An off-season visit to a southern Maine coastal resort is a great value. The stunning scenery, coastal conservation lands, beaches, uncrowded shops and restaurants are all there for you! Of course, if you want to lay on the beach, July and August beckon.

George

Opening the door to our room at Lafayette’s Oceanfront Resort in Wells, our eyes were drawn to waves breaking just outside the sliding glass doors that led to a very inviting deck. We quickly passed through the room to the deck. Wow! What a view. You can’t get any closer to the ocean than this.

With five buildings and 149 rooms, plus some wonderful cottages, there is something for everyone. The resort offers a range of rooms and prices, a well-stocked fitness center, an indoor pool and hot tub, but the beach is the draw and it is both expansive and extraordinarily beautiful.

Linda and I have never spent time on the state’s southern coast, but now understand why it’s a favorite destination for both Mainers and summer visitors. We were there during school vacation week, and lots of families were taking advantage of Lafayette’s special vacation rates.

General Manager Katie Kelly gave us a tour of recently renovated luxurious rooms with many amenities. We noted an elevator being installed in another building. The Lafayette’s are constantly improving their properties.

The history of the resort interested me. The Forbes family started building the resort in 1919 and operated the hotels and the Forbes Family Restaurant for 75 years. The restaurant sits in the midst of the resort’s buildings and is still owned and operated by the Forbes family on a seasonal basis.

We lucked out because the restaurant was open for school vacation week, and we enjoyed a very nice breakfast there. Free morning coffee for all Lafayette guests is provided at the restaurant that officially opens for the summer on Memorial Day weekend, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.

There’s a lot to do in this area of the state. We spent a very nice afternoon walking the trails and birdwatching at the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve at Laudholm Farm. We saw our first-of-the-year Ruby Crowned Kinglet. Exciting!

We’ve wanted to eat at Federal Jack’s — the birthplace of my favorite Shipyard beers — for a long time. And we wanted to visit before it gets jammed with summer visitors. But we were surprised to find it jammed with customers on a Thursday night in April. I guess it’s popular with locals, too.

The restaurant is on the second story above the brewery and the harbor view from many tables is beautiful, but I’m sure the outside deck must be the place to eat in the summer.

We’d had a long day of travel including a two-hour delay at the airport, returning from a visit with our daughter Hilary in Washington, D.C., and needed a nice leisurely dinner. Even though the place was very busy our server, Chelsea, never once tried to move us along.

We spent a lot of time enjoying the view and our beers. Mine was an unusual vanilla porter, the heavy scent and flavor of vanilla turning this into a brew that Linda loved — meaning I had to share it. Ordinarily she hates dark beers. “You know what it tastes like?” she asked. “Beer and Bailey’s.” Well, no wonder she liked it. Every time she grabbed my porter, I took a sip of her Goat Island Light. I never order a beer this light, but it was surprisingly tasty.

Eventually, we ordered a couple of appetizers. I surprised myself again, favoring the Mediterranean sampler over the chicken wings. The wings were good. The sampler was very good — especially the roasted red pepper humus.

There were so many good choices for an entrée that I had a hard time deciding, eventually going with the grilled crab and havarti sandwich. Served on sourdough bread, it was chock full of crabmeat and the havarti added a lot of flavor. Loved the coleslaw, too. I chose a favorite Shipyard brew, Old Thumper, and was glad it was handy when I tried Lin’s beef and bean chili. Hot!

Linda

When they named their Well’s Beach property Lafayette’s Oceanfront Resort, it was not with exaggeration. The rooms are literally directly in front of the ocean. The sliding glass doors from our room at Beach Front Lodge offered an up-close view as the tide changed and the waves rolled in.

I woke up to the sound of crashing waves. Perhaps it was high tide around 5:30 that morning, but don’t take this as a complaint. The beauty of the extremely high waves as they pounded the rocks was something not to be missed. We later found out that these same rocks will be covered by five feet of sand once the sand (that washes out during the winter) washes back.

Rooms are spacious and very clean. The beach is easily accessible by stairs directly off the patio. Once the sun peeks through, you will probably find yourself yearning for a walk on the beach. The sound of the waves is continuous here, calling you to explore.

While we walked the beach, the view changed as the sun burned through the fog and in swept the tide. Experiencing the Maine coast this closely makes these properties a special place to stay.

Federal Jack’s is a large restaurant facing the waterway. The view of the harbor is charming. There were a few boats already in the water, and I imagine that every slip is full in the summer. The restaurant more than doubles in size as the decks open up for seating, and another dining room and bar also open for the summer months.

A wide variety of pub food is on the menu along with many creative dishes. A seasonal menu is also offered. You’ll find a variety of soups and chowders and sandwiches, and there’s lots of seafood and fish on their entrée menu. I sneaked a peek at the plates served at the next table and they looked pretty yummy.

We chose a couple of appetizers. There are three kinds of chicken wings and we tried the Buffalo-style wings. The other choices were variations on BBQ sauce and sounded great.

The surprise of the evening was the Mediterranean sampler. Grilled pita bread came with three spreads. The tabouli was very light and fresh, and was packed with herbs. Yum. The white bean and garlic hummus was my favorite. Incredible. The roasted red pepper hummus was equally good.

All went well with their freshly brewed beer.

My beef and bean chili entrée came in a small crock but was very hearty. It was chock full of beef, topped with a little cheese and served with house-made tortilla chips. It was very spicy (making George’s eyes go wide), and not for the faint of heart. I loved it.

We enjoyed it so much that we returned the next day for lunch. George might have been plotting this while he slept. He had the black and blue burger (his favorite at all the Sea Dog Restaurants), and I’d come for something on the menu that intrigued the night before — the grilled antipasto sandwich. Marinated and grilled veggies topped with my now favorite garlic white bean puree, mesclun and feta. All this comes in a ciabatta roll that was light as air. Holey schmoley! This is the cure for boring sandwiches.

Conclusion

Night lights illuminated a pounding surf outside our room when we returned from dinner at Federal Jack’s. The view was stunning and reminded us of just how much Maine has to offer — and we don’t mean just the scenery. We’ve always felt safe and secure here.

A man at the bar at Federal Jack’s was wearing a jacket that read, “Boston Marathon 2010.” The morning’s news related the violent hunt for the two guys who planted the bombs at this year’s Marathon. So close. So troubling.

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

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