Kennebunkport, Maine is the longtime summer retreat of George H.W. Bush and family. It’s easy to understand why – with its refreshing ocean breezes, gorgeous water views, and coastal charm, Kennebunkport offers a relaxing escape that feels a world away.
It’s no wonder Kennebunkport is on the list of 18 Vacation Spots Frequented by US Presidents. “When the worries of Washington get to be too much, the presidents of our country head to their favorite hideaways to relax and refresh their minds. But where do you summer when you’re the most famous man in America?…The past presidents of our nation have vacationed in some of the most beautiful places that the world has to offer.”
Indeed, visitors also flock to Kennebunkport in the summertime to enjoy the sandy beaches and lovely scenery. No visit would be complete without a leisurely drive out Ocean Avenue, past Saint Ann’s Church, to the spot overlooking Walker’s Point – the Bush compound, a peninsula which juts out into the Atlantic Ocean. If you spot the Maine, Texas and U.S. flags flying, you’ll know the first family is in residence. (The Secret Service agents manning the gatehouse, and the black SUV’s and boats occasionally whizzing by, may also be telltale signs).
In the mornings, Barbara often walks the dog along Gooch’s Beach. (Though the famous Millie, the family’s springer spaniel who published a book with Barbara about life in the White House, has passed on, Barbara remains a dog lover). After their walk, she often stops for coffee at H.B. Provisions.
On Sundays, the former President and First Lady regularly attend the service at St. Ann’s Episcopal Church – an historic seaside stone chapel that is one of the most photographed spots in Kennebunkport.
One of George & Barbara’s favorite outings includes a traditional Maine lobster dinner and blueberry pie at Mabel’s Lobster Claw, though they also are known to enjoy the local and seasonal flavors at Bandaloop. They also attend every show at the nearby Arundel Barn Playhouse summer theatre.
In years past, George Sr. could often be spotted taking in a round of golf at the Cape Arundel Golf Course. (The George H.W. Bush Cape Arundel Celebrity Golf Classic is still held each year to benefit various non-profit organizations). H.W. was also a boating and fishing enthusiast, and could often be spotted casting a line along the coast, or motoring up the river with Secret Service boats in tow.
“41” has even entertained world leaders in quaint Kennebunkport, Maine – like Vladimir Putin, who famously visited for talks in 2007. The Clam Shack, a favorite spot for tourists, garnered international attention by translating their menu into Russian for the occasion.
Most years, George and Barbara will sit with local dignitaries at the annual Memorial Day Parade through Dock Square. As the last living former President who is a veteran of WWII, H.W. often works to support fellow service members.
These days, George Sr. generally enjoys more relaxed pursuits – though he did show his adventurous side in 2014 by jumping out of an airplane for his 90th birthday! (He was a former Navy pilot, after all). Barbara will also celebrate her 90th in June 2015 (not by skydiving) but by toasting to the 25th anniversary of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy.
Even if you don’t spot the Bushes during your vacation, you can visit the Kennebunkport Historical Society’s First Families Museum at White Columns for an intimate look at their love affair with the Maine coast and their influence on the area. You can even learn about George Sr.’s penchant for multi-colored and patterned socks.
When “Junior” George W. comes to town, he has been known to enjoy a ride on the Eastern Trail and the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust trails with friends at Kennebunkport Bicycle Company.
If Jeb Bush runs for President in 2016, it may shine another national spotlight on our seaside town’s “summer White House.” Either way, Kennebunkport remains a timeless escape in a modern world.
~Nicki Noble Bean
The Nonantum Resort has been happy to host the Bushes at various events over the years including family weddings, showers, book signings and meetings.