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The Cliff House, Cape Neddick

It was a gray-mist kind of April day when we meandered south to celebrate my birthday at the newly renovated Cliff House that I read about in Maine magazine.

We took the long way, the back roads through Old Orchard and Kennebunk, checking out a couple new “down-sized” neighborhoods, wondering if it was time for us to make a change. We talked about what’s next? Is it time for the next phase in our journey now that our sons are launching?

A little scary but exciting to dream and ponder as life-long partners.

Frank wanted to stop into some open houses…that were out of our league….clearly not down-sizing.

We laughed our heads off deciding we’d sign in as Ted Nugent…and his wife Polly. Got the idea from a favorite film, Fletch, with Chevy Chase that we chatted about as we kept heading south, while NOT stopping to attend these open houses.

After a lunch of fish tacos, crab cakes, and a glass of Prosecco (it was my birthday, after all), sitting right atop the ocean at M.C. Perkins Cove in Ogunquit, we thought we’d take a left out of the cove to avoid the traffic. We didn’t realize that left was about a 2-minute drive to the Cliff House.

Shore Road is the most beautiful ride, not to be missed. We drove it a second time the next day, in full on spring sunshine, all the way to Nubble Light in York.

From the entrance side of the Cliff House, it’s pretty, but it’s the ocean side that will take your breath away.

Especially at sunrise.

If you go, don’t miss the dawning of a new day over the Atlantic, cliffside from this gorgeous hotel.

My husband and I have determined, we are so enamored with the hotels and grand homes built from 1885-1910-ish. The wealthy of that time were such visionaries in where they chose to place their hotels to draw guests or their own homes – amidst nature and the most beautiful destinations.

We love the Mount Washington Hotel opened in 1902 by Charles Stickney in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Shelburne Farms on Lake Champlain in Vermont was built in 1887 by Linda Vanderbilt Webb and her husband, doing sustainable farming – a progressive idea at the time. The stone barn on their grounds is gorgeous; their 3-year-aged cheddar, scrumptious.

The Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina was completed in 1895 for George Vanderbilt. Its brick and glass conservatory in spring is an added bonus above and beyond the beauty of their expansive property and mansion.

The Jekyll Island Club in Georgia opened in 1886, the idea of General James Oglethorpe who is also known for building up Savannah. Sandy beaches and bike paths circle the island which in its entirety has been named a state park.

John D. Rockefeller, Jr. had the vision for the carriage roads throughout Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, and they were carefully crafted from 1913-1940. They are now enjoyed all four seasons by many from Maine and far away.

Now that my husband and I have identified what we love best, when we travel, we say – Did Rockefeller go there? Vanderbilt? Yes? Then, we’re in! We know, it’s going to be the most beautiful, magical place and we’re going to love it.

And that’s also the story of the Cliff House.

Elsie Jane Weare opened the Cliff House in 1872 with rates at $6 per week including three meals per day. (The price has gone up a tad!)

Like all the establishments I’ve listed, the Cliff House has a fascinating and rich history over the last 100+ years. I love reading about their past.

In World War II, the U.S. Army took over the Cliff House property keeping a 24-hour-per-day vigil looking for Nazi submarines in the coastal waters. The installation of Bald Hill Cliff was considered so important that the Weare family was barred from their own land for the duration of the conflict.

In 1948, the Cliff House re-opened to the public. It had an extensive expansion in 1990 and a complete transformation in 2015-2016.

I don’t think I’ve ever been in a brand new hotel – pristine new furniture, fixtures, floors, windows. Our room, priced right pre-season, had a tiny balcony oceanside and a blue nautical-themed vibe. I loved the coffee bars on every floor – Keurig coffee machines, porcelain cups, a tiny fridge filled with all versions of milk and cream in glass bottles and a bowl of beautiful fruit.

The spa was zen-like on the first floor and their body lotion worth the purchase.

We had our afternoon cocktail and cheese board sitting in cozy (new) chairs looking out the 2-story glass windows beside a massive rock fireplace and dinner in the gracious restaurant with a bar of happy bartenders and great energy, again, glass windows looking out to the sea from two full sides, pretty much from every table.

In April, we sat in the stone hot tub, but the pool wasn’t open for the season yet. In Maine, it was pretty much still winter!

The hotel had plenty for kids to enjoy, Adirondack chairs circling an outdoor fire pit, yacht-like bar stools perched on the patio with a clear bar top, overlooking one of the best ocean views in Maine.

The Cliff House is a worthwhile destination – so close to so much to see in our boutique towns of Southern Maine, lighthouses, shopping, cafés and restaurants.

And always the best for me are the breathtaking views with a focus on what matters most – nature.

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