Set on the rocky midcoast of Maine about an hour's drive from Portland, the beautiful Popham Peninsula exemplifies the wonderful cragginess of the Pine Tree State's shoreline, offering visitors the remote feeling of a secluded island without ever having to leave the mainland.
Built on 450 acres on the lovely shores of Casco Bay by a Portland-based bakery magnate, Sebasco Harbor Resort has been offering authentic Maine getaways since 1930.
An early guest was Eleanor Roosevelt, who noted in her 1941 diary, "I can well see that this is a marvelous summer resort for children and grownups alike."
Today the resort manages to exude that stuck-in-yesteryear feel while offering an array of simple pleasures, from lobster bakes, croquet, fishing, tie-dying t-shirts and canoeing to golf, tennis, and spa treatments. It's the kind of place families return to summer after summer, and some have been coming for generations.
There's plenty to do at Sebasco Harbor Resort, yet nothing is forced and the pace of the day is lazy and relaxed. There's an outdoor saltwater pool right on the harbor's edge and a camp-style rec room open in the evenings with candlepin bowling, a pool table, and other games. Other amenities include two restaurants, a spa, nine-hole golf course, gift shop, and an ice cream stand that serves scoops, cones, sundaes, and root beer floats.
During the summer, a weekly schedule of activities includes yoga classes, family bingo and kickball games, pirate cruises, kayak trips, cooking demonstrations, ice cream-making sessions, softball games, golf outings, campfires with s'more-making, and more. On select days, a supervised kids day camp is offered for $20 per child.
Some activities are free but others come with a charge. While most activity charges are reasonable, you will likely end up shelling out at least a hundred dollars on family fun during a stay of several days.
The setting is gorgeous but it's worth pointing out that this isn't a beach resort in the true sense. The location on a cove in Casco Bay is so protected that during our visit we saw nothing resembling waves or even a chop on the water. This makes for perfect kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding, but if you're looking for a true sand-and-surf experience, Popham Beach State Park is a quick, five-minute drive away.
There's a wide range of accommodation options sprinkled around the resort, including traditional guest rooms in the main lodge, several buildings offering upscale suites, and an octagonal erstwhile lighthouse, which contains more guest rooms. (Even if you don't stay here, check it out. A staircase leads to a sweet observation room with wraparound windows that's a perfect place to bring a book and ogle the views.) In addition, there is an assortment of one- to six-bedroom rustic cottages that offer living rooms and small kitchens. No matter where you stay, you'll have cable TV.
Our two-bedroom waterside cottage offered a perfect layout for families and a large back deck overlooking the cove. It was comfortable and clean, with a master bedroom (queen bed), second bedroom (two twin beds), two bathrooms, and living room with small kitchen, kitchen table, sofa, armchair, and a flatscreen TV. The kitchen and bathrooms were small and clean but dated, circa 1970s. There was no air conditioning in our cottage but we found two electric fans in closets and used them non-stop during our August stay. Wi-fi was free but spotty.
We never dined at the Pilot House, the resort's upscale restaurant, but enjoyed several meals at the more casual option, The Ledges, which offers indoor and outdoor seating and a menu that hits all the bases, from steamed-to-perfection lobster, lobster rolls, and fried clams to burgers, steak, chicken and more.
There's a kids menu and you can (and should) sample Maine Root sodas and local Maine beers. Prices are reasonable but not exactly dirt-cheap; we spent about $30 per person for each meal.
Best rooms: We loved the privacy a cottage affords, but families looking for modern, more upscale digs might want to choose a suite or traditional guest room in the main lodge. There is free (but unreliable) wi-fi throughout the resort and a flatscreen TV with cable in every accommodation.
Best season: Sebasco Harbor Resort is open mid-May to mid-October, with high season falling during the summer. Deal hunters should check out the packages and consider the shoulder months of May and September.
Visited: August 2016
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