George

Scarborough’s historic Higgins Beach Inn has been completely renovated by the Migis Hotel Group, and they did a superb job of maintaining the historic structure’s key elements while adding lots of modern conveniences.

The three-story colonial revival structure dates back to 1897 and was very rundown when Migis purchased it. I am so glad they saw the value in this place, just a 5-minute walk from Scarborough’s surprisingly uncrowded beach. It’s also just a short ride from one of our favorite walks along the ocean at Prouts Neck, where the Migis Group also has the wonderful Black Point Inn, which we wrote about last year.

Caleb Johnson Studio and Woodhull Construction of Maine created 23 newly designed rooms. Our room, a Combers Sunrise Queen, had a very comfortable bed, two chairs which we relaxed in, and windows overlooking some beautiful gardens along the street.

We were especially impressed with their restaurant, Shade, with both indoor and screened-in porch seating. We ate both dinner and breakfast on the porch, enjoying the nice breeze and wonderful weather. The hotel is in a bustling neighborhood and lots of folks with homes there are already eating regularly at Shade.

The staff is friendly, from manager Sidonie Rodman, who visited with us during dinner, to Emily, who greeted us, checked us in and gave us a tour of the inn and restaurant. Our server at dinner, Caitlin, was very helpful and attentive even though the restaurant was packed, including families with small children.

I started with the smoked local seafood platter ($14), after Caitlin assured me it was not a huge platter. The smoked mussels, shrimp and scallops were small bite-sized portions, but there were lots of them. And dipped in tarragon mustard sauce, they were great.

I was leaning toward the Barbecued Ribs entree, until Linda proclaimed, “Messy. And you’ve got white pants.” Good point! So I went with the New England style fish and chips ($19), which led Linda to proclaim that I was having a “fishy night.” Indeed, a fun fishy night. Two large filets were crispy on the outside and perfectly cooked inside, but I couldn’t eat most of the second filet.

Linda

With high humidity and the temperature staying in the 80s, I was happy to be heading to Higgins Beach Inn. The Scarborough area is beautiful, but neither of us had been to this particular spot.

During Emily’s tour, we were impressed by all the changes made to the inn during the winter. Rooms now have their own bathrooms, air conditioning and elegant linens. They kept the feel of this historic inn by keeping original wood doors and banisters. Our room walls were aqua colored with white furniture and trim lending a “beachy” feel.

We chose the porch for a wonderful evening of dining. Drop-down screens allow a nice breeze and you can smell the salt air from the beach a block away. The porch has heat lamps, (which certainly were not needed that night) nice lighting and new dining tables had just arrived that week.

The menu offers a lot of seafood choices in both appetizers and entrees. If one wants lighter fare they offer two nice salads and fish, lobster or chicken sandwiches, and even a cheeseburger. I was pleased to see that you can order a half salad, ($6).

I asked for the small portion summer salad which had mixed greens, nuts, green apple slices, cranberries and gorgonzola cheese. I was stunned to see how big the “small” plate of salad was, but managed to polish most of it off as it was fantastic. The citrus ginger vinaigrette really brightened up this salad.

The steak frites entree ($24), was a nice portion of filet with incredible hand-cut fries. The fries were crunchy, the steak perfectly medium rare, then topped with an herbed butter. Wow! There was very little left on my plate, that’s for sure.

We enjoyed the porch dining again for a breakfast of delicious eggs benedict the next morning. They really have a way with potatoes here, as the homefries were extra special. Lightly cooked red potatoes, onions and colored peppers were seasoned well and not crunchy or over cooked.

Late in the afternoon we walked down to the beach after being given beach chairs at the front desk. I was determined to get in the ocean, as it has been years since I remember doing so. We were pleasantly surprised that the beach was not overcrowded. The sun felt awfully good as we relaxed watching the building of sand castles, Frisbee games and wave jumpers in the water. I finally made my way to the water and was surprised at the temperature — warm enough for me to get wet and feel refreshed. The waves were very high and many were using paddle boards as floats to ride the waves.

When we took an after-dinner evening walk, swimmers and more paddle boarders were enjoying the ocean under moonlight. In the morning, it was very entertaining to sit on the rocks and watch wetsuited paddle boarders and dogs playing fetch in the water while many people enjoyed an early morning walk on the beach. I hated to leave that morning, when the temperature hit 90 degrees in Mount Vernon.

Visit George’s website — georgesmithmaine.com — for book reviews, outdoor news and all Travelin’ Maine(rs) columns, found listed by town in the “Best of Maine” section.