Worth Trying: A Cozy Hideaway in Southern Maine
Southern Maine is a coastal New England dream. Named to Worth’s Next Best Destinations list for this year, Southern Maine offers up tasty food, an enchanting coastline and quaint hotels and resorts. One such resort is Hidden Pond Resort & Tree Spa. This “resort” is not what you might typically have in mind, as it is made up of bungalows, cottages and treetop lodges. My boyfriend Anthony and I were invited to stay in one of the bungalows, which offered a serene respite from New York City, where we both live and work. What makes the idea of staying in a hotel made up of bungalows interesting right now is that it eliminates the generally communal nature of standard hotels. There were no shared elevators, no shared breakfast spaces, no shared hallways—just a main lodge where you check in and out and can partake in nightly bonfires, complete with s’mores, swim in the kid-friendly pool (there is also an adults-only pool on the property) and can take board games back to your lodging, if you so desire.
Hidden Pond is very discrete. It’s not visible from the road, so we spent a few minutes wondering if we were in the right place as we drove through the woods. But as we came upon bungalows and eventually the main lodge, we knew we were in the right place. After checking in, a man in a golf cart escorted us to our bungalow—a sweet 650-square-foot lodging with a fireplace, sunroom, outdoor shower (in addition to an indoor shower) and two bikes waiting for us out front. We were handed a gold key, and thus started our vacation. Staying in one of these bungalows mixed my nostalgia of Girl Scout camp, which I loved as a kid, with lavish yet cozy amenities—starting with the charcuterie board that welcomed us into our new home for the next two nights. We happily gobbled up creamy brie, salty cheddar, hearty prosciutto, fresh berries and the best seedy crackers with dried cranberries in them, while we planned what we would get up to on our little getaway. (By the way, I would highly recommend ordering the charcuterie board as a stay enhancement.) Here, you’ll find our itinerary, and to each their own, but I found this to be the perfect blend of exciting, relaxing, delicious and rejuvenating, both for my body and soul.
Dinner at Alisson’s Restaurant
After settling into our bungalow at Hidden Pond, we went back to the main lodge to ask where we should go for dinner. We were advised to try out a place called Alisson’s Restaurant in downtown Kennebunkport, so that was where we headed.
Downtown Kennebunkport is adorable, filled with shops, restaurants and a clam shack that emitted the most delicious, fried food aroma. But we walked right past it to get to Alisson’s, which has a bunch of variations on lobster rolls, but my favorite item there was the lobster bisque. Thick, creamy, decadent. I couldn’t eat the whole cup because it was so rich, but wow, was it good. Following that, we indulged in a slice of blueberry pie, which the waiter kindly turned into two slices for no extra charge. Anthony remarked that the filling was like blueberry caviar because the blueberries were smaller than the ones you’re probably used to seeing. But they were sweet and jammy and utterly delicious.
A Short Walk Along Goose Rocks Beach
After dinner, we headed over to Goose Rocks Beach, located right by Hidden Pond’s sister resort The Tides Beach Club. Being that it was early May, it was slightly chilly on the beach and definitely too cold to swim in the water, but it was lovely all the same. Especially because we pretty much had the beach to ourselves, save for a couple of people who were getting in their workouts and passed by us relatively quickly. I have never had the feeling of having a beach to myself before, and I could get used to it. We spent our time walking along the water, talking about the houses seated along the beach and finding some of the biggest and most beautiful seashells I’ve ever seen. As the sun began to slink away, we decided to head back to our bungalow.
A Glass of Wine Near the Fireplace
As night came upon us, we fired up the electric fireplace in our bungalow and opened a bottle of pinot noir that the resort had provided (which can also be purchased as a stay enhancement). Considering Anthony and I both live in studio apartments in New York City, it was a really nice change of pace to be able to wind down the night sitting in front of a fireplace before heading off to bed.
Breakfast at the Bungalow
After waking up in the bungalow’s king-sized bed, I went out to the front porch to collect our breakfast for the morning. The resort drops off breakfast at the bungalows, in my experience, between 7:30 and 8:30 in the morning. This morning, we had what I assume were strawberry muffins (and very tasty at that) and a canteen of coffee. We devoured our breakfast before heading over to the Tree Spa, which was maybe a two-minute walk from our bungalow.
Morning Walk on the Nature Trails
Upon arriving at the Tree Spa, we were 30 minutes early for our appointment and were told to come back a little closer to our scheduled time. So, we went for a walk on the nature trails that are woven throughout the resort’s campus. The paths are lined with logs from white birch trees that were upcycled from when they were cut down to build the resort. After about 20 minutes of walking through the woods and over little babbling brooks, we headed back to the spa.
Massages at the Tree Spa
At the Tree Spa, our two licensed massage therapists showed us into a big room with a fireplace, leather sofa and an overall lodge-y aesthetic. Very different from the spas I’ve been to before, but I loved the cozy feel. Plus, it fit the whole vibe of the resort. We were in for a couples massage, which I highly recommend if you come here with your significant other. It was 60 minutes of relaxation and serenity—the perfect way to kick off the day.
A Long Walk at Goose Rocks Beach
By 10 a.m., we were finished at the spa and moving into the rest of our day. So, we decided to go spend some more time at our beloved Goose Rocks Beach. This time, though, we walked the other way, toward more stunning beach houses and a bend where there was absolutely no wake. Though the beach was slightly more crowded than the evening before, it was still pretty quiet and still relatively uncrowded. A good argument for visiting Maine in the off-season, I think.
Lunch at Maine Diner
After a long walk on the beach, we were getting pretty hungry, so we headed to Maine Diner in the town of Wells, which was about a 20-minute drive from the resort. (This would be a good time to mention that we had rented a car to take us from New York to Maine, and I would recommend renting a car to get around Maine. However, Hidden Pond does offer a private jet package with XOJET for groups and families to help get you and your loved ones to Maine, if that is of interest to you.)
Maine Diner’s big claim to fame was being featured on an episode of Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives with Guy Fieri. The reviews online I found to be somewhat unfriendly for what I found to be a great little diner. It’s clear that people love it, as the diner was as packed as a place can be with COVID restrictions. To start off, Anthony and I shared an order of the chowder sampler. With the sampler, we got three little cups of tangy New England clam chowder, rich and slightly sweet she-crab bisque and their award-winning seafood chowder. All of the chowders were tasty and totally worth ordering, but if I had to pick a favorite, it would be the clam chowder because, as someone who was convinced she didn’t like clam chowder, it showed me the light. For my main, I ordered the lobster club sandwich, which was honestly the best iteration of a club sandwich I’ve ever had. Lobster and bacon were meant to be together, I learned from this sandwich. We were seated at the bar, where the desserts are out on full display. I was thinking about dessert the entire time, and while a big slice of white cake with fluffy chocolate frosting looked absolutely breathtaking in all its simplicity, I decided on a different simple delight—a slice of raspberry pie. Blueberries are one of the culinary delights Maine is known for, in addition to lobster, of course, and maple syrup, but I couldn’t pass up this raspberry pie. And quite honestly, I think it was the best slice of pie I’ve ever had (but don’t tell my mom that!). It was sweet and slightly tangy from the raspberries and had a hint of vanilla. Though, I would also recommend trying the blueberry pie. Anthony ordered that and what really excited me about it was the hint of cinnamon in it.
A Visit to Perkins Cove and a Walk Along Marginal Way
Since it was off-season when we went, many of the shops at Perkins Cove weren’t open. But perhaps the most important one for me was—Perkins Cove Candies. I love little local candy shops, and this one was no exception. I bought a pack of gummy peach rings, mini dark chocolate-covered toffee bars and dark chocolate-coated candied orange peel before we set off for Marginal Way.
Marginal Way is a coastal pathway atop cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a beautiful, scenic walk with many benches lining the path. We stopped at a bench for a while to watch waves hit against the massive rocks below us, and ended up becoming very invested in watching three ducks fish for their lunch before we headed back to the resort to get ready for dinner.
Dinner at Earth
There is only one restaurant on the resort’s campus, located right by the adults-only pool and the spa. The restaurant itself matches the whole feel of the resort—a cozy, luxe lodge. At Earth, you can pick from a pre-fixe menu of three or four courses; we went for three, which was just the right amount of food. For our first courses, I chose the lobster flatbread, which was, of course, a flatbread with chunks of lobster meat, peas, ricotta and watercress. It was creamy from the ricotta, slightly lemony and had a pop from the peas with a nice, charred flavor from the crust of the flatbread. But personally, I liked Anthony’s first course more. He ordered the flank steak, which was sliced into little bites and perfectly cooked. I cannot stress that enough. It was super tender and was lightly dressed with a savory yet citrusy sesame ponzu glaze.
For the mains, I ordered a prime strip steak with potato puree, asparagus and a red wine jus. It was a classic steakhouse meal, done just right. The steak arrived already sliced and was cooked just to my liking. It was meaty, juicy and had a salty bark, which paired nicely with the buttery, smooth potato puree and the slightly acidic red wine jus. Anthony ordered the king salmon with crab risotto and crispy calamari. The salmon was well-cooked and lemony, while the risotto was creamy and cheesy from the parmesan in it. But the calamari! The squid was tender, while the batter was super crispy and slightly spicy. Biting into calamari that well-executed was truly one of the best parts of this dinner.
For our last course, we ordered dessert. I got the strawberry and rhubarb, which is a deconstructed dessert with strawberry slices, stewed rhubarb, a scoop of bright, refreshing strawberry sorbet and a soy vanilla glaze that was the unsuspecting star of the third course, as it was sweet and citrusy and offered a nice compliment to every other component on the plate. Anthony got the carrot cake, which was a dense little slice of cake with a tangy, delicious cream cheese frosting. All told, our dinner at Earth was very tasty and showcased some of the best-cooked food we had in Maine.
Bonfire at the Main Lodge
After dinner, we headed to the main lodge, where they host a nightly bonfire starting around dusk. Even for adults, it was a blast. They had yard games like cornhole and ladder ball and individual s’mores kits in little brown paper bags. Anthony and I played a few rounds of games before roasting marshmallows over the fire. It was a slightly chilly night, but it was a lot of fun. It sort of brought me back to being a kid at camp, which was a really sweet way to end the night.
Breakfast at the Bungalow
During our last day in Maine, I went out in the morning to retrieve our breakfast. Once again, we had a canteen of coffee, but this time accompanied by a big croissant, which we split and slathered with blueberry jam. It was a nice morning, so we sat in the sunroom and ate our breakfast in our pajamas as we discussed investing in cannabis and the excitement surrounding NFTs. (For context, it is probably worth mentioning here that Anthony is a fund accountant at a credit fund).
We finished our breakfast and slowly made our way back into the main room to pack up our stuff before checking out. Overall, the resort was lovely. The bungalow itself was cozy and had a high-end cabin feel to it. The mini fridge was stocked with orange juice, yogurt and mini creamers for coffee. The bathroom was clean and well-stocked, along with having beautiful marble finishes throughout, and the addition of an outdoor shower was a totally unique and really cool experience. Being able to look up at a blue sky while you’re showering is really something special.
Lunch at Maine Diner…Again
That’s right. For our last lunch in Maine, we had explored many different dining options, but none excited us as much as going back to our new favorite haunt. This time there was a short wait, but no matter. I got a bowl of the clam chowder since it was so good the last time and a lobster salad with dill dressing and a honking blueberry muffin on the side. The salad was good for being a salad, but that blueberry muffin was something to behold. It was humongous for one and had the most insane muffin top of all time. In fact, most of the muffin appeared to be the top overflow of batter. As an avid baker, I am still racking my brain about how they could have possibly baked that muffin to look the way it did. Truly remarkable, and might I say, quite tasty, too.
A Last-Minute Trip to Ogunquit Beach
And thus began our journey home, but we couldn’t leave without making just a few more stops. At the time I took this trip, we were in the process of finishing up our travel issue (which I truly hope you got a physical copy of, but if you didn’t, fret not. You can access the issue here). Like I mentioned earlier, Southern Maine was listed in the issue and as part of that, we had recommended Ogunquit Beach as a good place to visit while you’re here. So of course, I had to visit this renowned beach. And you know what, it is really nice. It’s slightly strange to access, as you have to essentially drive to a dune offshore. But the beach itself is beautiful and makes for a nice place to walk. There were a few families there, one playing with a kite. I can only imagine how busy this place must get in the summer, but I can also understand why, as the beach is very nice, parking was easy and it is considered one of the best beaches in America. I definitely stand by our recommendation of this beach, but I also loved Goose Rocks Beach and enjoyed the fact that it was a little less crowded in my experience.
A Pit Stop at Dunne’s Ice Cream
During our short time in Maine thus far, we hadn’t seen any lighthouses yet and that needed to change. So before heading back to New York City, we made our way over to Nubble Lighthouse—a destination Anthony’s mom happens to love. Just near the point where you can view the lighthouse is an ice cream shop. We dropped by so I could get a scoop of wild Maine blueberry ice cream. The ice cream was good, though nothing to write home about, to be completely honest. But it was a great place to have a little treat while enjoying views of the lighthouse before we ventured closer.
A Visit to Nubble Lighthouse
We finished our ice cream and headed up to the point. The lighthouse is located on an island just off the point, and it seems the only way to access it is to ride a cable car there (or swim and climb up the rockface if you wanted to be so bold). But that was no matter for us. Anthony walked us from the parking lot onto a pile of large boulders on the water for us to sit on and stare at the lighthouse, the water surrounding it and the gaggle of birds hanging out on the lighthouse’s island. It was a beautiful day and getting to sit along the water one last time was a nice way to end our trip before heading back to our own urban, vastly overpopulated, island.