The wind chill and snowy days might keep beach visits on ice for a while, but Kennebunkport, Maine — just an hour-and-a-half-drive from Boston — is well worth a visit even in colder months. The southern Maine town, tucked by the ocean and the Kennebunk River, is its own mealtime microcosm, with everything from bountiful seafood plates to decadent fudge to please the palate. Plus, the streets of Dock Square are quieter without the summer rush, though just as quaint and inviting — and you’re likely to find off-season steals at the shops.
Plan on making a cozy weekend getaway of it, staying at one of the many inns or bed and breakfast in town, such as AWOL Kennebunkport, which provides both historic and modern aesthetics (choose between minimalist cabins that abut a woodsy enclave or a suite in the Melville Walker House, which dates back to 1860.) Wherever you choose to drop anchor, make sure to savor as much food as possible at these ports of call.
Heads up before you head out: Common for beach towns, many of Kennebunkport’s restaurants are closed on some combination of Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays; be sure to call or check the schedule online before heading out.
Here’s a recommended eating itinerary for a day — or more — in the beautiful coastal town.
Breakfast and Brunch
A must during your wintry weekends away: sleeping in. If you decided to stay at AWOL, take advantage of the complimentary breakfast delivery in the morning, a choose-your-own-adventure spread of carb-y goodies, spreads, toppings, Greek yogurt, and fruit. Accompanied by a cup of coffee next to the in-suite fireplace, it’s the perfect way to fuel up and plan the day.
Just a short walk away in Dock Square, Fiafia beckons with light breakfast fare. Savor smoothie bowls, like the acai OG (acai, banana, and coconut milk, topped with granola, fruit, cacao nibs, and a drizzle of honey) or the vibrant charcoal smoothie bowl, which features activated charcoal among its ingredients, tempered by a sweet kick of agave. To drink, an entire mocha menu awaits, with seven different spins, including chocolate hazelnut and lavender white chocolate.
Caffeine aficionados should take a quick drive from Dock Square to Coffee Roasters of the Kennebunks in neighboring Kennebunk, where you can grab fresh-roasted coffee by the pound or hot and iced coffee from the self-serve bar, along with grab-and-go sandwiches. As an added perk, you can fill your cup with coffee ice cubes so your java isn’t watered down as the ice melts.
Alisson’s Restaurant is the kind of spot where you can hunker down for hours, thanks to both the stellar seafood-leaning fare and the friendly atmosphere. Flatscreens on the walls over the booths play sports, while others showcase the wealth of beverages on tap, from both nearby (like the Snow Blower barleywine from Austin Street Brewery in Portland, Maine) and far (like the Rullquin blended sour stout from Gueuzerie Tilquin in Belgium).
The baked French onion soup with gobs of bread and cheese — and of course the Maine lobster bisque — are among the must-tries, with the sauce of the native Maine mussels singing with that perfect white wine and garlic-butter magic. Hungry yet indecisive? The petite lobster roll trio lets you try spins on the New England staple: There’s a classic version, a south-of-the-border lobster roll, and one made with lobster bisque.
If your lunch plans fall on the later side, check out the speedy and satisfying Pedro’s Mexican Restaurant, which opens at 3 p.m. You can easily make a feast of the appetizers, such as queso fundido (with cheddar, jalapeno, and chorizo) and shrimp marinated with tequila and garlic (served with black beans and tortillas). For heartier fare, check out the cola-and-adobo-braised barbacoa, served in a burrito, atop a salad, or alongside veggies, beans, and guac. If it’s Tuesday, enjoy $4 tacos and $7 classic margaritas in the lively atmosphere.
You don’t have to stay at the Boathouse Waterfront Hotel to dine at the restaurant (although lobster lovers might jump at the chance to stay in the hotel’s Maine lobster suite, with creative crustacean artwork and surprises around the room, including lobster trap end tables). The waterfront restaurant serves New England fare with Asian influences, with dishes such as tamarind and lemongrass steamed mussels, togarashi-spiced salmon, and short rib ramen. Other plates answer comfort food cravings, such as the bacon-butternut squash mac and cheese, smothered in cheddar, smoked gouda, and mornay sauce — which you should absolutely order topped with lobster. Eat in the dining room or in one of the charming private, heated ski gondolas on the wraparound deck.
Meanwhile, the food at farm-to-fork restaurant Earth at the Hidden Pond luxury resort are nothing short of heavenly. The offerings change frequently with what’s in season and harvested locally — including from the resort’s own organic gardens — but expect juicy lobster caught that day, along with splurge-worthy filet mignon with truffle gnocchi and black trumpet mushrooms, plus scallops with prosciutto and caviar.
Save room for the exceptional house-made brioche doughnuts. Besides tantalizing the tastebuds, the plates at Earth are a work of art and will leave you wondering just when this place will snag a Michelin star already.
Savvy travelers to this seaside spot know to hit up the Candy Man for its jewel-like chocolate truffles, classic fudge sold by the pound, and turtles (especially the dark chocolate variety). But the real treat is the whopping 79-flavor-strong salt water taffy selection, from fresh apricot and frosted cupcake to cinnamon roll and even pickle. (Really, try the pickle: You might actually enjoy the savory-sweet combo.) Stock up for the car ride back to Boston, or — at $9.99 a pound — stockpile a barrel full to last until your next summer trip to Maine.