You don’t need sun or balmy weather to enjoy the Cliff House Resort & Spa in Ogunquit, Maine. In fact, some guests reportedly prefer to stay during storms. That’s when they can view the turbulent ocean from the cozy confines of their balconies perched above the rocky cliffs that jut into the Atlantic.
The “most spectacular storm views” one observer says, “happen the morning after a storm when the sun rises but the ocean swells have yet to subside and are crashing against the cliff.” For visitors not attracted by storms , however, autumn is a favorite time to view Maine’s fall foliage and back-to-school shopping at outlets near the Cliff House.
Sitting atop Bald Head Cliff, the 166-room resort , with three swimming pools, offers spectacular views of the ocean, together with a mix of good food using locally sourced fish, fruits, and vegetables, homemade desserts, a spa that knows how to harness the healing powers of local blueberries into a variety of soothing treatments, and impeccable service. Seeing me struggle with a stubborn lobster claw on an especially busy evening in the dining room, a hotel manager donned plastic gloves to come to my table and demonstrate the intricate task of digging out the succulent lobster meat. Fortunately, I didn’t need help with a well-seasoned lobster roll or lobster bisque the following day.
The Cliff House has been owned and operated by the Weare family since 1872. And although it’s been modernized many times since then, including the installation of solar panels that help the resort rely on solar energy and a spa built in 2002, there is absolutely no tampering with the natural beauty surrounding the property. A fully equipped gym with large windows in the spa building is one of my favorite attractions because the treadmills and elliptical machines are so close to the ocean that they almost float over it! The view is so special that my workout was transformed into a delight rather than a chore. “This is my happy place,” one young woman confided. “My husband and I come every year, ” she said as she dined on lobster from the outdoor patio and gazed at the light from a full moon reflected on the ocean.
After a soothing signature massage, I was particularly intrigued by a labyrinth on the spa terrace. This intricate walking path is based on an ancient form used as a metaphysical device in a spiritual quest to center and focus the mind, and this particular one is patterned after the labyrinth in the 13th century French cathedral at Chartres. After my masseuse revealed that she had even seen a seagull walking the concentric loops, I buried my well-honed skepticism to try it myself. And much to my surprise, a renewed outlook offered me a fresh approach to a lingering problem.
Also family-owned and operated, the Colony Hotel in Kennebunkport, a member of Historic Hotels of America, still retains its original charm and ambiance. Many of the original bed headboards, bureaus, end tables and hooked rugs remain part of the décor. My own charming room, with ceiling fan but no air conditioning or TV, overlooked a garden, the swimming pool, and the ocean, although rooms with full ocean views are most quickly snapped up.
The ocean air revives one’s appetite and the Colony does not disappoint when it comes to food; I feasted one night on a succulent lobster roll in the casual Mariner’s Lounge as well as a very rich clam chowder. But it was the breakfast buffet that stole my heart each morning. A buffet table in the main dining room was generously stocked with the eggs, bacon, ham, potatoes, fruit and yogurt one would expect. The most delicious surprise, however, were the blueberry pancakes oozing with fresh Maine blueberries, which I savored from my table overlooking the ocean and a rolling lawn with gardens where Maine wildflowers flourish.
Dogs and young children are especially welcomed at the Colony. Before 9 am and after 5 pm, dogs can run freely without a leash on the hotel’s privately owned beach. And in October, Monarch butterflies are welcomed too as they fly over the grounds on their way to Mexico.
But for pets and their proud owners, Halloween is the most anticipated time of the year. That’s when all breeds of dogs, from Great Danes to chihuahuas, join forces with a few cats and even a rabbit or two, to dress up in colorful costumes (owners are costumed, too!) and frolic in the hotel swimming pool from 11 am to 12 noon. Then at 12 alas, the Colony closes for the season.