BAR HARBOR, Maine - I had chosen the Saltair Inn because it sits on Frenchman Bay and edges downtown Bar Harbor, and had selected the Harbor Suite for its water views and shared deck. But it was neither the inn nor the room that seduced me; it was the Adirondack-style chairs, set just so at the end of the long expanse of lawn, just before green grass gave way to blue sea.
Amidst the hubbub of touristy Bar Harbor, the inn offers a reprieve. Situated on one oceanfront acre in the West Street Historic District, three blocks from downtown shops and restaurants, it blends comfort with elegance, convenience with charm. The small front lawn gives no hint of the vastness of the one in back, nor does the front clapboard facade hint at the rear turret, decks, or expanse of windows facing the bay.
Saltair, designed in the Gilded Age by Boston architect Arthur Rotch as a guesthouse for the Rice family, was built in 1887, when the elite arrived by steamship to spend the summer. Unlike them, we had come for an overnight.
We were greeted by Kristi Losquadro, who owns and operates the inn with her husband, Matt. High-school sweethearts in Virginia, they relocated here in 2005 at the urging of Matt's parents, who had owned the inn next door. Matt left a career as an engineer. Kristi had been a forensic examiner in the FBI's DNA laboratory before becoming a full-time mom.
We arrived early enough to peek into the downstairs master suite, the largest in the house, with a gas stove in the turret sitting room, fireplace in the bedroom, and two-person Jacuzzi in the huge bathroom. After guiding us through the dining and living rooms and the sun porch, stocked with tea, snacks, CDs, DVDs, and area resource books, Kristi urged us onward and upward.
Although not as grand as the master suite, the Acadia suite also had two fireplaces, one in the bathroom and the other dividing the bedroom from the turret sitting room. I peeked into the other two rooms as well, and this one had the best sense of privacy combined with dreamy views and the added plus of a semiprivate deck, with stairs descending to a lower deck, providing easy access to the back lawn and those Adirondack-style chairs.
"We serve breakfast between 8 and 9; how does eggs Benedict sound?" Kristi asked, as she turned to leave. With that, our fairy-tale immersion into the grand life began.
I flopped onto the king-size bed, while my husband, Tom, flipped on the flat-screen TV in the sitting area. I immediately arose, grabbed a book, detoured through the dining room for a cream-cheese brownie and a cup of tea, and bee-lined for those chairs. Ahhh, perfect. Off to my right was Bar Island, tethered to Bar Harbor by a sandy causeway, visible at low tide; to the distant left was the dock for The Cat, the high-speed ferry to Nova Scotia. If we'd had kayaks, we could have launched them from the slip of pebble beach dividing lawn from sea.
I could have remained there, mesmerized, until stars replaced the sun, but I wanted to walk around town before dinner. There are other pluses to this location: It eliminates the hunt-and-seek parking game, and the free bus to Acadia National Park is a stroll away.
We scouted restaurants, choosing Café This Way, an old favorite with funky decor and an expansive, creative, and eclectic menu. We didn't get beyond the appetizer pages, cobbling together a meal from grilled halloumi cheese over artichokes, olives, capers, and mushrooms; seafood spring rolls; Caesar salad; and crab cakes with tequila lime sauce, all accompanied by house-made, toothsome and crusty French bread and butter sweetened with honey. That left just enough room for an ice cream from Mount Desert Island Ice Cream. We shared a kiddie-size dish, while padding back to the inn along the Shore Path, a historic gravel path that parallels Main Street and edges the ocean.
If our room hadn't been so comfy, we might have risen to catch sunrise on Cadillac Mountain. Instead we slept in before moseying down to the dining room for breakfast: baked pears with a gingersnap-brown sugar topping followed by those eggs Bennie. Just as we were finishing, a couple emerged from the downstairs suite. They'd been awakened that morning by cries from the Losquadros' toddler, which made us appreciate the privacy and quiet of the Acadia suite all the more.
We could have headed into the park. We could have browsed the downtown shops. Instead, we ambled down the back lawn, unable to resist the lure of those chairs. And there we sat, breathing the salt air and watching lobster boats chug by until check-out time.
Hilary Nangle can be reached at hilarynangle.com.