Charming hosts, comfortable rooms and fantastic food made 2014 a memorable year for the Travelin’ Maine(rs). This week, we’ll tell you about our best experiences of the year at seven outstanding inns. Next week, we’ll give you an accounting of the restaurants that made our year special.

These are places you’ll want to put on your travel list for 2015:

Chandler River Lodge

Linda: One of the great things about traveling around our state is finding places that are so special — some of which we’d never heard of. Such is the case for the Chandler River Lodge that we have been driving by on our way to Lubec for years. Tucked up on a knoll well off U.S. Route 1, in Jonesboro, sits a beautiful historic home (circa 1797) that is now a B&B and restaurant.

Emily Fitzsimmons has to be one of the most energetic, organized, busiest people I have met in a while. She is the chef at this fine dining establishment, but it turns out that is not her only responsibility. She takes reservations, greets guests, creates menus, cooks dinners, prepares and serves breakfasts, and even cleans rooms! And she has four kids — three whom are 6 or under!

We stayed in the Hannah Weston Room, a light, tastefully decorated space. Wallpapered walls were decorated with artwork, and on the wall above the bed hung a collection of gorgeous old clocks. Beautiful!

George: I loved Emily’s cooking. She graduated from Eastern Maine Technical College’s culinary school, cooked at another nearby inn, a couple of restaurants and Washington Academy for eight years, before taking on the Chandler River Lodge three and a half years ago. When I asked for her favorites on the menu, she said she liked them all. “I love to eat!” she said. Well, ahem, me too!

I absolutely loved our dinner. And I’m not the only one. “This is wonderful!” I heard from a lady at a nearby table. Later, at another table, a guest in a party of four turned to her friend and said, “Thank you Steve. Great choice of restaurants!”

Pilgrim’s Inn

George: The Pilgrim’s Inn, in Deer Isle, 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!

Extensive renovations have been done at the inn 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 here.

Tina Oddleifson and Tony Lawless purchased the inn nine years ago. They are very hospitable hosts, focused on the details that make your stay comfortable and enjoyable, but it’s in the restaurant that their experience really shines through.

Dinner at their Whales Rib Tavern was — well, I have to say, spectacular. Presentation matters when you are writing travel columns, and Tony and Tina really know how to present their dishes. But even I was surprised, the next day, to discover that I’d taken more than 75 dinner photos!

LimeRock Inn

Linda: There are two reasons the LimeRock Inn has been the choice of Down East magazine’s readers for Best B&B two years in a row: Frank and PJ. This beautiful historic home in Rockland became an inn 20 years ago, and owners Frank and PJ celebrated their 10th year here in 2014. LimeRock has won TripAdvisor’s Five Star Rating and Certificate of Excellence every year since 2009. The inn is recommended by Fodor’s, Frommer’s, Lonely Planet, Moon Guide, Coastal Living and the New York Times — and the Travelin’ Maine(rs)!

The LimeRock has got to be the friendliest B&B in the state. This was our second visit and Frank and PJ greeted us on the wonderful wraparound porch (Yankee Magazine Editor’s Choice for Best Wraparound Porch in 2011), and we spent 20 minutes catching up on each other’s news. This inn is elegant and historic, very comfortable and quiet, but it’s the innkeepers that make it so very special. And you would never guess you are just two blocks from the hustle and bustle of one of our favorite downtowns.

Frank gets up early to bake delectable creations. The light, airy biscuits had guests swooning as did the tiny banana pecan mini muffins. Most B&Bs would stop there, but this inn provides a full breakfast. They vary the entrees by altering sweet and savory. Frank’s lemon blueberry pancakes the first morning were awesome — not overly sweet — and the frittata with sausage the second morning was delicious. You will find that you won’t be eating much else until dinner!

Old Saco Inn

George: As seems to happen so often to us, we discovered another couple who define hospitality in our state at the Old Saco Inn, in Fryeburg. Pete and Sandi MacLachlan have owned the inn for two years, initially arriving in the U.S. 12 years ago from South Africa to travel the country as software consultants. They “wanted to try something new while we still had the energy,” said Sandi, and focused their search for an inn to New England, with a specific list of attributes. They found them all at the Old Saco Inn. It was an excellent choice.

The inn is isolated in a gorgeous and quiet setting, but very close to Fryeburg, the White Mountains and the shopping destination of North Conway. It made me think of one of my favorite T-shirts at the nearby Stone Mountain Arts Center: “SMAC: In the middle of nowhere. But plenty close to somewhere!”

Linda: We just happened to have had the perfect fall afternoon for our drive to western Maine, passing through Sweden and Lovell. The bright blue sky put the brilliant foliage in its best light. The closer we got to New Hampshire’s mountains, the more intense the colors got.

But we got our biggest surprise when we started in the Old Saco Inn driveway. It’s long winding road passed by stately trees until we came to the opening where we saw the impressive Lodge and stone Carriage House. Manicured lawns, fruit trees and a gated entrance were set off by a white fence. It’s a dramatic entrance to the property and I’m sure most guests feel as transported to a peaceful place as we did.

Entering the inn, incredible aromas wafted from the kitchen as they prepared for Friday night’s dinner service. Both George and I regretted not having made a reservation for dinner. Next time!

Youngtown Inn

George: A touch of French elegance in a beautiful historic Maine building makes the Youngtown Inn unique, stunning and popular. Manuel and MaryAnn Mercier purchased the inn in 1991, turning it into the place they raised their three boys, a welcoming inn and an amazing restaurant. We’ll be thanking MaryAnn for a long time to come for giving us such a wonderful experience — a combination of the best of Maine and the best of France.

Linda: Manuel is a French chef and has stayed true to his roots by offering stunning French dishes that are not intimidating. MaryAnn calls him a “classically trained saucier. It’s all about the sauces in French cooking,” she says. He makes each sauce individually when the dish is ordered.

My entree of Filet of Beef was embellished with caramelized onions and Roquefort. The rich demi-glace served with my perfectly prepared filet makes one have the uncivilized urge to lick the plate. Using all my willpower I resisted that urge.

Inn by the Sea

George: Our latest visit to Sea Glass Restaurant, at the Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth, included a benefit dinner for the Alewive’s Brook Farm in Cape Elizabeth, and featured great food for a great cause. Certainly Executive Chef Mitchell Kaldrovich put his best food forward for this special event.

Linda: As I looked about our two-story suite, I realized that you could fit three regular sized hotel rooms in it! The comfortable lounging area, desk and kitchen on the first floor open to a private deck. The upstairs bedroom looks out to the beautiful grounds and open ocean beyond through the two-story windows. The bathroom is an extended space that has separate rooms for the shower, toilet and sink/tub area! We love this place!

Blue Nose Inn

George: Co-owner and host Jim Ash has welcomed us to the Blue Nose Inn once or twice a year since we began this column, and it has become like a home away from home for us. From Bill Trowell’s wonderful piano music in the lounge, to Chef Arturo Montez’s creative and elegant meals in the inn’s Looking Glass Restaurant, this is a very special place.

From what I now call “our room” — a fourth-floor suite — I enjoy the best view in the state for a morning cup of coffee. The inn and restaurant sits high on a hill and offers spectacular views of the ocean. Ash and his very friendly staff focus on the comfort and convenience of their guests. For example, there is an onsite, locked storage area for bicycles. Many come here to cycle the trails in Acadia National Park. The inn includes indoor and outdoor pools, a hot tub, fitness center and steam room, and a wonderful spa where we have enjoyed awesome massages in the past.

Conclusion

You don’t have to leave Maine to enjoy a first-class fantastic travel experience. We can guarantee it at these seven wonderful inns. Get there in 2015!

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

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