For the seaside luxury
Frenchtown’s charm meets Cape May’s beauty in this tony town that’s long been a playground for well-heeled folks in search of fresh lobster and sea breezes. It’s a walking town, all quaint sidewalks and picture-book views—and since the stunning autumn remains much more of a secret than its summers, you have room to wander. Pack your sweater, start at the top of Western Avenue, and wind down streets toward the village, past shops and the glorious smells of fried seafood. You’ll eventually find yourself on Ocean Avenue and Maine’s famous coastline—rocky shores, honey-colored sand—where you’ll watch for bicyclists on the left, sea spray on the right, and the breathtaking Bush compound straight ahead on Walker’s Point. There, you’ll see the American flag rippling in the Atlantic breezes, and no matter what your politics, if you’re not moved by the whole tableau, it’s time to check your pulse. —A.J. Downey
BEDDING DOWN: Just a few hundred yards from Kennebunkport’s row of shops is the historic White Barn Inn (37 Beach Avenue, Kennebunk, 207-967-2321). Yes, it began as a Civil War boarding- house, but today the prestigious property is fully up-to-date in all the modern luxuries. Heated marble bathroom floors and double-sided gas-burning fireplaces await guests, who are also greeted with fruit and champagne. The staff is eager to please—sometimes too eager, maybe, whispering like museum guides. The whole experience can only be described as lavish. Rates, which start at $420 per night, include breakfast, lounge liquors and afternoon tea.
DINING: At the wharf-front brewpub Federal Jack’s (8 Western Avenue, Kennebunk, 207-967-4322), pints of Shipyard ale go down just as easy as bowls of bisque. Or you can embark on a night of five-star dining at the grand White Barn Inn restaurant, where award-winning chef Jonathan Cartwright specializes in—what else?—coastal cuisine like pan-seared local cod and Kennebunkport lobster raviolo, plus “surprise” courses for his guests.
STATE FARE: The rule for finding the best fish—you know, “Thou shalt seek the smallest seacoast shacks with the longest lines”—holds true here. Go to the Clam Shack (2 Western Avenue, 207-967-3321) on the Kennebunkport bridge, and forget that it won the Travel Channel’s Food Wars crown for its lobster roll. Get the clams. Fried, steamed or stripped, they’re what you’re here for.
PASTIMES: You might be tempted to while away the whole trip in the spa, where soaker tubs and rain showers (following a cellulite-killing body wrap) are pretty much the best way to spend any day, anywhere. But do try to hit some of the town; in the nearby fishing village of Cape Porpoise, you can watch the lobster boats in action, and the art galleries that dot the town’s streets are little gems.
DAY TRIP: All of southern Maine is an antique collector’s playground—and Kennebunkport is the perfect launching spot. Spend some time at the town’s massive Antiques USA (1669 Portland Road, Route 1, Arundel-Kennebunk, 207-985-7766), then head over to the next-door towns (Arundel, Wells) for more excellent treasure-hunting.
GETTING THERE: US Airways offers multiple 90-minute nonstop flights to Portland daily. From there, rent a car for the 30-mile drive.