Almost 37 million tourists visited Maine in 2017 — a bump of almost 9 million from five years earlier — further cementing the Pine Tree State’s standing as a top New England destination. And hoteliers are taking notice, especially in the state’s biggest city, Portland. In 2017 some half a dozen new hotels were proposed, including a 120-room property from home decor designer West Elm that’s slated to open on the waterfront in 2020. The newcomers will be joining an already lively lodging mix that ranges from a brand-new budget option, Black Elephant Hostel, to the largest hotel in Maine, the 289-room Westin Portland Harborview. And for city visitors who gravitate toward the intimate feel and design savvy of boutique hotels, Portland has its bases covered — from the Old Port to the West End to Casco Bay.
Billing itself as Portland’s first “lifestyle boutique hotel,” the Press Hotel opened in 2015 in the nearly century-old building that once was home to the offices and printing plant of the Portland Press Herald, the state’s largest newspaper. Clever nods to its former occupant — which has relocated to South Portland — are everywhere, from an art installation of antique typewriters, to tabletops featuring newspaper layouts under glass, to wallpapers designed from headline type. The inviting lobby bar is even named the Inkwell (there’s also a top-notch hotel restaurant, called Union). In each of the 110 guest rooms you’ll find a vintage-styled journalist desk and all-local artwork, plus amenities such as oversized flatscreen HD TVs, Frette bed linens, and Maine-made Cuddledown comforters. The penthouse suite, meanwhile, touts a splurge-worthy private rooftop patio overlooking the Old Port, the harbor and islands, and the ocean beyond. Fronting onto Congress at the end of Exchange and Market streets, the Press Hotel is an ideal base for exploring the city. Named a 2016 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Downtown Hotel.”
When a group of four brothers gets together to cook up a scheme, you might not expect something as refined as what the DeLois clan — Nate, Tony, Jacob, and Jeff — came up with. They bought and renovated a classic c. 1881 Italianate mansion in the West End and opened it in 2017 as a chic 15-room boutique hotel called the Francis. Even better, they launched a restaurant on the first floor, Bolster, Snow & Co., serving New England farm-to-table cuisine that’s worthy of a visit in its own right. Throughout both the hotel and restaurant, historic touches have been preserved (stained glass windows, parquet floors, tiled fireplaces), while the guest rooms themselves have an airy, modern vibe and plush bedding (the blankets, for instance, come from the Massachusetts luxury brand Matouk, a favorite of celebs like Tom Hanks). For an extra-relaxing stay, book a treatment at the wee second-floor spa, which uses the soothing products of Rhode Island–based Farmaesthetics.
Built around a courtyard in a prime Old Port location one block off the waterfront, the Portland Harbor Hotel recently unveiled $1.8 million in renovations that have brightened its rooms with a coastally inspired color scheme of white, blue, and gray, offset by bold graphic accents. Maine artists and artisans are in the spotlight here, too, from Angela Adams’s textiles to Thos. Moser’s chairs to Jim Dugan’s photography. If you haven’t visited in a while (the hotel first opened in 2002), you’ll also notice the new, individual pantries on each floor with Starbucks touch-screen machines, the expanded lobby, and the relaunched restaurant: The onetime Eve’s at the Garden is now seafood specialist Bluefin. Among the 101 rooms you’ll find a number of luxury suite options, including some with double-sided fireplaces and whirlpool tubs. Named a 2013 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Boutique Hotel.”
Seeking a couple’s escape to one of the best oceanfront boutique hotels in Maine? You and your significant other can leave both car and cares on the mainland when you hop a Casco Bay Ferry to Great Diamond Island, where bicycles and electric golf carts are the chief alternatives to walking. An inspired redeployment of the former barracks of the 1890s Fort McKinley, the 44-room Inn at Diamond Cove is a plush and tranquil retreat. To up the intimacy factor, ask for a parlor suite with fireplace for snuggling on a cool night, and reserve a waterfront table at the inn’s sister restaurant, Diamond’s Edge. Named a 2018 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Romantic Getaway.”
Be on the lookout for the sleep and polished Blind Tiger, a handsome nine-room Federal-style brick guest house between Portland’s West End and Old Port neighborhoods that recently opened in February 2020.
Have any of your visits to Maine’s famed “foodie city” included great boutique hotels? Portland fans, let us know!
This post was first published in 2018 and has been updated.