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The Short Version: The Inn by the Sea is a luxurious, regenerative resort where couples can stay just steps from the Atlantic Ocean in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Guests can dine at the Inn’s upscale restaurant or get pampered at its on-site spa. The Inn by the Sea offers traditional rooms and suite-style accommodations with a kitchen and one or two bedrooms. For helping couples connect with nature and each other while staying at an upscale resort, the Inn by the Sea has earned our Editor’s Choice Award.
According to Dr. Suzanne Becken, regenerative tourism goes well beyond sustainable, ethical, and responsible initiatives. The practice involves understanding the positive effects and unintended consequences of travel and ensuring the health of ecosystems and communities.
Regenerative tourism “builds capital and ‘gives back’ to the land and people,” Dr. Brecken wrote in a piece for Pure Advantage, an organization that supports sustainability and regenerative initiatives around the world.
For more than two decades, The Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, has practiced regenerative tourism, the type of eco-friendly travel that helps the area improve. The Inn offers an ideal getaway for ethically minded couples to celebrate their relationship milestones.
The Inn has invested in sustainable practices since long before green tourism was popular. Everything at the resort was designed with sustainability in mind, including solar panels to heat the swimming pool and a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified spa. Its in-house restaurant serves sustainable seafood, and the Inn is a certified Wildlife Habitat for its contributions in making the local ecosystem more habitable for native animals. Inn staff even created a “Rabbitat” for the endangered New England Cottontail.
“We continuously remove invasive plants and replant with native species that create habitat and food sources for wildlife. We’ve tried to create a habitat ideal for the endangered rabbits,” said Rauni Kew, the Inn by the Sea’s PR and Marketing Manager.
In 2021, the Inn plans to add goats to eat the invasive plants on State Park land, adjacent to the Inn.
Guests can learn more about implementing green practices in their own gardens at garden tours that describe how to create ever-blooming gardens that won’t negatively impact the environment. The Inn’s staff also lead relaxed but educational beach ecology and nature walks.
For its commitment to helping couples celebrate their relationships in sustainable luxury, the Inn by the Sea has earned our Editor’s Choice Award.
Though the Inn by the Sea is committed to green practices, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t offer upscale accommodations for couples in committed relationships to reconnect.
The Inn offers 61 rooms and suites that fit a wide range of preferences. Some guests opt for traditional rooms, which include king-sized beds, coffee makers, and refrigerators. The rest are one- or two-bedroom suites.
Some suites include kitchens, while others have lofted bedrooms and multifloor lodging. Others have deep soaking baths or jetted tubs for romantic getaways.
The hotel’s newest Cove Suites are two-bedroom suites with outdoor decks, and its Beach Suites have a direct view of the ocean.
“Everything at the Inn is intimate,” Rauni said.
The Inn by the Sea also has a dining room where couples can enjoy views from outside the window of lobster boats on the Atlantic Ocean. In the spring, fall, and summer, guests take advantage of the restaurant’s deck. Fire tables and stand-up heaters warm diners in the colder months, and many guests eat poolside during the summer.
Couples aiming to reconnect in their relationships can also visit SPA at Inn by the Sea. Though the spa was closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, the team is excited to again be offering massage therapies. When fully open couples can enjoy side by side massages or soak together in a deep tub.
“We work to provide a coastal experience with a massage bed that vibrates like the ebbs and flow of the ocean, simulated massage spa strokes that replicate the ocean, coastal surround sound, and marine-based products,” Rauni said.
When couples stay at Inn by the Sea to celebrate relationship milestones, they are near several must-see areas.
Next to the hotel couples can explore the beach boardwalk which leads to Crescent Beach and dunes along the ocean. They can also explore Kettle Cove, nearby Two Light State Park, or walk around Great Pond, a 125-acre freshwater pond where there is abundant wildlife.
“There is a boardwalk around the pond. If you’re a birder, it’s great for birdwatching,” Rauni told us.
Guests often enjoy visiting the Portland Head Light, the oldest lighthouse in the state that has a uniquely curved roof. The lighthouse, which was completed in 1791, includes a museum that describes the structure’s history.
“It’s a lighthouse you’ve seen in every calendar with a lighthouse on it. It’s wonderful. If you’re into lighthouses, there are five within 10 or 15 minutes of the Inn,” said Rauni.
Couples can also take a trip to nearby Portland if they’re seeking a city adventure. Maine’s largest city is a foodie destination with a unique shopping district, the Portland Museum of Art, and plenty of water activities. Rauni recommends couples take a 20-minute ferry to Peaks Island if they want to get out onto the water.
“The Inn offers both worlds to visiting couples — a rejuvenating beach resort but located only seven miles from Portland’s urban-chic small port city. You can jump in your car and get to all the unique boutique shopping and activities Portland has to offer in minutes,” Rauni told us.
City residents who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of Portland often visit the Inn for an overnight stay or weekend getaway.
Guests who want to travel safely have chosen the Inn by the Sea over the past year because it offers plenty of space.
“We have guests choose us because we’re off the beaten track, and they can practice ‘coastal distancing,’” said Rauni with a laugh.
Couples can stay in their suites and cook rather than venturing out to a restaurant because many of the rooms include kitchens. In the warmer months, many couples enjoy their meals outdoors rather than in the dining room, where they can feel safe with the precautions in place.
Inn by the Sea plans to offer spa treatments in two new outdoor cabanas later in the season. Couples who may still not feel comfortable going inside for a massage, or who just love being outside in summer, will be able to enjoy SPA therapies al fresco.
The team also plans to expand its offerings for furry friends in the coming months.
“We welcome dogs, and we were one of the first luxury places to welcome them,” Rauni told us.
The Inn has dog-walking and dog-sitting services for guests, as well as a menu for dogs at the Fireplace Lounge, where dogs and their owners can dine together.
The Inn has fostered local shelter dogs for the last six years.
“We bring the dog in, and guests play with the dogs or walk them. A whole lot of guests — 156 and counting — have fallen in love with the dog and adopted them,” Rauni said.
Whether couples want to bring their animals to celebrate their relationships or not, Inn by the Sea is all about customizable experiences. As the tourism industry rebounds, Rauni suggests that the Inn is still an ideal destination because it offers so much to guests. They can enjoy luxury lodging with a regenerative focus, explore nature and the ocean, and have a short drive for city experiences.
“We offer the best of both worlds,” she said.