• Wednesday, October 28, 2020

luxury maine trip

Falling Into Maine
September 23, 2020
By , Writer

The hottest destination of Summer 2020 wasn’t St. Tropez. It wasn’t Ibiza. And no, it wasn’t Mykonos. It may have just been Maine, and the inside track is — it’s just as good in early fall. You may want a change of scenery for remote learning or for just a nice, long weekend. If so, Portland hits the spot.

Suggested Stay:  4 days, or stay awhile for feel lik a local.  

Good For:  Families, couples and solo travelers

A Little History:  This northernmost mainland state has a wealth of geography, but also a considerable history as the hiding place for New York socialites like the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, and Astors. Much like Newport, Rhode Island or the Hamptons, Maine was a place for the wealthy elite to venture to when in need of a break from city life. And, located just a touch farther from the city than the former two, Maine became known as the place where the elite could really let their hair down. It’s pretty much the same today; you won’t see a Kardashian in sight but you will see families whose great great great great grandmother came over on the Mayflower.  The key here is discreet.  

It all began with the Hudson River School artists of the mid-19th century. This group of landscape painters produced art that is renowned by artists and collectors alike for its “luminism,” a style whose beautiful light and aerial views of nature evoked a sense of peace and calm. These artists’ bucolic, pastoral scenes of New York and New England wilderness also attracted the wealthy families to the area in search of such landscape.

Acadia National Park’s wild and rugged beauty has always been a sight for sore eyes and has served as inspiration for landscape painters. During the Gilded Age, it the became the go-to summer retreat locale with some of the 19th century’s most luxurious gardens and estates overlooking its natural beauty.

The Great Fires of 1947 tragically swept through the state, destroying half of Acadia National Park and its neighboring mansions, thereby ended the reign of New York socialites in Maine and marked a turning point in the state’s culture. Today, Maine remains a natural treasure and has become one of the most popular summer destinations for vacationers from near and far, and it has a robust local life full of nostalgic culture and seaside fun.

A huge thank you to our Tastemakers Scott and Tory Caputo for their inside track on Maine.  They’re our experts, having decamped there for the summer and our experts anywhere else they travel in the world.  

The Highlights:  

 

·      We love Portland for its vibrant, cool vibes and its unexpected contrasts. A historical port city, Portland is where to go to check out antique shops, microbreweries, and dozens of cool historical stores, but because of the incredible beaches, it is also the place to go for a coastal, harborside energy.

·      Home cooking and high-end fine dining coexist along cobblestone streets, and farmers markets where the bigwig chefs go are also visited by locals.  Portland has one of the most under-the-radar food scenes on the East Coast.  

·      You can go anywhere in Portland and look at something beautiful. The West End has some incredible historic architecture and both its Eastern and Western Promenades have the best coastal views. 

An operating port since the 17th century, Portland has deep historical roots that can be explored in family friendly museums like the Portland Museum of Art, which showcases work by American realists and impressionists such as Rockwell Kent, Andrew Wyeth, and Marsden Hartley. For history and design buffs, visit Victoria Mansion, now a museum where you can see mid-19th century designer Gustave Herter’s stained-glass skylight and mind-boggling colors.

For fun COVID-19 friendly day trips, Portland’s Casco bay has regular ferries on various lines to Peaks where you can find WWII-era bunkers and equally cool street art. Or if wanting to stay out at sea, Lucky Catch Lobster Tour will set you off to haul, catch and bait your own dinner aboard the famous Lucky Catch. When back in town, round off the afternoon with a stop at Holy Donut, whose potato donuts became a staple in Maine during the Great Depression and are still enjoyed today.

Speaking of food, Portland also has the second highest number of restaurants per capita in the US and was named Bon Appétit’s “best restaurant city of the year” in 2018 for its plethora of award-winning chefs. If you’re looking to eat out, you truly can’t go wrong in Portland. If you’re craving seafood, you should head to one of the country’s coolest working waterfronts, Old Port where a walk along the harbor will have you next to dozens of farm or sea to table options. Portland’s award winners are plentiful but we recommend David’sDuckfatHugo, and Fore Street Restaurant. You should also wander the streets for yourself to uncover the many more that the city has to offer.

Beaches. Of course, arguably the most compelling Maine experience is simply relaxing on one of Maine’s idyllic beaches. Though you pretty much can’t go wrong at any of the big beaches and can even find many smaller private beaches to enjoy, we recommend Popham and Scarborough for their miles of sand and accompanying parkland. Locals and visitors alike spend all day relaxing and swimming on these super New England beaches. We also love Willard Beach in South Portland, which is a little rockier but a favorite among dog walkers, so it is a great place to puppy- and people-watch with the fam.

Where to Eat:

Duckfat. Don’t be fooled by Duckfat’s status as a three-time Food Network Chopped champion. This family-owned and operated restaurant serves up the best local cuisine in the area. The menu staples include melt-in-your-mouth brisket paninis and famous favorites like the “duckfat” milkshake, which involves creme anglaise and fresh Tahitian vanilla bean. Right now, the restaurant is taking advantage of the outdoor situation to serve up grilled faves along with local brews.

White Barn Restaurant. This rare AAA Five Diamond-designated and Forbes’ Five-Star endorsed restaurant at White Barn Inn is the place to go for that delectable lobster roll. The restaurant has won awards for its tranquil dining room and famous New England seafood-inspired cuisine, but it is also the sweetest spot to go for all of those dishes you want to try when you’re in Maine but with Galavante-style presentation. We’re talking about a fine-dining menu complete with mini lobster rolls filled with caviar and truffles.

Eventide. We’ve already talked about the Boston location which we are huge, huge fans of, but even better is the original Portland location of this James Beard Award-winning seafood restaurant in the foodie capital of the state. Eventide gets the Maine lobster exactly right, but it’s also a go-to spot for clams, oysters and crab, which you simply have to sample if you’re in the area. Eventide is currently takeout only, but the food is so good that it truly doesn’t matter where you eat it.

Where to Stay:

Inn by the Sea. Located mere minutes from Portland, this luxury inn, which is part of the LVX collection of Preferred Hotels & Resorts, puts you in the heart of cultural Portland and also right on the beach. Whether you’re with the family or it’s just you and your sweetheart, Inn by the Sea provides multiple accommodations to house the whole quarantine pod, and they don’t skimp on the luxury. But this inn is far from being the run-down beach shack rental that families might find in the state. Two bedroom suites offer seaside views with private entrances, along with king-size beds, full hotel amenities and even fully stocked refrigerators, making this inn feel like a grander home away from home. But again, the best part of this five-star stay isn’t even the AAA Four Diamond-designated service or the equally prestigious fine dining at the Sea Glass Restaurant; it’s the proximity to the beach and town and the room to spread out with the whole crew, which make this hotel the place to stay this summer or fall, and probably next year as well.

Press Hotel. When in Portland, you want the city experience, and there’s no better place to find your inner coastal urbanite than in the converted Portland Press Herald building from 1923. This hotel isn’t a super-luxe resort, but what it lacks in its fifth star, it makes up for in its cool ambiance. When it’s you and a friend, you won’t be spending much time holed up in the room anyway, so smaller sizes won’t matter. But be sure to wander around because the hotel has kept remnants of the crazy cool written history that happened in the very rooms you’re staying in. Also reflective of its deep artistic roots, Press Hotel has its own art gallery featuring talented local artists. Though you’re going to want to head out to one of Portland’s incredible award-winning restaurants for your meals, Inkwell, a bar set in the old newsroom, is comfortable and suave enough that you might want to stay for a quick drink before heading out. But the coolest part is that once you do make it out onto the town, you’re just a short walk away from Old Port, which is home to some of the city’s most stylish shops and restaurants. And with its 19th-century architecture and cobblestone roads framing the city, it feels like stepping back in time. And yet, come nighttime, the equally modern city buzzes with clubs and restaurants. Though Press is a little below our criteria of luxury, we wouldn’t mind staying here to be right in the center of it all.

Black Point Inn. Old-world charm and leisure are the MO at Black Point Inn, where Portland’s elite have relaxed and enjoyed the miles of open sandy beach. It may call itself a classic Maine hotel, but though unpretentious on first impression, Black Point upholds the impeccable service and charm that a modern Galavante traveler requires. We’re talking a grand piano in the entryway and coastal views fit for an Astor. Although historic, the hotel has been through countless renovations and is now fully high-tech and completely green (we're talking a geothermically heated pool). Located minutes from Portland, Black Point Inn is near some of the area’s best art galleries, museums, boutiques and restaurants, so after you’ve spent your day on the beach, you can come back for a quick rinse in the pool and then venture out around town. There are more than 25 rooms at the hotel, including singles, connecting rooms, and larger suites with ocean views that suit any size party you want to bring along. For those lazy end-of-summer beach days, when the sunburn makes it too painful to put on real clothes, you don’t even have to leave the hotel. Activities at the inn include practicing yoga on the lawn, relaxing by the pool or the massive fireplace hearth, enjoying an en-suite massage, and bike riding or hiking the Prouts Neck Cliff Walk. And of course, this is Maine after all, so complimentary breakfast is served daily in the lobby. At the end of the day, we recommend one of the award-winning food spots just minutes away in Portland, but the onsite restaurant, The Chart Room, is a great option for casual fine dining, as it specializes in farm-to-table Maine classics and offers an unbeatable view of the coast.