BY JOEL CENTANO
“WELCOME TO MAINE, The Way Life Should Be.” This proclamation, on a sky-blue sign directed at drivers who’ve crossed the Piscataqua River Bridge while traveling north on I-95, is a bold claim, no doubt, but one that typically bears out for pilgrims to the Pine Tree State. Following a 30-plus-year hiatus from my own travels here, I recently returned with my wife and two young daughters for what I expect will now be our annual Maine summer vacation, elevated by a stay at Kennebunkport’s Hidden Pond resort. Here are five things we loved about what so many of its guests refer to as their “home away from home.”
Cottage Living. “Hidden Pond has a homespun feel,” says Kathy Burns Lamphier, a Greenland, New Hampshire-based Virtuoso travel advisor who recommends the property for its slow pace, secluded forest setting, and family-style cottages – each with kitchens, fireplaces, and screened porches. “Guests return year after year,” she adds, “because the place feels comfortable and familiar.” A few of my family’s favorite touches: a stack of classic board games, a private outdoor shower (ideal for shedding sand from the nearby beach), and morning coffee and baked goods delivered daily to our door. Note: The one- and two-story two-bedroom cottages accommodate groups of up to five; located at the opposite end of the resort, one-bedroom bungalows are ideal for couples.
Pedal Power. Like most guests, our preferred way of exploring Hidden Pond’s 60 acres was by bike – the resort’s collection ranges from tykes’ bikes with handlebar streamers to beach cruisers. Spins lead to lily-lined ponds, organic gardens (go ahead and pick the veggies, edible flowers, and blueberries), two pools (one adults-only), treetop spa rooms, and the farm-to-table Earth restaurant.
Local Flavor. Earth’s menu emphasizes food from area farmers, foragers, and fisherfolk, as well as Hidden Pond’s gardens. Fresh Maine lobster is a must, but I promise you, the burger – bolstered with bacon mushroom ragout, cave-aged cheddar, and steak sauce aioli – will be the best you’ve ever had. For a private dining experience, have your travel advisor make a reservation in the restaurant’s secluded Potting Shed or Painting Shed (for larger groups), both overlooking the resort’s namesake pond. For younger palates, my daughters asked that I relay their love of Hidden Pond’s wood-fired pizzas, blueberry pancakes, and nightly – and, I’d say, excessive – servings of bonfire s’mores.
Class Acts. There’s no rule that families or couples spend every second together, of course. Fortunately, the resort’s diverse daily curriculum has kids crafting tie-dyes and fairy houses while adults stretch out during morning yoga sessions, paint their masterpieces at The Farm, or take mixology classes at the poolside bar.
Beach Days. A mile down the road by bike or complimentary shuttle lies Goose Rocks Beach, another reminder of Maine’s initial promise. This is the way life should be, and after a few days of digging your feet in the soft white sand, sipping lemonade served by the resort’s beach butlers, dipping in the Atlantic, and napping in cushy lounge chairs, it’s likely you’ll be thinking about only one thing: how soon you can return.
WHEN YOU GO
Closed each winter, Hidden Pond resort welcomes guests from early May through October. Virtuoso travelers receive a $100 resort credit, an upgrade on arrival (if available), complimentary à la carte breakfast treats delivered daily, and early check-in/late checkout (if available). Kennebunkport is easily accessed via flights to Portland (30 miles to the north) or Boston (90 miles to the south).