My boys, Max (8) and James (6) posing with their cousin Nora (2) and a local sculpture in downtown Kennebunkport, Maine. I’m sorry I did not get the name of the artist!
Let me begin by letting you know that although Maine ended up being the perfect COVIDcation for our family, this trip was planned over a year in advance. We were not strategic, just really lucky.
Mr. Real Life Style had been wanting to go to Maine for years. I had only ever been for a brief weekend many years ago and was itching to go back. We know from past experience that our annual week-long August vacations with my husband’s family are best when we have easy access to our own pool, good restaurants, and a cute town nearby for shopping, eating, and wandering. Last year’s trip had some great elements, but none of the aforementioned ones, and so we were looking forward to this year’s vacation.
Although we had not spent a night outside of our home since February, or even eaten outside at a restaurant, we felt that the mental health benefits to our family would be worth the risks of the trip. Maine has consistently had one of the lowest rates of COVID-19 transmission and strict travel restrictions. We were not disappointed. Keep reading for more details on the beach, the pool, the food, ice cream, Portland, and of course, the local shopping scene.
Happy virtual travels!
Max and Nora playing in the sand at Parsons Beach in Kennebunk, Maine.
This is super embarrassing to admit, but my kids had really never played in the sand like this at the beach before. They loved it! Mr. Real Life Style and I just aren’t beach people. Although we walked along the boardwalk in Venice during our California trip last year, we were in California during record low temperatures so there was no option to hang out at the beach.
Max and James hunting for snails and ghost crabs at Drakes Island Beach in Wells, Maine.
We settled into a routine of having an adventure in the morning, usually a nature walk or visiting a beach, then staying home in the afternoons while cousin Nora napped. However, we realized we were missing the wonders of “low tide” and visited Drakes Island beach one evening before dinner.
It was so nice to be able to let the kids wander around, looking for strange creatures, and discovering nature. I often forget what city kids they are because where we live seems so suburban to me after living in NYC most of my adult life. The beach was the one place we didn’t wear masks the entire time, following the lead of others. Most of the beaches we visited were so empty it was not an issue to find a spot far enough away from others to take off your mask. It still felt really weird, i.e. almost normal!
Running around in the vast area of rocks, sand, water, and ocean creatures was such a delight! We only got James to leave because he was so hungry, which is what happens when you go right before dinner. He was simultaneously whining about how hungry he was and refusing to leave all at the same time. It was a delight for all. Don’t tell his dad but he only left because I bribed him with a secret snack.
Each member of our family brought along their favorite waterproof footwear. I snapped this picture when I realized we each had our preferred brand. Mr. Real Life Style and I are obsessed with our Birkenstock Arizona Essentials EVA sandals. I have silver and black; he has khaki green. Max likes the ease of Classic Crocs, and James loves his Native shoes in the Jefferson style. He even wears them with socks sometimes! Please don’t tell the fashion police…
The reason we had to reserve this rental house in Maine over a year ahead of time is because we were specifically looking for a house with a pool for the kids. My kids’ favorite activity in life is playing in the pool. We had finally gotten off the wait list for our pool club last summer and were looking forward to our second summer this year. Although the club did eventually open this season, we decided not to go, so this was my kids one week to be able to go in a pool whenever they wanted. Thank you Mr. Real Life Style for all of your hard work to find us a house with a pool!
James giving Nora a ride around the pool.
Although the kids did go in the pool every afternoon, we did figure out why it was so hard to find a house with a pool in Maine. It just isn’t hot enough for swimming most days (at least, not for me!). The weather is lovely for walking around, but not when you want to play in the pool for three hours. Multiple days the kids got out because they were so cold, then jumped back in later because they couldn’t help themselves, blue lips and all. I don’t know how seasonal the weather was while we were there, but the temperature only got into the low eighties once or twice the entire week. Other than that it was in the seventies and usually partly cloudy.
The lobster roll at The Clam Shack in Kennebunk, Maine has been declared one of America’s best by Food & Wine magazine (among others), and we could not agree more. Perhaps we shouldn’t have begun our lobster tour with the best-of-the-best, but too late now. The kids tasted lobster for the first time here but devoured fried clam strips for their meal. And yes, they ship!
This was our first meal at a restaurant since March! It was outside, socially distant (from other diners), and came equipped with contact tracing (by phone number) and strictly enforced cleaning protocols. We only ate outside or takeout the entire trip.
Max looking a little too gleeful at cracking his own lobster!
Wanting to try the traditional lobster dinner without having to get the kids dressed again after the pool, we picked up whole cooked lobsters from The Yodeling Clam to eat at home with our own corn, potatoes, and watermelon. As an aside, we only saw one restaurant in Maine that did not look like it was maintaining strict COVID-19 protocols, so we did not eat there.
Bennett’s Sandwich shop is famous for their extremely impressive sub sandwiches and cheesesteaks, which are not like Philadelphia cheesesteaks. They have lobster rolls but also so.many.sandwiches. I almost fainted when my kids wolfed down an Italian sub. They’ve never eaten anything like that. I had a buffalo chicken cheesesteak without the ranch. Deeelicious.
There was a mix up with our order so they gifted us a few of their homemade whoopie pies. Whoopie pies are a thing in Maine, we found out. We didn’t get it until we ate them and there was practically a fight for the crumbs. Get a whoopie pie. Bennett’s also has locations in Boston, MA and Portsmouth, NH.
My sister-in-law and I cried Uncle finally and had to order salads. Lobster salads of course, but salad nonetheless. Have you noticed yet that all of our meals have featured lobster? We did order fancy pizza the first night when everyone was tired from traveling. Other than that, we pretty much stuck to lobster. Max did switch to chicken from the kids menu at one point, but still ate seafood off our plates. James cooled on lobster but did order mussels and sea stew in tomato saffron broth at a restaurant in Wells, Maine with a terrific outdoor space, The Bitter End.
We went a little nuts with our take out order our last night in Maine. Although we had already ordered lobster mac and cheese 5 other times that week, we didn’t want to miss another chance, and the version of the dish from Alisson’s Restaurant in Kennebunkport did not disappoint. We also ordered lobster pizza and lobster rolls three ways. The fourth lobster dish on the plate is my leftover Lobster Pie from the Maine Diner in Wells, Maine. I would not share this dish, which is basically lobster and bread crumbs baked in a casserole dish. It should not be so special and delicious, yet it is. Pardon the salad marring the plate. I am weird like that and am always trying to sneak in lettuce.
Come to think of it, I can’t believe we only went to Big Daddy’s Ice Cream in Wells, Maine once. They had 44 homemade ice cream flavors the day we were there. I was worried the kids would have a breakdown deciding on a flavor. James went with banana chocolate chip, a flavor he had never had before, and Max with M&M, his favorite candy. They were in heaven.
Can you believe this is a size small ice cream cone?!
One of my favorite ice cream flavors is Maple Walnut, but it can be hard to find. They had it at Big Daddy’s, but I passed in favor of Maple Bourbon Pecan. Totally worth it.
Our other major ice cream discovery was Rococo Ice Cream in Kennebunkport, Maine. We wanted to try so many of the 14 flavors on rotation daily that we just bought pints to eat while watching the Democratic National Convention every night. Mr. Real Life Style was obsessed with the Spicy Rocky Road, and I was very into the Goat Cheese Blackberry Chambord. We got the kids Maine Whoopie Pie. They have 4 locations so if you are going to Maine, look them up!
I insisted we go to Portland. I knew it would have cool stores, and we were so close. How could we not go? Portland Dry Goods is a fabulous fashion store for men and women with cool exclusive pieces like the sweaters above, as well as a great selection from brands like Herno and Armor Lux.
David Wood was such a special store! I wished we had a menswear store like this in DC. They have beautiful clothes, wonderful customer service, and quirky items all over the store. There was lots of other great clothing shopping in Portland, Maine, but the kids had zero patience for me so this is what you get!
I could not get out of the kitchen store, Le Roux. They have every gadget and gourmet food you didn’t know you needed, but not in a kitschy, I’ve seen this 100 other places way. This kitchen store feels truly unique. Le Roux even makes their own vinegars and olive oils. I was good and only shopped for gifts, but it was hard! Le Roux is actually a small chain of six stores in New England, so I encourage you to look up their other locations.
Portland Lobster Company was the restaurant that got away from the recent trip my sister-in-law and her husband had taken to Portland. It was not a hard sell though since the restaurant is right on the water and across from the good shopping! Shockingly, I ordered a lobster roll and salad. A lovely surprise though was the cider Mr. Real Life Style ordered for me. I am not someone who typically drinks at lunch owing to the fact that I would then fall asleep right after lunch. But…they had cider on tap and it was DELICIOUS. I didn’t even finish it and still fell asleep in the car on the way home. James ate a giant plate of steamed mussels and continually complained that I got apple “juice” and he did not.
Snug Harbor Farm was a major recommendation from my super fashionable friend Elizabeth, who I am sure did not realize that our house was practically a stone’s throw away when she made the suggestion. By Friday, our last full day in Maine, I still had not gotten a chance to actually go into any of the cool stores I had been passing on our walks into town. This was a perfect pool day so I left the kids with the other responsible grownups and set off on my own shopping adventure!
Although I’m sure Elizabeth was recommending Snug Harbor Farm to me for the large nursery and many greenhouses full of plants, I was obsessed with the shop! It carried everything from garden accessories to light fixtures to kids toys and books to incredible jewelry, candles, and pillows. I wanted to take a picture of everything. If only all of it was on their website shop. You will just have to go yourself!
Antiques on 9 was a recommendation from my sophisticated, worldly friend Louise. Coincidentally, it was also down the street from our rental house. If you needed to furnish a house in Maine, you could just walk into this place and be done with it, from furniture to accessories to lighting. They also sell Annie Sloan chalk paint, as well as a range of furniture they have already painted with it.
The rattan chair I tried to take home from Antiques on 9. I got vetoed.
I walked the mile or so into town and crossed the bridge from Kennebunk into Kennebunkport so that I could finally wander around Minka. This is a well-stocked and beautifully merchandised store I had spotted on Dock Square, the main drag. The home and fashion accessory store is owned and run by a couple who also design most of the products. Check out the awesome, affordable jewelry!
Coming full circle from our last vacation, right before the world turned upside down, Minka carries The High Fiber kitchen towels! These are the lovely people who gave James a full tour of their production process at the Riverview Station in the Riverview Arts District when we were in Asheville, North Carolina this past February. There are super cute pictures of the tour in my blog, Vintage Asheville.
We Love Maine
As you can probably already tell, we loved Maine! The people were super friendly, the overwhelming majority of people and businesses were keeping to COVID-19 protocols, and the food was delicious. We now have a long list of other places in Maine we would like to explore. It seems that you could go to a different area every summer and never run out of new towns to wander.
What are your favorite places to visit in Maine? Have you been to any of the stores, restaurants, or beaches I mentioned? Let me know in the comments!
Lani Inlander is a personal stylist who has been working with clients who want to feel their best and look put-together every day for over 20 years. You can find her in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Learn how you can train with Lani and Kyle to become a personal stylist at The Stylist Studio.
You can find Lani Inlander and Real Life Style on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.