Stephanie Cavagnaro takes in Atlantic views and locally sourced food of this upscale clifftop retreat
This clutch of buildings on the Cape Neddick coast has serious seaside style. Near the Hamptons-esque artists’ enclave of Ogunquit, it’s no surprise Cliff House Maine has been an escape for the well-to-do for over a century. And a revamp last year has given fresh face to an old soul — towering windows, sprawling new suites, spa sanctuary, a family-friendly pool area flanked with a giant chessboard plus a cinema complete with a popcorn machine. There’s plenty of adult appeal too; I spend most of my weekend sweating it out in the sauna, ordering lattes from the coffee shop and splashing around in the infinity pool and hot tub, all while marvelling at the boundless views over the wild Atlantic from every corner of the resort.
At the lovely Seaside Sanctuary, a steaming cup of hibiscus and rosehip Rishi tea warms my hands as I stare out over a steely ocean. This clifftop oasis, which features a fireplace, binoculars, lounge chairs, huge copper tins of organic tea, and activated charcoal water, is just part of a vast, 9,000sq ft spa, loosely themed around elements of stone, sky and sand. I finish my cuppa and head to the ladies’ changing room, a wood, white-walled, marble hideaway. Its shelves are lined with clusters of lavender, scented oil diffusers and products including rose petal dry shampoo and Himalayan salt deodorant spray. I flip-flop over for a session at the crackling sauna before slinking, blissed-out into a eucalyptus-infused steam room.
Seaside inspiration extends to the neutral-toned treatment rooms, which feature big picture windows overlooking the water. I’ve booked a Duo Retreat Massage in the Couples Treatment Suite — mine is a 50-minute Seacoast Rose; my partner’s is a Salt of the Sea, which involves a masseuse tracing the body’s meridian lines with hand-carved salt stones. My therapist, Joanne, passes me a glass of milk thistle-infused water before I climb on a heated treatment table. Oils and serums infused with the heady scent of local wild roses are applied to my skin. And what feels like hours of kneading nirvana involves Joanne targeting tense areas of my back before using gentler strokes on my legs. With a fruit-and-leaf-butter-packed warm compress on my feet, I’m almost sent snoozing until an invigorating acupressure facial massage with rosehip essential oil serum perks me up. It’s finished all too soon, and I slip into a heated robe, noticing that in addition to my relaxed muscles, my skin feels supple and smooth — a two-for-one treat.
Eat & drink
The recent renovation brought with it two top-notch restaurants: The Tiller, with all its fine dining finesse, and Nubb’s Lobster Shack, plating up the quintessential Maine crustacean experience amid foosball and air hockey tables. I book a table at nautical-minimalist Tiller on my first evening, and sit by a floor-to-ceiling window as the sun slinks behind cliffs. The menu is local and proud of it: there are tomatoes from Madison Maine, seafood from Harbor Fish Market and cheese from Pineland Farms. I sip a southern Oregon-sourced Pinot Noir as I’m served hot arancini with honey sage and butternut squash. A fresh-out-of-the-oven potato focaccia is slipped onto our table with roasted garlic and balsamic for dipping before I tuck into ricotta gnocchi, flavoured with foraged mushrooms, roasted peppers, pesto cream and thyme garlic. Breakfast here, meanwhile, is a health fiend’s dream, with cold-pressed juices, quinoa bowls and smoked salmon scrambled egg among the options. And next to the hotel’s fire pit — where you can smoosh chocolate and marshmallow into s’mores each evening — is Bald Head Coffee Co, a shiny new establishment with friendly baristas who brew a delicious iced almond latte.
The addition of 100 new guest rooms brings the total at Cliff House to 226. These are seriously swish spaces, and it’s well worth splurging on a suite. Mine — accessed by a steel porthole-style door — is awash with marine blues and muted taupes. Nautical knots, framed images of bright red crustaceans and maps of swirling wind patterns add to the coastal chic atmosphere. A large lounge with dark wood floors opens onto the wind-swept balcony overlooking the sea. The carpeted room, meanwhile, is an A-lister — a huge bed with the sort of mattress that could cure even the most entrenched insomniac; dreamy, grey-blue panelled walls; leafy plants; and broad swivel chairs with octopus-patterned pillows.
An upscale break for beach bums with locally sourced food, coastal design nods and seaside spa treatments that will make you feel at one with the Atlantic Ocean.
High-season rooms start from $499 (£393), while the Seacoast Rose massage costs $165 (£130) for 50 minutes.
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