The Inn At Sunrise Point, Camden, Maine, USA, September 2014.
England → New England. Driving north from New York City through Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire towards Maine, the names of the towns on the map were comfortingly familiar: Glastonbury, Manchester, Cambridge, Reading, Essex, Yarmouth. But the landscape – big American trucks sporting Patriots and Red Sox bumper stickers, giant Stars and Stripes flags billowing atop towering flagpoles, countless Dunkin’ Donuts outlets (this part of America really does “Run on Dunkin’”!), roads bordered by dense forests of pine, birch, maple and oak, exquisite mansions, white steeple churches and picture-perfect shingled houses – felt wonderfully unfamiliar. Closer to our destination, The Inn at Sunrise Point just outside of Camden on Maine’s mid-coast, we turned off historic U.S. Route 1 to slip down a few of the knobbly finger-like peninsulas which jut into the Atlantic Ocean. Here, in the picturesque fishing villages where lobstering has been a way of life for generations, the briny tang of the sea mingles with the smell of boiling lobsters and corn-on-the-cob, while the lonely cry of gulls – hoping for a leftover morsel of buttery lobster roll – echoes overhead. Well-worn timber docks are punctuated with neat stacks of lobster traps and bundles of brightly coloured rope, while the deep blue water is peppered with striped lobster buoys and bobbing dinghies.
Dragging ourselves away from the absurdly pretty scenes, we drive onwards and arrive at The Inn at Sunrise Point just as the sun is dipping behind the woods that line the entrance. An oasis of peace and tranquillity (especially after the fast pace of NYC), the Inn is perched above the rocky shore of Penobscot Bay with dazzling views across the water. Stepping onto the Inn’s porch, we breathe the salt air deeply. The beautifully manicured lawn and magnificent oak trees at the cliffs edge frame the glistening water vistas perfectly. Spying a clutch of Adirondack chairs on the lawn, I vow to watch sunrise and sunset on each day of our stay….and I manage it with the exception of one evening when a late summer storm rolls in.
Accommodation at the Inn is in rooms on the first floor of the main house (terrific views), cottages (private and romantic) and, fresh for 2014, three smart suites in a separate house overlooking the garden. Our suite, The Longfellow, named after Maine poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, is decorated in pretty shades of teal, sage green and white with wooden floorboards, a sleek gas fireplace (a local mentioned that you know you are in Maine when you need air-conditioning and heating all in the one day!), and private balcony. Books and objects collected by Daina, the owner, during her time working overseas adorn a bookcase spliced by a white-shuttered arched window.
Bathrooms are stocked with white Turkish towels and toiletries from Gilchrist & Soames while a wet bar (discretely hidden in a cupboard in the sitting room) is perfectly pitched to guests who wish to remain cocooned in their room.
One afternoon I can’t resist curling up in the bedroom for a short nap. As the warm sun streamed through the windows creating beautiful shadows across the room, I dozed off…and woke only just in time to catch the last of the sunset from my Adirondack chair. Utter relaxation – and peaceful sleep - comes so very easily at The Inn at Sunrise Point.
Eat + Drink:
Fuelled by the fresh sea air – and a week of eating in NYC! – our appetites were primed for some excellent New England fare. Fortunately for us, The Inn at Sunrise Point serves a tasty breakfast each morning (the brioche-y French toast with crispy bacon and Maine maple syrup was particularly good) as well as homemade cakes and biscuits in the afternoon (the peanut butter cookies and tiny pumpkin cakes with maple glaze were entirely moreish and, like a squirrel gathering acorns for winter, I stashed a couple of extras for supper).
The welcome email from the Inn contains an excellent list of restaurant recommendations in the local area and Daina and her team are more than happy to assist with reservations (in the peak summer season this is a must). We, however, were in Maine to eat lobster (mainly rolls!).
After much internet research (everyone seems to have a different opinion on where “the best” lobster roll is in Maine), we tried Young’s Lobster Pound (Belfast), Shaw’s Fish &Lobster Wharf (New Harbour), Red’s Eats (Wiscasset), and The Clam Shack (Kennebunkport). All were excellent but my favourite was the lobster roll from The Clam Shack (delicious clam strips as well) followed by the lobster roll from Young’s Lobster Pound.
Owl’s Head General Store, Owl’s Head. Outstanding burger (we sat in the garden and I was lucky enough to spot a tiny hummingbird – my first!).
Camden Deli, Camden. Nice deli for light lunches and dinners, and a good option if you are looking for sandwiches for a picnic.
Becky’s Diner, Portland and Two Sisters Coffee Shop, Gloucester. Loved both these diners on the way to/from Camden.
Marshall Wharf Brewing Co., Belfast
There is no shortage of things to do in mid-coast Maine but that must be balanced, rather agonisingly, with wanting to while away the hours in an Adirondack chair at The Inn at Sunrise Point doing absolutely nothing at all. The joy of settling into a chair with the weekend papers, shoes kicked off, with a fresh coffee in hand, or sipping a glass of wine while listening to the low thrum of a lobster boat as it motors across the bay, cannot be underestimated.
If you can manage to drag yourself away from the dreamy view, we loved –
Sailing on the Schooner Olad – An absolute must-do and the highlight of our stay in Maine. Sailing on this beautifully restored schooner – she was built in 1927 - had us feeling like Captain Horatio Hornblower and singing* Australian sea shanties. Under full sail, with the wind in our hair, camera firmly attached (me!), and with entertaining conversation from Kentucky-born First Mate Jeff, we had a brilliant time. During our two-hour sail we spotted the bobbing brown heads of seals, a porpoise and other windjammers in full sail. Further endorsement? Another gentlemen sailing with us was on his 10th sail on the Schooner Olad….this year!
Lighthouse visits: We went a little lighthouse crazy on this trip and visited Pemaquid Point Lighthouse (be sure to spend some time in the excellent Fisherman’s museum and take a packed lunch for a picnic in the grounds), Marshall Point Lighthouse (the pretty lighthouse made famous by Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump), Owls Head lighthouse (my favourite! Refuel at the Owls Head General Store on the way back with a burger and slice of pie), and Portland Head Lighthouse.
Day trip to Monhegan Island. There are three boat lines which make daytrips to this lovely little island 12 miles out to sea (Monhegan Boat Line – the closest to The Inn at Sunrise Point, Hardy Boat Cruises and The Balmy Days II). Take hiking shoes (it is essentially a car-free island), a picnic lunch and explore the village, lighthouse and rocky cliffs. Monhegan is primarily a lobstering community (with a very small year-round population) but in summer it attracts many artists who come to draw and paint, inspired by the island’s rugged, isolated beauty. The weather can be unpredictable – it poured with rain when we were there – so take rain gear! And if you are prone to feeling a bit wobbly in the tummy when you are on the open water, note that the ocean can be a bit frisky. Our afternoon return to the mainland was in fairly feisty seas** but our excellent Captain made sure we arrived back safe and sound.
Apple (and raspberry!) picking at Hope Orchards. We went on opening weekend and picked a bag of apples to snack on. Somehow pick-your-own always tastes so much better (and is so much more fun!) than anything from a supermarket.
Camden Hills State Park. For wonderful views of Camden and Penobscot Bay, take the drive (or hike) up to Mt. Battie.
**after one particularly large wave we were (jokingly – kind of!) making mental notes as to who we would team up with in a lifeboat should things go awry.
We were guests of The Inn at Sunrise Point.