The Pilgrim’s Inn is a place where history meets hospitality to give guests an unforgettable experience. And there’s so much to do in Deer Isle, Blue Hill and Stonington that you could spend a lot of time here. At least, that’s our new plan!

Two years ago, our friends Rusty and Sue Atwood asked us to join them for the annual Lupine Festival in Deer Isle and stay at the Pilgrim’s Inn. We’re regretting that it took two years before we were able to work the this trip into our schedule. This is a place you will return to year after year, once you’ve been here.

Tina Oddleifson and Tony Lawless taught at the Cambridge Culinary School before purchasing the inn and its Whale’s Rib Tavern nine years ago. Tony is on the board at Maine Adaptive Sports in Bethel, where they live in the off season.

They both give previous owners a lot of credit for the beautiful buildings, rooms and restaurant.

“There’s a piece of every owner here,” Tina said.

The building was constructed in 1793 and became an inn in 1889. The inn closed during World War II and was reopened in 1977 and placed on the National Registry of Historic Places a year later.

Extensive renovations have been done over the last 30 years, but the original features are still there — from wide pumpkin boards to tin ceilings in some rooms. In our bedroom, I marveled at an old supporting timber, running from floor to ceiling, just below a modern recessed light. They’ve done a beautiful job of melding old and new.

Stunning art and interesting old stuff decorate the buildings, and the two downstairs gathering rooms adjacent to the bar are wonderful places where we lingered with drinks on Friday night after we arrived.

We were in Ginny’s Cottage 2, while Rusty and Sue were in the adjacent Ginny’s Cottage 1. Ginny was a lady who visited often, and now my goal is to get there enough times to find myself in George’s Cottage 1.

Linda’s going to tell you all about our cottage and the inn, but I will say we immediately felt right at home. I slept better than I had in weeks. The staff here makes you feel welcome. You might run into Tina and Tony anyplace, anytime — and they always have time to visit.

The owners do it all. We spotted Tina in the kitchen at dinner and out working in the gardens the next morning while Tony was mowing the lawn.

On Saturday night we had an amazing dining experience at the restaurant, the Whale’s Rib Tavern, a story we’ll save for another column. But clearly, the Whale’s Rib Tavern offers the finest dining in the area.

Saturday started with a scrumptious breakfast of blueberry pancakes, fruit, juice and coffee. And, of course, real maple syrup.

Then we headed to Stonington where I planned to autograph copies of my new book at Dockside Books. E.L. Webber, the store owner, said the building has been in his family since 1902, and at one time housed a blacksmith business. The small building sits close to the bay with an outside deck. Best view from a bookstore, for sure.

Tina had told me the area has the highest concentration of artists, artisans and art galleries in Maine, and she wasn’t kidding. We visited several that morning, before grabbing a sandwich at a local shop and making a quick stop at The Periwinkle, where Candy Eaton offers a collection of wonderful kids’ games and wooden toys, as well as books and art.

Tiny and Tony provide great information about day trips, farms and local foods, galleries and other opportunities in the area. They said their favorite nature trip is to the Barred Island Preserve, so we headed there in the afternoon. The hike to the island took only about 20 minutes and we crossed a gorgeous sand beach to wander around the island, where I got some great photos of an osprey. There were two ladies there with kids, one of whom went swimming. Brrrr!

Late afternoon found Rusty and I in heated games of petanque on the inn’s court. He claimed to have never played, but I think he secretly must have been practicing because he won every game. If the setting, beautiful grounds, the mill pond and the ocean across the road, hadn’t been so spectacular, I would have been despondent.


A visit here is like stepping back in time. The main inn has pumpkin pine floors and features two eight-foot-wide original fireplaces — they are incredible works of art. There are wonderful sitting areas in the common room and the library, a taproom where the bar is located and a lovely dining room on the first floor with guest rooms on the upper floors.

More lodging choices include a large single cottage and the two adjoining cottages where we stayed duing our visit. The cottages are beautifully decorated with antique accents. The large main room of our cottage held an antique corner cupboard, dining table and chairs to seat four, and a nice trunk used as a coffee table. The charming old lamp bases and wrought iron chandelier gave the cottage a distinct 1800s charm. Lots of windows keep the space light and cheery with the pastel yellow walls lending a summery feel.

You’ll find the small kitchen fully stocked providing everything one would need to prepare meals. The bedroom is spacious and its four-poster bed is so high that it takes a bit of a jump to climb in! Talk about sleeping well. I never sleep that late at home. The bed was made with luxurious linens and was extremely comfortable.

The grounds here are massive and you will find lots of spots to sit in one of the many wooden chairs placed about the yard to enjoy a book, a visit or just soak in the view. There is a full petanque court where the guys took out their competitiveness.

The deck connecting our two cottages was enormous. It made a great lunch spot under the umbrella of the patio set. The blooming bushes, well-tended flower gardens and views of the water will make you want to linger outside.

The Pilgrim’s Inn is just the place to enjoy the incredible scenery in this part of Maine. All of this area was a new adventure for us. We headed to the small picturesque town of Stonington where we strolled the Main Street. Isle Au Haut Boat Services are based here and they offer trips to the island and Duck Harbor in Acadia National Park, sightseeing/lobster trips and lighthouse cruises. Opportunities for another time!

Before we headed home the next day, we wanted to explore some of the other places in this area. Once I heard that Four Seasons Farm was close by, I was pretty excited. This is Elliot Coleman’s farm and he is a gardening idol of mine.

Even though it looks pretty straight forward on the map — Head to Cape Rosier and find Weir Cove Road — I think we explored the entire coastline (which was charming) and we even found the correct road. But these roads twist and turn and we found ourselves going in circles! Sad but true, we never found the farm. After more than an hour of driving around, we both agreed it was time to give up.

From there we set sights on Blue Hill, a straight shot on State Route 176. I was immensely cheered up when we entered Fairwinds Florist. Their sign advertises fresh flowers, fine art and gifts. This place is full of funky art and unique items.

Housed within the shop is Black Dinah Chocolatiers. The glass showcase holds the most creative chocolates you will ever see. Choices from the Farm Market Collection included red raspberry, blueberry pepper, pie pumpkin, and strawberry balsamic. With a small box of dark chocolate treasures we headed home with wonderful memories of an area of Maine we had not explored before — a new favorite spot.

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

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.