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Checking in

Lulled into loving an inn on Penobscot Bay

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Patricia Harris and David Lyon
Globe Correspondents / July 27, 2008

BROOKSVILLE, Maine - Innkeepers Jim and Sally Littlefield have assembled an exhaustive guide to local activities. As we sat on the porch of their Arts and Crafts-period Shore Oaks Seaside Inn, we considered the museums, gardens, art galleries, antiques shops, walking trails, and boat cruises in the region.

Then we set the notebook aside. Why go anywhere? We gazed contentedly at the ocean and islands, the pine trees, the lighthouse in the distance, and sailboats lazily tacking back and forth along Eggemoggin Reach.

This 50-acre property nestled between Penobscot Bay and Deer Isle has been in Jim's family since 1765 and his forebears farmed, logged, cut ice, and quarried granite here. In 1889, the family converted the 1770s farmhouse into the Oakland House Inn and began taking in guests who journeyed from Boston by steamship. A few years later, they sold an oceanfront lot to a Boston doctor, who built a stone-and-shingle Arts and Crafts summer home. In the 1940s, Jim's parents repurchased the home. Now called Shore Oaks Seaside Inn, it's the centerpiece of a rustic complex (the Oakland House Seaside Resort) that also includes 15 cottages and a restaurant in the original farmhouse-inn.

Seeking ocean views at a savings, we chose room 10 in the former servants' quarters on the third floor. The room stretches across the front of the inn, and even with sloping ceilings, is large and breezy. It shares a bathroom with the two other guest rooms on the floor (both smaller and lacking water views), but since the other guests had front rooms with private baths on the first and second floors (the inn has no elevator), we had the top floor to ourselves.

After Sally and Jim married in 1994, she took the lead in restoring the house to its Arts and Crafts glory. The oak furniture in our room - desk, dresser, night tables, and armoire - all fit the home's original period, while a queen-size bed slipped perfectly beneath the eaves. There's no TV, one shared phone, and no air conditioning, but a large fan in our room provided plenty of ventilation.

It never got cool enough to light a fire in the stone fireplace in the parlor, where a casual mix of wicker and oak chairs and settees encourages lingering. In the adjacent library, a Chinese checkerboard was laid out on a small table. But it was the wraparound porch, with its long line of rocking chairs, that exerted the strongest gravitational pull.

We did sometimes manage to escape its hold on us. After we checked in, we followed a hiking trail to the summit of Lookout Hill. On a clear, sunny afternoon, an island-dotted ocean and limitless sky stretched before us. Fortunately, we were safely back on the porch before a thunderstorm discouraged us from walking the quarter-mile to the resort's Rusticator Restaurant for dinner.

But the storm moved quickly, and we arrived at the restaurant just as a double rainbow arched on the eastern horizon. The Rusticator emphasizes local ingredients in its updates of the hearty country fare that guests might have eaten a century ago. As we enjoyed salads of chevre and lettuce with blueberry dressing, and a poached free-range egg with spinach and bacon, we discussed the secrets of long marriage with a Blue Hill couple celebrating their 30th anniversary. Over main courses of chicken fricassee with buttermilk biscuits, and scallop pie with puff pastry, we debated just where "Down East" begins with a couple of summer folk out for the evening. By the time we finished our strawberry pie and blueberry buckle, fireflies were flickering in the cool evening air.

The next morning, we scanned the water hoping to spot seals. Instead, a bald eagle swooped down to pluck a small bass from the water. After blueberry pancakes and eggs in the dining room, we lazed around on the beach where two little girls showed us starfish and crabs. We also took a rowboat for a spin along the shore. In the afternoon, we escaped the shady porch to claim a couple of the Adirondack chairs on the sunny lawn. Later, we stirred just enough to walk down a pier that ended in a gazebo with front-row seats on sunset over Cape Rosier.

Patricia Harris and David Lyon can be reached at harris.lyon@verizon.net.

If You Go

Shore Oaks Seaside Inn

435 Herrick Road Brooksville, Maine

800-359-RELAX (73529), 207-359-8521

oaklandhouse.com

What we liked most: The owners' restraint in updating the property.

What we liked least: Not enough hot water for showers.

What surprised us: No fog in the morning.

You know you're at Shore Oaks Seaside Inn when . . . the tide rises and falls more than 12 feet.

Rates: Shore Oaks Seaside Inn has 10 rooms that break down into two doubles with fireplace and water view ($212-$320), two doubles with water view only ($188-$277), two doubles with private bath ($162-$248), two doubles with shared bath ($118-$212), one single with private bath ($120-$170), and one single with shared bath ($88-$119). All rates include breakfast. Dinner is available June 21 until the inn closes for the season (mid-October) for an additional $30 per person per night. The Rusticator Restaurant serves breakfast daily and dinner nightly with seatings at 5:15 and 7:30. Non-guests may make dinner reservations Friday-Wednesday (Thursday night is a lobster picnic on the beach for guests); entrees $19-$28.

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