During a weekend in Southern Maine recently, I had the opportunity to explore the coastline and craft beer culture of the region. I was based in Kennebunk, Maine for work, and used my free weekend to explore North and South along the coast. Being April, the weather wasn’t really playing ball just yet, but the atmosphere over the weekend made for some dramatic conditions along the rugged coastline.
Maine hadn’t been high on my travel bucket list, but as soon as I knew I would have a free weekend in the area, I set about researching all there was to do in the region. I decided on two distinct day trips during my free weekend in Southern Maine. On Saturday, I headed south from Kennebunk, and on Sunday, I went north towards Portland. Both days mainly consisted of cruising along the coast, lighthouse spotting, mini strolls, and a spot of craft beer tasting in between.
Do you have some time to visit the southern Maine coast this summer? Here’s what there is to explore. If you don’t have time to read this post now, then pin it for later!
Here’s what there is to see if you have time to spend a weekend in Southern Maine!
Kennebunk & Surrounds
While most of the focus of this post is exploring the coast of Maine, I can’t leave out Kennebunkport itself. It’s a lovely sleepy little town that comes alive in Summer. I wasn’t lucky enough to score great weather on the weekend I was there, but I did have a few nights after work when the weather was fabulous, and I’d totally recommend just getting out and walking around town to explore the village of Kennebunkport and the surrounding beaches.
Gooch’s, Middle & Mother’s Beaches
South of Kennebunk
Day 1 of your weekend in Southern Maine. I’d recommend taking the coastal roads as you travel south, and at the end of the day you can travel back north by the slightly busier Hwy US-1. I headed south on US-1, before detouring through Ogunquit, and making my way south on Shore Road towards Cape Neddick. The road was narrow and windy, at times hugging close enough to the coast to catch a view of the rocky shores.
Cape Neddick/Nubble Lighthouse
The Nubble Lighthouse has been operating since the late 1800’s. Since being automated in the 1980’s, the lighthouse has come under the guardianship of the Town of York Maine. Drive out onto the rocky bluff of Sohier Park to check out the Nubble Light on its little islet across the way. During my visit, the lighthouse was shrouded in mist, which lent it an eerie feel, but the atmospheric conditions on the day just illuminate the very need for the lighthouse in the first place. During summer there’s a tiny gift store and bathrooms on site, and Fox’s Lobster House across the way, so that you can enjoy your seafood with a side view of the lighthouse!
Ogunquit and the Marginal Way
The Marginal Way is a 1 1/4-mile-long trail hugging the cliff top between Ogunquit and Perkins Cove. It’s an easy walk along an undulating paved trail, offering dramatic views of the Maine coastline all the way. The trail terminates in the tiny village of Perkins Cove, where on a sunny day, I could imagine stopping out for a beer on the patio of one of the restaurants or cafes among the touristy offerings on the little peninsula that juts out between the Atlantic and the cove.
Back in Ogunquit, a quick stroll up and down along Shore Road reveals store after store of crafty, touristy product, totally not my scene. If that’s not your scene either, maybe head across to check out Ogunquit Beach – a long, wide stretch of sand on the Peninsula between the Atlantic and the Ogunquit River. There’s a tiny free parking lot for the Marginal Way in Perkins Cove. I couldn’t find any free parking in Ogunquit – be prepared to pay at the meter for parking there.
What to eat and drink:
Musette – a delightful restaurant, where I chose to have brunch before setting out for a day of exploring the coastline. From the breakfast bar, to the shiplap wall trimmings, the place was full of character. The menu was influenced by New England cuisine, and everything was fresh and delicious.
Congdon’s Donuts – claims to be the best donuts in the USA, I did a quick drive through and picked up a cinnamon donut for an afternoon snack, and wasn’t disappointed! The fresh, fluffy cinnamon donut really hit the spot. If you’re driving past, swing buy and pick up a few donuts to snack on during the day!
York Beach Beer Company – this little brewery had only been open for a few weeks, but was clearly kicking some goals. Sister brewery to SoMe Brewing, they had a bunch of tasty session style beers on tap, as well as a few guest taps from SoMe. The industrial style tasting room was spacious, and complemented by an outdoor patio that will be perfect come summertime. They served paddles, but being my own designated driver, I elected to have a small pour of just two of their beers, Short Board, an IPA, and Long Weekend – a Pineapple Pale Ale. I wish I’d taken more notes about the beer, but I didn’t. Instead, trust me and head on down for the friendly staff and the convivial atmosphere, I’m sure it’s only going to get better as summer rolls around.
Hidden Cove Brewing Co. – on the Saturday afternoon I was visiting, they had some live music and plenty of happy customers. There were card & board games available, and drinkers were playing games as they enjoyed a beer or two. They serve paddles, but I just tasted a couple of their beers because I had to drive. I enjoyed the Demon Fire – a spiced beer – almost in the style of a michelada, and even branched out and tried the Jali, a spicy sour ale that the bartender had recommended.
Old Vines Wine Bar – For a casual dinner in Kennebunk, head out to Old Vines Wine Bar. The outdoor patio would be the perfect spot to enjoy some tasty tapas style plates and a wine or craft beer during the summer. Friendly, knowledgeable staff, and a mix of tourists and locals make this place a total go to.
North of Kennebunk
Day 2 of your weekend in Southern Maine! Again, I’d recommend taking the coastal roads north, then once you’ve finished the sightseeing for the day, you can just zip back south on Hwy US-1.
A short drive north of Kennebunkport on Ocean Avenue brings you to a pullout with views of Walker Point, the Bush family’s summer ‘cottage’ located on a peninsula jutting out into the ocean. If you’re luckier than I was, and had a nice sunny day, it would be a great walk out here from Kennebunkport. You can also check out the Anchor to Windward monument – a tribute to George H.W. Bush along Ocean Avenue.
Cape Porpoise & Cape Porpoise Harbour
The tiny village of Cape Porpoise abuts the harbor. You can drive out towards the wharf and check out the lobster traps stacked on the wharf, and the boats bobbing on the harbor – you might even be lucky enough to catch sight of the Goat Island lighthouse on a fine day.
Goose Rocks Beach
Just to the north of Cape Porpoise is Goose Rocks Beach. On the day I visited, it was a quiet little coastal village, and there were only a few people walking dogs on the windswept beach. I imagine it would be a nice spot to spend the day on the beach in Summer, with its mild surf, and long, wide stretch of sand.
Fort Williams Park & Portland Headlight
Located in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, the Portland Headlight sits on a headland at the entrance to the shipping channel into Portland Harbor. Located on the grounds of Fort Williams Park, this is reportedly the oldest lighthouse in the state of Maine. The park itself is rich in maritime and military history and you could easily spend an afternoon here, picnicking, exploring the ruins and wandering the trails along the coastline of the park. In season, there’s even a museum and gift store located in the former lighthouse keepers cottage.
If you haven’t had enough of lighthouses, then there’s several others that you can stop at along the way into Portland. Check out Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse and Portland Breakwater Lighthouse as you drive towards town.
For me, Portland was a bit of a letdown – it was Easter Sunday when I was visiting, and most of the stores and cafes that I wanted to check out were closed. I took a walk around the mostly shuttered stores around the Old Port area and can only imagine that the place has much more vitality on a regular weekend when the sun is out and the stores are open. I’d heard about the Portland Museum of Art, the Victoria Mansion and the Portland Observatory – but rather than indulge in the culture of the Museum, or climb the stairs for a view over Portland on that gray day, I decided to check out one last stop on the thriving brewpub scene before I drove back to Kennebunkport. If you’re wanting to try out some classic New England cuisine, this might be a good spot to try in one of the many cafes and restaurants around the Old Port area.
What to Eat & Drink:
Liquid Riot Brewing Co – This place is located right down on Portland Harbor, and to be honest, I headed in here out of desperation for a place to eat and drink rather than by recommendation. This place has a long bar in front of its brewing and distilling setup, and I took a seat there to get settled in. I found the service to be average, but I guess in the end everyone was friendly enough. I had the Mob Scene IPA, decent, but nothing to write home about, and decided to head out to indulge in a donut for late lunch instead of a meal.
The Holy Donut – I really wanted to try the potato donut from The Holy Donut, but unfortunately it was closed for the day ☹ Let me know what you think if you make it there when the place is open.
Bunker Brewing Co. – This is my kind of brewpub. I’d asked for a recommendation while I was at Liquid Riot and ended up choosing this one because it was on my way back to Kennebunk. The tap room is located at the back of a factory in an industrial area on the outskirts of Portland, and I really wondered where my GPS was taking me. What a find though! The industrial style tap room and outdoor patio provide plenty of space for groups of friends to make themselves comfortable, and the beer was really great. I tried the really decent Machine Czech Pilsner, but the beer that rocked my weekend was Terrarium, an American IPA!
Federal Jack’s – Back in Kennebunkport for dinner, Federal Jacks is a decent go-to for a craft beer and some standard pub food. With indoor and outdoor seating overlooking the Kennebunk River, this place gets busy. The atmosphere to me, was more of a chain restaurant, which turned into a nightlife destination late on the weekends. Featuring beer that’s brewed downstairs by Shipyard Brewing Co., this place seems like a good stand by for a late-night bite.
Are there any questions? Anything else you need to know. I have more a few more restaurant suggestions for the Kennebunkport area – feel free to reach out if you need a hot tip on where to find the best veggie food in town!
Are you keen to spend a weekend in Southern Maine? Need to save this information for later? Pin this post to come back and read more at your leisure.
When to go?
Kennebunk has a modest year-round population of just around 10,000, but the population explodes over the summer months as summer residents and tourists flock to the Maine coast. The busiest months are June – September, when the weather is at its best. You’ll need to make your accommodation arrangements early if you’re visiting during this time.
If you’re looking to experience some nearby snowy landscapes, then maybe a winter visit, between November and February is for you. Although some accommodations will be closed for the winter, you should find a place to sleep easier to come by at that time.
Hit the road!
For me, Kennebunkport was a great location to be based in southern Maine and gave me a great opportunity to explore up and down the coast on my free weekend. If you’re driving, it’s an easy 90 miles north of Boston, or 30 miles south of Portland. You could fly into either of these cities and rent a vehicle to set off and explore the region.
Given more time, I would have loved to have continued north to explore Acadia National Park, but that will just have to wait for next time!
Check out my map of all my favorite sights and spots to eat and drink during a weekend in Southern Maine.
On the way up to Maine, I stopped in Newport, Rhode Island – check out my post on things to see on a day in Newport!