Winter is a beautiful time to sneak away for a weekend or mid-week break on Maine’s beautiful coast. No lines of traffic clog the roads leading to its villages, and while most of the waterside lobster and clam shacks are closed, plenty of good restaurants overlooking the shore still serve the ocean-fresh seafood that lures visitors to Maine.
Each of these cozy inns is close to dining, shopping and other activities, within walking distance or a short drive if the weather is too cold for strolling. We reserved at each of these through a new affinity group of inns and B&Bs called Inns Along the Coast, all of whose members are open yea- round and meet high standards of comfort and luxury.
All have resident owners/innkeepers who are experts on their hometowns and nearby attractions, whether you’re looking for the best oysters (winter months are prime oyster season), antique shops, lighthouses to photograph or snowshoeing trails.
Beer lovers will like this hospitable B&B for its five beers on tap and, if they plan it right, for the inn’s Pretzel Baking and Craft Beer Pairing experiences. Yes, we really did learn to bake pretzels and munched on our own products with five different brews. During the lively morning session we also learned a lot about the history of pretzels, part of our host’s German heritage. For dinner, we walked a block down Freeport’s main street to the exceptional Azure Café, where we warmed our souls with creamy Maine seafood risotto and salmon grilled with a barbecue sauce of wild Maine blueberries.
Overlooking the Damariscotta River and the riverside town of Damariscotta, Newcastle Inn welcomes guests with fresh-baked cookies, always available in the inn’s “bottomless cookie jar.” The corner Monhegan Island Room has views across the river, a four-poster king-sized bed and a gas fireplace. The owner was a goldmine of information about the Pemaquid Peninsula and steered us to dinner at Damariscotta’s lively King Eider’s Pub. In the winter, Newcastle Inn offers Quiet Season discounts for a two-night stay.
Rooms in this former summer “cottage” in Bar Harbor overlook the bay, a perfect vantage point for storm watching — or just looking out at the sea on a nicer day. Bar Harbor was the Newport of the North back in the pre-air-conditioning days when the rich decamped to the shore for the summer with all their servants. Mansions such as this one line the streets, with the grandest of them facing the sea as Saltair does. A three-block walk from Bar Harbor’s many good restaurants and chic shops, the inn is also close to Acadia National Park, where cross country and snowshoe trails await the energetic. Hearty breakfasts (those are wild Maine blueberries in the pancakes) are served beside the fireplace in the elegant dining room.
If art is your thing, head for Rockland, and stay within an easy walk of the several galleries and museums that line the town’s historic Main Street. Rooms in this elegant Victorian mansion are romantic and beautifully decorated, and the engaging innkeeper/owners can easily suggest a weekend worth of things to do in this art-loving region. After a congenial breakfast with fellow guests, start at the outstanding Farnsworth Art Museum and the new Center for Maine Contemporary Art, opened in 2017. For more art-related suggestions, consult the Arts Along the Coast options on the Inns Along the Coast website, where you’ll find galleries, theaters and museums.