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Whether it's taking a daily ritual from expected to extraordinary or discovering the wonderment and beauty of anew travel destination, J.R. McCabe elevates the everyday with timeless taste and comfortable confidence.
We’ve been on Route 1 headed north for a little more than an hour. As we make our way from Kennebunkport to Acadia, we’ve decided to take rest for the night on Westport Island. With a population of just about seven hundred residents and nestled between two tourist towns, the charming village of Wiscasset and the busy docks of Boothbay Harbor, Westport Island has one thing neither of those locales can claim — absolute silence.
But before we drive south on Route 144 to check-in and relax at the inn, we hop in the long line at the famous Red’s Eats to put their “Maine’s #1 lobster roll” rating to the test. My standards for a lobster roll, based on more than three decades of experience and my proud status as a native New Englander, are high.
There are three essentials ingredients to a top-notch lobster roll — fresh lobster (and I mean out of the ocean within twenty-four hours) that includes lots of tail meat, high-quality salted butter, and a roll (or gluten free bread in our case) that has a crunchy exterior but a butter drenched softness inside. The last part is key — if it’s just toasted, it misses the mark; if it’s soggy, it’s unbearable. As I take my third bite and am filled with nostalgia of the perfect lobster rolls of yore, I am surprisingly delighted by just how authentic and absolutely delicious this roll is. They nailed it.
Fifteen minutes later, taste buds and tummies satisfied, we arrive at The Squire Tarbox Inn. The inn comes upon you unexpectedly after driving on a long, winding pastoral road aptly named Main Road. Having come from weeks of enjoying the modern era of a Maine summer season — bustling beaches, filled to the brim restaurants, local boutique shopping, and nightly ice cream lines — the quiet grounds transport me to a simpler time. No longer a twenty-first century tourist I’ve become an eighteenth century traveler, present to the soft wind rustling through the trees and the sound of my sandaled foot on the gravel pathway.
The deep embrace that comes from entering a structure that has stood for nearly three hundred years continues as we are greeted at the door by the lovely innkeeper, Susannah, who seems to have intuited our arrival. She directs us to our room to drop our bags and then it’s a quick tour through the property.
Country modern in its decor, the interior design shows a reverence and sensibility for the culture and history of Maine’s midcoast. Vintage and antique details mix with soft contemporary luxury bringing an inherent warmth and cozy comfort, without being stale or stodgy, that many inns aspire to yet few are able to achieve. The Squire Tarbox Inn has quintessential colonial New England charm — from the creak of the wide-paneled oak floors, to the low ceilings, to the plate glass sashed windows, and mix of skeleton key and latch door handles.
The sweet subtle scent of a pine candle wafts by as we make our way back to our room to nestle in for the evening. The accommodations are deceivingly exquisite. At first glance the arrangement may seem overly simple — a chair, a bed, a lamp. Yet upon closer look it is the simplicity of the decor that gives it its character. Here I am, standing in a colonial home bedroom with every modern convenience of a fine hotel yet none of the clutter. Luxury bed and bath linens in whites, creams, and soft neutrals, electrical outlets not tied to the distraction of phones, clocks, radios, or television, no touristy to-do booklets, room service menus, or magazines filling the desk, windows that open so you can breathe the fresh coastal air as you admire the beautiful country grounds. A twenty-four hour honor bar filled with the finest wine, snacks, glassware, and beverages off the inn’s main kitchen replaces a clunky in-room refrigerator and messy snack display. Staying the night in one of these rooms you are enveloped in the essence of a bygone era, signaled by the faint sound of a barred owl hooting in the dark of night.
The next morning, we wake to the stirring of our fellow inn guests, the scent of coffee and baked goods, and the gentle sun shining on our beds. Breakfast is a delectable light fare — including the specially made gluten free French Toast for us — that hits the spot as we prepare to embark on the next leg of our journey.
But just before we leave, we take a stroll on the grounds, through the old barn, and back again to bid farewell to this slice of country seaboard heaven. What makes this inn truly stand out are the understated details that carry you away into an early American novel. The warm greeting of a sole innkeeper upon arrival with no fuss of a registration desk, a bird’s nest that sits a top weathered albums, the Windsor chair as you sit for breakfast, the acres of pastoral setting yours for the taking, and above all, the soothing of an everyday quiet and calm long forgotten yet soulfully familiar.