Maine Attraction: Kittery

Kris Smith / Photo Kittery

Kris Smith / Photo


Shoulder season is a beautiful thing in Maine: cooler weather accompanies a relief from crowds and hotel prices. Every fall, Joe and I try to take a weekend trip to Maine to see the ocean, take a stroll or two on the beach, and eat a huge amount of seafood. This year, however, our busy summer transitioned into a busy fall, and we couldn’t find a whole weekend to get away. Instead, we opted for a condensed and very epic one-day road trip to Maine.

If you’re going to Maine for one day, you want to maximize your beach time and minimize your driving time. Kittery is the perfect destination, located just over the border from New Hampshire and only a three-hour drive from Rutland. While Kittery is known for its outlets, there’s a lot more to this historic fishing town than just shopping.

On the appointed Kittery day, Joe and I woke up early, packed the bags and the dog, and made a beeline to the Bridgewater Corners Country Store for coffee and breakfast sandwiches. Located on Route 4, this humble store is a great place to stock up on caffeine, road snacks, and beach food. From there, we headed east on Route 4, to I-89 and eventually to I-95. We arrived in Kittery just as we were starting to get bored with being in the car.

Driving into Kittery can be overwhelming. It’s a maze of concrete, traffic and outlet stores. Even during the early-morning hours of a fall day, people streamed in and out of the outlets and cars lined up at the stoplights. We happily drove through it all and soon found ourselves winding through the historic, quaint (and quieter) section of town, with the distinct salty smell of ocean drawing us eastward.

Our first stop was Seapoint Beach, just northeast of town. This is one of our favorite beaches in Maine because you can let your dog run off-leash from Oct. 1 – May 14. While we walked on the beach, our dog dodged waves, played with other dogs and sniffed at various ocean bits and pieces that had washed up on the beach. It was a good time for everyone.

As the day progressed, we left the beach and decided to explore Kittery. We briefly stopped at Fort McClary State Park, drove past the entrance for the Portsmouth Naval Yard, and checked out some of the town’s older houses. Around 2 p.m., we grabbed seafood takeout and picnicked at Fort Foster — a nearby WWII bunker that has a beautiful trail along the beach and some great views.

After a long day of exploring, eating and then eating some more, we headed back home. The trip was just enough of a taste of vacation to disconnect from the ho-hum of checking emails and thinking about work — but not so much of a vacation that we had to ask someone to take care of the house. If you’re short on time but antsy to get out of Vermont, head to Kittery for a quick day trip. It’s the perfect combination of rocky vistas and lobster shacks, historic sites and hiking trails along the beach.

Lobster potential
If you drive all the way to Maine, seafood is an absolute must. While we grabbed seafood takeout so as not to leave the dog in the car for too long, next time we’ll try the Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier. This roadside stop is obviously a tourist trap with long lines and dicey parking. However, a friend recommended it — if nothing else for the gorgeous views of the ocean while you eat.

A little bit bunker, a little bit beach
After feasting on fresh seafood, head to nearby Fort Foster for a walk. Originally constructed to defend the navy yard during the Spanish-American War, this fort was also used in WWI and WWII. Unfortunately, there is little on-site historical information about the fort for visitors. Nonetheless, the fort serves as an 88-acre park, complete with beaches, pavilions and trails. While Fort Foster’s season runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day, you can park outside the gate in the off-season and still access the park. Many Kittery locals use Fort Foster for hiking and/or cross-country skiing in the winter.

York County, Maine
Founded: 1647
Population: 9,490

In brief:
Kittery is Maine’s oldest and most southern town. In its early days, the town had thriving fishing, hunting, trapping and trading industries. It was also known for its shipbuilding. Today, Kittery is touted for its historical architecture, assortment of outlets, and beautiful beaches.

Who knew?
Our country’s first navy yard, the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, is actually in Kittery despite its name. It was built in 1800 during John Adams’ presidency and is still operating today.

If you go

Bridgewater Corners Country Store. 5680 US 4, Bridgewater Corners. 672-6241.

Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier. 16 Chauncey Creek Road, Kittery Point.

Fort Foster. Open Memorial Day to Labor Day, 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. $10 per car. In the off season, park outside the gate and walk in. Pocahontas Road, Kittery Point.

Seapoint Beach. Parking and dog restrictions exist from May 15 to Sept. 30. From Oct. 1 – May 14, parking is open to the general public and dogs are allowed off-leash. Seapoint Road, Kittery.

12-hour Treks is a semi-frequent column by Kris Smith. Comments? Suggestions?