It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals when it was checked by a ferocious gust of wind sweeping over the beach (for it was early winter in coastal Maine) and pounding my car as I navigated winding roads seeking a refuge from the tempest.
Sound familiar? You’re right. I lifted those opening words — albeit with a change in setting — from the first page of Victorian writer Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s campy 1830 novel Paul Clifford. I couldn’t help myself. It’s a perfect description of the chilling weather my sister, Nancy, and I were attempting to outrun as we made our way up the New England coast en route to a girls’ spa getaway at Inn by the Sea.
Located about 15 minutes south of Portland, Inn by the Sea presides over landscaped gardens and a pristine mile-long, crescent-shaped beach in Cape Elizabeth. On this gray day, our spirits lifted as we rounded a curve and caught a glimpse of the inn’s welcoming lights beckoning through the gloom.
In the summer, Inn by the Sea is a peaceful beach retreat where guests sip cool drinks while seated in Adirondack chairs overlooking the manicured grounds. In the winter, guests bundle up and stroll the winding boardwalk for a brisk walk on the beach before returning to the cozy bar for a hot toddy and a bite to eat or — like Nancy and me — to don plush robes and head to the spa.
Located on the lower level of the inn, the Spa at Inn by the Sea is deftly set apart from the fitness center on the same level. I’m always surprised by hotels that devote significant time, thought and money to creating a spa oasis, only to merge the space with the fitness center, leaving guests intent on finding harmony and balance in the spa having to navigate through the whir of elliptical trainers and the clang of heavy weights.
As the elevator doors parted, Nancy and I found ourselves in the spa reception more aptly described as a cocoon of comfort. With just six treatment rooms, the spa design makes the most of limited space with separate relaxation sanctuaries and locker areas for men and women.
Nancy and I had each reserved time for the Crescent Beach Escape, an indulgent 165-minute experience comprised of a body scrub, a 60-minute massage and a 60-minute facial. Staying true to its seaside locale, the Spa at Inn by the Sea boasts a roster of seainspired treatments utilizing marine-based products including seaweed, peptides, nutraceutical extracts and pure essential oils.
While we could have opted for side-by-side treatments in the couple’s room, we preferred individual rooms; but we met in the relaxation salon to compare our experiences at intervals between treatments. Opting for almost three hours of unmitigated pampering — instead of a quick massage or facial — gave us an opportunity to gently transition from the frenzy of daily living to a place of timeless indulgence.
Unwilling to let go of our post-spa glow, we lingered in the sanctuary, alternating between stints in the experiential shower, where targeted jets of warm water worked out any remaining kinks, and stepping into the ample steam room to breathe in the soothing scent of eucalyptus.
It wasn’t until we noticed our fingertips beginning to shrivel from the moisture that we acknowledged it was time to call it a day and head back to our guestroom. Happily, we had reserved one of the inn’s 12 two-level spa suites, so the experience continued as we entered our comfortable quarters. Featuring a sophisticated décor of deep red, cognac and charcoal complementing maple furnishings and locally commissioned artwork, our suite included an upper level with two double beds and a spacious bathroom with a heated floor, an air-jet tub and a walk-in steam shower.
Always eco-aware, the property launched a multimillion-dollar renovation in 2008 which included elements designed to step up its “green” initiatives. In addition to its Silver LEED-certified spa, some of the inn’s more innovative efforts include heating with biofuel, using green-seal cleaning products, creating an on-site bird habitat with 22 nesting stations, incorporating recycled cork floors into the spa design, installing dual-flush toilets, and holding claim as the first hotel in Maine to achieve carbon-neutral status through offsets.
The green theme continues into the kitchen, where Executive Chef Mitchell Kaldrovich works with regional purveyors to incorporate local flavors and seasonal ingredients into the dishes he creates at the Sea Glass restaurant. In fact, Mitchell works with local fishermen to find alternatives to some of the region’s most over-fished species. The result is a seamlessly delicious transition to dishes featuring fish you may not find at your local supermarket — at least for now.
Inn by the Sea
40 Bowery Beach Road
Cape Elizabeth, ME 04107
tel 207 799 3134
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I had just taken off my sandals, stepping onto the white-sand beach for a late-morning walk to a secluded spot I heard about from a front desk clerk, when I glanced down and saw the time on my phone. It had just turned 11 a.m., which meant it was only 7 am back home, the perfect time to call and say good morning to by husband before he left for work. Not quite ready to head back to my room, I decided I’d test the WiFi signal and made the call as I continued walking toward the shoreline.
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