PORTLAND, Maine — Maine weather is not to be trifled with. Sure, a midautumn trip there can start in still air with a soft bite and a placid coastline. Two days later, though, it becomes howling winds and a livid sea worthy of a Hitchcock movie.
All of which makes the Cliff House Maine a fascinating place to visit and its decision to remain open year-round a heady one.
Located on 70 acres of oceanfront property in Ogunquit, about 70 miles north of Boston and 40 miles south of Portland, the Cliff House first opened in 1872. It was run by four generations of the Weare family before being sold in 2014 to a partnership between the Rockbridge investment firm and two Mainers, Marc Dugas and Peter Anastos.
Shuttered last October for the first phase of a $100 million renovation, the property, which had 166 rooms prior to its closure, reopened in August with 132 rooms. Post-renovation, the new design offers what management calls a "coastal chic" decor that includes a nautical design scheme that integrates about 46,000 square feet of pine boards reclaimed from houses in northern Maine.
By next summer, Cliff House Maine, which is managed by Two Roads Hospitality (the name for the parent company of the recently merged Destination Hotels & Resorts and Commune Hotels & Resorts), will expand to 227 rooms and add an adults-only pool on its northern flank.
In the meantime, the hotel, which traditionally closed between late October and Memorial Day weekend, will stay open through the winter for the first time.
With luxury-level finishes, the Cliff House, which also contains 25,000 square feet of meeting space, is looking to reposition itself as a self-contained, year-round resort and a regional destination akin to Two Roads' Terranea Resort in Southern California.
That means amenities that range from a 9,000-square-foot spa with yoga classes and a relaxation room, which literally (and cozily) perches its guests over the top of the rocks, to the 80-seat Tiller Restaurant, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.
In late October, the resort opened its indoor swimming pool while adding a casual eatery called Nubb's Lobster Shack. Named for the iconic Nubble Lighthouse off the coast of nearby Cape Neddick, it has air hockey and foosball tables.
For the winter, the resort will offer activities such as indoor cornhole contests and beachfront snowshoeing. The Cliff House plans to add an ice rink next year. For families, some of the late October and early November activities on-site included pumpkin painting and create-your-own whoopie pie.
"The cornerstone of the property will be programming," said John Bradway, the Cliff House's director of sales and marketing.
Which is not to suggest that exploring the local towns lacks appeal. A recent trip included a brief Brew Bus tour that took visitors to nearby York for a tasting at Wiggly Bridge Distillery, which is run by the identically named father-son team of David and David Woods, then on to SoMe Brewing Co. for a sampler that included Pumpkin Whoopie Pie Stout.
The resort also operates a shuttle that ferries guests to the charming coastal locales of Ogunquit and Perkins Cove about 10 minutes away.
That said, the chill of a Maine winter might deter guests from wandering off the property, confining their entertainment to some grilled Maine salmon at the Tiller, a drink at the adjacent Tidemark Lounge or a lobster roll and a microbrew at Nubb's, all with a front-row view of the frigid Atlantic.
Which isn't a bad thing.