Can you find romance along the cold and raw coast of Southern Maine? Of course, you can find romance anywhere with the right person and circumstances, but Southern Maine sets the stage perfectly, even for the most jaded lovers. Think: a room with a fireplace and soaking tub; long, quiet walks on secluded beaches; cross-country skiing in snowy forests; a corner table in a cozy, local bar. In summer, acclaimed restaurants are packed; come winter you’ll have no trouble getting a table (or finding a beachside parking spot.)
The Southern Maine coast, from Kittery to South Portland, is filled with quaint towns, pockets of sandy beach, peaceful nature preserves, and a slew of fine restaurants, cafes, and local pubs. Embrace the chill (and each other) on a weekend designed for romance.
STAY: Pretty York, Maine, with easy access to other southern coastal towns and attractions, is the perfect base. Check into the longstanding York Harbor Inn, overlooking Harbor Beach and the Atlantic Ocean. The inn’s common room is part of an original post and beam circa 1637 cabin, which was brought over from the Isle of Shoals. There’s a choice of accommodations to suit all tastes and budgets, with rooms spread across seven buildings. Rooms in the main inn are the smallest, most traditional, and most budget-friendly (winter rates start at $159). Luxury suites in the Harbor Hill building, located just a few steps from the main inn, have water views, oversize whirlpool tubs, and sitting areas with gas fireplaces.
PLAY: Have breakfast at the inn, included in room rates, and then head to aptly named Long Sands Beach, located between the villages of York Harbor and York Beach. There’s something special about a beach in winter — raw and roily surf, moody skies, hungry seabirds. During the summer, three- to five-thousand people a day cram this one-mile stretch of sand. In winter, you’ll share it with a few dog walkers, and some hearty surfers if the waves are breaking right.
Just up the road, Perkins Cove, a scenic fishing village in Ogunquit, is also jam-packed in the summer, but not so much now (free parking)! Most of the shops are closed but the harbor and ocean views are open. Bundle up and walk Marginal Way, a 2.5-mile pedestrian-only path hugging the Atlantic Ocean. Listen to the waves as they crash against the rocks, and take a few selfies, with the ocean and its crashing waves in the background.
For outdoor lovers, Wells Reserve at Laudholm, set on 2,250 acres of forests, meadows, salt marshes, and wetlands, has a network of trails open year-round, dawn to dusk, for hiking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. The Pilger Trail to Muskie Trail is an easy one-mile loop with pretty forest and marsh views. There are also guided programs offered throughout the winter, including full moon walks, wildlife tracking and photography workshops.
Leave sea level and drive to the summit of Mount Agamenticus, where you’ll have lofty views in all directions, from the Atlantic Ocean to the mountains of New Hampshire.
On your way back to the inn, stop in at SoMe Brewing Company, a cozy spot with an impressive list of local brews on tap. Try one of their unique whoopie pie stouts, like the peanut butter whoopie pie or the gingerbread whoopie pie.
EAT: Oh, so many choices! You could just hunker down at the inn. The 1637 at York Harbor Inn is a classy, traditional setting, with white linen tabletops. But the same menu is offered in the cozier (need we say more romantic?) Ship’s Cellar Pub, a subterranean lounge evoking the atmosphere of a fine yacht, with rich mahogany woodwork, leather banquettes, and a wood-paneled bowed ceiling. There are lots of classics on the menu: steaks, pasta, seafood, flatbreads, and sandwiches. The rich lobster corn chowder is a great starter, and the lobster stuffed chicken is a customer favorite. Warm the cockles of your lover’s heart at Angelina’s in Ogunquit, a rambling, popular restaurant serving homemade, traditional Italian dishes. The encyclopedic menu has all the favorites: homemade pasta dishes, house-made sauces, risottos, grilled chicken, pork, beef, veal and fish, along with 27 wines by the glass. There’s lots of eye candy at the award-winning M.C. Perkins Cove, including the in-your-face ocean views, and the artfully plated dishes. Try the duck confit with pomegranate hoisin sauce or the braised pork shoulder with pear beetroot chutney. If you’d enjoy something a little more casual, check out York River Landing, a gastro pub serving a wide variety of hearty dishes, including sandwiches, steaks, and fried and grilled seafood plates. The prime rib poutine, the wine-steamed mussels with gorgonzola and bacon, and clam chowder are popular starters.
Not ready to call it a night? The Front Porch Piano Bar in Ogunquit is a longstanding local favorite, with live entertainment on weekends throughout the winter.
Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at email@example.com