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Overview

The Kennebunks, a cluster of villages between Wells and Bideford, and the nearby beaches at Old Orchard were favorites of wealthy Victorian families and still attract families in all budget ranges. Some of the fine old homes that predate the Victorian “cottages” — many of them homes of sea captains who made their fortunes in the China trade — have been gently converted into inns. Victorian homes line streets of the inland village center of Kennebunk, where elegant mansions stand row on row and include the over-the-top "Wedding Cake House," covered with so many architectural do-dads that it really does look like a frosted cake. The Brick ...

The Kennebunks, a cluster of villages between Wells and Bideford, and the nearby beaches at Old Orchard were favorites of wealthy Victorian families and still attract families in all budget ranges. Some of the fine old homes that predate the Victorian “cottages” — many of them homes of sea captains who made their fortunes in the China trade — have been gently converted into inns. Victorian homes line streets of the inland village center of Kennebunk, where elegant mansions stand row on row and include the over-the-top "Wedding Cake House," covered with so many architectural do-dads that it really does look like a frosted cake. The Brick Store Museum displays early furnishings and ship models and Seashore Trolley Museum contains the nation's largest collection of streetcars and trolleys. Spouting Rock and Blowing Cave are best at a rising tide. Old Orchard Beach, seven miles of golden sand that’s one of the cleanest on the Atlantic coast and with free public access, still has the charm and nostalgia of an old-fashioned beach resort, complete with a pier, fried dough, a roller coaster overlooking the sea and a carousel. Palace Playland is the only remaining beachside amusement park in New England. Free Monday and Tuesday concerts and fireworks every Thursday highlight midweek evenings. To find quiet, head for the wildlife preserve at Laudholm Farm or kayak the peaceful waters of Scarborough Marsh, Maine's largest saltwater marsh.

Barbara Rogers
About the Expert

Barbara Radcliffe Rogers has written or coauthored more than 30 guidebooks, including The Portugal Traveler, Drive Around Portugal, City Spots Munich, City Spots Helsinki, City Spots Stockholm, Eating New England, and the Maine section of Thomas Cook's Independent Traveller USA.

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Barbara Rogers for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    June is perfect, with weather warm enough for the beaches, but before the summer crowds arrive. Fall is glorious and also uncrowded. But for the full show, join the sunburned crowds in July and August.