Classic beachside romance.

By Travel & Leisure
September 17, 2013
Credit: © NobleImages/ Alamy

The stomping ground of presidents and playboys, writers and yachties, Kennebunkport was, historically, a village defined by shipbuilding and fishing. Today, the coastal town—best explored by foot, bike, and boat (there’s also a bus that makes beach stops every hour)—takes summer tourists in graceful stride through its foursquare New England charm and expansive stretches of sand.

White Barn Inn

It’s no surprise that Maine’s top-rated Relais & Châteaux hotel is located in the toniest summer community of them all—Kennebunkport—and just two minutes as the gull flies from the Bush family compound on Walker’s Point. Since its opening in 1973, a lot of noise has been made of this sophisticated 19th-century inn compound—with its clapboard 26-room main house, three outlying riverfront cottages, and two 1820s barns. Intimacy, rather than grandeur, is evoked by the property’s elegant flower-lined walkways and secret gardens, hand-painted furniture, sleek marble baths, and sleigh beds perfect for curling up on a cool Maine night. The centerpiece—its famed white barn with wide-plank floors and soaring exposed beams—is the inn’s restaurant, renown for its Maine-inspired American and European dishes. To literally be transported, try a coastal cruise on True Blue, the inn’s private yacht.

The Pineapple Ketch

Come sunset, take a two-hour Atlantic excursion on the two-masted Pineapple Ketch, which sails daily from the Nonantum Resort.

The Inn at English Meadows

In Kennebunk, Maine, the 10-room Inn at English Meadows is that perfect mix of luxe amenities (Frette linens; Vera Wang mattresses; Malin + Goetz toiletries) and cozy New England touches, such as gas fireplaces. Located in Kennebunk’s Lower Village, just an short walk from the boutiques and antique shops in Dock Square, the circa-1860 property was renovated in 2010; now interiors look like they belong in a West Elm catalog, with plush, white-on-white beds and brightly patterned Louis XV chairs set against shuttered windows. And like all excellent inns, the three-course breakfast, which includes cardamom-orange French Toast is superb.