Weekend Getaway in Kennebunkport
By Georgette Diamandis
A weekend in Kennebunkport, Maine, refreshed my soul, my body, and even my marriage. Southern Maine is easy to get to, and I found the Kennebunks abundant in nature, seaside charm, and history. Our stay at the Nonantum Resort was serene, exhilarating, and fun.
We were welcomed by the receptionists and the warm antique wood floors of the lobby as we checked into the Victorian-era Carriage House, the original part of the Nonantum Resort. I found out the large inn is uniquely family owned and run, and met innkeeper Jean Ginn Marvin. Her hands-on hospitality trickles down to her staff and we truly felt at home at the Nonantum. You can tell the employees are really happy to work there by their genuine friendliness. We walked over to Portside Lodge, a newer section of the hotel where our room was located, and were thrilled by the large corner Jacuzzi and huge picture window framing the Kennebec River.
Peaceful yet Convenient
Nonantum means rejoicing in Algonquin. For me, the contrasting elements are what make you want to rejoice. The Nonantum in Kennebunkport combines antique charm with modern amenities. It is in close proximity to downtownKennebunkport (15-minute walk), yet secluded on the private banks of the Kennebec River. On the opposite side of the river are the pristine nature trails of St. Anthony Franciscan Monastery. Early mornings are quiet except for the seagulls and the lobstermen rowing out to their lobster boats. The view from my window seemed like remote Alaska.
The Nonantum Resort has 111 rooms set on a private spit of land, ideal for a wedding-of which they boast 60 per year on average! It’s also perfect for a romantic weekend or family reunion. The beaches of Cape Porpoise, Mother’s Beach, and dog-friendly Gooch’s Beach, to name a few, are close by, and great anytime of year for a stroll.
At lunch time we ventured out along the road towards town to the Arundel Café located on the Arundel wharf. Lobster salad for me, and a fried fish sandwich for Cam as we enjoyed the sun and the river view on the outdoor deck. A little farther down is the quaint town of Kennebunkport with lots of boutiques. Dock Square still retains some of the original buildings; the candle shop dates back to 1775. If you wish to do a walking tour of the historic town, the Nonantum can set that up, as well as excursions on the sea. There are many noteworthy buildings, such as the church that was designed by famed 17th-century architect Christopher Wren of London. The Clam Shack is your typical fried-food stall, only their fried clams were voted the best in Maine by the Food Channel!
After a taste of Kennebunkport, we strolled back to the Nonantum wharf to board the Pineapple, a double-masted ketch, with Captain Christo and son John. The wind was fierce and only Cam and I showed up for the sunset cruise. We sailed along the Kennebec River and turned around at the bridge dividing Kennebunk from Kennebunkport. We spotted Federal Jack’s, the former brewery for Shipyard Ale and now a restaurant and pub featuring the Shipyard ales. Cam put in his request for “dinner” there. Next we sailed toward open water, out to Walker’s Point, former president George Bush’s Maine retreat. Captain Christo pointed out Mt. Agamenicus, the highest point between Portland and Boston, and then we returned to the calm waters of the Kennebec River. We thanked our captains for the enjoyable cruise and retreated to our lovely hotel for a quick swim in the heated pool. We were the only ones there, as the air temperature was a bit cooler than the water! At least the people at the outdoor bar were amused. We then dodged the crowd and stole up the back stairs to our third-floor corner room to enjoy a hot Jacuzzi soak.
Seafood and Jazz
The contemporary Portside Lodge has gas-powered fireplaces, microwaves, and Wi-Fi. The handsome lobby was decorated with sunflowers and pumpkins and has a guest computer. We dressed and went to dinner at Nonantum’s restaurant, Ocean 95; known for delicious food at reasonable prices. Most nights they have live music. This night, a female crooner and her jazz band entertained the diners. I had fresh Maine haddock with scallops, shrimp, and lobster and a spinach salad with blueberries and goat cheese. Cam had Atlantic seafood over pasta and sweet potato and shrimp corn chowder.
Exploring the Area
The next morning we had breakfast at the sumptuous buffet at Ocean 95. We then headed out on bicycles to Ocean Avenue, past the large estates (including the Bush’s) and back towards the beaches. Early autumn was the perfect time to bike around Kennebunkport, walk the nature trails of the monastery, and enjoy the benefits of the quiet streets of town since the summer crowds were gone. The Intown Trolley makes a similar route for $15 per adult, and picks you up right at the Nonantum if you are not in the mood for exercise or the weather is inclement. Included is a narrated history by the tour driver. Our driver was a bit rote-maybe it was too late in the season-but the history was interesting.
We went for a walk with Nonantum activities director Barbara, who also teaches exercise classes at the resort. We walked to the Franciscan monastery, across the river from the Nonantum Resort, where everyone (except pets) is welcome to visit the beautiful grotto, nature trails, and chapel. The natural environment of the monastery, set on 60 acres, gives the Nonantum a special, secluded feel. The Nonantum’s guided walks use the monastery trails and the sidewalks of Ocean Avenue. We also walked by St. Ann’s Episcopal Church by the sea on Ocean Avenue, which has an outdoor chapel with an incredible view. Other free activities for adults and children are available daily at Nonantum. Kayaks and bicycles can be rented for a small fee. Another place to hike is the Rachel Carson Refuge, which is 10 minutes by car from the Nonantum Resort.
Lobsterman for a Day
Our next activity was aboard the Rugosa, a lobster boat that also leaves right from the Nonantum wharf. A two-and-a-half-hour excursion on a professional lobster boat, with educational guides pulling up traps, teaches the business of lobstering and interesting trivia like how to tell the difference between males and females. Our guide pulled up a trap with a female that had eggs. He cut a “V” in her tail and threw her back immediately. He told us this “labels” her as a breeder, and she can never be kept. There are strict rules for the lobstermen and only lobsters over and under a certain length are keepers. It is now illegal to keep the monsters, as they are also good breeders. The trip on the Rugosa is $30 for adults and $20 for kids. Both the Pineapple ketch and the Rugosa are available seven days a week from April through October.
The Nonantum Resort has been certified as a green hotel for their practices of recycling, composting, and using biodegradable plastic wear. Even leftover shampoos are sent to needy countries. Through activities such as working on reducing its carbon footprint, and also involving the local middle school to redesign the west wing with environmentally friendly furnishings, the Nonantum shows that it is really a community-conscious business.
While we were out on the boat, a certain former president sped by, followed by secret servicemen in an equally fast James Bond–type zodiac boat! Lots of excitement for one weekend in ruggedly beautiful and historic Kennebunkport, Maine.
- Nonantum in Kennebunkport
- Federal Jack’s
- Franciscan monastery
- The Intown Trolley
- Ocean 95
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- Georgette’s Paintings