Ke nnebunkport, Maine : George and Barbara Slept Here by Courtney Ronan Kennebunkport, Maine, is perhaps best known as former President George Bush's retreat. When President and Mrs. Bush wanted a brief escape from running the country's affairs, both political and charitable, they sought refuge here -- in a quiet coastal town with rocky beaches, lighthouses, quaint architecture, and the freshest lobster in the country. Kennebunkport actually is comprised of several villages: Adams Corner, Arundel, Beacon Corner, Cape Arundel, Cape Porpoise, Clock Farm Corner, Goose Rocks Beach, Millers Crossing, and Turbats Creek. Back in the 1800s, Kennebunkport was know n as a shipmaking center. Vessels were built here and then launched from the town's harbor. For this reason, the town soon became one of New England's major centers of commerce. The state's shipping industry relied and continues to rely upon Kennebunkport. Its geographical location on the edge of the Atlantic has produced a population whose identity is synonymous with the sea. Although it's frigid here during the long winter months, Christ mas is perhaps the most beautiful time of year to visit Kennebunkport. White clapboard houses with black shutters line quiet country roads. In each window sits a white candle sparking the Christ mas spirit of even the most stubborn Scrooge. Each year, usually the first week of December, the town holds its "Christ mas Prelude," giving visitors an opportunity to experience the traditions of small-town life. Residents and tourists alike participate in such activities as caroling and art shows. Perhaps the biggest highlight is the Maine -style Christ mas parade, featuring not only Santa, but lobster boats, as well. Kennebunkport never forgets its allegiance to the sea. In the warmer months, perhaps the biggest draw to this region is whale watching. Chartered boats make their way through the surrounding ocean waters and give passengers a once -in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet these gentle giants up close and personal. Whales have be en know n to be quite friendly to their seafaring guests and often reciprocate the interest, moving in for a closer look. Another local point of interest is the Seashore Trolley Museum. When Kennebunkport residents feared the destruction of the Beddeford and Saco Railroad open trolley #31 back in 1939, the Seashore Trolley Museum was established in the town. Today, the museum, calling itself "a living history of public transportation," is home to more than 200 cars is considered the oldest and largest electric railway museum in the world. "The Blow ing Cave" near Walkers Point and Sandy Cove offers visitors a spectacular view of crashing waves that reach heights of up to 30 feet tall (just before high tide is considered the best time to go). And Vaughns Island Preserve, just northeast of Kennebunkport, is a popular wildlife preserve. As a tourist or a prospective resident, there are two rites of passage you must experience in Kennebunkport: eating lobster and taking a lighthouse tour. Near the entrance to Cap e Porpoise Harbor, along the southwest end of Goat Island, sits Goat Island Light, one of former President George Bush's favorite stops during his frequent vacations in Kennebunkport. The light is visible from the pier at the harbor in Cape Porpoise. Another local attraction is the lighthouse tour, which showcases more than 70 lighthouses stretching from Kittery (home of the famous factory outlets, including the L.L. Bean outlet store) to Calais. Those seeking to soak up local color and Yankee charm won't be disappointed -- particularly when it comes time to search for lodging. Kennebunkport enjoys a thriving tourism industry, boosted by its wealth of quaint bed-and-breakfasts. Although business slows dow n a bit during the winter months, innkeepers enjoy a surge of guests around the holiday season. A tourist's biggest dilemma is choosing an inn from among names like Coveside Cottage, Captain Fairfield Inn, the Beachwood Resort, the Boatyard Suites, Cabot Cottages, the English Meadows Inn, and the Captain Lor d Mansion. Due to Kennebunkport's reliable and annual inf lux of tourists, local Realtors derive a large proportion of their business through the sale and rental of vacation properties. Those who decide to hang their hats in Kennebunkport will be treated t o spacious and well- preserved historic homes, most with large basements and some with additional attic space and/or wrap-around porches. Tradition reigns supreme here. Multifamily units often are older homes converted into multiple units. Oceanfront and oc ean-view properties are plentiful, but one wonders if a bad view is possible in this beautiful region of the United States. If you're not seeing the ocean when you look out your window here, then chances are good you're seeing trees -- and lots of them, which turn brilliant shades in the fall and bring yet more tourists to the town. A visit to Kennebunkport will quickly reveal why George and Barbara slept here. This rocky landscape stands in contrast to the peaceful aura the town exudes. Even those of us w ho don't run the United States need a little R&R every once in a while, making Kennebunkport the perfect destination for a vacation home ... if you can resist making it your permanent one.
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