Travelers who want the best of everything Maine offers often look to the seaside village of Kennebunkport to scratch that luxurious itch. Every turn on Kennebunkport’s Dock Square, rocky shorelines, and boat tours looks like an Instagram photo.
No filters are needed to get the raw beauty of this historic shipbuilding and fishing village, but there are some important things savvy travelers need to know to enjoy the best things to do in Kennebunkport Maine.
About Kennebunkport Maine
First things first—it’s “Ken-KNEE-bunk-port,” not “Ken-uh-bunk-port.” That small point of clarity will get you a whole new level of “living live a local” attention.
Also, it’s important to note that some attractions are listed by the initials KPT.
Kennebunkport was founded in 1653, and instead of the modern-day village feeling like a remodel, you truly feel transported back in time.
The village is broken up into three main areas:
- Dock Square: the dense downtown area on the east side of the Kennebunk River.
- Goose Rocks Beach: the only beach in Kennebunkport.
- Cape Porpoise: the “quieter side of Kennebunkport” with a fishing village and state park on an island.
Within and around those locations, you’ll find adventurous ecosystems like tide pools, wooded hiking trails, shellfishing spots, campgrounds, and lighthouses.
The biggest mistake first-time visitors make is sticking close to Dock Square and not exploring the shorelines and islands nearby. Boat tours and fishing charters build your sea legs while mingling between lobsters by the pound and whales by the ton.
Kennebunkport and the Kennebunk River are not to be confused with the Kennebec Valley & River region. Remember this by “Bunk by the Beach” and “Bec is a Trek,” since the Kennebec Valley is inland, remote, and rugged.
Each season in Kennebunkport brings a new weather pattern, precipitation types, and temperature range. Since Kennebunkport is in the Southern Maine Coast region, you’ll get warmer temperatures throughout the year, with less snow and more rain compared to the more interior and northern sections of the state.
Summers bring idyllic warm weather, evident by the thousands of guests that fill up the village and beaches. Sunny beach days and starlit nights are comfortable, with the average high being 74°(F) and lows around 55°(F) during the summer months. As a result, the best time of year to visit Kennebunkport for warm-weather activities is from late June to mid-September.
But even during the “off-season” there is reason to get outside and enjoy the weather in Kennebunkport:
- Fall is crisp with fantastic foliage displays—plan for highs in the 50s and lows in the upper 30s.
- Winter in Kennebunkport brings daily average temperatures below 42°F, with lows dipping into the teens. You may see flurries of snow, but the average snowfall of 14.4 inches/month is significantly less than other areas of the state.
- Spring temperatures don’t get out of the 60s for highs and can be at or below freezing at night.
Each season peels back a new layer of adventure, and even the changing tide discreetly reveals new passageways to explore.
Kennebunkport Outdoor Things to Do
Explore on Foot
Kennebunkport’s Dock Square is an open-air village where you walk in and out of various shops and restaurants, but you can also experience more of the true Maine outdoors in Kennebunkport.
TRAVEL TIP: When visiting Dock Square, be sure to look down alleyways and up/down stairwells, as this dense district wastes no space.
Explore on the Water
Whether you’re an agile angler or just along for the ride, an outdoor adventure on the water is truly part of the Kennebunkport experience.
You can ride the Kennebunk River to the open water of the Atlantic Ocean on the Schooner Eleanor. Roll up your sleeves and get hands-on with the Rugosa Lobster Tour team to learn the art of lobstering.
First Chance Whale Watch offers tiered tour options, from public rides to private tours, and you even get a “do-over” if the whales are wandering someone else during the tour.
Explore the Islands
That kayak or SUP can take you through the Cape Porpoise Islands, with Cape, Vaughn, and Trott islands offering primitive camping and launch sites.
Goat Island Lighthouse is the only one off the coast of Kennebunkport, and a small boat dock welcomes visitors to the land. Official lighthouse tours are available through New England Eco Adventures in Kennebunk.
Since tours are hit-or-miss for the public, follow the Goat Island Lighthouse Facebook page for updates if you aren’t taking the tour.
Explore By Land
Once you get your sea legs steady, check out the Maine Day Adventure tour options, from a foodie tour to walking historic streets and even a dog-focused food tour. Summer can’t officially start until the Intown Trolley bell rings, taking guests to the hot spots of the Kennebunks.
The Kennebunkport Conservation Trust manages more than 27 miles of trails through salt marshes, wooded areas, and shorelines throughout 2,300 acres of the town’s footprint. The lands include a mix of nature, wildlife, and historic buildings.
Goose Rocks Beach takes a break from the rocky coastline to spread out across three miles of sandy shores. This is arguably the most scenic beach in Kennebunkport Maine and the soft, flat sandy beach is ideal for walking or relaxing and enjoying the beautiful views of nearby Timber Island and the coast.
SAFETY TIP: Don’t be dissuaded by reviews complaining about greenhead and biting flies. They are common in all New England coastal communities and peak in the late summer. While immune to bug spray, some experts swear by Avon’s Skin-So-Soft. Bring a wide-brimmed hat, long pants and long-sleeved shirt – just in case.
Explore the Holidays
Kennebunkport becomes one of the best Maine Christmas Towns for nearly two weeks each December. The Christmas Prelude brings Santa by lobster boat, and lobster traps replace the traditional Christmas tree. Fireworks, reindeer, parades, and so many more activities make it worth bundling up to enjoy this festive event.
Kennebunkport Indoor Things to Do
Much of what Kennebunkport offers is geared toward the outdoors, even in the winter. Sleigh rides, ice rinks, and cross-country skiing trails come alive. But what if you’re an “indoors” person?
- Make Dinner an Event: Splurge on a multi-course dinner or bar hop between the affluent hotels to enjoy all the historic stops without having to pay sky-high hotel prices.
- Have a Cold One: Just across the river at Federal Jacks, the Kennebunkport Brewing Company offers enough samples to spend a dry and warm day inside while still getting exquisite seaport views.
- Spa Day: Make a spa day at one of the unique properties in Kennebunkport, such as Tree Spa at Cape Arundel Inn or the Breakwater Inn Spa.
- Fall in Love: Kennebunkport comes back to life during February for Paint the Town Red event with discounts and specials for couples.
St. Anne’s Episcopal Church By-The-Sea
Visitors are welcome at St. Ann’s Episcopal Church, with a glorious seaside view and a stone chapel. Regularly scheduled seasonal worship services are held Sundays at 8:00 am and 10:00 am with visitors being welcome to tour the property when the gates are open (mid-June through September).
Seashore Trolley Museum
Don’t let the name fool you, the Seashore Trolley Museum offers up so much more than traditional trolley rides and historical trains. The museum celebrates the history and innovation required to keep the public moving on mass transit. See if your hometown has a piece of history here.
White Columns Tour
The Kennebunkport Historical Society offers docent-led tours through the White Columns Greek revival mansion. Built in 1853, this Victorian-era home has been owned and loved by the same family for 130 years and has kept its old-world charm and original furnishings.
Take a guided tour to travel back in time through the stately home’s seven rooms, hearing stories about three generations of the Perkins-Nott family who lived, loved, and died in this magnificent Greek revival mansion.
The tour covers the history of Kennebunkport, its shipbuilding and maritime traditions, as well as the intriguing story of the family who lived in the house.
Fun Fact: The Presidential Bush family, long-time Kennebunkport supporters, donated mementos for a whole Bush Family Gallery in the home.
Additional Things to Do Near Kennebunkport
Tourists pay much more attention to the village lines between Kennebunk and Kennebunkport (which is on the bridge at Dock Square), but when you’re there, they feel like one big village.
Kennebunkport is more touristy while neighboring Kennebunk is more residential. Together with Arundel, the three are collectively known as “The Kennebunks.“
Kennebunk Maine Attractions
Kennebunk has more beaches, the Lower Village, and Historic District, offering more places to choose from, especially during big summer crowds. Kennebunk doesn’t just have a museum. It IS a museum, and you can stroll through the Museum in the Streets with this self-guided walking tour through the history of Kennebunk.
Arundel is known for its antiquing, and Arundel Antique Village has more than 200 dealers displaying unique items. The Maine Classic Car Museum brings back memories of automotive eras and a glimpse at the future of the industry.
Kennebunkport Cuisine: Lobster Shacks to Fine Dining
You expect to get a good lobster roll or crab cake in a coastal destination like Kennebunkport, but your taste buds really come to life when you see the expansive list of breweries, bakeries, bars, and brunch spots.
Dock Square Coffee House
Look for the little green house with the big aroma of coffee and fresh-baked goods at Dock Square Coffee House. You’ll feel like you’re walking into grandma’s kitchen as the space is as warm and inviting as the menu.
Coffee, latte, tea, and smoothies pair with pastries, doughnuts, and pretzels for a slice of European deliciousness in the heart of Kennebunkport.
Take a break from lobster to immerse your taste buds at a Patagonian grill and Argentinian steakhouse. The dark and fiery hues outside lure you into a truly one-of-a-kind Kennebunkport dining experience.
The globally-renowned chef settled into the Kennebunkport cuisine scene with wood-fired meals of hearty portions complemented by excellent customer service.
The Burleigh at Kennebunkport Inn
The Burleigh at Kennebunkport Inn is a cozy gastropub that serves shareable small plates, hearty entrees, inventive cocktails, and local beers and wines. Fresh Maine seafood, signature burgers, and unique takes on classic home-style fare await diners.
Eat here for the unique experience of dining in your own outdoor dining gondola. The restaurant stays open through all seasons and offers intimate events like cocktail-making lessons and crafting.
Earth at Hidden Pond
Mother Nature herself couldn’t design a more natural setting with modern elegance if she tried. Earth at Hidden Pond exudes its farm-to-fork mission with every element of the meal and setting. Even the walls are made from the trees used to clear the site.
Look for the elements of earth, wind, water, and fire to expand the experience.
Make an afternoon or night of it at Alisson’s Restaurant, a Kennebunkport staple. With a mix of Maine seafood and lots of lobster dishes, there’s plenty of bar food to fuel your visit through the big game or a night of trivia. Drink menus include beer, wines, cocktails, whiskey, and tequila.
Cape Pier Chowder House
Talk about fresh seafood! Cape Pier Chowder House is at the tip of Cape Porpoise, a working fishing port with laid-back charm and much smaller crowds.
If you like what you taste or to get a preview, order some Cape Porpoise Lobster Company dishes, overnight delivered to your doorstep.
Cape Porpoise Kitchen
Kennebunkport has several places where you can grab and go or stock up on quick meals for your rental home. Cape Porpoise Kitchen is one of those, offering breakfast and lunch on-site or packaged up for a quick stop.
In addition to fresh daily quiches, scones, coffee cakes, and breakfast sandwiches, you can get some homemade doughnuts each Friday. Lunch options include wine and cheese medleys or salads, hot/cold sandwiches, and Gourmet-to-go.
There isn’t a bad seat in the elegant Ocean Restaurant at Cape Arundel Inn. The only thing to distract you from the stunning ocean views will be the exquisite dishes brought out to you in three-course meals.
The menu changes based on seasons and harvests, so it’s never the same meal twice.
Mabel’s Lobster Claw
If you’re looking for one of those classic seafood shacks, look no further than the one right outside Mabel’s Lobster Claw just south of Dock Square. You might even find you have the time to sit down inside and try the menu showstoppers, The Duke and The Dutchess.
Where to Stay in Kennebunkport
Kennebunkport has accommodations from cottages to campgrounds to classic homes to crashing waves at your doorstep. While Kennebunkport is a family-friendly destination, some resorts are adults-only.
The Kennebunkport Resort Collection has 10 properties locally and offers a list of its family-focused properties within that group.
Boathouse Waterfront Hotel
To be in the center of it all, consider the Boathouse Waterfront Hotel, right in the heart of Dock Square and so close to the Kennebunk River that part of the dining area hangs over the edge. Choose room designs from nautical and classic Maine style to beach chic at the Wharf House Annex.
Daily breakfast, free Wi-Fi, luxurious linens, and a seasonal rooftop deck make this intimate hotel a great choice.
Rhumb Line Resort “Kennebunk’s Affordable Resort”
Retreat in the woods at Rhumb Line Resort for a family destination where kids 16 and younger stay for free. This year-round resort only closes in January and offers free breakfast daily with some of the lowest prices for every season.
You can walk to the shoreline or bike to Dock Square while being away from the crowds at night.
Kennebunkport Captain’s Collection
Stay in the 1700s houses once reserved for ship captains and their families who gathered when the boats were at sea. Choose from four historic homes in the Kennebunkport Captain’s Collection, each with its own personality, but get access to all four of them with any room reservation.
Tucked into a city block near Dock Square, you’ll have the excitement of the village but the peace of tree-lined walkways with luxury accommodations and free breakfast.
For those who’d rather be on the Cape Porpoise side of Kennebunkport, the Langsford KPT nestles in what’s known as the “quiet side of Kennebunkport” and is within walking distance of the Cape Porpoise pier.
Whether you rent a unit or cottage, you’ll have the full scale of amenities as if you were at home – kitchen, laundry, and one or two bedrooms. Control your trip with contactless entry and common spaces like a BBQ grill, fire pit, and pool with beach chairs and towels to take to the beach.
The Tides Beach Club
Ditch Dock Square for salty air and sandy toes at the only Goose Rocks Beach resort at The Tides Beach Club. Not to be outdone, the wooded areas nearby offer wooden walking paths and numerous recreational tours based at the property.
Kennebunkport Maine FAQs
Is Kennebunkport REALLY a four-season destination?
Yes! In fact, the business association has actually trademarked the phrase The Place to Be All Year™ to drive that message home.
While there will be some seasonal closures, with January and February being the quietest months, there’s always something to do in the Kennebunks.
Can I tour the Bush family home at Walker’s Point?
No. The picturesque home on Walker’s Point is still a vacation home for the extended Bush family. You will have plenty of vantage spots around the shoreline to snap photos.
How do I get a marriage license in Kennebunkport?
The town website has great information for soon-to-be-wed couples, including residential and out-of-state details. You need to call the office to get the right forms and schedule an appointment. Walk-ins are not allowed.
What other licenses will I need?
If you want to fish in the ocean, lakes, or rivers, you’ll need a fishing license from the state. A limited number of shellfish licenses are available through the town hall. For a full list of activities and laws or license requirements, check out Maine’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Department’s website.
What about parking in Kennebunkport?
Parking is very limited, and rules vary by location, time of year, and type of vehicle. The most stringent parking rules are in place from May 1 through October 31, and an overnight Winter Parking Ban is in effect from December 1 through April 15.
NOTE: A parking permit or beach sticker does not guarantee a parking spot, but it does make it legal for you to park there if a spot is open.
Is Kennebunkport Maine Worth Visiting?
Absolutely. Kennebunkport brings classic seaport charm in a safe, family-friendly environment with lobster, lighthouses, and long walks on the beach all part of an average day.
Start planning your visit to Kennebunkport Maine today!