesses woven into historic buildings, preserved and maintained under strict guidelines.
This slice of nature spans 75 acres, making it a great trail for a morning run or evening nature walk. The cemetery dates back to 1790 and holds memories for generations of Kennebunk residents. The “Silent Stones” tell tales of ordinary and extraordinary residents who were all quite extraordinary in the end.
NOTE: Several trail access points allow guests to avoid the cemetery if desired.
Kennebunk Boat Tours
Whether you want to have a whale of a good time, get trapped with lobsters, or straddle the shore, there’s a tour for you. Sea Turtle Coastal Cruises, First Chance Whale Watch, and New England Eco Adventures are three companies that offer a variety of tour options.
NOTE: Fishing and shellfishing will require a license and/or permit from the state of Maine and/or local municipality.
Kennebunk Maine Indoor Things to Do
Spending time indoors is like driving a hard bargain in Kennebunk Maine since it’s geared toward being outdoors. Whether you want to enjoy a rainy day inside, get out of the winter cold, or nurse a sunburn, there are several places to explore and relax.
This museum is open year-round and should be among the first stops for all guests since it holds the history of The Kennebunks within its walls. It has been a community staple since 1936. Various exhibits cover the advent of shipbuilding, shipwrecks, devastating fires, elaborate gardens, and art galleries.
Follow Portland Road, heading east out of downtown for 5 miles, to experience the Maine Classic Car Museum. A self-proclaimed “holy grail of car collecting” awaits guests with 50 automobiles from different generations on display.
Plus, don’t miss the Maine history exhibits to see how creative early settlers had to get to tackle this unique landscape.
This active monastery is open to the public for daily mass or a peaceful walk around the gardens. A gift shop with religious books, jewelry, statues, and cards is open from March through December.
“We hope and pray that your visit will be an occasion for God’s blessings for you and all your family, both now and later.”
– St. Anthony Franciscan Friary
Kennebunk Maine offers salons and spa services throughout its villages, with one of the “Best Spa in Maine” winners at White Barn Inn. Its services range from ritual therapies to relaxing couples massages to a sensory rain shower or soak in a hot bathtub.
Also, Cottage Breeze Day Spa & Boutique offers pampering services and beauty products in the Lower Village.
More Attractions Near Kennebunk Maine
Kennebunkport is the most obvious nearby town to explore if you want more than the things to do in Kennebunk Maine. And quite frankly, seeing both towns can take up a whole week. Also, Kittery Maine is only a 30 to 40-minute drive south, with Ogunquit and York on the way.
This “town” is more of a clarification point, so guests can understand a local real estate battle waged in polite town hall meetings and coffee shops.
‘Taint Town isn’t a long drive. In fact, it’s the Dock Square community between Kennebunk and Kennebunkport. As they say, “It ain’t (‘taint) Kennebunk, but ‘taint Kennebunkport either.”
As new businesses compete to take up precious open space in this area, local brewery Kennebunkport Brewing Company got in on the discussion by creating ‘Taint Town Tramadol Extra Pale, which it still brews today.
Southern Maine Coast Lighthouses
You might have noticed the lack of a lighthouse mentioned thus far in Kennebunk Maine. After all, isn’t that a Maine staple? Yep! However, you’ll need to leave Kennebunk to find one. Here are a few top lighthouses to see while you’re in the Southern Maine Coast.
Goat Island Lighthouse is located off the shore of Kennebunkport in Cape Porpoise Harbor. You can hop on a round-trip boat tour to the lighthouse with New England Eco Adventures, which includes an approved tour of the building and grounds.
Boat Tours From Kennebunkport
Like in Kennebunk, a handful of great tour boat companies line the waters around Kennebunkport Maine. From simple sailing excursions to lobstering adventures, Rugosa Lobster Tours, Pineapple Ketch Sailing Tours, and the Schooner Elanor offer something for everyone.
Shopping Near Kennebunk
For those looking for outlet malls and major sporting goods stores, you won’t find them in Kennebunk Maine. Instead, the town offers a series of eclectic, unique, niche restaurants and stores perfectly suited for a seaside community.
However, you can make a short trip to nearby areas if sporting goods and mall shops are what you’re looking for. About 30 minutes south in Kittery Maine, You’ll find Maine Kittery Outlets, which is home to dozens of major brands and fast-food restaurants.
Best Restaurants in Kennebunk Maine
You’ll feel as stuffed as a lobster roll by the time you leave Kennebunk Maine. But, the food options are just too tempting and unique to miss.
Casual Restaurants for Families
Some of the best food you’ll get in The Kennebunks will be from a small, outdated shack. Located in the Lower Village, this local favorite has just as many accolades in the media as it does menu items, and you can even order a kit to make your favorite dish when you return home.
In downtown Kennebunk, breakfast lovers unite for this “Breakfast Served All Day” town staple. The family-run business went through hard knocks to make it this far, making that lobster Benedict a truly special dish.
Stop by the Chamber of Commerce in downtown and cross the street to this comfort food feast while exploring your itinerary. Food options range from Chinese to American to Italian to Maine fare.
MORE: Explore the Kennebunks Lobster Roll Trail with stops in both cities.
Kennebunk Upscale & Romantic Restaurants
Located along Beach Avenue between the beaches and Lower Village, White Barn Inn is mentioned a lot for its exemplary accommodations, spa, and dining.
Serving contemporary New England cuisine harvested locally with elegance and an ambiance of intimacy, this is a true splurge. With five-star accolades from AAA and Forbes, you won’t even mind the dress code — no shorts or sportswear allowed.
Sure, this could easily go in the wineries section, but the tapas and shared dishes make the Old Vines Wine Bar stand out as an upscale option comfortably suited for the 19th-century barn building with a fire pit and patio outside.
Located in the Lower Village, the wine bar is suited for a full dinner with drinks, after-dinner drinks, or late nights when you want to linger. Desserts and dessert cocktails top off a perfect New England night.
You can look at the menu, but it changes daily, so get ready for surprises at this downtown bistro. French flair with American influences immerses every dish, and all of the ingredients are farmed locally.
For a unique date night experience, check the class schedule for lessons in liquor and barbecue breakdowns to enhance your own chef skills.
On the outer edge of the Lower Village, you might raise an eyebrow at a restaurant named after a shipwreck. Still, the survival story is truly captured in this Italian restaurant with “Eclectic Maine Cuisine.”
Enjoy marsh views from the rustic interior, and learn the story that will make you fall in love with exploring the sea.
Coffee & Ice Cream Shops
Carbs, coffee, and espresso dominate the dawn at this downtown bakery that subtly snubs other bakeries by calling itself “A Proper Bakery.” Bread is an art when you look at the expansive menu, and convenience is offered with grab-and-go options.
They had us at Peppermint Bark Latte! This casual downtown coffee joint will surprise you with its extensive food menu, and the personal interactions truly make this location a local favorite.
A convenience store has never been so elaborate. When ice cream is its own food group, you follow the locals to get the best, and you’ll find yourself at H.B. Provisions in the Lower Village time and time again.
Nine flavors of soft serve ice cream line the wall with milkshakes made on demand. Even the deli allows you to design your own sandwich for breakfast or lunch. Don’t’ forget a puppy cup for your four-legged friend (or any dog you see along the way).
As a bonus, you can get all the good tidal information and daily tourist tips from those who know best.
MORE: Check out the Kennebunks Ice Cream Trail while you’re visiting Kennebunk Maine.
Kennebunk Wineries & Breweries
Brews and food are groomed for perfect palate picks in all seasons at this popular watering hole in the Lower Village. The beers rotate throughout the year, and whether you want duck fat cornbread or pub pretzels, there’s a drink and a delicious dish for everyone.
Every brew starts with the impeccable waters of Sebago Lake. That’s not a sales pitch — the lake has had excellent water quality since 1970.
The trio of friends who run this brewery in downtown Kennebunk Maine don’t just make beer. They create and experiment to bring you the best flavors and set trends.
Thirteen beers are on tap, and you can try something from the brick oven to make a meal that stands out in a competitive food market. Beer is also available to go.
Although it’s not a brewery or winery and it’s located in Wells about a 10-minute drive from Kennebunk, the Ahtesh Emporium is a unique stop where visitors can get drinks to take back to their rooms.
The emporium manages a magical atmosphere that feels nothing like a liquor store. Grab a bottle for yourself and something for a friend from a store that sells classy crafts and novelties. Don’t miss the custom-made bottles of infused olive oil.
MORE: Check out the Kennebunks Cocktail Trail for more cocktails and sips.
Top Hotels in Kennebunk Maine & Other Lodging
You won’t find a lot of beachfront hotels in Kennebunk, much less one with unobstructed views of the ocean. The rooms at The Beach House Inn feel like you’re sleeping in a Ralph Lauren catalog.
With 34 rooms built into a restored 1891 home, you will have a better shot at getting a room than in other smaller New England inns. Plus, you won’t have to battle for beach parking because the sand is just across the street.
If crossing the street is too far away from the sand, consider Seaside Inn because it’s built right on a more secluded section of the beach. The ninth-generation innkeepers know how to keep you happy. Breakfast and Wi-Fi are free, and the 24 rooms offer ocean or terrace views year-round.
Named as one of the top 10 places to stay in Maine, no detail is missed at this charming inn in the Lower Village. Luxury and hypoallergenic mattresses, sheets, and robes welcome guests with a full slate of toiletries and a hearty breakfast each morning.
Modern amenities meet a mid-1800s Greek Revival-style home with rooms, suites, and cottages available. Several pet-friendly rooms are available too.
This downtown Kennebunk Maine inn has been housing people for more than a century, and the charm just keeps expanding. The 23 rooms and suites are custom tailored to all types of travelers, from large families to couples to solo explorers. And, this inn is ideal for pet lovers because all rooms are pet friendly.
Between the main Kennebunk beaches and Lower Village, this luxury location is part of the Auberge Luxury Resort family and offers the finest in everything — food, rooms, and a spa.
Guest rooms, suites, and cottages round out the accommodations, while elegant and classic rooms make you feel like designer Laura Ashley herself will walk in at any moment. Choose from wood-burning fireplaces, clawfoot bathtubs, picture windows, and dual-headed rainfall showers.
Take some space from the main streets and beaches and get breathing room at the Kennebunk Gallery Motel & Cottages west of downtown Kennebunk.
Rustic and simplicity reign here, and each room is its own cottage. Meanwhile, the common areas offer grills, sports fields, a playground, and a large pool — they say it’s the largest in The Kennebunks.
FAQs About Things to Do in Kennebunk Maine
Is Kennebunk or Kennebunkport Maine better?
Kennebunk and Kennebunkport Maine complement each other, and for the best experience, you should visit both. Kennebunk is more spread out and residential, while Kennebunkport’s Dock Square stores are in tighter quarters.
Also, Kennebunk has more publicly accessible beaches, while Kennebunkport has more unique hotel offerings. However, both towns have beaches and exquisite overnight options. Kennebunk definitely tips the scales for art lovers, though.
What parking options are available in Kennebunk Maine?
Parking is likely the only pain point that you’ll experience in Kennebunk Maine. The downtown area offers free parking at the town parking lots next to the Kennebunk Inn. Free street parking is an option with a two-hour time limit, while Lower Village visitors have limited paid on-street and parking lot options.
Parking at any beach is a little more complicated. You’ll need a non-resident beach pass from mid-June through mid-September. You can purchase those at the Kennebunk Town Hall and at kiosks along Beach Avenue.
Overnight parking is banned on streets from November through April. The streets need to be clear for snow plows in case of a snow emergency.
NOTE: Don’t assume that you can get by without a beach parking pass. You will get a ticket, or your vehicle will be towed. If you get a parking ticket in Kennebunk Maine, you have 14 days to pay or appeal.
Are shuttles or trolleys available in Kennebunk Maine?
The Shoreline Explorer has been a popular way to avoid parking around Kennebunk Maine and allows guests to explore more areas. However, the service only operates during the summer.
Are there sharks off Kennebunk’s beaches?
The state of Maine has only had one deadly shark attack in its history. Since that happened in 2020, it has spawned fear among some beachgoers. It was especially concerning since the attack happened 20 feet from the shoreline, just an hour north of Kennebunk Maine.
Sharks have always been in Maine’s waters, but the increased seal population has made their presence more known. The beaches now have purple flags to warn guests about shark sightings, so keep an eye out.
TRAVEL TIP: You can download the Sharktivity app to track shark sightings along the coast and avoid seals and schools of fish, which is where sharks are most likely to be found.
Will I need a fishing license in Kennebunk Maine?
Maine has strict rules and regulations for fishing inland and along the shore, with licenses required for fishing, scalloping, lobstering, and clamming. The Maine Department of Marine Resources offers extensive information about each season and sport.
Explore All That Kennebunk Maine Has to Offer
Tourism in Maine has exploded, and The Kennebunks are the No. 8 most popular place to visit, according to U.S. News & World Report. You can’t afford to wait to plan this trip.
Rooms and restaurant reservations fill up quickly, especially in touristy areas like this. Is a visit to Kennebunk Maine worth it? You bet your lobster claws, it is!