Kennebunk Maine is named for the Great Hill that sits atop the mouth of the Mousam River and is just one of three towns known as The Kennebunks. Kennebunkport and Arundel round out the trifecta.
While Kennebunkport gets the lion’s share of attention on this stretch of Maine’s coastline, there’s more to Kennebunk than just driving through to get to the popular port town. For instance, it is widely known for having the best beaches of The Kennebunks.
With two separate villages to explore and a lesser-known beach providing the crowd-free serenity many people seek, Kennebunk blends nautical, nostalgia, and novelistic accents.
Outdoor Things to Do in Kennebunk Maine
While most minds go right to the beach when Kennebunk comes to find, outdoor adventures encompass every corner of the town.
The full span of the beachfront in Kennebunk is made up of three distinguished beach areas with a sidewalk connecting them. These are Gooch’s Beach, Middle Beach, and Mother’s Beach. Then, there’s a more remote, less crowded beach too.
As you enter Beach Avenue, Gooch’s Beach is the first one you’ll see. This sandy beach stretches more than half a mile and is anchored by the breakwater to the Kennebunk River.
This is the most popular beach and, therefore, the most crowded in the summer. Surfers love the great waves, and anglers like to cast off from the walkable breakwater.
It’s no wonder the nickname for Middle Beach is Rocky Beach since it’s filled with pebbles and rocks smoothed by the surf.
It is a great place to escape the crowds of Gooch’s Beach, as long as you don’t mind the rocks. The best time to visit is at low tide since high tide can eat up a good chunk of beach access.
As protective as a momma bear, this beach is known for its shoreline buffered by the worst of the waves. A playground right by the beach offers more activities for energized kids. Also, you get the double bonus of a sandy section and a rocky section of beach to get a full Maine coastal experience.
Less than 4 miles from the three main beaches sits Parson’s Beach, a lesser-known access point on private land that is open to the public. This is the remote beach many people desire.
It goes all the way to the mouth of the Mousam River, with fantastic views of the Kennebunk namesake Great Hill just across the way.
The Eastern Trail is a bike path that goes from Kittery to Portland, carving its way through Arundel and Kennebunk. The paved bike path splits near Arundel for off-road sections that open up opportunities for horses and hikers.
You can avoid traffic by biking the Eastern Trail to Wells or Biddeford and Saco and beyond. The Clark Preserve is right off the trail with, probably, your best chance of seeing moose and bears in this part of the state.
Kennebunk Land Trust
Clark Preserve is part of the Kennebunk Land Trust, which has another dozen properties to explore. Options range from Strawberry Island, which is only accessible at low tide, to Alewive Woods near the town line, known as the Crowned Jewel of KLT Properties.
Downtown Historic District
Kennebunk has two entertainment districts. One is the downtown historical area with a walking tour known as Museum in the Streets. While you’re on the Main Street section, ask about the ghost of the Kennebunk Inn.
The Lower Village of Kennebunk is on the western side of the famous Dock Square where Kennebunk meets Kennebunkport. With more than 60 things to do in this area, you’ll get a chance to see some of the best artwork.
Astronomy Society of Northern New England
At the far northwest side of Kennebunk Maine is the Astronomy Society of New England with weekly events like sunset viewing parties and open events in a wind-sheltered section with telescopes available to explore the night sky.
Riverhurst Farm Horseback Rides on the Beach
From Labor Day through Memorial Day, horses are allowed on the beach, and the team at Riverhurst Farm can give you a guided horseback ride tour, ranking among the best experiences in Kennebunk. You’ll take a 90-minute ride along the beach at low tide.
Indoor Things to Do in Kennebunk Maine
There’s more to Kennebunk than outdoor recreation and attractions. Throughout the town, you’ll find some exciting indoor spaces to explore history or to play on a rainy day.
Brick Store Museum
The Brick Store Museum’s name comes from the expensive brick used to build a dry goods store. With an abundance of timber in Maine, bricks were not an affordable option.
The bricks now hold within their walls more than 70,000 artifacts, photos, and memories of Kennebunk’s storied history. History and art meet here with revolving exhibits and free access events for this four-season museum.
Wedding Cake House
The most photographed home in Maine is the Wedding Cake House, and one look at it explains the creative name. The home requires ongoing renovations before it can be fully open to the public, but it’s worth keeping an eye on social media to see if you can be among the first to step inside.
Garden Street Bowl
The interior will bowl you over at the Garden Street Bowl in downtown Kennebunk Maine. It is also a good place to bookmark because it might open early on rainy days. The attached tap house menu goes well beyond the basic bowling alley snack bar.
Maine Art Hill
In the Lower Village on Chase Hill Road is a collection of art galleries that earned it the name Maine Art Hill.
The hill is filled with seven galleries in three buildings with everything from oil paintings to glass-blown treasures to Wind Sculptures by Lyman Whitaker. Check the events schedule to see what new exhibits are available.
Old House Parts Company
Treasures await at the Old House Parts Company in Kennebunk, and it’s as much a store as a museum for those who appreciate architectural elements dating back to the 18th century. From French doors to fireplace mantels to flooring, you have to see this to believe it.
Additional Attractions Near Kennebunk Maine
You have a whole other city to explore in nearby Kennebunkport, but there’s more beyond these two popular towns.
Just 13 miles from Kennebunk is the East Point Audubon Sanctuary with a trail that straddles the rocky shoreline. This is one of the best birding spots in the Southern Maine Coast. Eleven miles south is Marginal Way in Ogunquit Maine, along with another popular beach.
Family fun is waiting in all directions with amusement parks and water parks near Kennebunk Maine:
- Wonder Mountain Fun Park in Wells — 8 miles away
- Funtown Splashtown in Saco — 12 miles away
- Palace Playland in Old Orchard Beach — 14 miles away
Outlet shopping awaits along the Maine Turnpike with the Kittery Outlets just 28 miles south in Kittery Maine. The Maine Mall in South Portland is a quick 22-mile drive up the turnpike. Plus, you’ll find the L.L. Bean flagship store and another outlet mall in Freeport, just 43 miles north.
In addition to the trails of the KLT, there’s the Massabesic Experimental Forest in Alfred 12 miles away. The white cedar wetlands are the main draw here with interpretive signs along the trails explaining the uniqueness of this region.
A devastating fire in the 1940s wiped out part of the forest, leaving it more experimental than planned but also offering a mix of age-old forest and new growth to explore.
NOTE: This is not to be confused with the Massabesic Experimental Forest in Lyman, which is another option just 11 miles away. The Alfred location has better-marked trails.
Restaurants in Kennebunk Maine
Kennebunk’s dining scene ranges from fancy places to food trucks with plenty of lobster rolls in between. Here are a few of our top Kennebunk restaurant picks.
Be among the first to try the first sushi restaurant in The Kennebunks at Rosella. This New York restaurant is a coveted Michelin Plate dining experience, and now the owners have chosen Kennebunk for the new location.
Special menu items you can’t get in NYC — like Yellowtail Amberjack — are offered at the Kennebunk location. You’ll find it just on the Kennebunk side of Dock Square.
The Clam Shack
Since 1968, The Clam Shack has been making some of the best lobster rolls in Kennebunk Maine. It attracts a celebrity clientele even with its modest “served out the window” snack bar atmosphere. Look for specials because, when they shuck too much meat, the hungry crowds reap the rewards.
Duffy’s Tavern & Grill
Situated downtown, Duffy’s Tavern & Grill is a reliable and tasty resource open seven days a week with dining inside, to-go ordering, and delivery. The menu spans America and some international cuisine rounds it out, but scallops and Maine lobster are also on the menu.
Mike’s All Day Breakfast
If breakfast is the most important meal of the day, then Mike’s All Day Breakfast is your best friend. With a new outdoor dining area, you can eat your Benedict in the ocean breeze or chow down on the big belly breakfast platter before heading to the beach.
TRAVEL TIP: Mike’s American Diner in Arundel is another popular spot for locals.
White Barn Inn Restaurant
The contrast of rustic wood and elegant white tablecloths mixed with candlelight and floral arrangements make this AAA Five Diamond and Forbes Fives Star restaurant a feast for the eyes and mouth.
The White Barn Inn is the place to go for a romantic night out or a place to enjoy the affluence of The Kennebunks. An evolving menu is available, but trust the chef with his exquisitely planned tasting menu.
Kennebunk Maine Hotels & Other Lodging
Pay particular attention when you’re looking for a place to stay here because many sites will mix Kennebunk and Wells locations into the search. To help you start planning, here are our favorite places specifically located in Kennebunk Maine.
Beach House Inn
When you’re looking for that idyllic beachfront accommodation, the Beach House Inn is beyond perfect. It faces Middle Beach, which means that you have easy access to all three beaches and don’t have to worry about finding a parking spot on the street.
Inside, the history of a Victorian home built in 1891 blends with modern luxury with a “home-away-from-home” vibe. Options range from traditional rooms to a beach house cottage. Bike rentals, beach chairs, and towels are all available for free.
White Barn Inn
The luxurious White Barn Inn sits halfway between the Lower Village and the beach, giving an escape to a paradise within its own walls. Guestrooms, suites, and cottages are available with no detail missed. Each option comes with its own unique amenity, as there are no cookie-cutter layouts here.
The inn has a full-service luxury spa too. Adventures are available to book through the hotel, including a chance to cook with an award-winning chef or to enjoy a coastal skies seaplane adventure.
Beautiful Parson’s Beach Home
If your dream Kennebunk Maine location is on a secluded stretch of beach, look for places near Parson’s Beach. This home is near the public access point but still has its own stretch of sand.
The property is ideal for large groups because it includes four bedrooms. Daily housekeeping is also provided.
Stay in the heart of the Lower Village and just steps from Dock Square at the Grand Hotel. You get great views of both while perched on top of Chase Hill. An art gallery on the main floor will get you in the creative mood for the other creators in the village.
The rooms are a blend of silver and saffron with marble countertops and Matouk and Cuddledown bedding. Heated bathroom floors come in handy for winter guests, and summer tourists can enjoy air conditioning, which isn’t available at many local hotels.
More to Know About Kennebunk Maine
Despite all the attention that Kennebunkport gets, Kennebunk was actually here first. The land between the Mousam River and the Kennebunk River was used in the 1600s for sawmills, agriculture, treading, and shipbuilding.
By the 1700s, that space was called Kennebunk. It wasn’t until 1820 that Kennebunkport separated from Kennebunk and Kennebunk separated from Wells.
While there’s a common misconception that Kennebunk is inland and Kennebunkport is on the coast, they both have coastal and inland properties.
Kennebunk just offers more things to do throughout its community, and the busy Maine Turnpike runs through it. Kennebunkport is more compact in its offerings but has the community of Cape Porpoise to its east.
Kennebunk Maine Weather
As Maine tourism surges, Kennebunk is an ideal four-season destination. The coastal cities don’t get as much snow as the mountains, lakes, and highlands but have the bonus of that beautiful rocky shoreline.
Since Kennebunk is more of a residential area, you’ll get four seasons of things to do and special discounts during the off-season.
On average, there isn’t a day in Kennebunk where the high temperature is below freezing, but you’ll have cold nights from November through April. Summer temperatures will get into the upper 70s for highs, but not much higher unless there’s a heat wave.
TIP: Sign up for Town of Kennebunk alerts to get updated information during your trip.
FAQs About Kennebunk Maine
Is there a trolley or shuttle service in The Kennebunks?
Are Kennebunk Maine beaches dog friendly?
Kennebunk Maine loves dogs! Dogs are allowed on the beaches all year — except for between June 15 and Labor Day when they can only be there before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m.
From Labor Day through June 14, dogs can be on the beach at any time of day.
When dog access is permitted, they must be under voice control or on a leash. Since Parson’s Beach is private land, those rules are subject to change. There’s also an off-leash dog park in Kennebunk Maine.
Are Kennebunk Maine beaches safe?
You can check the beach water quality from Memorial Day through Labor Day on the Maine Healthy Beaches Dashboard.
Gooch’s Beach and Mother’s Beach have lifeguards from mid-June through early September, but those dates and the exact times can change. Middle Beach and Parson’s Beach don’t have lifeguards.
A Kennebunk Maine Getaway Is Worth It
Kennebunk Maine is a quieter, softer side of the busy port with enough activities to hold its own. While there is a difference between Kennebunk and Kennebunkport Maine, the two are best enjoyed in tandem.
At times, you won’t be sure which town you’re in. Even locals battle the town lines to Dock Square. They are both distinguished places on Maine’s coastline, with easy access between the two.
Kennebunk is worth being one of your four-season destinations for traditional Maine coastline experiences.