While it will continue to be known mainly as former President Bush's summer home, the Kennebunk/Kennebunkport region has much more to offer than simply as a place many world leaders have visited.
First, there is Kennebunk. It's a town of 10,476 and encompasses Kennebunk Beach, which many people mistake as its own small town. Kennebunkport, with a population of 3,720, is the more popular tourist destination of the two towns. Collectively, the region is usually referred to as "The Kennebunks."
An Abenaki Indian word meaning "the long cut bank," Kennebunk, like most coastal Maine towns, forged its early economy in areas of fishing and as a shipping and trading center. It officially became a town in 1820 and claims to be the only town in the country with its name.
Over the last half-century, Kennebunk real estate (including Kennebunkport ME real estate) has become both an expensive place to live and one of the more expensive places in New England to take a coastal vacation.
Cost isn't keeping people away, as residents and vacationers seem to fall in love with the many beaches and never want to leave. Kennebunk Beach is divided into three major sections: Long Beach, Mother's Beach and Middle Beach. Just down the coast is Parson's Beach, the smallest beach in the area. The most gawked at body of water is likely the Kennebec River. At the mouth of the river, where it meets the sea, is Walker's Point where former President Bush and family vacation in the summer. Those hoping to catch a peek can see the Bush compound from Ocean Avenue.
Since a Kennebunks vacation, particularly the lodging, can be out of most budget ranges, many tourists stay in nearby town such as Wells or York and make day trips in to town. Aside from the natural beauty, tourists will find a bevy of little shops, art galleries and restaurants (primarily seafood) in downtown Kennebunkport.
The downtown area of Kennebunkport was over-run with tourist buses in the early part of this decade, but compromises were made between bus companies and the Town to disembark and reload patrons on the outskirts of the downtown. Senior citizens make up the bulk of the travel-by-bus crowd, with both summertime and the leaf-peeping voyages of Autumn drawing big numbers.
Architecture buffs will enjoy the Kennebunkport real estate -- some of the best examples of architecture from the late 1700s through the early 1900s still stand in good condition. The most popular house is the "Wedding Cake House," a Federal-style dwelling extensively decorated with scroll saw Gothic trim. Rumor has it that this trim was added to the house by a sea captain who wanted his wife to remember him when he went away to sea. Another popular home is the Taylor-Berry House, built in 1803 and home to artist Edith Cleaves Barry.
The Brick Store Museum, located on Main Street, celebrates the rich history of the Kennebunks. The museum is open year round and a $3 donation is requested.
Other sites of interest include the Seashore Trolley Museum and the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge.
In 1974, a historical district was designated running from Main Street to Kennebunk Landing's village, in an effort to protect and preserve the architectural riches of the town.
Driving into town, Interstate 95 (Maine Turnpike) is the most popular route. The more rural Route 1, which runs the length of the coast of Maine, makes up part of Kennebunk's Main Street. Those flying in to Kennebunk with find the Portland International Jetport in Portland or the Manchester International Airport in Manchester, N.H.
Kennebunk is one of the few towns left in the country that practices its government by Town Meeting and is governed by a Board of Selectmen. The five-person board is charged with establishing policy, supervising the town manager and the tax assessor, representing the town on various region and state issues and providing public leadership. While the Board holds monthly meetings, an annual Town Meeting is held for the residents to debate and vote on referendum-type questions. These meetings can have nearly 100 items on their agenda and take more than 15 to 20 hours to complete.
The latest housing statistics for the Kennebunks is from 2000, several years before the real estate market began leveling off. However, it is easy to see the economic affluence of the communities as the average house in 2000 cost $234,200 compared to the state average of $94,300. Statistics also show houses in the Kennebunks to be slightly larger and newer than others in the state. Residents average over $56,000 per household, or almost $20,000 more than the average Maine home.
While it may be expensive to Kennebunkport Maine real estate, it is and exceedingly safe place. The number of violent crimes recorded by the FBI in 2003 was 2 and the number of murders and homicides was 0. The violent crime rate was 0.5 per 1,000 people.