1. Where to Stay
Book a two-floor spa suite with a private patio with ocean views at Inn by the Sea (from $459), Maine’s first carbon-neutral hotel and the only proper hotel in Cape Elizabeth. Stroll down the wooded footpath to a private stretch of Crescent Beach and later explore the five-acre property’s lush indigenous gardens, home to a certified wildlife habitat and Monarch butterfly way station.
Experience Victorian-era elegance at Morrill Mansion (from $149), an eight-room B&B set in Portland’s historic West End district. Wake to a sophisticated breakfast buffet (complimentary) of egg soufflé and French toast with fresh berries. Stay in the quiet Back Cove room, which faces the backyard and has views of its serene namesake estuary basin over the treetops.
Access the sailboat-dotted waters of Casino Beach, a private stretch of soft sand, from a two-bedroom cottage (from $130 to $250 for a two-person stay, depending on season) just a short walk away. The owner maintains the simply decorated property and its homey amenities, including a full kitchen and outdoor grill that allow you to make use of local farmstand finds.
2. Where to Eat
Taste Maine-style dishes prepared with Spanish flair and local ingredients at Sea Glass. Chef Mitchell Kaldrovich pairs roasted mussels with sofrito ($11) and serves paella made with chorizo and fresh grilled lobster tail ($27) in a dark wood dining room overlooking Inn by the Sea’s front lawn. If you’re there on a Wednesday, call for a space at the weekly outdoor farm-to-table dinner ($70), where underused Gulf of Maine fish, like hake, are served.
Sit seaside at the Lobster Shack at Two Lights, a classic eatery that’s been serving fresh lobster rolls (market price) since the twenties. Today, clams, haddock, shrimp, and scallops ($3.50 to $18.99 depending on type of dish) pulled from the gulf are also served and enjoyed at picnic tables perched on the shore of Cacso Bay.
Dine on the front porch of a cozy, two-story house at the Good Table, a family-owned establishment that serves Greek recipes with a local twist. Choose from weekly specials, like Greek Island–style mussels with feta and fresh basil (market price), or among mainstays like the farmer’s market omelet ($6.50) or traditional Greek plaki made with scallops or haddock (market price).
3. What to Do
Spend a day exploring the area’s most picturesque lighthouses and their picturesque surroundings. Begin at Two Lights State Park (free admission), where Maine’s first “twin” lighthouses were erected on the rocky shore in 1928. (The scenery inspired Edward Hopper’s painting Lighthouse at Two Lights.) Trails wind through the 41-acre park, passing abandoned World War II bunkers and picnic tables with Atlantic Ocean views. Head to Fort Williams Park next and climb into the tower of Maine’s oldest lighthouse, Portland Head Light, where a museum ($2 adult admission) stands on what was once a crucial military holding.
Spend an afternoon canoeing and bird-watching at secluded Great Pond. Seaspray Kayaking, based 45 minutes away in West Bath, delivers and picks up canoes ($20 per day, plus $30 for delivery), but call a day in advance to make arrangements. For the quickest access to the trail leading to the pond, park at Fenway Road, off of Fowler Road (see map). Once you’re on the water, watch for common moorhens and least bitterns, two rare marsh species that both reside here.
Take a hike through Robinson Woods, an 82-acre preserve lined with centuries-old trees like eastern hemlocks and red spruces. Grab a self-guided tour map at the information kiosk near the trailhead; it includes ten stations designed to illuminate the lore and biology of native trees. A detailed fourteen-station tree guide is available at the same kiosk or online.
Rent a hybrid or road bike ($25 to $35 per day) from Cycle Mania in Portland and stop by the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust for cycling maps of the area’s many cycling routes. Try the 1.6-mile Spring Point Shoreway Trail, which crosses through a marina and concludes at Willard Beach in South Portland. For a mountain-biking excursion, follow the .8-mile Dyer-Hutchinson Farm Trail, which ambles through forest and connects to the extensive Cape Elizabeth Greenbelt trail system.
4. Insider’s Tip
To see the former haunt of another famous American painter, drive or bike seven miles to Prouts Neck, an exclusive coastal community in the town of Scarborough, where you’ll find the studio of Winslow Homer. The space is currently closed for renovations, but it’s still visible from a trail winding around rocky cliffs. Park at Scarborough Beach and walk to the Black Point Inn where the public trail begins. It’s not the easiest hike, but the incredible ocean scenery alone is worth the trip.
5. Oddball Day
Leave the coast behind and get a taste of nearby Portland. Sit at the counter for a hearty blueberry waffle ($4.95) with organic coffee ($2.10 for a large cup) at Rudy’s of the Cape (517 Ocean House Rd.; 207-347-7165), a low-key locals’ haunt in Cape Elizabeth, before crossing the Casco Bay Bridge into the city. Head first to the harbor for a 90-minute Lucky Catch boat cruise ($25) to learn about lobster mating habits, fill nets with bait, toss traps into the bay, and measure each catch. Back on dry land, bring your catch next door to Portland Lobster Company, where they’ll cook it up and serve it with the requisite corn on the cob, coleslaw, and fries or a baked potato (market price). Sit on the dock overlooking the harbor and reap the culinary benefits of a morning out at sea. Next, cross the street to browse the shops of the Old Port, particularly Vervacious, which sells and offers tastes of a myriad of internationally influenced grilling and roasting rubs, balsamic vinegars, savory preserves, and finishing salts. Among the many houseware and antique shops, be sure to stop into the newly opened Merchant Company (656 Congress St.; 207-774-1803), where individual vendors sell handmade crafts and vintage items at stalls, creating a flea market atmosphere. Finish the day with a bowl of spicy Casco Bay cioppino or local oysters with pickled-ramp mignonette (both market price) at the Salt Exchange. (The restaurant participates in the Gulf of Maine Research Institute’s Sustainable Seafood Initiative and donates portions of their proceeds to the program.) Wind down with a pint at Novare Res Bier Café, an underground tavern and outdoor beer garden where 25 rotating taps include local craft beers and brews from Belgium, Germany, and the U.K., plus more than 300 international varieties by the bottle.
The Cape Elizabeth Land Trust has trail maps and information on local habitats and wildlife.
The official website of the Town of Cape Elizabeth has tips for visitors, including background on local parks and fishing licenses.