Sebasco Harbor puts kid-friendly spin on upscale Maine stays

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PHIPPSBURG, Maine -- After a long day of boating and swimming followed by a dinner of fresh lobster, my family and I settled on our private porch to watch a wedding on the lawn situated between our cottage and the sea.

We, or the dozens of other onlookers pausing on their way to and from their cottages, didnt know the bride and groom or any of the 100 guests dressed in their summer finest, but that didnt seem to disturb them.

In just two days, it had become evident that Sebasco Harbor Resort, which marks its 75th anniversary this year, can handle all types of weddings or events -- and the group dinners and special activities that go along with them -- in stride.

While a good deal of the charm of this 118-room, 575-acre property -- including the scenery, colorful cottages and even its lighthouse -- is owed to its history, the hands-on management of the owner and his staff also play a part.

Owner Bob Smith has the title of Lighthouse Keeper on his business card, even though the 10-room lighthouse on site, built in 1940, never actually functioned as such.

But its apparent Smiths role as innkeeper, more than caretaker, is what drives him in making his daily rounds.

Did you try the blueberry pancakes? he asked our children, as we enjoyed an al fresco breakfast on the spot of the previous days nuptials.

Be sure to try a boat ride, Smith suggested, before moving off to engage another family in conversation. Where are you from? we heard him ask them.

But all of this low-key friendliness in no way diminishes the more upscale aspects of the resort, which was built in 1909 on Popham Peninsula at Casco Bay, a one-hour drive north of Portland, Maine.

The manicured resort grounds feature the Gazebo on the Village Green, a perfect setting for concerts and weddings; a nine-hole golf course; and a well-equipped playground for families with young children.

The 118 guest rooms at Sebasco Harbor Resort comprise three types of accommodations: A lighthouse built in 1940 houses 10 guests rooms at the Sebasco Harbor Resort on Casco Bay in Maine.10 lighthouse rooms, 23 cottages with one to 10 bedrooms each and 37 in the more traditional main lodge.

For the 2006 high season, the resort will debut a new room category, with 18 suites housed in two eight- and 10-unit structures by Memorial Day Weekend.

The decor in our oceanview cottage was casual, with two bedrooms and a pullout couch for our teenager as well as a small kitchen.

There is no air conditioning at Sebasco, but we didnt miss it, as ocean breezes kept us cool.

Kids seemed to have the run of the property, especially in July and August, when multigenerational gatherings appeared to be more the rule than the exception.

The supervised Camp Merritt program for children ages 4 through 12 offers a range of activities, such as a hike up Merritt Mountain, golf lessons with a resident pro, arts and crafts, a field trip to Totman Cove and a visit to the resort ice cream shop.

The kids camp is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, and the staff provides snacks, sunscreen and bug spray. Lunch is available for children whose parents are occupied all day.

A highlight for our teens was an evening at the Quarterdeck Recreation Center, the resorts old-fashioned amusement arcade.

Daytime found us poring over boating options: kayaking trips, sailing instruction, canoeing and various sunset outings.

We opted for a cruise aboard the Ruth, a vessel launched at Sebasco in 1935.

The 38-foot ship is one of the longest continuously operated passenger boats on the coast of Maine.

Various theme cruises on the Ruth include Pirate Adventures for kids, a lobstering cruise and a lunch cruise at Cundys Harbor, during which passengers disembark and dine at a local seafood restaurant.

Because this is rocky Maine, dont expect to spend days at the beach -- there isnt one. But if your preference is to be in, rather than on, the water, the resorts sea-water infinity swimming pool, fittingly perched over the ocean, should fit the bill.

Meanwhile, those with a yen for relaxation can head to the fitness center for a spa treatment, such as the Maine Ocean-Tumbled Hot Stone Massage. The resort plans to open a full-service spa on site in 2007.

Another highlight at Sebasco -- and a benchmark of the resorts dedication to the luxury market -- is the dining, which walks that fine line between casual and gourmet.

Arriving very late on a Friday evening, we had to have our first meal at the only on-property eatery still open at that hour, the Ledges Pub, where I had a first-rate lobster salad I was still thinking about days later.

We also dined at the tonier Pilot House, which offered a fine-dining experience and stellar views but with a relaxed dress code.

The resort is open mid-May to late October, with MAP and EP meal plans available.

The shoulder season tends to draw a combination of empty-nesters and conference attendees during the week and wedding parties, including families, on the weekends. 

The top accommodations choice for high-end clients is the six-bedroom Shore Ledges Cottage, with two private porches and scenic water views.

The 2005 high-season rate with cottage was $1,689 and will stay about the same in 2006.

To contact reporter Felicity Long, send e-mail to [email protected].

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