Mike Stultz / Courtesy of Maine Office of Tourism

Family-friendly activities in Kennebunkport and beyond.

Travel + Leisure
October 08, 2012

Maine is chock-full of good old-fashioned New England history and charm—especially in summer. Drive at your own pace along the southern coast, pausing in towns such as Kittery, Ogunquit, and Kennebunkport. Here, you’ll play by the beach by day then refuel at laid-back dockside restaurants come early evening.

Short Sands Beach

A great place for a stroll, this quarter-mile stretch of Atlantic coastline bordering downtown York Beach is one of New England's top summertime destinations. Popular with vacationing families, Short Sands Beach combines scenic coastline views with easy access to York's amusements. Rocky cliffs are visible from the beach, and the 1879 Cape Neddick ("Nubble") Light Station is about a mile away. Nearby attractions also include an old-fashioned Fun-O-Rama arcade and an oceanfront promenade with a bathhouse, gazebo, playground, and basketball court.

Fort Foster

The land of this 88-acre park was purchased by the federal government in 1872, eventually becoming a defense outpost for the Naval Shipyard in response to the Spanish-American War. Off the coast of Crescent Beach, the park is open to guests and vehicles from Memorial Day to Labor Day for a small fee. With crumbling cement forts from the World War II era and a rocky shoreline, the grounds have a historic atmosphere. Several paths are available for scenic hiking. During the off-season, guests are permitted to walk through the grounds for free.With crumbling cement forts from the World War II era and a rocky shoreline, the grounds have a historic feel. Several paths are available for scenic hiking.

Seashore Trolley Museum

Ted Santarelli, John Amlaw, and Gerald Cunningham founded this museum in 1939 to celebrate the region’s rail-riding tradition. The non-profit New England Electric Railway Historical Society has since amassed the world's largest collection of electric transit vehicles, including streetcars, buses, light rails and rapid transit cars. Various car barns, car houses, and stations dot the tree-lined property, housing cars like Connecticut Co. 1391 from the Osgood Bradley Car Co., which dates to 1910, and a 1945 Pullman car. The most popular attraction is the unlimited rides along the 1.5-mile track, through the wilderness, to Talbott Park, a grassy stretch with picnic tables and gazebo.

Beach House Inn

This 1891 inn, a sister property to the nearby White Barn, is set right on Mother’s Beach overlooking the steel-blue waters of the Atlantic. Purchased and overhauled in 1999, it has the same level of studied luxury as its award-winning sibling—but feels much more informal. Its style is Victorian-meets-cottage cool, with four classes of rooms, each individually furnished. Accessed via an elevator painted with a turn-of-the-century beach scene, rooms come with one-of-a-kind pieces like wrought-iron beds and original black-and-white photographs of beachscapes. There’s no on-site restaurant, but the sunlit Sitting Room functions as the inn’s de facto gathering space, with its overstuffed furniture, giant stone fireplace, and generous morning, afternoon (tea and cookies), and evening (wine and cheese) spreads. For those content to wave-gaze, a row of rocking chairs lines the wraparound porch. More ambitious types can poke their noses around the town’s touristy hub, Dock Square, just two miles away.

The Clam Shack

The Clam Shack has been a summertime tradition since 1968. That’s when Richard Jacques debuted his seafood hut above the Kennebunk River. In 2000, Jacques sold the shack and adjacent Clam Shack Seafoods to local Steve Kingston. The Clam Shack sells clams, haddock, scallops, and shrimp by the half-pint, pint, and quart. All of those fried items can also appear on toasted rolls, as does the hand picked meat of a one-pound lobster. Clam chowder is another popular option. The market sells uncooked seafood to go, along with local food products and Clam Shack merchandise.

Barnacle Billy's

In 1961, longtime fisherman and lobsterman Billy Tower started scouring nearby waters for seafood to serve at his casual, Perkins Cove restaurant, which operates from April through late October. Billy’s seasoned kitchen team serves up “lobstah” several ways: in the shell with butter on the side, as the key ingredient in Billy’s special stew, or stuffed into a grilled, butter-lathered bun. Crab rolls and clam chowder are also popular choices, and landlubbers can opt for plates of barbecued chicken or even a grilled hotdog. On nice days, people fill multiple patios to sip Billy’s signature rum punch and watch as the fishing boats pass through Perkins Cove, bound for the open waters of the Atlantic.

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