10 Reasons to Drive to Kennebunkport

By Scott Kearnan  |  July 22, 2014

Every summer, most Bostonians tend to set their sights to the south; Cape Cod and the islands beckon, and we answer with open arms. (And eager mouths.) But turn your attention to the north, and you'll find that coastal Maine offers plenty of vacation-time delights without (much of) the traffic snarl. For starts, the town of Kennebunkport hides plenty of pearls in its dining scene. Here are few of our favorites. 

  • The White Barn Inn

    For something fully upscale, head to the five-diamond restaurant at The White Barn Inn, a Relais & Chateau property. The seasonal bistro menu is presented as a four-course prix fixe. But for something a little out of the ordinary, ask about the "Crustacean Crawl." For $300 per person, you'll go on a six-mile bike ride with grand chef Jonathan Cartwright, stopping at multiple under-the-radar seafood spots and then choosing your own lobster from a local fisherman, which Cartwright will cook for you that evening. 

    37 Beach Ave., Kennebunk Beach;  207-967-2321

  • Rococo Artisan Ice Cream

    This beloved purveyor of lovingly handcrafted scoops focuses on Argentine ice cream: heavy on cream and served slightly warmer so that flavors really shine through. And what unique flavors they are: curry carrot, goat cheese with honey, whiskey and fig, and Blue Fin stout (a beer-based ice cream) share menu space with the classics. 

    6 Spring St., Kennebunkport; 207-251-6866

  • Earth at Hidden Pond

    In 2011, Boston's own Ken Oringer (Clio, CoppaToro) opened this whimsical American restaurant at Hidden Pond Resort, a luxury hideaway in the woods (think a treetop spa.) The kitchen is helmed by chef Justin Walker, an Arrows alum who lives on a 17-acre farm where he forages many of the crops, raises and cures much of the meat, and makes many of the cheeses that are featured on Earth's seasonal menu of rustic-meets-refined fare. The decor is an attraction on its own, and includes a private "Potting Shed," seen here, for private dining. 

    354 Goose Rocks Rd., Kennebunkport; 207-967-6550

  • 95 Ocean

    The Nonantum Resort's main restaurant lures guests and visitors alike with its spins on classic Maine dishes: lobster cakes, seafood chowder and meatier options like blueberry ribs with cheesy jalapeño grits. A big bonus is the live music, which keeps the vibe boisterous and convivial during the peak summer season. 

    95 Ocean Ave., Kennebunkport;  207-967-4050

  • Mabel's Lobster Claw

    This delightful, lo-fi lobster destination has been serving up steamed and fried summery seafood since the 1950s. Locals grab a seat in the old-school dining room, and tourists saunter up to the take-out window for a slice of pie, cup of chowder or a lobster roll. It's rather famously a favorite of the Bush family, who keep a summer home nearby. 

    124 Ocean Ave., Kennebunkport; 207-967-2562

  • Nunan's Lobster Hut

    Opened in 1953, this is a classic New England seafood shanty. What you won't find: fine dining. What you will find: the kind of classic, boiled lobsters (over a pound apiece) of which Maine vacation dreams are made.

    9 Mills Rd., Kennebunkport; 207-967-4362 

  • David's KPT

    ​Chef David Turin brings contemporary flair to this 200-seat restaurant at The Boathouse Waterfront Hotel. In the summer seasons, its two bars, outdoor deck and main dining room fill fast with those eager to dive into modern seafood plates like lobster ravioli, pepper-crusted tuna with soba noodles, and tea-roasted salmon. The happy-hour menu also draws daily crowds with inexpensive snacks and drinks. 

    21 Ocean Ave., Kennebunkport; 207-967-8223

  • Ocean

    Feast your eyes on spectacular views at this relative newcomer at the Cape Arundel Inn & Resort. Opened last year, Ocean offers panoramic views of the Atlantic — alongside upscale French and Mediterranean cuisine from Pierre Gignac, chef-owner of Ogunquit's 98 Provence. Highlights include poached lobster with passion fruit butter, honey-brined pork chop and swordfish with a pine nut and lemon crust. 

    208 Ocean Ave., Kennebunkport; 855-346-5700

  • Abbondante

    ​Another notable 2013 opening is Abbondante, a trattoria housed in an old barn. Guests gather at communal tables, many set beside a centerpiece stone fireplace, and dig in to an Italian menu that is already becoming locally famous — particularly the 12" pizzas, wood fired and topped with everything from clams to prosciutto. The pasta menu is expansive, and puts some Maine-appropriate spins on things, like the lobster carbonara seen here. 

    27 Western Ave., Kennebunk; 207-967-2211

  • The Restaurant at The Tides Beach Club

    Asian inflections characterize the menu at this property's restaurant, which celebrates a "seaside chic" atmosphere that draws cocktail clinkers for live music and wave-watching. Housed in a grand Victorian, the restaurant pairs seared shrimp and scallops with bok choy, gives guests a gorgeous grilled ahi tuna with kimchi and pickled ginger and serves up a fried oyster po' boy with spicy Sriracha rémoulade. 

    254 Kings Highway, Goose Rocks Beach, Kennebunkport; 855-632-3224