I love cities. I also love beaches. So planning a trip usually means choosing one over the other. Not so with Inn by the Sea. Located in the luxe yet rural town of Cape Elizabeth, it’s majestically situated a footpath away from a peaceful, beautiful beach. It’s also an easy 10-minute drive into Portland, one of America’s most food-obsessed and picturesque small cities. On our first night at the Inn, my husband and I stepped out on our waterfront balcony to watch birds fly across a magenta-streaked sky at sunset. A half-hour later, we were in downtown Portland starting our first course at Fore Street (www.forestreet.biz), deservedly one of the country’s top foodie destinations. What a combination.
In autumn, the winding country road that led us to the Inn was straddled by amber grasses and marshy wetlands pretty enough to paint. Once we arrived, we were warmly welcomed and shown to our Beach Suite overlooking both the water and a wildlife habitat. The suite was stylishly decorated in a sophisticated palette of russet and charcoal, and we happily discovered a sleek gas fireplace in the living room, a full kitchen, balcony, luxurious bath, and comfy bedroom. Well-chosen paintings were all by local artists.
This classic seaside hotel was recently renovated in the most eco-conscious yet luxurious way, including the careful repopulating of the endangered New England Cottontail. They’ve replanted invasive species with an array of romantic-sounding bushes the Cottontails prefer—winterberry, raspberry dewberry, blueberry, and alder. And it’s working.
Inn by the Sea was one of the first pet-friendly luxury hotels and dogs continue to be honored guests—at no additional charge. Designated pet rooms and suites offer many amenities, including a doggy turndown treat.
The hotel also has a lovely pool, copious grounds, and a spa where I indulged in the 90-minute Deep Sea Soother—body brushing, wrapping, and an expert massage to the sound of ocean waves—very soothing, indeed.
Explore: Art aficionados shouldn’t miss a visit to Winslow Homer’s seaside studio and home in nearby Prouts Neck. Bookings are through the Portland Museum of Art (www.portlandmuseum.org) and the hotel will gladly arrange your visit. The tour also includes museum admission. From there, it’s a short walk to the Old Port for lively shopping, strolling and dining. Pick up a Maine-made Sea Bag (www.seabags.com) at 25 Custom House Wharf, where tote bags are designed and handcrafted from recycled sails.
Dine: While Inn by the Sea has a sprawling feel, the dining areas are intimate. At Sea Glass Restaurant, Chef Mitchell Kaldrovich is impressive not only in his cooking, but in his outlook. He works with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, other chefs and local fisherman to promote what’s plentiful and give a rest to what needs to be replenished. Serving lesser-known fish is another of his unique objectives and I ordered pan-roasted filet of pollock, a delectable white fish I’d never eaten before. With asparagus and lobster risotto, it couldn’t have been more delicious. The chef’s Argentine roots and his love of Maine’s bounty give Sea Glass the feel of a small farm-to-table find, rather than a typical hotel restaurant. At the cozy fireplace lounge, dogs are invited to dine alongside their owners.
Insider’s Tip: Luckily, our visit coincided with Harvest on the Harbor, where Maine’s most creative local food purveyors pair up with Portland’s restaurants for an event that’s overwhelming in the best possible way. As you enter the enormous white tent along the waterfront, you’re handed a plate with either a beer or wine glass (your choice) and off you go for generous tastings and samples that just don’t stop. The quality is high, the spirits are good, and it’s a blast. Various Harvest events take place between October 22 and 25 (www.harvestontheharbor.com).
Inn by the Sea
40 Bowery Beach Rd, Cape Elizabeth, ME (800) 888-4287; www.innbythesea.com
Distance from White Plains: 5 hours Details: From Labor Day until Columbus Day, room rates begin at $359 ($339 with AAA Discount). November rates start at $229. The Fall Harvest Package for two includes two nights in a luxurious fireplace room or one-bedroom suite, locally brewed pumpkin beer with local apples and caramel dipping sauce, a Maine Woolens cotton throw blanket, and a five-course Chef’s Harvest dinner at Sea Glass Restaurant. In October, Fall Harvest Package rates start at $850. In November, rates start at $622. Check online for other packages.