Where: Kennebunkport, Maine
When: December 2011
The Scoop: It's all about location. The Kennebunkport Inn is the only inn smack dab in Dock Square. Built in the 19th century by a wealthy tea merchant, this classic, trapped-in-time New England mansion blends the old with the new. Depending on the season and size of your party, stay in one of the 13 traditionally decorated guestrooms in the main inn or for more relaxed beach-style digs, the attached River House and wharfside building across the street offer two- and three-bedroom suites (perfect for family get-togethers). Rooms start at $99 off-season and in-season start at $219, topping out at $329. However, Christmas Prelude appears to be as popular as Fourth of July weekend. Visitors book months in advance for this festivity-packed event, which takes place the first two weekends in December.
The Kennebunkport Inn - Photo: Susan Fogwell
Arrival: Once you cross the small bridge over the Kennebunk River, it takes a minute or two to drive through the village of Kennebunkport -- at least during off season. In the summer, the coastal village has its own mini version of gridlock as the town triples in population. Pass the seasonal Clam Shack on the right (worth the wait in line), Alisson's Restaurant on the left (the best lobster roll in town) and then, just slightly up the hill, you'll see a red and white 1956 station wagon marking the entrance of the inn. The Chevy belongs to the Kennebunkport Inn's seasonal sister property, Hidden Pond and doubles as a summer beach cruiser. Pull up outside the former carriage porch -- now a sitting porch -- pass through the Dutch door and get your key. Leave your luggage in the car and a staff member will assist. (There is ample parking.)
Hidden Pond's 1957 Chevy - Photo: Susan Fogwell
My Guestroom: Climb the carpeted staircase in the main entry hall (no such thing as creaky floors here) and just outside the guestroom entrance is a little sitting area. Open the door and enter a spacious room (#101) with a four-poster bed to the right. To the left is a sitting area with two plop-down reading chairs, electric fireplace and flat screen TV. Flick the switch for instant flames. Walk over to the windows, next to bed, pull the lace curtains back and look right down on Dock Square. Shops, art galleries, restaurants and main-drag-walking are right at your fingertips. (I visited in December and looked down at the towering Christmas Tree adorned with colorful lobster buoys and red bows.) In-room amenities: Keurig, bags of chips, snacks and bottled water.
The Bathroom: A little tight closing the door, but there's enough counter space. The shower's water pressure was top notch.
Wake-up: Complimentary breakfast is served buffet-style in the piano bar. The in-house pastry chef bakes homemade bread (pumpkin with cream cheese), cranberry scones and blueberry muffins daily. Eggs with meat selections change daily and there is assorted cereal, fresh fruit and yogurt. During cooler months, the most coveted table is in front of the toasty fireplace in the main dining room. After fueling up, grab a cup of Joe to-go from the bar, and head out the door.
Get your Bearings: Drive along Ocean Avenue. Past the yacht club, Port Lobster is on the left -- remember to stop in later for a lobster roll on the run -- and across the street is Dannah, a must-see boutique with little luxuries. Past the colossal Colony Hotel, pull into the lot at Arundle Beach aka Colony Beach (across from the hotel), park and admire the scenery, continue on Ocean Avenue and eye the hard-to-miss Bush Compound. Stop at the Cape Porpoise Municipal pier, where lobster boats are moored, and view Goat Island Lighthouse (built in 1833), then walk across the lot to check out The Ramp's lunch menu and Pier 77's dinner menu (both share the same kitchen). Continue on Route 9 to three-mile long Goose Rocks beach for a long walk in the salty breeze. Here you will have lovely views of Eastern Goose Rocks and Timber Island.
Dining: One Dock at the inn is open year-round. The lively piano bar provides local talent on weekends during off-season and nightly entertainment during the summer months.
Amenities: Wi-Fi, complimentary bicycles, spa services and pool (open Memorial Day through Labor Day)
Consider: Fourth of July, leaf peeping in early autumn and Christmas Prelude
Tip: Advance bookings are recommended for summer months and Christmas Prelude. The Kennebunkport Inn is open year-round; it will close briefly for a small renovation through February 2012.