For the past 35 summers, Dini and Chris Coffin have enjoyed blissful days at their vacation home near Goose Rocks Beach. But not until recently did they consider pulling up roots in Westford, Massachusetts, where Dini grew up and they raised their kids, to live year-round in Kennebunkport.
They had been shuttling back and forth during the pandemic, spending more time than ever in the quaint coastal community, and only intending to take refuge there for the short-term. Then one blue-sky day while strolling along the shore, Dini had an epiphany.
“I just looked at him and said, ‘Why are we holding onto the house in Westford when we could be here full time?'” Dini recalls. Chris had recently retired, and she felt ready to hand over the reins as owner of Enterprise Media in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
So, the timing was right, and they couldn’t be more delighted with the decision.
“Nothing is far away, there’s never traffic, we’re surrounded by beauty, and the people are so friendly,” Dini says, adding that they used to drive to Portland to dine out, but lately they have been staying closer to home, dining at places like nearby Tides Beach Club, Earth at Hidden Pond (“worth the buzz”), and her latest favorite, Bandaloop, a farm-to-table gem in a big barn in Arundel. “It doesn’t have huge views, but the food is just so delicious.”
Seafood shacks abound in Kennebunkport, but there’s much more to the picturesque coastal village than its legendary lobster. A quaint downtown, stately homes, and a growing number of culinary hot spots are just as much a part of its identity. Still, some residents say the strong community spirit is the Kennebunks’ greatest attribute.
They aren’t alone in making a profound life change during the pandemic, of course, the impact of which has inspired plenty of soul-searching among people of all ages and stages. A recent headline in the Washington Post put it well: “The Great Resignation is also the Great Retirement … ” Whereas younger folks have quit their jobs in record numbers, many baby boomers have left the office for good to pursue their dream of living where they are happiest.
Heidi Maynard, a resident of “the Port” for more than 40 years and co-owner, along with her daughter Corey Tracey, of Pack Maynard & Associates, a real estate company, has sold properties to many recent retirees who came here for those same reasons. But she has also sold to others who have recently chosen to settle into the area because they can work remotely or they are like her grown children, who grew up in town, left for a bit only to realize how much they value it, and then returned to raise their own families here.
Heidi says that even more remarkable than the area’s many attributes—its breathtaking beaches including Mother’s, Middle, Gooch’s, and Goose Rocks; the pretty ponds, piers, and points; the burgeoning restaurant scene, and so much more—it’s the caring residents and the strong sense of community that make the Kennebunks (Kennebunkport, Kennebunk, and Arundel) such an exceptional place to live.
When Heidi is not showing or selling homes or hanging out with family, including her five grandchildren, she is often seen out and about in the community, playing paddle tennis, at a performance at Vinegar Hill, or participating in various charitable causes that she is passionate about. Three years ago, she cofounded CS3, an organization that stands for “Community Strong, Character Strong, Children Strong” and raises funds to help children in need in Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, and Arundel.
Heidi says it’s just one of the area’s many groups that give back. “Kennebunkport is not only an absolutely gorgeous town, but it’s also a real community where people care about and look after one another,” she says. “The kindness shown here feels more important than ever in today’s crazy world.”
Oozing with Charm
From simple summer cottages to elegant schooners (the Spirit of Massachusetts, at bottom left), clusters of multicolored mailboxes and iconic wooden signposts, the Kennebunks are loaded with personality and prettiness. Breathtaking beaches are never far away; one surfer is heading toward one along the path to Timber Island.
It didn’t take long for Kris Ann and Dave Andonian, who moved in June 2020 to Kennebunkport from Concord, Massachusetts, to pick up on the town’s friendly vibe, which she says is so evident around town and at the “Dog Beach” (aka Gooch’s), where she takes her Australian shepherd, Goose, for daily off-leash romps.
She can walk to Gooch’s from her home, sometimes stopping for a coffee on the way down the hill or picking up a pizza on the return trip, chatting with locals along the way.
It’s the ability to access everything on foot, the walkability of in-town living, Kris Ann says, that helps promote the Port’s convivial spirit. “There’s a small-town flavor here that’s so great. I never feel isolated or lonely.”
If it hadn’t been for Dave’s dislike for Cape Cod traffic, they might have ended up there instead. But four years of visiting their daughter at Colby and countless weekends cheering on their other two kids at college football and lacrosse games in the state piqued their interest. Each time they visited, they’d linger a little longer until they finally decided to just stay put.
Now Kris Ann couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. “Every time I exit the highway to return to Kennebunkport after I’ve been away, I feel like the luckiest person to have found this part of the world.”