YORK, Maine -- You can't beat the view. From our room at the Cliff House (and from every other room in this 133-year-old seaside icon) blue ocean stretched to infinity. Even on a chilly day, we opened the window a crack to let in the smell of salt air and the sound of waves pounding on rock. At night, strategically placed spotlights highlighted each incoming swell as it dissolved into green and white foam.
We had not been to the Cliff House in some 20 years. In that time, the inn has made many changes, adding a full-service spa and a ''grand pavilion" for guest registration, with a massive stone fireplace and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the ocean. The changes have only enhanced the dramatic setting on Bald Head Cliff.
The hotel has a long and proud history, which it displays in old photographs in the rooms and common areas. Innkeeper Kathryn Weare is the fourth generation of the Weare family to manage the hotel. In our room on the sixth floor of Cliffscape, one of four buildings with guest rooms, a postcard from the early 1900s, enlarged and framed, recalled one woman's happy summer sojourn here and her reluctance to leave.
''The food has been delicious, and I have eaten my share," the visitor wrote to her sister in New Jersey. ''The thought of corseting myself up to return home seems dreadful. Perhaps I shall just move the buttons over."
Our room was long and narrow with three deep windows and a windowed door facing the ocean. It had two comfortable double beds, a dresser, telephone, desk with Internet access, television, and by the windows, two barrel chairs and a lamp that made a great spot for reading or just watching the ocean below. The walls were a soft yellow, and the bedspread and swags a leaf print in slate blue and white. Blue accordion shades on the windows and door provided privacy but didn't block the morning light. Adirondack chairs waited on the balcony.
The bathroom had a tub and shower, hair dryer, coffeemaker, and the Cliff House Spa brand of citrus-scented toiletries.
We added a meal plan of breakfast and dinner to one day of our stay for $51 per person. Both were served in the oceanfront dining room, with a fireplace and fresh flowers in cobalt blue vases on white linen-topped tables.
On the weekend we visited, the hotel was hosting a convention. We stood in line for 15 minutes to be seated for breakfast, then sat another 10 waiting for coffee. Once we flagged someone, however, the waitstaff was extremely cordial. We could choose a buffet, including an omelet station, or order from a menu. À la carte specialties include eggs Benedict, pancakes, and Grand Marnier French toast with fresh berries.
The dinner menu focused on fish and included such New England classics as clam chowder, crab cakes, lobster, and Indian pudding. Local lobster tails in a hazelnut ''crust" were actually battered tempura style; we couldn't detect the hazelnut in the delicate coating, and the lobster was slightly underdone. Sushi-grade yellow fin tuna was delicious, lightly crusted with goat cheese and served with a prosciutto-bound bundle of asparagus. Service was excellent, and presentations striking. The inn requires ''relaxed proper attire" (no athletic wear, shorts, jeans, T-shirts, sneakers, or caps) at dinner.
The oceanfront spa, now connected to the Cliffscape building by a covered walkway, offers a full menu of treatments, including a Maine wild rose body wrap, stone massage with stones from Bald Head Cliff, and a facial enhanced with a blueberry mask. It includes a fitness center, outdoor pool with a vanishing edge, and an indoor lap pool. All hotel guests have access to the spa pools, whirlpools, and fitness area. Guests purchasing spa services also may use the spa lounge, sauna, and steam rooms. Robes, slippers, and lockers are provided.
During July and August, the Cliff House offers complimentary trolley service to picturesque Perkins Cove, downtown Ogunquit, and Ogunquit Beach. In the off-season, we browsed a sleepy Perkins Cove and walked maybe half the Marginal Way, a paved, 1 1/4-mile path between the cove and the beach. For our money, though, nothing beat the show of ocean, tide, and rock visible 24/7 from our room.
Ellen Albanese can be reached at email@example.com.