What comes to mind when you think about the Samoset Resort in Rockport? Luxurious rooms? Stunning ocean views? An awesome Italian restaurant? World-class golf course? A wonderful spa? Tons of fun with indoor and outdoor pools, hot tubs, saunas, workout rooms and classes? Well, this winter you should be thinking family school-vacation adventures, romantic Valentine’s Day experiences and winter weekend getaways packed with food and fun.

George

We love any excuse to visit the Samoset. On the last weekend in January, our excuse was their amazing ice bar. Amazing! It was a work of art and packed with patrons who were not at all discouraged by frigid temperatures. Alas, it was only up for a couple of weeks, but you should put this on your schedule for next January, when I am sure the ice bar will return. The first weekend it was up, it drew 700 people.

The Samoset’s manager Connie Russell and his staff are focused on the comfort and enjoyment of their visitors. I always appreciate the little things they do for us — extra K-Cups for the coffee maker and my newspaper in the morning, for example.

Our other excuse for visiting Rockland that weekend was the annual Pies on Parade fundraiser. This event raised money for the local food bank and featured 19 inns, restaurants and businesses serving over 40 savory and sweet pies. OMG.

Room 423 at the Samoset now has our name on it. Before opening my eyes on Saturday morning, I heard Linda say, “Oh, Wow!”

She’d just raised the curtain to a stunning ocean view. I lifted my head slightly off the pillow and stared out over the water all the way to Vinalhaven, 15 miles off shore. Wow, indeed. This corner room looks out at the Rockland breakwater and harbor from one set of windows, and out over the ocean toward the islands from another set of windows. The view just can’t be beat.

The room has many amenities you’d expect from Ocean Properties Ltd.’s hotels and resorts, elegance combined with comfort and convenience. I was especially impressed with the ergonomically designed desk chair. I’m sitting in it now as I write this column.

Linda and I both love resorts where we can spend our entire visit without leaving the premises. At the Samoset, it’s easy to do that — even in winter. They’ve got an indoor pool, hot tub, saunas, a health club with tons of equipment and more comfortable sitting areas (many with fireplaces and ocean views) than anyplace we visit. And their restaurant offers breakfast, lunch and dinner, while their lounge provides another nice place to hangout and enjoy a beverage and meal.

As we strolled around on Friday afternoon, making our plans for the weekend’s activities, Lin noted a Saturday morning hour-long workout called, “Building Strength and Power.”

Groan. She signed us up. We mustered in at 9:30 a.m., and were informed by a lady who entered the health club with us that it was a “great workout.” Indeed. It turns out that playing volleyball once a week, and walking four miles a couple times a week, are not sufficient to keep me in shape. Holy cow, I thought I was going to die.

Saturday night, we enjoyed a lovely dinner at La Bella Vita, the Samoset’s fine dining restaurant. And then we fasted on Sunday morning to make room for all that food at Pies on Parade. We’ll tell you more about these adventures, and preview Maine Restaurant Week, in our February 21 column.

Daughter Rebekah and grandson Vishal drove over from their home in Union to spend Sunday morning with us and enjoy the facilities. Six-year-old Vishal is a swimming machine and a boy in perpetual motion. He loved the hot tub, beat me in many swimming races and then, just when it was time to leave, decided he wanted to hit the outdoor skating rink.

We didn’t even get to the indoor kids’ playroom, something the Samoset sets up for children on the weekends and school vacation weeks. They’ve got everything from table tennis to climbing stuff in there. Good thing Vishal didn’t see that. We’d have never gotten to Pies on Parade!

Linda

The Samoset has been closed the last couple of winters but is now, thankfully, staying open year-round, offering a mid-winter getaway that will erase those cold-weather blues. We visited at the end of that weeklong stretch of below-zero weather in January.

We hadn’t strayed too far from proximity of our woodstove all week, so it was great to head to Rockport for a change of scenery. And that it is! The panoramic ocean view from the corner room on the top floor let us appreciate Maine no matter how cold it gets.

In fact we’d come, in part, to see the Frost Ice Bar that was erected out of 18,000 pounds of ice. We got our first glimpse of the bar, and all things ice, glittering like crystal just as the full moon was coming up over the ocean. Ice chairs and stools were draped with white fur. Chiseled tables and a snowman ice sculpture had visitors snapping pictures. I felt like I’d been transported to Siberia.

The ice bar was crowded with all kinds of people bundled up and embracing the cold of Maine. What’s that saying, “If you have lemons, make lemonade?” Well, if you have frigid, ice-cold weather, make an ice bar.

The following night we donned our warmest clothing for the ice-bar experience. George started getting wimpy on me, saying we could get a drink outside and dash inside with it. I reminded him that we are from Maine, and we could handle it. It looked like many people took George’s approach as they huddled in the cozy bar. But we got a drink, sat on a large ice chair draped with fur and enjoyed the spectacular moonlight dancing across the ocean.

While walking around the hotel Friday night, we noticed a group fitness schedule by the health club. We found out that all classes are open to guests and included in the resort fee. In the morning there would be a Building Strength and Power class. We were up for it.

Upon arrival, I met another woman and inquired if it was a beginner’s class. “Oh it’s great, it’s a really good workout,” she replied. Well that should have been a clue, and we probably should have turned around at that point. I am a novice at exercise classes and George has never been to one. The place was packed and others guided us to retrieve the right equipment.

We did make it through an hour of full-throttle exercise (barely). At the very least, I’m sure we provided comic relief for everyone else, all of whom seemed to be regulars. I was sure we’d feel powerful and strong as soon as our muscles stopped aching.

Conclusion

With special winter weekend and school vacation rates and activities, you should be thinking of the Samoset this month. Starting at $99 per night, these packages give you a resort experience at roadside motel prices.

These getaways are packed with special family activities, culinary events, a kid’s recreation center, the indoor pool — and don’t forget the health club workouts. Our recommendation: Book a workout for the kids and spa treatments for yourselves!

IF YOU GO . . .

Samoset Resort
WHERE: 220 Warrenton St., Rockport
PHONE: Hotel 594-2511
Reservations: 800-341-1650
ON THE WEB: SamosetResort.com
Stay once and you get 15 percent
off your next stay!

Visit George’s website: www.georgesmithmaine.com for travel tips, book reviews, outdoor news and more.