Oceanside massages as waves lapped the shore, dinner featuring amazing food and a gorgeous sunset, an amenity-filled suite looking out over the bay — our weekend visit to Spruce Point Inn in Boothbay Harbor was one we will never forget.

We visited Spruce Point Inn in the 1980s and found it to be run-down and in need of serious investment and renovations. Linda doesn’t even remember staying here. Our visit certainly wasn’t memorable.

Until recently, we were unaware that two lifelong friends, Angelo DiGiulian and Joe Paolillo, who originally moved to Maine to work in the construction industry, purchased the inn in 1991 with help from other family members and have been working ever since to make it one of Maine’s top resorts. We were astonished at the transformation.

Angelo generously gave us a lot of his time for a morning tour of the inn’s extensive buildings and grounds, showcasing 19 different room types in the cabins and inn ranging in cost from $170/night to $850 (for the four-bedroom, three-bath cottage), extensive indoor and outdoor activities, conference facilities, one outdoor and two indoor dining rooms, two outdoor pools, boat and shuttle bus rides to town, bikes and kayaks for guests — even a chance on Tuesdays to forage through the inn’s 42 acres of woodlands with my friend Tom Seymour, Maine’s most famous naturalist.

I was most impressed with the way they’ve totally renovated every cabin and building, while keeping the historic nature and look of these wonderful places. “A lot of what we did was uncover original woodwork and other features,” Angelo said.

I also took note of the mackerel that guests were catching right off the inn’s dock! Guests can bring their fish to the chef and have them prepared for dinner.

Memories drive many visits here, with multi-generational families returning year after year. As he was giving us our tour, Angelo noted that a guest who was just checking out, with grandchildren in tow, had been coming to the inn for 35 years.

The average stay is 3.3 days, but many come for 7 to 10 days. There’s enough going on here to keep you busy for a week, that’s for sure.

Spruce Point Inn is a full-service destination resort. And while the busy and interesting town of Boothbay Harbor is nearby, we didn’t get there!

For our Friday night dinner at the inn’s “88” restaurant, we were seated in the far end of the dining room, surrounded by windows offering great views of the ocean and sunset. This is white tablecloth, linen napkins, high-end dining at very reasonable prices.

Our server, Ben — an engineering student at the University of Maine who lives in Boothbay — explained the dishes well, talking me into the Cedar Smoked Atlantic Salmon — for which I will always be grateful. I stopped ordering salmon after many disappointing bland presentations of this fish, but this had an amazing smoky taste, with a wasabi-maple marinade that brought just the right amount of heat to the fish.

My appetizer was a huge portion of Prince Edward Island mussels that were perfectly cooked and very flavorful, with garden herbs, tomatoes and Dijon mustard that really enhanced the dish. Lamentably, with a lot of food ahead, I was only able to eat half of the mussels.

I did manage to eat all of my very large, perfectly prepared Caesar salad along with my salmon, so there was no room for dessert. Ben insisted, however, so we tried something we’ve never had — an orange liquor Sabyon which was  a perfect ending to this elegant meal.

The inn’s chef is employed year-round, somewhat unusual for a seasonal resort, but indicative of the emphasis they place on its food and restaurants.  They also cater to local folks, 150 of whom are regular diners with privileges to attend all restaurant special events, including free wine tastings every Thursday.

At a nearby table, we overheard a husband — obviously not a lobster lover — ask his wife, who was digging into her lobster with vigor, “How do you know what to eat and what not to eat?”
“You just know,” was her perfect reply!

There must be a reason that the Spruce Point Inn is the preferred lodging for the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. With lots of lodging choices in the area, it can’t be just location. I think it has to be the variety of accommodations offered here in combination with great restaurant choices, quiet location and wonderful service.

The rooms have been designed to keep the “coastal cottage feel.”  We stayed in the main inn where painted pine walls in the cooling colors of blue and white make one feel relaxed the moment you enter.
I was impressed at the shear size of the grounds, including 42 acres with historical trails. There is an outdoor pool right down by the ocean and another up by the spa. There’s also a game lounge that is a popular spot for younger folks. The life-sized outdoor chess set was pretty awesome, and the s’mores station draws a crowd each night.

The inn has a beautiful spa, and Angelo suggested that we try a Couples Relaxation Massage down at the waterfront. After checking in at the spa, we were driven down to the outdoor pool (in a golf cart), where a curtained tent-style structure sits near the shore.

For one hour we listened to the sounds of the ocean surf while getting an incredible massage by two very talented professionals. This is probably the most memorable experience I will have all summer, and one I’ll conjure up when I’m snowbound this winter.

Our breakfast at Bogie’s was great. This restaurant, with copper tabletops and an open feel, is more casual than 88. They offer a popular breakfast buffet, but I ordered off their menu. George (of course) had the buffet, including a lobster omelette.

A sucker for corned beef hash, I was intrigued by the Rustic Corned Beef Hash made with root vegetables. It was not at all your regular hash. Less salty and served with two sunny side eggs on top, the taste of root vegetables shines through. This dish was a winner for me. The lunch menu looked very tempting as well.

The 88 Restaurant offers Maine Coastal Cuisine and fine dining in a beautiful setting. My roasted beet salad was served with baby pea shoots, local goat cheese and basil vinaigrette. Wow!
We hadn’t gotten too far into the meal when I realized that we need to start bringing a stain stick with us on our adventures. An acre of napkins wouldn’t cover the stain on George’s shirt. (For once it wasn’t me.)

The Grilled Black Angus Tenderloin was cooked to perfection. The beef was tender and moist, and when combined with its double cream demi glaze . . . holey schmoley. Crispy Potato Strings and baby Brussels sprout leaves rounded out the meal and made quite a presentation.   

There’s so much to do here — and I especially regret not taking the boat tour around the bay. Next time!

IF YOU GO . . .

ON THE WEB: www.sprucepointinn.com
PHONE: 633-4152
WHERE: 88 Grandview Ave., Boothbay Harbor

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

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