48 Hours in Cape Elizabeth, South Portland + Scarborough

These three communities are best known for their beaches and lighthouses, but they’re also rich with art and antiques, incredible food, and plenty of dog-friendly activities.

Checking in

Kick off the weekend with appetizers and beers at Foulmouthed Brewing, a former auto garage turned into a brewpub in South Portland. Start with an order of crispy fries and a flight of dipping sauces—the malt vinegar mayo is a customer favorite. Nachos always pair well with beer, so scoop some corn tortilla chips with spicy queso, cumin lime crema, pickled jalapenos, cilantro, lettuce, tomato, and black beans. And leave some room for the General Tso’s wings; they’re tangy with just a hint of spice and wash down perfectly with the Sir Squirrel brown ale.

For a well-deserved splurge, book a room at Inn by the Sea, located on Crescent Beach in Cape Elizabeth. Just seven miles from Portland, you’ll feel worlds away when you catch a glimpse of the expansive coastal landscape, the inspiration behind the inn’s architecture and design.

The two-bedroom suites are perfect for families or groups of friends. Stock your full-size fridge with essentials for the weekend and stay in and cook if you’re in the mood. Four-legged guests are supplied with their own bed, blanket, placemat, bowls, and a gigantic homemade biscuit. If your furry friend needs some extra pampering, you can preorder dinner from the gourmet pet menu. All the suites have incredible views from the living room, gas-burning fireplaces, and private decks or balconies.

The inn’s on-site restaurant, Sea Glass, is a destination of its own and is frequented by locals, so make a reservation. Executive chef David Brown recently revamped the menus with a primary focus on quality seasonal ingredients. Start with one of the specialty cocktails, like the Sea Glass Spritzer, and an order of mussels in bouillabaisse sauce paired with the house bread for dipping. Don’t overlook the unassuming Farmer’s Salad, which features shaved veggies, whipped ricotta, herb crumble, and a smooth champagne vinaigrette. The cavatelli with clams is an excellent entrée choice, but if you’re not into seafood, try the braised short ribs with a merlot reduction. Finish with the crème brûlée, and then stop by the lobby bar to enjoy a fireside nightcap.

Antiques and eats

Roll out of bed, make yourself a Nespresso, and take an early-morning walk through Crescent Beach State Park. From October 1 through March 31, you can run with your leashed dog along the mile of white sand. The whole family will enjoy discovering saltwater coves and wooded pathways. When you return to the inn, order the apple French toast for breakfast, which will give you a good base for the day.

Cape Elizabeth has the longest growing season in Maine and hosts over 20 farms. If you’re there during the summer, make sure to stop by Maxwell’s Farm on Two Lights Road for strawberry picking. Cape Elizabeth also has one of the most photographed lighthouses in the world, the Portland Head Light at Fort Williams Park. Commissioned by George Washington and completed in 1791, the oldest lighthouse in Maine is managed by the town and includes a museum within the former keepers’ quarters. It might look especially familiar since artist Edward Hopper captured it in one of his most renowned watercolors.

Time to get in a little stress-free shopping on Shore Road. Make your first stop The Artful Collector, where you can find Weller and Roseville pottery, along with well-preserved issues of the Saturday Evening Post dating back to the early 1920s. Modern gems might include a vintage Iittala Aalto Vase or an Arne Jacobsen Swan chair. Go next door to Fiddleheads Fine Flowers and Maine Gifts; this magical little shop creates sustainably sourced custom arrangements. Their small bouquets make great hostess gifts for the friend who has everything. If you walk just a few blocks down the road after, you can experience the delight of The Cookie Jar’s famous raspberry Bismarck pastry. And then why not decompress for a bit back at the inn with lunch? You can grab sandwiches and salads at C Salt Gourmet Market and enjoy them on your private deck while soaking up the ocean air.

A favorite destination in Scarborough is Higgins Beach. When the surf is up, surfers can be seen catching waves no matter the season. Enjoy walking the beach and admiring the classic New England cottages that date back to the 1800s. If you have kids, go farther south along the Scarborough coastline to Ferry Beach. It’s the perfect place for parents to relax because the water there is calm and shallow. Enjoy the sunset before heading to dinner at the Pine Point Grill. This cozy restaurant is just one mile from Pine Point Beach. You’ll want to order the French onion soup and wild haddock with rosemary potatoes.

Beaches and Bug Light

Begin the morning with one last walk around the inn’s grounds. After that, head to Bonny Read in South Portland, where locals know you can score some fantastic midcentury and antique pieces for your home. After you finish perusing the shop, grab a coffee down the road at Cia Cafe and check out the jewelry by Maine makers. Now that you’re caffeinated, make your way over to Nonesuch Books and More, where they have new and gently used books for adults and children as well as a nice selection of Stonewall Kitchen soaps and jams.

Get back in the car and take a short drive to one of the smallest lighthouses in the state, Portland Breakwater Lighthouse, also referred to as Bug Light. Originally built of wood in the 1800s, the lighthouse was later rebuilt using cast-iron plates. Standing just 26 feet tall, it’s located on the eastern end of the Greenbelt Walkway with a view of the entrance to Portland Harbor. If it’s a windy day, take a kite with you. And make sure you allow yourself some time to explore the nearby Liberty Ship Memorial to learn about the ships built there during World War II.

Before you head out of town, grab snacks at the new Buena Vista Filipino Food Market. If you’re lucky, they’ll have a fresh batch of pancit noodles. For more take-home food, check out two Italian markets: Solo Cucina Market, where you’ll find Solo’s acclaimed pesto sauce, the same recipe served in their restaurant in downtown Portland, and Terra Cotta Pasta Co., whose delicious homemade ravioli with mushroom sauce also happens to freeze well. Last, stop over at Cape Whoopies for a final sweet treat. There’s an extensive menu, but well-known favorites include Maple Sunday and Birthday Suit—and don’t worry, they even have a gluten-free option.

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