I've lived in Maine for almost two decades, and as a sailor, I've always been drawn to vacation along Maine's main coast. Yet, this year, when my husband and I sought a getaway destination for our highly anticipated time away from the kids, I found little availability at B&Bs in traditional vacation towns like Bar Harbor, Southwest Harbor and Kennebunkport (who says Americans aren't traveling?). At the suggestion of Sandy Soule, BedandBreakfast.com Editor and B&B guru, we made plans to visit Greenville, Maine. My first inkling into how special the trip would be was a look at the three inns where I stayed. I was blown away by the quality, fine dining opportunities and fabulous views from Greenville's three premier inns, the Greenville Inn, the Blair Hill Inn and the Lodge at Moosehead Lake. After reviewing their websites, I knew we were in for a treat but didn't realize how sweet it would be until I got there.
Energized by the anticipation of three days without kids, we enjoyed every bit of the scenic ride to Greenville. The two moose spotted grazing by the pond at the D.O.T. just six miles from Greenville (as if placed as welcome mascots by the Chamber of Commerce) were a good omen, we were sure. The warm welcome we received from Terry and Jeff, owners of the Greenville Inn, offered insight into what was in store. From the beautifully restored mahogany sitting room to the fabulous dining room where we watched the sun fade over Moosehead Lake to the brand new Tower Room Suite, everything was exceptional about this inn.
We happened to be there on a night when a free folk concert was taking place in town, just two blocks away. We were seated by the window in the dining room, listening to music wafting up the hill from the green below, enjoying a glass of wine rather than worrying about what's on the kid's menu, and we thought this was as priceless as it gets. The fabulous food confirmed that. Our room had all the bells and whistles plus more. The Tower Suite is very red -- deep red walls accented by peaceful oriental-style art and linens. The double Jacuzzi, gas fireplace and small loft area with a telescope to see over the lake were all highlights here. My husband marveled at not one but two televisions in this room. I loved the black and white tiled bathroom, accented by tiny highlights of red.
I was able to tour many of the suites, rooms and cottages here and they were all fabulous. This is one of the few B&Bs that is perfect for romantic couples but yet can also totally accommodate children. A number of the suites offer two bedrooms with two baths, perfect for Mom, Dad and the kids or two couples seeking lots of space. The cottages sport a real "Maine Cabin" feel with quilts, moose and antique sports equipment and lots of room for traveling families. Like all the other inns in Greenville, the Greenville Inn offers a fabulous porch, perfect for sipping coffee in the morning or a glass of wine in the evening. The cottages all have their own private decks or patios too.
Greenville offers plenty to do for those who love the outdoors. We happened to catch the weather right, as many locals marveled that the day was as perfect as it gets. The lake tends to get rough as we found out on the second day we were there, but we timed our Saturday guided boat lake tour on the Katadin, one of the oldest steamboats in America, perfectly. The Katadin is 128 feet long with a 28-foot beam, weighing in at 200 tons. It sports the oldest operating hull Bath Iron Works ever built. Touring Moosehead Lake aboard the Katadin is a treat for those who love to learn about the lake's lore. We learned some important facts about the lake:
Moosehead Lake is the largest freshwater lake fully contained in one state east of the Mississippi.
There are 300 islands in Moosehead Lake; some just large boulders, others sport dozens of homes.
The lake offers 500 miles of shoreline.
At one time, a 500-room grand hotel sat at the base of Mount Kineo, an 800-foot mountain seen from throughout the lake. The Mount Kineo Hotel was the largest inland hotel in the country in its heyday. It burned and was re-built four times before it met its final demise in the 1950s. Some evidence of the hotels outbuildings, along with some beautifully rebuilt cottages, still remains today.
The hiking in the area is fabulous. There are literally hundreds of miles of logging trails that are open to the public for hiking, backroad exploring and mountain biking. They post "no snowmobiling" signs, so come winter, the roads are off limits. One well-known destination is the site of a B-52 figher that crashed in 1963. The wreckage has been kept entirely in tact, and monumentized with flags and signs explaining how two of the crew members survived the crash, which occurred in a blizzard. It's surprisingly moving and awesome to see the airplane parts so well-preserved after almost 50 years. You will need good directions to find this site; it's about 10 miles off the main road accessed via a series of logging roads.
We also took the obligatory hike up Mount Kineo, a not-to-be-missed site. After a friendly boat shuttle ride from Rockwood over to the golf course on Mount Kineo ($10 per person round trip, leaves every hour on the hour, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.), we started our journey. The hiking trails hug the coast of the island, then diverge to climb up the mountain. We took the steep Indian Head trail, which hugged the mountainside and offered fabulous cliffside views (for those who aren't as afraid of heights as I am). It's totally worth it to climb the fire tower at the top of the mountain (just don't look down as you climb through slatted stairs) to see the vista from one end of the lake to the other at the top. Unfortunately, rainy weather moved in so we took the faster and easier way down on the Bridle Path. True to the rumors, the wind picked up and the waves built on the lake. It was a very rough and wet shuttle ride back to the mainland.
The second night of our getaway we stayed at the Lodge at Moosehead Lake. This four-diamond property sits high on a hill, offering fabulous views of the sun setting over the lake. It's broad sweeping lawn in the foreground blends into the blue panorama of the lake and its many islands, offering a patchwork of color from its distinctive vantage point. The inn has multiple common rooms, including a welcoming living room, a computer/library room and a fabulous pub with a pool table and darts. We had the chance to try the pub fare, with generous portions and delicious choices. The dining room features fine dining in a peaceful setting and the same drop-dead views offered from almost all the guest rooms. We stayed in the Loon Room.
All the rooms in the inn feature beatifully hand-carved beds with mirrors to match, themed around wildlife in the area. We had a great view of the lake and a nice gas fireplace in our room. When we awoke and looked out the window, we were delighted to spot a family of wild turkeys with eight babies scampering after Mom and Dad. Bath amenities are plentiful, from the coolers filled with ice upon arrival to the bath salts, lip balm and toothpaste just in case you forgot yours. True to the Maine theme, lobster quiche was featured at breakfast, along with Chloe, the inn's mascot and junior innkeeper, who greeted everyone with a nuzzle to make sure you knew she'd finish what you couldn't eat!
Our final night was spent at the Blair Hill Inn. This former farmhouse estate sits high above the lake, offering the best views of Moosehead Lake with the exception of the top of Mount Kineo. The Blair Hill Inn's porch is a highlight, with no details spared. As if on cue, the custom made shades are drawn when the sun begins to set, so guests won't have to squint, and then are raised just before the green flash of the sunset occurs. The wicker furniture and porch swinging rockers are the perfect vantage point for lake views and quiet conversations.
We had the opportunity to dine at the Blair Hill Inn (dinner is served Thurs., Fri. and Sat. only), and it is a treat not to miss. Each course is a work of art, tastefully served and equally enjoyed. Every table offers a slightly different yet lovely lake view, and friendly waitstaff round out the list of kudos for this dining experience. We stayed in Room 3, a fabulous king room with a newly rennovated bath highlighted by a large soaking tub, huge shower and great view from the "loo". Everything from the wood-burning fireplace, beautiful scenery, right down to the chocolates at turndown, was perfect. I love that they keep the doors to unoccupied rooms open, so guests can view the decor of each room. I'd call it haute Maine Cottage, with plenty of distinctive touches all planked by superior views of the lake.
No description of the Blair Hill Inn would be complete without mentioning the owners Ruth and Dan. From the moment they greet you with warm smiles to the time they bid farewell, their hospitality is genuine. If it's possible for people rather than decor to be feng shui, they are. Their calming demeanor reflects the peacefulness of their setting, and results in a tranquility that marks the getaway. The only thing I regretted about my stay at the Blair Hill Inn way saying goodbye.
For travelers who seek premier lodging and dining, and enjoy rustic soft adventure and moose, Greenville, Maine tops the list. While far from the maddening Maine Coast crowd, this little-known destination is totally worth the drive.