Enjoy a family-fun, New England experience along the Kennebunk River at the 125- year-old Nonantum Resort.
Originally built in the 1880s, the Nonantum Resort rests on the land that was once the home to many different Native American tribes. In the mid-17th century, under the leadership of Chief Thomas Waban, the diverse groups banded together and their settlement was named after the Algonquin word for “rejoicing”: Nonantum. Now, nearly 125 years after Captain Henry Allen Heckmann opened a small family resort with only 26 guestrooms, the Nonantum remains a staple of the Kennebunk tradition allowing families to rejoice in a waterfront Maine experience that is overflowing with great dining, fun boat rides, comfy rooms and tons of activities.
No two rooms are the same at the Nonantum, and guests have tons of options when it comes to their accommodations. The resort has 111 guestrooms (quite a jump from the original 26 — which, luckily, have all been renovated) and there are over 35 unique types to choose from. Guests can decide what kind of view they would like and whether they want a balcony or a patio. The decor of each room is also uniquely designed although all rooms have the same quintessential Maine theme. Also guests can rest assured that they will get a good night’s sleep even though they are staying at a busy family resort. The Nonantum has quiet hours every night from 11pm-7am, thus assuring that the older kids do not get too rowdy when mom, dad and the little ones are trying to get some shut eye.
With two main buildings on the grounds, you can stay in the Carriage House Inn, the original building, that even with all of its modern amenities still keeps all of the Nonantum’s rustic historical charms. There is an old hand-crank elevator with a sliding grate that lifts guests to their rooms that they will find equipped with air-conditioning, free WiFi Internet (which can be accessed anywhere on the premise), cable television, refrigerators stocked with Nonantum bottled water and newly renovated private bathrooms. The Portside Lodge, were my family stayed, offers more contemporary lodging and we were delighted when we discovered that our large group of two parents and three grown-adult kids was easily accommodated in two adjoining rooms, one with a kitchenette. If you are traveling with a large family or reunion group, simply request an Inn Family Unit or ask for something similar to the arrangements we had, which were comfortable and tailored perfectly to our needs.
Busy Days with a Relaxed Vibe
No matter how relaxed you may find yourself at the Nonantum as you lay by the heated pool or take a lazy walk down Ocean Avenue, there will always be an activity of some kind buzzing around you. Sunday through Friday through Labor Day there is a fun-filled activities schedule from 7:30am-9pm. The majority of the activities, including treasure hunts, mat Pilates, core conditioning, guided hikes and the “Kid’s Hour of Fun”cost a minimal fee. However, many of the activities, such as, the S’Mores Sing-Along, Movies Nights, Family Limbo, Poolside Bingo, Tug O’Fun and other lawn games are free of charge.
Make sure to take advantage of the Nonantum’s Marina on the Kennebunk River. Guests can simply rent a kayak and spend the day paddling and exploring the banks, or they can inquire about hopping on board one of the boats that calls the Marina its home. My family was lucky enough to take a ride on the Rugosa ( 207/967-5595 ), a lobster boat that offers a hands-on approach to lobstering. The tide on the Kennebunk River is intense (there is 13 feet difference between high and low tides), but if the weather is nice, you should be able to venture off the river for a coastal excursion into the waters of the Atlantic. A one-and-a-half-hour ride on the Rugosa is $30 per adult and $20 per child.
If sailing is more your speed, the Pineapple Ketch ( 207/468-7262 ) is the vessel for you. Accommodating up to 12 people, this sailboat lets its guests get involved as they haul lines and take a turn at the helm. But, if you are not a sailor, be at ease and enjoy the sail with your face in the seawater breeze. A two-hour sail on the Pineapple Ketch is $40 per person. Finally, if you wish to do some deep sea fishing, contact Tidewater Fish Charters ( 207/229-0201 ). The crew customizes each charter to fit the skill of the guests, so don’t worry about bringing the kids. A two-hour trip including everything from fly-fishing to light tackle fishing is $200 and if you require longer, four-hour and full-day charters are also available.
After sailing, playing and enjoying the Nonantum all day, guests are bound to be hungry. That is when 95 Ocean, the resort’s restaurant, open from Memorial Day through Columbus Day, comes into play. Featuring breathtaking views of the Kennebunk River and the rest of the resort grounds, 95 Ocean serves the fabulous creations of Executive Chef Stephen True. Proud of the signature dishes that put what he calls the “Maine Spin” on things, Chef True is the mastermind behind the fresh Tuscan Seafood Sautee, the Grilled Crabcakes and the mouth-watering Lighthouse Salad. His most famous dish (which I am saddened to say I did not have the chance to sample) is his Blueberry Chipotle Ribs, which are seasoned with Chef True’s own homemade Blueberry Maple Chipotle BBQ sauce.
Also, make sure you try one of the most delectable chowders: The Shrimp and Sweet Potato Corn Chowder. It comes in either a cup or a bowl, but I highly recommend the bowl because both my younger brother and sister managed to order another serving each (and they scraped the bottom of their bowls each times). It is truly that delicious, creamy and savory. And new to the 2008 menu is the Lobster Avocado (pictured left)… yummy.
Not to worry if some of the dishes sound too fancy for the kids. The Nonantum does offer a special (and basic) menu for children under 12-years of age and if you happen to dine at 95 Ocean between 5:30 and 6:30pm, each child under 12 gets his or her meal at half price with each full paying adult. There is entertainment on most nights, featuring the sound of local musicians, including the Don Campbell Trio (who have opened for Willie Nelson and past American Idol Carrie Underwood). And, 95 Ocean has recently been voted the #1 Jazz Club in York County. Note though, if you are planning on dining on a Friday or Saturday night make sure to make reservations or check with the front desk in advance to make sure its not booked since the Nonantum also serves as a catering hall that is home to more than 60 wedding receptions a year.
The Nonantum is only a short half-mile walk to Dock Square in the heart of town, where Kennebunk and Kennebunkport meet. Here the streets are lined with small shops selling everything from clothing, sports memorabilia, toys and paintings to delicious salt-water taffy and souvenirs. Rocking Horse Stables ( 207/967-4288 ) has a horse-and-carriage ready and waiting near the Landing Restaurant on Ocean Avenue to take families on a tour of the town. The 20-minute ride runs everyday, when the weather permits, and is $10 per adult and $5 per child. If a walk through town is more of your thing, the Kennebunkport Historical Society offers a one-hour guided walking tour to help visitors explore the rich architecture of the area. Tours depart from the Nott House, 8 Maine Street, at 11am on Thursdays from mid-July through August and Saturdays through mid-October. The tour is $7 per adult and children under 18 are free. Call 207/967-2751 to make a reservation.
If you are looking for some grub while in town, you can grab a quick slice of pizza at Atlantic Pizza (8 Western Avenue; 207/967-0033 ). A New Yorker born and raised, I will attest to the fact that this is one good pizza joint; the taste actually compares to my Italian Mother’s homemade pizza (and she was there and she agrees). Also, they deliver; so if you are feeling hungry late at night before hitting the sheets at the Nonantum, give them a call.
Right down the street, is the 15-year-old Federal Jacks Restaurant ( 207/967-4322 ). A mere baby in comparison to the Nonantum, “Jacks” (as the locals all it) has become a staple of the Kennebunks and a great place to dine and grab an authentic beer, craft-brewed on the premise. My favorite draft was the summer-seasonal Raspberry Wheat, with a gentle fruit flavor; I liked it so much, I went downstairs to the gift shop and bought a 64-ounce “growler” to bring home with me. My parents loved the Goat Island Light, a low-alcohol beer named for a lighthouse in Cape Porpoise, and the Bluefin Stout, a dark beer with an Irish flavor. My younger siblings, not yet able to drink, still loved Jacks because of the food. The lobster bisque is creamy and full of chunks of fresh lobster meat and only one item on the award-winning menu. I recommend that you try the Crab Stuffed Haddock, The Blue Onion, Baked Scallops or the Steamed Maine Lobster, bib and all! No matter what your choice, the warm atmosphere, great river views and friendly service at Jacks is sure to please.
Planning to explore the Kennebunks beyond Dock Square? If so, go to the Nonantum’s front desk to learn about Intown Trolley Company. Stopping in front of the resort from 10am-5pm daily, the trolley sightseeing tour is a great way to see all the area has to offer. The tour, which stops by President Bush Senior’s estate at Walker Point, a Franciscan Monastery, Spouting Rock and all of Kennebunk’s beaches, runs in a 45-minute loop. But guests can get on and off as they please and their ticket ($14 per adult, $7 per child between the ages of 3-14 years old) is good all day, also making it a great shuttle service! The best part of our trolley experience was our driver, Jack. A woodcarver on the side, Jack offered funny anecdotes and facts about the area’s history and present, such as where the haunted houses are located and how visitors confuse Maine and Main Streets.
The Nonantum is open from mid-April through mid-December. Before I arrived at the resort, I imagined it being the perfect place for a summer getaway and I was surprised to learn that the pre-Christmas season is a heavy time for tourists. During early December, Kennebunkport hosts its annual Christmas Prelude, a 10-day event that features tree lighting ceremonies, a live nativity, bonfires, craft fairs, appearances from Old St. Nick and parades. The celebration is huge and growing bigger every year, with 2008 marking the Prelude’s 28th Anniversary.
Whether it’s the Prelude or the summer, children under 12-years of age stay free at the Nonantum. Teens 13 and older can stay in their parents’ room for an extra $25 per person per night. Packages, specials and other savings are always available online.
Are you rejoicing yet?
Resort Report Card
|Name:||The Nonantum Resort|
|Address:||95 Ocean Avenue
|Seasonal Rates:||$ – $$$|
|Choice of Activities:||A+|
|Quality of Amenities:||A+|
|Bonus:||Daily buffet breakfast is offered free on all days the resort is open for business.|
|Note:||In the lobby there is a checkers board ready to provide hours of family fun. The Ryan’s had a rather competitive tournament… I lost.|
This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.