My friend and I walked Gooch’s Beach, post-season, in late September. Visiting in late winter can be equally enjoyable. Albeit, the key, for this Mainer, is “off season.”
There’s no question any of southern Maine’s beaches are marvelous during our short summer months with white sand, windswept grassy dunes, and wooden or sand footpaths. But crowded is the only problem in summer, with nowhere to park. Tourists flock to Maine, understandably, during our brief season of sunshine and warmth.
Don’t misunderstand -- we locals love it, too….after our long winters and muddy springs…..
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.*
But as locals, we also get to enjoy our beaches throughout all four of Maine’s seasons. Hence, our walk in September, when parking spots on Beach Avenue were free and available to non-Kennebunk residents.
The sun shone brilliantly that day in September. The tide was low – a must since the beach is completely washed away when it’s high. The sea comes all the way up to the retaining wall along the street. The sea was choppy, hence the surfers. Couples sat on the benches along the roadway; pairs bicycled; a small circle of women in white practiced yoga at the far end of the beach. Dogs are also welcome off season so several ran and played off leash along the shoreline.
We walked to the far end along the Kennebunk River where there is a rock jetty you can walk out on. The Colony Hotel is just on the other side of the river, expansive in all her historic glory. A schooner motored, without sails, into the mouth of the river, passengers waving to us as they slowly passed. A sailboat, flying an American flag, tossed its occupants about on the choppy whitecaps off shore. All of us were still eager to be outside, enjoying the sunshine and the relative warmth on a fall day.
My friend and I were in no rush to leave such a beautiful spot. We pulled out beach chairs from her trunk, leftover from summer, and sat a spell, chatting and people watching. Morning turned into afternoon.
The coastline of Kennebunk is divided into three sections: Mother’s Beach, Middle Beach or Rocky Beach, and Gooch’s Beach or Long Beach. Kennebunk is an Abenaki Indian word meaning “the long cut bank” assumed to be for the long bank behind Kennebunk Beach. “Kennebunk” is supposedly the only village in the world by that name.
The small town holds a strong association for me of my childhood. My real father introduced me to the area and he and I spent many Sunday mornings slowly driving the winding roads, he describing the history of the area to me and what I was seeing – some of the most gorgeous ocean vistas -- after a leisurely breakfast together.
On that recent September day, my friend and I meandered the short drive to Dock Square in Kennebunkport and lunched at a restaurant perched right on a wharf. Their outdoor deck is on the further end of Kennebunk River. So many families were basking in the late season sun, enjoying hanging out with adult kids up from Boston, grandchildren in tow, or neighbors meeting up with neighbors sitting at the bar for a bite and glass of wine. Caesar salad with grilled chicken for me, and I’d worked up an appetite, and a Mediterranean chicken wrap for my friend.
We couldn’t leave the Square without popping into a few shops – Beach Grass, Daytrip Jr., Abacus. And then headed to Patten’s Farm Stand up the road to pick up some late season berries and a home-made strawberry rhubarb pie.
Although our ocean waters are always cold, even in August, there is just something about the beaches in Maine that is unique, inspiring, refreshing and the perfect way to unwind on a weekend. Great way to release and rebuild before running headlong into another upcoming work week.