Your New Fall Getaway? Minimalist Cabins at a Luxe Kennebunkport Manor
AWOL Kennebunkport lets you hide away in nature or stay in a historic home.
In official military-speak, AWOL stands for “absent without official leave.” Perhaps after a couple of nights in the AWOL Kennebunkport, the new seventeen-room hotel in Maine that opened in August, you’ll want to take a leave of absence from normal life and stay put.
The hotel is a tale of two settings: Guests can either stay in the historic Melville Walker House—a former private residence that was built in 1860 and was once home to a sea captain and his wife—or in eleven new minimal and modern cabins among the grounds. Either way, the retreat is shrouded by centuries-old pine, elm, birch, and other natural wonders that form a wall from the rest of the world.
“You’re just a couple minutes’ walk to the center of everything in town and yet you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere because there’s this wooded enclave behind the mansion,” says Robert Blood, the president of Amesbury-based Lark Hotels, which owns AWOL. “And so I think of it as the best of both worlds.”
Once the former Mainestay Inn, the property was purchased by Lark Hotels in January 2020, and the company set its sights on bringing something unique to town, just steps away from bustling Dock Square. The newest property is also the second AWOL outpost, joining an older sibling out in Provincetown, and some of that location’s sense of adventure refreshes the sometimes sleepy seaside Kennebunkport. Newburyport-based design firm Elder & Ash, operated by Blood and wife and business partner Megan Kennedy, reimagined the space with soothing, earthy palettes and luxe touches. All of the suites are fit for only two guests, making each a romantic getaway with custom white oak king beds, plush bedding, and waffle kimono robes to cozy up by the fireplace.
The rustic exteriors of the cabins camouflage minimal-chic interiors with huge windows to bring the outdoors in. The cabins essentially are little studio gems, with open bedrooms that flow to living areas that feature indoor gas fireplaces with cement surrounds. Some of the cabins boast Japanese soaking tubs to unwind with a book, and all feature private flagstone patios with fire pits to savor the serenity of the outdoors.
“We’ve created all of these spaces for solitude and recharging as an individual or with your travel companion,” Blood says. “Then we also really like the idea of people being able to connect if they choose to do so with lawn games in the common area.”
Just a quick walk away from all that modernity, meanwhile, is a pared-back escape inspired by the property’s past. Like the first-floor king suite with its French doors that lead to a private deck, each of the in-house suites feature separate sitting rooms and bedrooms. That is, except for the cupola suite, which sprawls over the entire third floor with its luxe bedroom, living room, and dining area. Here, a spiral staircase leads up to the cupola on the fourth floor—once a widow’s walk, it’s now transformed into a peaceful sitting area that’s totally enclosed in glass. Over a hundred and fifty years ago, Captain Walker’s wife Abbie would wander here to await her husband’s return from sea. Now, you can drink in the water views and plot your next visit back.
Rooms start at $262, 34 Main St., Kennebunkport, ME, awolkport.com.