It is as reliable as the changing tides. When fall foliage rolls into season throughout New England, the resulting sparkle attracts millions of visitors each year, many on a quest to dive into the region’s rich palettes before nature pulls these vibrant colors back to their muted, winter greys. The high country garners much of the attention this time of year, but equally as rewarding is a stay along New England’s rugged coastline.
Leaf-peeping season is one of the favorite times of year for both staff and guests of the Colonial Inn, the last of the Grand Hotels in historic Ogunquit, Maine.
“Seeing the leaves change up in the mountains is beautiful, but here, along the coast, you get to see the rich canopies of color against the sparkling blue of the ocean, which is quite magical,” said Allie Gill, director of marketing for the Colonial Inn. “There are several boat charter companies in Perkins Cove who can take you out on the water for the afternoon to really make the most of it.”
Perkins Cove is the historic fishing village located just south of Ogunquit that is replete with shops, restaurants, and scenic walking routes. An autumn boat tour is only one of many activities available to guests booking a stay at the Colonial.
“Colonial Inn is perfectly-positioned halfway between the town and Perkins Cove,” Gill said. “So once you arrive, you can leave the car behind and walk everywhere. Marginal Way and Ogunquit Beach are nearby, and while the water may be getting a little too cold for swimming, both are still beautiful places to walk and listen to the waves.”
Marginal Way is a mile-long coastal walk linking Ogunquit to Perkins Cove, and the entrance is only a few minutes from Colonial Inn’s front door. The walk to Ogunquit Beach, a rewarding three-mile stretch of platinum white sand, is only 11 minutes away.
The Colonial Inn was built in 1886, before the town had a library, street lamps, or even electricity. Ogunquit – “beautiful place by the sea” in the indigenous Abenaki language – wasn’t itself incorporated until 1980. First settled as a village in Wells in 1641, the town was known for fishing, for its sawmill, and for its shipbuilding. The emergence of the Grand Hotels ushered in a new age of artists and tourism.
“Over the years, we have continued to make updates while staying true to the original building, gradually expanding into a beautiful and welcoming destination with four different buildings that house a variety of accommodations, a heated outdoor pool and hot tub, fire pit, lawn games, and a beautiful wrap-around porch where you can enjoy the fresh air and truly relax,” Gill said.
Hotel owner Joe DeLois and his partners completed a $4 million historic renovation of Colonial Inn in 2013. The renovation included a reimagining of all guest rooms and common areas in the main inn. The deck was extended around the rear of the building, the room sizes were increased by about 50 percent, bathrooms were upgraded, and the entire building was redesigned as a modern beachside retreat.
The project earned an Honor Award from Maine Preservation, which praised the team for showing “patience and careful planning in rehabilitating this rare building type. As a result, the block form retains its distinctive architectural history while providing thoroughly updated accommodations. The Colonial Inn is a rare surviving example demonstrating a common trend in seaside tourist accommodations – expansion.”
The inn today is comprised of 62 rooms spread throughout four different buildings. Most rooms in the hotel, some with water views – and every room in the Main Inn itself – boasts a king bed, a refrigerator, and new furnishings.
In the fall, the inn serves hot apple cider daily, perhaps enjoyed best while sitting outside on the relaxing, wrap-around porch. Freshly-baked, chocolate chip cookies are offered every afternoon, and the heated outdoor pool and hot tub will remain open through Oct. 10. Later in the season, the fire pit is lit each night so you can enjoy the cool, crisp evenings.
“After all this time our one biggest constant is our dedication to genuine hospitality,” Gill said, adding that the inn’s team members are always there to share the things they love about the seaside village.
For instance, during your stay you can take a quick, 10-minute drive from the hotel over to the Mount Agamenticus Conservation Region, which encompasses the most-extensive coastal forest block between Acadia National Park and the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. Walk the trails throughout the mountain or head straight for the summit and enjoy the easy, mile-long ‘Big A’ loop for plenty of gorgeous views.
From the inn, you can also drive straight down Shore Road to the town of York and enjoy the canopy of colors along the way. Don’t forget to stop at Nubble Lighthouse on Cape Neddick, one of the most beautiful sights nearby.
Starting Oct. 1, the Ogunquit Chamber of Commerce is hosting its annual Fall for Ogunquit festivities. Celebrations last throughout the month with activities like pumpkin scavenger hunts, live music, sand sculpture demonstrations, and classic car shows. Signature events will take place during OgunquitFest Weekend, Oct. 21-23, which, Gill said, was already booking up quickly.
Another great excursion is to visit the Wells Reserve at Laudholm, which protects 2,250 acres of coastal habitats. The reserve features seaside woods and an expansive trail network. The Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge is just north of Ogunquit, and stretches along 50 miles of coastline. Or check out nearby Spiller Farm for some apple picking. The family-run farm has been operating almost daily since 1894.
Enjoy nearby dining and drinks at The Front Porch Piano Bar and Restaurant, Barnacle Billy’s, BeachFire Bar and Grille, or Jonathan’s OGT. The Kittery Outlets (20 minutes away) and Freeport Outlets and Shops (one hour away) will satisfy the shopping itch, or simply stroll through the charming streets of Ogunquit and Perkins Cove to explore the local boutiques.
The Colonial Inn, 145 Shore Road, Ogunquit, Maine, 207-646-5191, thecolonialinn.com.