Happy childhoods and summers on the Maine coast have much in common. Both are bright, beautiful, and carefree. But both pass way too swiftly and are over too soon.
It’s this imperative – coupled with warm memories of my own childhood travels to “Vacationland” – that compels me to put my laptop down and point my compass toward Kennebunkport for a long weekend with my 6-year-old daughter, Anya. Time, I’m now comprehending in a very adult way, is truly our most valuable asset, and the number of our remaining summer vacations together is far too finite. With my wife and youngest daughter visiting family in California, our trip also allows for a rare opportunity to connect one-on-one.
Choosing a summer spot that keeps both parents and children happy is no simple task, which is why I sought a second, expert opinion. “Kennebunkport has wonderful sandy beaches with safe swimming for families – no sharp drop-offs and little undertow,” says Kathy Burns Lamphier, a Virtuoso travel advisor from nearby Greenland, New Hampshire. “Families return year after year because the town feels comfortable and familiar, like home.”
As soon as we arrive in town, we can see why. Beyond its low-key vibe and stress-free beaches (the aptly named Mother’s Beach among them), this seaside village-cum-summer playground offers plenty in the way of classic New England character: quiet country roads, pick-your-own blueberry farms, forested hiking trails, historic trolley tours, interactive museums, and a raft of seafood restaurants, ice-cream shops, and independently owned stores to explore. “Kids also love sailing on the lobster boats,” Burns Lamphier stresses.
Following her advice, Anya and I begin our visit with a voyage departing from Dock Square in the village center. Drifting up the Kennebunk River, we pass shingle-style summer homes and sailboats with names like Salt Wind before lingering by Walker’s Point for a glimpse of the Bush compound (as if on cue, the town’s most famous residents appear on the lawn). When we spy Goat Island, our captain tells us an apocryphal tale – that it’s named after New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, the “GOAT,” or “Greatest of All Time.” (Friendly tip: Don’t question this sentiment in these parts.)
As we sail farther out to sea, lobster traps are hauled and lore shared, but our highlight comes when the captain requests that Anya take command of his ship. At first she’s hesitant, hiding behind me. But then she steps forward and takes hold of the wheel, her confidence and excitement blooming in a belly laugh and broad smile.