What strikes the senses the most at Chebeague Island Inn is the quiet. With no televisions, no air conditioners, and few cars, it is an atmosphere that invites guests to tune in to the sounds of seagulls, perhaps a distant foghorn, and the waves lapping the shore.
Vacationers have been enjoying the peace of Chebeague Island Inn, perched on a hill overlooking Casco Bay in southern Maine, for more than a century. Accessible only by ferry, Chebeague (pronounced shu-BEEG) Island has about 400 year-round residents, with the bright yellow 21-room inn serving as both a local landmark and a gathering spot for visitors and residents alike.
The vacation starts on the mainland—to get to the island, visitors can choose to take a scenic 90-minute narrated ferry ride from Portland or a 15-minute jaunt from a bit further north in Yarmouth. Few guests, if any, bring their cars—the inn offers a variety of amenities, including van pickup at the ferry landing and free bike rentals perfect for exploring the small island.
From the gracious greeting at the ferry onward, every aspect of a stay at Chebeague Island Inn is crafted to turn back time. Rooms are small and simply furnished, with intentionally few reminders of the 21st century. In lieu of air conditioning, ocean breezes cool the rooms—which have no telephone landlines—and the sounds of the surf take the place of sound systems and TVs.
The Greek Revival-style inn was built in the 1920s, after a fire destroyed the original 1800s mansion. Roughly 10 years ago, it was restored to preserve its turn-of-the-century charms while adding luxurious Frette linens, complimentary Wi-Fi, and high-end amenities such as classic tiled baths.
The simplicity of the rooms is deliberate—mother-son owners Gerri and Casey Prentice want to encourage guests to mingle in the Great Room, which is stocked with board games and puzzles, or relax on the comfortable porch overlooking the rolling lawns, kitchen gardens, and bay. Staffers are at the ready to offer cozy blankets in case the weather turns chilly, and a large stone interior fireplace is an eye-catching centerpiece. The porch is especially popular at sunset—facing west over the bay, it offers a front-row seat as the sun sinks behind nearby islands.
More active pursuits are steps away—the inn overlooks the Great Chebeague Golf Club, a nine-hole course with ocean views at every swing, and tennis courts are a short walk down the hill. On the water, guests can take a private two-hour trip with the inn’s lobsterman, and then have the kitchen cook up the catch for dinner. Kayak and paddleboard rentals, sunset schooner sails, and deep-sea fishing expeditions can also be arranged, and the staff is happy to offer maps to the island’s less crowded beaches. Perhaps one of the most enjoyable activities is to borrow one of the inn’s bikes for a tour around the island, just 3.5 miles long and a mile and a half wide. The hills are gentle, save the final push back up to the inn, and cars are few.
A must-see is the Museum of Chebeague History, run by the Chebeague Island Historical Society in a former schoolhouse built in 1871. A recent exhibit displayed a collection of photographs, letters, and artifacts offering an enlightened look at island life through the centuries. A mile or so further along, stop for lunch and shop for souvenirs at The Niblic, which offers gourmet sandwiches, baked goods, and a good selection of beer and wine, as well as an alluring collection of Maine-made ocean-themed pottery, jewelry, and other gifts. Or soak up some local flavor at Doughty’s Island Market, a small general store with chips, soda, and sundry island essentials.
Of course, the inn’s well-regarded restaurant will also prepare a picnic to enjoy on one of the picturesque beaches. The restaurant, overseen by Prentice Hospitality Group’s corporate chef, Matt Ginn, whose background includes stints at L’Espalier in Boston and Five Fifty-Five in Portland, offers fresh, inventive cuisine three times daily. His perfectly cooked pork chops and fantastically flavorful tuna are noteworthy, and all dishes make plentiful use of the inn’s kitchen garden, as well as offerings from Second Wind Farm, an organic farm on the island. No surprise, the menu is brimming with seafood, including local mussels and lobster, all accompanied by an impressive wine list. A bountiful breakfast—that includes the likes of waffles with Maine maple syrup and house-cured salmon—is included for overnight guests, who can then wander off the porch and follow the rolling lawn toward the water…just as visitors have been doing for generations.
Chebeague Island, Maine