Vacationland: Where we love to stay

Vacationland: Where we love to stay


It is our job to explore Maine. To visit places so stunning and so distinct from one another, it’s hard to believe they can all be found in the same state. Exploring begets explorers—a crew with great curiosity about and love for this place. We love a hike and a sleep under the stars, but we’ve also been lucky enough to experience some of the state’s most indulgent inns on our travels. What we’ve found are unique accommodations where beauty, comfort, and kindness manifest in cumulus-cloud-like beds, striking and soothing decor, warm welcomes, and cool ocean breezes. These are some of our favorite picks across the state.

Cape Elizabeth |

Crescent Beach is only a short drive from chic little Portland but it feels far away. Long, curving, and undeveloped, it’s a convenient place for urbanites to catch some sun, swim, or beachcomb. The Inn by the Sea opened its beach suite accommodations in 2012, which offer all guests fireplaces, large granite bathrooms, equipped kitchens, and expansive living space all overlooking the sandy strip and island-rimmed ocean. General manager Sara Masterson’s personal favorite room is number 631, a third-floor, two-bedroom, 1,300-square-foot luxury beach suite. The decor is a subtle and modern interpretation of the nautical look Maine is known for, with board-and-batten millwork, varied textures, and off-whites and cool blues making an appearance. Inn by the Sea is undergoing a habitat restoration project for the New England cottontail in collaboration with the department of conservation; they also offer indigenous garden tours, ecology beach walks, and “bug’s life” classes for kids. Inn by the Sea’s in-house restaurant, Sea Glass, uses local and seasonal ingredients to offer the taste equivalent of the refreshing view.

Kennebunkport |

I think the air in the woods is medicinal, and Hidden Pond is a place among trees. The resort is spread out over 60 wooded acres just a mile from Goose Rocks Beach in Kennebunkport. Each cottage and bungalow has unique personality and interior decor, but all are comfortable and stylish. At the onsite farm, guests are welcome to pick flowers, vegetables, and fruit to bring back to their cottages. A dinner at James Beard Award-winning chef Ken Oringer’s restaurant Earth is a bike ride away, as is the spa, which offers massages, facials, and body treatments in treetop spa rooms, connected by a catwalk woven through the trees. When I had the privilege of staying in a beautifully outfitted Hidden Pond cottage, the screened-in porch called my name. I spend an afternoon watching the leaves collect light and wind, listening to the birds flit among them—all from the comfort of my bug-free compartment. Those interested in exploring the Kennebunks and the surrounding area can rely on good recommendations from a knowledgeable staff. “The staff at Hidden Pond know when to inquire, deliver, or entertain, but also when to take a step back and allow our guests to enjoy the moment for what it is,” explains general manager Justin Grimes. Grimes recommends sleeping in late (but not so late as to miss out on the morning breakfast-basket delivery), a picnic kayaking tour of inlets, outlets, and islands of Cape Porpoise, and chef Justin’s cooking class or bartender’s mixology class at Earth.

York Harbor |

In York Harbor you’ll find the New England people dream about. The roads are winding and the houses are classic, painted white or red so many times over the surfaces are rippled with layers. There are rocky cliff walks and sandy beaches, lighthouses and taverns. We love York Harbor Inn because it fits so nicely into this quintessential scene, delivering an experience that is timeless but also tuned-up. Open year-round for over 32 years, York Harbor Inn is comprised of six inn buildings and three restaurants. More recently, the inn has acquired Harbor Crest Inn, one of the most beautiful historical mansions in York Harbor, and Chapman Cottage, the sister building to Harbor Crest. These newer, more luxurious residences have large rooms with Jacuzzi spa tubs, fireplaces, heated tile floors and private decks with ocean views. Each restaurant on the property flaunts its own personality. I especially like the Tavern Bar and Tap Room, which is warm with exposed wood and a vaulted ceiling striped with beams. Maine’s a sweetheart in the summertime—and from the York Harbor Inn there’s a swimming beach only a short walk away—but I might like the inn best in the winter. Coated in fresh snow, the village is almost surreally quaint, and the spa tub that much more delightful to tuck into.

South Casco |

Migis Lodge is a Full American Plan destination resort that knows a truly exceptional getaway experience doesn’t begin and end with just a comfy bed (although their beds are very comfy). Nor is Maine all about the ocean—a still, sunset-soaked lake offers extra quiet with its peace. Migis is on the shores of Sebago Lake, the deepest and second-largest lake in the state of Maine. The property is sprawling, made up of the Main Lodge and a smattering a private cottages and homes situated among towering pines. The options are varied but reliably comfortable and beautiful, rich with wood and classic decor, porches, and fireplaces. Kids can enjoy water sports, ping-pong tournaments, relays, and games, all organized by onsite program directors. Parents can pass an entire week on the porch, worry-free, or spend time sailing, motorboating, playing tennis, or golfing. A recent guest says he “travels all over the world” with his family, but that Migis is the one place where he can “truly relax.” When I asked Jed Porta, the general manager of Migis Lodge, which cottage he’d most like to stay in, he had a hard time choosing: “Sitting on the wraparound porch of Spruce with its 270-degree view of the lake, the privacy and rustic charm of the Moose Point guesthouse, the screened-in sleeping porch at Cliffside…those are the spots coming to mind today, but I know there are plenty others.”

Camden |

Dutch-born Raymond Brunyanszki traipsed around the world while working in the travel and hospitality industry before decisively settling in Maine. Camden, to be exact, where he fell in love with a nineteenth-century Victorian mansion overlooking the darling downtown and blue-hued mountains of Camden Hills State Park. Brunyanszki’s European sense of style comes across in Camden Harbour Inn’s colorful decor. “In America hotels tend to be muted, with a lot of beige and brown to please everyone, but in Europe hotels are unique and individual,” he says. The result is cheerful and modern decor—simple design that utilizes color-blocking elements and lots of different textures. The Camden Harbour Inn is an ideal stay experience for those who are interested in vacationing (or staycationing, as the case may be) in Maine but looking for an experience typically found in a more metropolitan area. In June of 2012, Brunyanszki and his partner Oscar Verest added two new luxury suites to the existing 18 rooms. The bathroom of the Royal Dutch suite, the larger of the two suites, is equipped to the nines with a steam shower, air-jet bath, and private sauna with light therapy. World-class restaurant Natalie’s is also quite a draw. Just like the rest of the inn, Natalie’s combines Maine’s bucolic bounty with international flair in gorgeous multi-course meals. I love that the dining room is red—bold, beautiful, red-red—and that the common areas are filled with Asian and European art. I stayed at the Camden Harbour Inn in the winter on a chilly, snowless weekend. Night fell fast, bruising the pastoral view before blackening the windows. I offered the sommelier a vague request and was poured my perfect glass, which I proceeded to enjoy beside the fire.

Lincolnville |

My friends were married in the spring. To celebrate, they traveled along the coast of Maine and ended up at the Inn at Sunrise Point for a few unforgettable days. In their smile-filled photograph I recognized the property immediately: propped up by a steep incline, the view from the inn is a thick slice of ocean sparkling into sky. Romantic is not a word I use lightly, and it might be the one I find most fitting to describe the Inn at Sunrise Point. Picture the newlyweds making their way down the tree-lined road (doesn’t escape sometimes sound like wheels on gravel?) toward the cedar-shingled oasis of cottages and gardens. It’s a hideaway for sure, a peaceful enclave at the ocean’s edge, but it’s also close to restaurant- and-gallery-rich Camden. The inn’s owner, Daina Hill, recommends watching the moon rise over the ocean, barefoot in the front yard, glass of robust red wine in hand. She loves the inn just as much during a thunderstorm (for the “energy and wonder it brings with it”) as she does on a blue-sky summer morning. The inn is intimate, decorated simply with beautiful items to create a sense of peace and comfort. Guests can stay in second-floor rooms in the main building or, for added privacy, in one of the nearby cottages. While many prefer the Winslow Homer Cottage for its sunny yellow decor and unimpeded views of the water and lawn and gardens, Hill’s personal favorite is the Fitz Henry Lane Cottage. “From within the cottage I am so close to the water that I can watch the tides flowing in and out,” she says. While extremely luxurious, there’s nothing overstated about the Inn at Sunrise Point. “I don’t need fancy,” says Hill. “I don’t want complicated. Just excellence in all things.”

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