Bushes’ Maine at­trac­tion

In the off-sea­son, you still can va­ca­tion like the first fam­ily

USA TODAY International Edition - - LIFE | TRAVEL - Diane Bair and Pamela Wright

“There are three things peo­ple in Maine are proud of — lob­sters, Stephen King and Pres­i­dent (Ge­orge H. W.) Bush!” says Carl Gree­ley, a waiter at the Grace White Barn Inn and Spa in charm­ing Ken­neb­unk. That’s es­pe­cially true in the neigh­bor­ing coastal oa­sis of Ken­neb­unkport, lo­ca­tion of the Bush fam­ily’s stun­ning sum­mer res­i­dence at Walker’s Point.

In ad­di­tion to the Bush clan, Ken­neb­unkport hosts tourists ga­lore at its beaches, golf course and the clus­ter of shops and res­tau­rants (lob­ster, fried clams, any­one?) in Dock Square. But in mid-Oc­to­ber, as the last of the rev­el­ers and leaf peep­ers head home, things quiet way down, and the fierce beauty of this sea­side town awak­ens. It’s true that some busi­nesses close for the sea­son, in­clud­ing Ma­bel’s Lob­ster Claw, said to have been a fa­vorite of Pres­i­dent H.W. Bush. But there’s a trade-off: When the crowds de­camp, you can live like a pres­i­dent – if only for a week­end – for less, thanks to off-sea­son rates at Ken­neb­unkport’s most lux­u­ri­ous digs.

In win­ter, the views from the ocean­front Cape Arun­del Inn & Re­sort re­veal a pal­ette of sil­very grays and moody blues. It’s differ­ent from the sun­washed sum­mer hues, but ev­ery bit as beau­ti­ful. Ar­rive be­fore dark so you can ad­mire the frothy At­lantic Ocean across the street as you sip your wel­come glass of bub­bly.

Bun­dle up for a walk along Ocean Av­enue, wind­ing along­side a tum­ble of boul­ders at water’s edge. Turn right, and you’ll head past St. Ann’s Epis­co­pal Church and down to Colony Beach, where the Ken­neb­unk River meets the At­lantic Ocean.

Head left, and you’ll view the Bush fam­ily com­pound at Walker’s Point, jut­ting into the ocean and adorned with a tow­er­ing flag­pole. While the pub­lic isn’t per­mit­ted to en­ter the grounds, there are benches along the water that in­vite ogling at a dis­tance.

For din­ner, set­tle in at Ocean, the Cape Arun­del Inn’s ac­claimed din­ing room, and have chef Pierre Gignac whip up some lo­cal fa­vorites. This is din­ing at its finest, fea­tur­ing sea­sonal Maine del­i­ca­cies with a hint of Provence, and definitely first-fam­ily wor­thy.

The 28-room Cape Arun­del Inn is the clos­est ho­tel to Walker’s Point – and those ocean views are ex­quis­ite – but it’s not the only op­tion. The Grace White Barn Inn and Spa is the ul­ti­mate in cozy chic, and its stun­ning din­ing room, set in an an­tique-filled barn, has won the cov­eted AAA five di­a­monds and Forbes’ five stars. Live piano mu­sic adds an ex­tra touch of el­e­gance. (Most ro­man­tic room: the Loft Suite, with a fire­place and a Jacuzzi tub for two.)

Stroll to Ken­neb­unk Beach, or along the walk­ing path at the Fran­cis­can monastery across the street. If you love that old-inn charm, con­sider the his­toric and comfy fam­ily-owned Cap­tain Lord Man­sion. All 21 rooms in the main and gar­den houses have gas fire­places, up­ping the cozy fac­tor. And, it’s a short walk to town.

Al­though sev­eral shops and res­tau­rants are shut­tered for the sea­son, some won­der­ful spots re­main open, in­clud­ing the Boathouse res­tau­rant at The Boathouse Water­front Ho­tel. Open for lunch and din­ner, the Boathouse offers fresh seafood with an Asian twist at its lob­ster bar, plus such win­ter-hearty fare as New Eng­land clam and corn chow­der.

Ken­neb­unkport is es­pe­cially In­sta­gram-wor­thy un­der a blan­ket of snow. It gets an an­nual av­er­age of 40-plus inches of the white stuff. Make the most of it at nearby Har­ris Farm. This dairy farm, run by the Har­rises for four gen­er­a­tions, morphs into a win­ter won­der­land of fun when the snow flies and nearly 25 miles of trails open for cross-coun­try ski­ing, snow­shoe­ing and fat-tire bik­ing. Gear ren­tals and lessons are avail­able.

Still not sure that chilly (OK, some­times re­ally cold), snowy, coastal Maine in win­ter is your cup of chow­der? The town puts on a month­long Valen­tine’s party called Paint the Town Red with an ice bar, pop-up res­tau­rants, and din­ing and ho­tel pack­age deals.

Let the crowds have it in sum­mer­time; this pres­i­den­tial lo­cale is pretty awe­some all year-round.

Lob­ster Ther­mi­dor is one of Maine’s del­i­ca­cies on the menu at Ocean, in the Cape Arun­del Inn.

The beauty of Ken­neb­unkport, Maine, comes to the fore­front when the crush of tourists dies down. GETTY IM­AGES

Benches along the water of­fer views of the pri­vate Bush com­pound. OLEG ALBINSKY/GETTY IM­AGES

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