What better place to celebrate my birthday with my family than Kennebunkport? Well, in truth, I can think of many other places I would have been happier celebrating that were further afield, but in trying to coordinate schedules Maine was the destination that seemed easiest to pull off. The plan was to all meet at the Maine Diner in Wells to get the party started, and if you have never been to this classic diner, it should be on your list. At the Maine Diner there is always a wait, and even when it is really busy the waitresses maintain their sense of humor. The food is not out of this world, but it is predictably good and satisfying. The blueberry pancakes in particular are a crowd pleaser but since they were unable to offer them in a gluten free variation I opted for gf french toast. We made sure to order enough real maple syrup for the table (at $2 extra per serving).
Aside from pancakes and french toast we also ventured into the mac and cheese and hot dog arena, as well as chicken pot pie. This was not going to be the weekend to count calories! On a grey and rainy Saturday we were fortified and ready to hit the antique shops before checking in to our home away from home.
We were fortunate Maine was in full fall splendor in early October, although the leaves were not yet at their peak; there were mums, pumpkins and gourds everywhere!
Our accommodations for the weekend were booked at Hidden Pond, recently ranked #5 out of 10 on USA Today’s best American resort destination list . This was not our first foray to Hidden Pond, as we had visited once before during the Pandemic which you can read about here.
If you are a follower of my blog you know that for me, Migis Lodge is the ultimate destination in Maine (unfortunately it was sold out for this particular weekend), though on the surface Hidden Pond seems to have a lot going for it as well. One of the most remarkable things about HP actually is how visually striking it is, so kudos to whoever is in charge of their “vision”, it is picture perfect.
We had arranged to have two 2 bedroom cabins for the weekend, and they were both well stocked with goodies (wine, whoopie pies, coffee, juice, granola and yogurt all of which were complimentary). The cabins were decorated in a neutral yet rustic way, and most importantly the bed and pillows were very comfortable. Our cabin had two equally sized master bedrooms, though one had an outdoor shower while the other had a gas fireplace.
One issue I had the last time we stayed at Hidden Pond which I attributed to the pandemic was the lack of professionalism of the staff. While many were friendly (the front desk), others were not (the housekeeping staff), and as far as the waitstaff goes at the on-property restaurant Earth there was a high level of service during our dinner, but breakfast was frustratingly understaffed (more on that later). For a resort that is as pricey as Hidden Pond it is reasonable to expect more.
After check in we decided to explore, and a fun way to do so is to grab bikes which are thoughtfully provided for guests. Unfortunately we found that a good percentage of the bikes were in some level of disrepair so we set off on foot. It was still raining but it turned out the gloomy light was perfect for picture taking.
One clarification, while Hidden Pond is officially located in Kennebunkport, it is not near the touristy town (about 10 minutes drive) or the beach (Goose Rocks beach is a short bike ride away). They do have a sister property called Tides Beach Club where HP guests have the ability to dine and use their beach club.
The time had come for us to have dinner, and in keeping with the quintessential Maine theme we decided to head to Mabel’s Lobster Claw in Kennebunkport, a favorite with locals and tourists since 1953. With regard to our starters, they were delivered to us hot, crispy and perfectly fried. When it was time for entrées, half of us dined on lobster rolls, and the other half went with The Duke, a mixture of scallops, shrimp, haddock and lobster baked in a buttery wine sauce. Butter seemed to be used liberally in all the dishes leading to a few late night stomach aches, but the consensus was that it was worth it.
We all retreated back to our cabins and were lulled to sleep by the rain throughout the night. When we woke we were thrilled to be greeted by blue skies and sunshine, an auspicious way to start the day. HP thoughtfully dropped coffee and pastry off to the cabins each morning which was appreciated. I was forewarned by the front desk that I might want to skip the gf offering as it wasn’t made in house so I heeded their advice and stuck with the coffee.
We all met at breakfast at about 8:30 and had the dining room to ourselves. This made it all the more hard to understand why the service was so disappointing. Our waiter was well-intentioned and eager to please, but admitted that he rarely was assigned to the larger tables (we were a table of 7). Being the only server in the dining room, he quickly became overwhelmed when other guests began to arrive. Alas, it seemed like there may have only been one person in the kitchen as well judging by the snail like pace in which our food was delivered to us. Not surprisingly, everything looked great, and even tasted pretty good (though I wouldn’t recommend trying to eat avocado toast on a piece of slate); but there is definitely a disconnect between the appearance and the reality of Hidden Pond.
Following our very leisurely breakfast we realized we had forgotten the paper vouchers we received as a perk by booking through Virtuoso which would have covered part of out meal. After some confusion the credits were applied, and it was time to explore the adorable town of Kennebunkport which is filled with every type of gift shop you could imagine. We couldn’t resist breaking for some mini- donuts at Satellite Doughnuts which sadly looked much better than they tasted (according to my crew).
The doughnuts were a quick amuse bouche before our Clam Shack extravaganza. The Clam Shack is a fixture on the bridge in Kennebunk dating back to 1968, and their lobster rolls are offered with butter, mayo or both. Our group all belong to TEAM BUTTER. Since I had my fill of Lobster Rolls the evening prior I decided to have a generous pile of sweet and briny Steamers. Word was that the onion rings were absolutely perfect as well. It was a little breezy so we grabbed a hightop inside the adjacent fish market. Two thumbs up for The Clam Shack!
I felt somewhat virtuous after my healthy lunch so we headed straight over to Rococo Ice Cream‘s new location just steps away from the Clam Shack. Be sure you google their new address if you want to experience their ethereal ice cream as the moved a year or so ago. I was hard pressed to decide as every flavor sounded appealing and ultimately chose a cup of Spicy Rocky Road. DELICIOUS! There is also a more formal dessert salon attached to the ice cream parlor, but all I wanted was a simple cup, and I was not disappointed.
We managed to fit in some satisfying antiquing in nearby Arundel as well as some live music and beer at the Funky Bow Brewery (definitely not my scene, but a concession to my husband as a reward following the antiquing).
We had to cut our day a bit short though because the dinner we had booked at Earth, the restaurant at Hidden Pond was at 5 pm. Although we booked dinner about 7 weeks before our stay they maintained the only time they could accommodate us was at 5 pm. Endless calls to the restaurant could not get them to budge. They stated there was no where else they could seat us aside from one particular table. This aggravated me to no end, especially because there was no one taking our table after us; we finished up around 9 and the restaurant was emptying out. Anyway, I guess it was good practice for taking advantage of Early Bird Specials.
Once seated we were happy to find the service and presentation throughout the meal was excellent, and just about everything we ordered was delicious from start to finish. The menu offers either a 3 course or 4 course prix fixe option, and we all agreed to opt for the 4 course.
Our meal was served at a leisurely pace, and everyone was happy with their choices. As mentioned below the only misstep were the zucchini noodles which I ordered (not a surprise you might say), but regardless, I was happy with the vegetarian choices. We had inquired about bringing along our own wine but Earth does not allow it so we made do with the offerings available. Each course was brought out simultaneously with a flourish, with the dessert presentation being the highlight- complimentary doughnuts and sorbet to mark the special occasion, along with a round of Happy Birthday.
Do keep in mind that if you are visiting the area you can book at Earth as it is open to the public as well as resort guests.
In closing, we had an amazing time on our weekend in Maine, mostly because we had a rare chance to all be together. In truth, we could have been anywhere and been happy although being at Hidden pond was a visual treat. Unfortunately, that is the best I can say about it. On the surface the resort is just about perfect, but there is no soul to it, no real substance, and additionally there are glaring issues with their level of service. Perhaps it is because I am holding it up to Migis Lodge (you can read my review here) as the ultimate Maine escape, but Hidden Pond just doesn’t do it for me. We gave it another try after our lukewarm first visit in 2021 and can say with confidence we will not return in the future.