When I travel, I often like to make one trip into a double trip. There are often times when your vacation planning takes you to another part of the world you’ve never been before and it may take you a little more time to get back there. Making a side trip to get a taste of another “close to your vacation” destination has been a very successful practice of mine. Spending three weeks in Seattle, Washington, I was able to dabble in both Victoria and Vancouver, Canada. My Puerto Vallarta trip was supplemented with a life-changing excursion to Punta Mita. Portland, Oregon gave me the chance to visit Boise, Idaho and I would not have changed it for anything. There are other pairings that I have loved, but the most recent one actually brought me back home. This post is not about the entirety of Portland, Maine, but one spot in particular.
Related Post: Travel Thursday: Our Relaxing Stay In Portland, Maine.
Portland, Maine has to be the best biggest little city to visit. Of course, I am biased as I lived there for 13 years, but they were a great 13 years. A city that receives accolades for restaurants, breweries, coffee shops, equality, and overall quality of life, should be on anyone’s list for a primary visit or even a quick side shuffle. Think about adding it on to your trip to Boston, P-town, and even New York City. It’s roughly 60k inhabitants make it the largest city in Maine, a state of about 1.3 million, small enough to be quaint and big enough to have all the offerings you need.
Revisiting a spot where you used to live is often eye-opening as you look for your old haunts, but are introduced to some new options. One thing I was reintroduced to when revisiting Portland was the ocean. The great Casco Bay forms the eastern border of Portland, but also possesses in its waters 365 islands, known as the Calendar Islands. I had been out on the mail boats and ferries before, but just simple day trips and … I think actually it was just one day trip. But now, when back, I jumped at the chance to be an islander for the weekend.
The Inn at Diamond Cove on Great Diamond Island was to be my home for 3 wonderfully relaxing days. Our journey began by making our way to the Maine State Pier to buy our tickets for the ferry ride. The yellow ferries, or mail boats, are a wonderful sight to see jetting around the Portland harbor. During our ferry ride, I was kicking myself as to why I did not purchase a ticket and just ride the ferries. At $11 round trip to our destination, it was so worth it as the sights, the sounds, the fresh air, the relaxation, the beauty, all of it was an injection of calm, awe, and serenity. If I didn’t make it to the inn, I would still be happy.
Yet, we did make it and we had a cute golf cart and driver awaiting us as the 1/3 of the island where the inn is located is car-free. Up the hill we went to the grounds of the Inn at Diamond Cove. This would be a good stop for a little bit of history.
Built between 1891 and 1907, Fort McKinley was once used to defend Portland Harbor during the Spanish-American War. Formerly army barracks, the Inn, opened in 2015, has been restored with meticulous attention to historic detail preserving its original character.
The Inn at Diamond Cove offers elegantly appointed interiors, luxury island condominiums with balconies, wide wooden porches, swimming pool, cabana bar and casual fine dining at Diamonds Edge, its waterfront restaurant overlooking Casco Bay.
Guests enjoy walking trails, secluded beaches, tennis, yoga, kayaking, paddle boarding, and simply enjoying the peace and tranquility of Maine island living. – Inn at Diamond Cove website
I was impressed with the grounds and the buildings. Expectations for an old fort and barracks were set at a medium level, but setting your eyes on the property, rooms, and amenities, we were grinning from ear to ear. We were welcomed by Meaghan Murphy (I forgot her title, manager?), who had just started on the job recently, 2 ½ weeks! Maine was heavily shut down because of COVID restrictions from Governor Janet Mills and so many hospitality businesses lost staff that could not wait for the return to some assemblance of normalcy. Meaghan had come up from the Boston area and my oh my, our stay and everyone else’s benefitted from her being there. All the staff at the inn and on the island elsewhere were relaxed, attentive, and super easy to chat with.
We were notified of the amenities before we arrived, and we were also told about what may NOT be present. Oh yes, there was some prep work involved in coming over to the island. As there is no local grocery store or fast food restaurants, it is suggested that guests look into grocery delivery, bring some of your own, or realize that the options are limited, and they were a little more so because of COVID. The informative pdfs from the inn were perfect in helping us to plan our stay as they mentioned there was a café style breakfast available, grab and go lunches, the Lobby Bar at the Inn would offer a Lite Bites menu, and there were two restaurants on the island by the docks, Diamond’s Edge and The Crown Jewel. We had stopped at a Hannaford’s (a northern New England grocery chain) and picked up some steaks, salad fixings, etc. to prepare for our first meal that night.
Our room or shall we say our 1000 square-foot lodging area was quite comfortable and spacious as it had its own private balcony with rocking chairs, the shower was spa-like, gas fire place was easy to operate, and we even had a cook top which was great to prepare some of the groceries we brought over (those steaks). The art work was very coastal New England and did not look like Home Goods/Target offerings as we wanted some of them for our own home. We didn’t expect that, but we were also impressed with what we saw, just saying.
The Inn at Diamond Cove was a break from it all. A place to just inhale and exhale for 3 days. And what better environment to do that in than an Island off the coast of Maine. The boat ride over made one appreciate the beauty of the coastline, the freshness of the air, but being on the island made you refocus and realign. We all need those kinds of trips, times, moments.
The island is not a massive place to be and the walking trails around the island are not long, hilly, or treacherous. They are older roads/paths that the golf carts navigate with efficiency, but guests usually only ride the carts from the pier to the inn and to the restaurant. We did manage to get a tour of the property and the 1/3 of the island, including the wedding venue, the original indoor basketball court and the bowling alley and game room. We also were shown the multiple sunset viewing areas and returned each night to listen to the waves and watch the sun set.
Is this a great place for the gays? Families? Anyone? Yes, yes, and yes. Even if you just come over for the day, pay the $11 fee and walk around, the boat ride and fresh air is worth it. Add on a reservation at one of the restaurants and catch the last boat home for the day, that sounds like a great option two too. And option 3, make a reservation to stay at the inn for a couple of nights and relax. We met families there with children and they loved that it was a great place to unplug, we met couples from far and wide, we met groups of friends vacationing together, we met repeat customers that keep coming back to stay at The Inn at Diamond Cove every year. New England Today called that idea perfect in its 2018 best of Maine list.
We did do dinner at Diamond’s Edge one night and it was full of Maine classic offerings while still being elevated and retro. Seriously, my mouth just watered up as I was thinking about the menu. We dove into the meal with deviled eggs and grilled street corn, I’m not sure why I didn’t go with the tuna poke as it looked great being served to another table. My counterpart had the tomato and watermelon salad while I had the farmer’s market salad. For the entrees I had the Maine diver scallops and he had the traditional baked haddock. The entrees were served with roasted Maine potatoes, grilled asparagus, and quick pickles. Now the quick pickles (excuse me for this tangent) reminded me of the jar of mustard pickles your grandmother made annually. The brought me back to my childhood, were a pleasant surprise, and tasted great! For dessert, we both had the short cake duet. I also christened a bottle of smoked port. All that relaxing made us hungry!
When in Maine, always bring clothes for temperatures between 40 and 90 for you will experience them, sometimes all in the same day. We had beautiful days, rainy days, and cloud-spotted days, pool-side days, breezy walk in the woods days, but there was something to do or not do for all of those occasions at the Inn at Diamond Cove. On one of those cloud covered breezy perfect days, we befriended one of the residents on our walk and she gave us a tour of her condo on the island which was close to the inn. Yes, you can have a condo on the island and can rent it our when you desire. Decisions, decisions.
Island life is not for everyone, but when you can have a taste of it and see if it is for you, then give it a try. We were fortunate enough that the inn opened up when we were visiting other parts of Maine and New England. This side excursion / supplemental trip may become an annual thing and the primary vacation as the ocean, the island, the boat ride, great people, and wonderful food was a reinvigoration as to why I love Maine and try to return every year.
Check out the other pictures below and the Inn at Diamond Cove website and follow on Instagram. The inn is closed for the remainder of 2021 and will reopen around Memorial Day 2022. A great time to mark your calendar!