By Gwen Wunderlich-Smith
If you could imagine a magical place that transcends time, transporting you to the summers of childhood past, one where the burdens of growing up did not yet exist, then you’d imagine a place like Hidden Pond.
Located in New England, within the vibrant seaside town of Kennebunkport, Maine, Hidden Pond sets the ambience from the minute you pull into the driveway past a small wooden sign that reads, SLOW DOWN, BREATHE DEEPLY. You decidedly do so and plan to be swept into a very enchanted experience.
Dara, my very excited travel companion, could barely contain her bubbling excitement. After a five-hour drive from Long Island and more top 40 tunes than we care to admit, it’s that driveway, surrounded by birch groves and balsam fir, that leads us down a winding road full of adventure. We wander past a general store and a “Ride One” vintage bike area and finally arrive at the picturesque, welcoming lodge. There we scored our weekend itinerary and eagerly headed over to our two-bedroom luxury cottage.
Quaint, quiet and absolutely perfect, the minute we opened up our screened porch, we fell in love. The porch, impeccably furnished and perfect for hot coffee and early morning writing, led us into a spacious living room with a glowing sea rock fireplace centerpiece. The decor was designed to evoke nature and connect you with your spirituality. Both bedrooms, dressed in our favorite vacation house finishing, were complete with Frette bed linens and plush, down-filled duvets. It was like the sleepaway camp I never went to, but upgraded to lux lodge adult camp, which – to me – was absolute perfection.
We pretty much skipped to the bicycles, me in practical black stretchies, sneakers and sweater, and Dara, unpractical but glamorous as usual, in a somewhat similar outfit but with a fur vest, red lipstick, big designer sunglasses and knee-high boots. I choose the adult cruiser and she chose the youth BMX thinking it would be a better fit for her petite five-foot frame. I have never laughed so hard in my life as we rode to the beach. I was a half a mile ahead at most times, her panting and sweating, screaming and laughing at the same time. Between stopping so I could catch my breath from laughing so hard, then speeding up so she could barely catch up, the hilarious race to the beach reverted us back to 12-year-old girls without a care in the world. We were free, and if you could count one of the favorite moments in your life, this would surely be one of them.
Back at the cottage, we lit a fire, made some hot cocoa and talked about our weekend plans until we fell into an afternoon sleep, relishing the sweetness of doing absolutely nothing at all.
Later that evening it was off to The Tides Beach Club, Southern Maine’s only beachfront luxury hotel. It was grand and glamorous, playful and dreamy, and undeniably retro chic. It was champagne and oysters, caviar and wishes, and old friends and good wine. For dinner, we had the Kennebunkport lobster, a restaurant mainstay and crowd pleaser that delivers. We enjoyed our night here so much that we are counting down the weeks until we visit again.
After a relaxed breakfast the next morning, it was off to the Tree House Spa at Hidden Pond. We couldn’t help but feeling utter amazement as we walked over a catwalk woven through the beach trees and entered the lavender-scented spa. Between the most relaxing hot stone massage this body has ever seen, the stress relieving music and the aromatherapy products, this was by far one of the best spa experiences I’ve had.
While we could have stayed there all day long, adventure awaited and with so much that Hidden Pond offers, we decided to partake. Among the resort’s fun and fanciful pastimes: watercolor classes with Hidden Pond’s resident artist, mixology classes, kayaking, organic gardening, stand-up paddle boarding, pasta making and weekly lobster bakes. Whether energetic adventurists, inquisitive intellectuals or somewhere in between, guests of Hidden Pond have easy access to a range of memorable experiences that showcase the traditions and tranquility of Maine’s scenic coastline.
For dinner that night it was off to Earth, an onsite restaurant that is a collaboration with award-winning Boston chef Ken Oringer. Earth is truly “farm to fork,” with all vegetables and herbs picked from the organic farm at Hidden Pond. We sat with a group of new friends as Chef Oringer served us dishes that included freshly caught seafood and meats sourced from local purveyors. The heirloom vegetables, such as wood oven-roasted fiddleheads with chili lime sauce and asparagus salad with cheese, harissa and hazelnut crumble, were rustic in the most satisfying way. After dinner with great company it was off to the bonfire. While surrounded by tiki torches, forest breezes and the lingering scent of Hidden Pond’s forest on the beach, it was sublime way to end our evening.
This was more than a travel story for me. Hidden Pond is actually a hidden gem that everyone should get a chance to experience. It’s now one of my new favorite places and one that I plan on coming back to every summer with my family to make memories that will last several lifetimes.
For additional information and reservations, visit HiddenPondMaine.com.