As easy as it is to pop down to 30A for the summer, I wanted to try something different this year – and somewhere with less heat. With a very active 9-year-old, and a husband who also can’t sit still, we decided a trip up to New England was just what we needed. With a direct flight to Boston, it was exciting to catch a Red Sox game at Fenway Park. We had the pleasure of dining at Limoncello on The North End before a scenic, one-hour drive north to our final destination, Maine.
Cliff House Maine
The ultimate in luxury, Cliff House Maine, boasts 70 oceanfront acres atop Bald Heald Cliff, where the Atlantic Ocean crashes upon its feet. Originally built in 1872 by Elsie Jane Weare, the Cliff House became the preferred resort of the most refined families from Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. It thrived through the roaring ’20s and ’30s but was taken over by the US Army Corps of Engineers during WWII to be used as a radar station for Nazi submarines.
Since then, it has completed a massive transformation that overlooks the cliffs of the Atlantic Ocean. Most of the rooms and suites have private terraces with oceanfront views. No small detail has been left behind, as elegant nautical décor can be seen throughout, all the way down to the blue tartan robes hanging in the rooms.
Cliff House has an abundance of leisurely activities for both couples and families. There are both adults-only and family saltwater pools and hot tubs that overlook the ocean. Daily activities for kids include a chipping contest, cornhole (my son’s favorite), and bocce ball, plus the resort has its own movie theatre for any of those rainy days.
The Spa at Cliff House is one of the best I have been to – the view in the Sanctuary room overlooking the cliffs is incomparable. With a focus on the elements of water, wood, fire, earth, and metal — you can’t go wrong with any treatment that you choose. The massage focus elements change according to the time of year and with it being summer, the focus was on fire for mine. The spa also has a great steam room and sauna, plus an infrared sauna made from eucalyptus wood to enjoy post-treatment.
At night, the hotel hosts live music in the lobby overlooking the scenery and there are multiple firepit locations around the resort for taking in those chilly nights and relaxing by the ocean.
The Tiller, Cape Neddick, ME
This restaurant within the hotel had the freshest ingredients from the season. The Maine Mussels were a favorite (even of my 9-year-old), and so were the Tiller Diver Scallops with lobster fried rice. Of course, the lobster was delicious. I preferred getting mine lazy – meaning it was already out of the shell in a little stainless-steel pan on top of warm butter. For those looking for a change from seafood, The Pig & Fig was to die for. It consisted of pork belly with a fig and bacon jam in a port reduction. For anyone looking for a vegetarian option, the Mushroom Bolognese with Tibbetts mushrooms and truffle butter is not to be missed. And don’t even think about skipping dessert – it’s a must. The Tiller Ice Cream Sandwich was a huge hit with the kids. You could select from a variety of ice cream for it – including salted sweet cream, bourbon praline, and goat cheese black raspberry Chambord. A favorite amongst the adults was the Maine Blueberry Cheesecake with lemon curd and blueberry compote.
Robert’s Maine Grille & Raw Bar, Kittery, ME
On our drive up the coast to Cape Neddick, we stopped in Kittery (the oldest town in Maine) for lunch at Robert’s Maine Grille. Upon entrance, the raw bar couldn’t be missed. You could watch them shuck the oysters right there and they were super fresh and salty. The Lobster Cobb Salad hit the spot for several of us, while others went for something more hearty like Maine’s Best Fish & Chips (which held up to its name). For me, that Lobster Cobb and a glass of crisp Sauvignon Blanc hit the spot.
Nikanos Mediterranean Bar & Grille, Ogunquit, ME
If you take a quick 2.5 mile drive into town, there are great little shops and restaurants. Several of the locals recommended Nikanos, so we knew we had to try it out. With the focus on Greek cuisine, they still used the freshest seafood in a unique way. We started with some traditional hummus and tzatziki spreads along with a round of dirty martinis, which several in our group said were the best yet. I chose the Pasta Nikanos for my main – which was salmon, local white fish, shrimp, and mussels on a bed of homemade pasta with garlic, white wine, and tomato sauce. The Lobster Athenian was also very popular, which consisted of lobster tossed in linguini with artichokes, spinach, tomatoes, feta, and olive oil. The Baklava was a perfect sweet treat to finish off the meal.
Angelina’s Ristorante, Ogunquit, ME
Named after the chef’s grandmother, Angelina’s has a long list of Italian classics. Multiple antipasto platters are available to start – we chose the Burrata Cheese “board” which included creamy burrata with a choice of prosciutto or capicola and other accompaniments. With a variety of homemade pasta, including ravioli and risotto — there is not a bad choice on the menu. The veal piccata also came highly recommended. We had a bottle of Le Serre Nuove dell’Ornellaia that paired really well with everything we enjoyed. Desserts are an event all on their own and we were equally as impressed with them as everything else. We shared a variety of options including the traditional cannoli, a coconut cake, and a salted caramel chocolate cake.
Nubb’s Lobster Shack, Cape Neddick, ME
For a more casual lunch spot, I would highly recommend Nubb’s in the Cliff House. It is the quintessential New England restaurant with great views and an unbelievable lobster roll. Plus, the sweet potato tots that come with most meals can’t be beaten. My son, Jack, also loved the Whoopie Pie to finish off the meal.
Hook & Cook
When in Maine, we knew that we had to go lobstering. The hotel set us up with Captain Phil of Breton. A short drive up to Wells took us right to the dock and we were out on the water in no time. We took a scenic route along the coast up to Kennebunkport into the presidential waters at Walker’s Point and the Bush compound and then were able to pull some lobster traps. Whatever we caught, we were able to take back to the hotel and they cooked it for us for dinner that night.
I’m not sure my husband would go on a trip where there wasn’t a golf course. He chose to go to the Ledges Golf Course in York, home of the New England US Am section qualifier. With its beautiful tee views, tree-protected fairways, and slick bentgrass greens, it’s a favorite for low to mid handicappers. Cape Neddick Country Club is close by as well. This semi-private course was designed in 1919, and redesigned in 1990, and is a challenge for golfers of every ability. If you are up for a bit of a drive, Old Marsh Country Club has 70 bunkers and large undulated greens that make it a fun, challenging round of golf.
Ogunquit, Kennebunkport, and Other Sights
Ogunquit has a great town scene. A variety of restaurants and shops run through the center of town. It’s easy to pop into a piano bar for a cocktail, or into an art gallery for some oceanic scenes. The Ogunquit Playhouse produces Broadway shows each season and we were able to catch a fun one called Escape to Margaritaville featuring Jimmy Buffet’s hits.
Kennebunkport has some great outdoor dining options as well – from nice restaurants on the waterfront like Ocean at Cape Arundel Inn to more casual clam shacks and lobster bakes. There is also some great shopping, including over 30 art galleries.
The Nubble Lighthouse is also a must-see. Built in 1879 to protect mariners from the rocky coast, the Nubble Lighthouse is an iconic symbol along Maine’s most southern coast.