Craignair Inn – a wonderful MidCoast Maine waterfront hotel

by Nov 15, 2023Maine

Craignair Inn Maine Best Inn

Searching for a great Maine waterfront inn? Look no further than the Craignair Inn in MidCoast Maine, ideally located on the St. George peninsula, historic, cozy, secluded and yet so close to great sights. After our visit in 2020, we returned post-pandemic to see all the changes and renovations this sustainably focused inn has added.

The Craignair Inn on the St. George peninsula is a secluded MidCoast Maine waterfront hotel that is so much more: cozy, homey, historic, unbeatable ocean views, great food, with a sustainable focus and not far from any number of favorite Maine sights.

Since current owners Lauren and Greg Soutiea bought the inn in December 2018, they have endeared themselves to the tiny Spruce Head village and slowly expanded the inn’s offerings with an emphasis on sustainability – without harming any of its historic charm. Of course, sitting at the edge of the water across a short causeway to an island preserve with trails and a swimming hole can’t be beat. Since our first visit in 2020 (during the pandemic), two have also managed to nail down a few top Maine awards — no small feat in a state dotted with great lodgings.

Imagine yourself in this vacation photo now: lounging in an Adirondack chair on the Craignair Inn’s expansive rear waterfront lawn, enjoying some of the inn’s homemade ice cream, sipping on your favorite beverage from their Clark Bar, watching the ocean waves or birds, and getting ready for the milky way to make its appearance over the Clark Island Preserve.

Forget bustling, tourist-filled beaches, or streets lined with trinket shops, the Craignair has the honor of being the only inn (or business really) within a few miles. You get a intimate, secluded, natural setting, yet you are only 10-30 minutes from great villages, ferry landings, towns like Rockland or Camden, lobster shacks, historic business districts, and one of the best lighthouses in Maine (Marshall Point).

Craignair Inn Back Lawn And View

The view out of the St. George room at the Craignair Inn, looking across its expansive lawn to the island preserve (The anti-mosquito window screen is a must, thus the mesh you see in the photo).

Cozy vibe at this Maine waterfront inn

It doesn’t hurt that Lauren and Greg are simply some of the nicest owners who treat guests like family and bend over backward to ensure you have precisely what you need.  In a stroke of bad timing, they bought the MidCoast Maine inn in time to have one good tourist season (2019) – then the COVID-19 pandemic struck. But they soldiered on, using the time to start planning what they wanted the inn to become and to begin plotting remodeling touches and small expansions. They also live full time in a section of the building so it’s also their home, making the bad luck of the pandemic less of a  defeat.

Craignair Inn Maine Clark Bar

Co-owner Greg Soutiea, left, prepares a drink at the popular Clark Bar.

There is of course no shortage of inns and bed and breakfasts in Maine or New England, especially with the coveted ocean view, so they had their work cut out for them — and I had to return in 2023 to see it all. They added private balconies on a number of ocean-view rooms; a premium dinner service that attracts, guests, locals and travelers alike; re-envisioned the former living room into a sleeker, cleaner space for an added dining area; renovated bathrooms, and expanded the common ocean-view deck. They also took steps to transform the business into a sustainable Maine inn, selecting regional fare, emphasizing green practices, and adding solar panels to power a large percentage of the inn’s energy needs. Their work paid off:  In 2022, Lauren and Greg were named Maine’s Innkeepers of the Year by Hospitality Maine, a highly coveted honor in a state packed with beautiful inns. Hospitality Maine noted the two had “turned this rustic locale into a green, arty, culinary retreat on the edge of Spruce Head.” That same year, they were named one of the state’s 16 best new or improved inns by Down East Magazine.

Craignair Inn Maine Living Room

The new “living room” area has removed a lot of older clutter and become a sleek yet comfortable hangout, which also serves as extra dining room space.

Craignair Inn has history, cool breezes, dramatic tides, and all the amenities

In the beginning, the clapboard building (circa 1928) was a boarding house for the Scottish workers at the quarry on what is now the 120-acre Clark Island Preserve across the causeway. (Note: “Craignair” translates loosely from the Scottish as “black rock.”) In 1944, the building was transformed into an inn, which it has been ever since. Lauren and Greg are the 6th owners since then, with three of the prior owners still either in Spruce Head or in Rockland!

The main house has 13 rooms, five of which share a hall bathroom with others. In a small house behind the main inn, one finds the “Vestry,” which used to be the community church. In it, there are eight additional rooms, which have decks, air conditioning, and are a bit more spacious, and are also pet-friendly. A parking lot between the two is convenient for your road trip travel and also provides space for visitors to the island preserve. The two also have expanded the lot since their start and added electric vehicle charging stations to fulfill more of their sustainable promise.

Craignair Inn Maine Cozy Room

The cozy St. George corner room — no balcony but windows that allow a cross-breeze in the summer.

For my first stay at this MidCoast Maine waterfront hotel, I stayed in the St. George room on the third floor of the main house, a corner room with three windows for superior cross breezes and never-ending views of the ocean, tides, stars and island. The rooms are not expansive suites, but have a clean, tidy, historic feel that is all you need. My room had a ceiling fan, and all rooms have full amenities, extra ports for USB charging and more plugs, and plenty of plushy towels. Oh, and the Wi-Fi worked fantastically (although I certainly didn’t stream movies – too much great outdoors stuff to do!). With wood floors and vintage wood chairs, you do have to be conscious of guests above and below you — it is an old building, after all.

Upon my return post-pandemic with Michael to take a look at all their hard work, we stayed in the Cobble Beach room on the second floor, which is one with a new balcony and a slightly more modern and sleeker feel than the St. George room. The balcony is a grand addition for a private happy hour or just reading peacefully.

Craignair Inn Maine New Balcony

One of the rooms on the second floor with a newly added balcony. This is the Cobble Beach room.

Breakfasts are included with stays, and you get to choose from a menu with a nice variety, including vegetarian, vegan and healthy choices, in part because both Lauren and Greg are vegan and emphasis their own personal health and fitness. The breakfast menu changes up occasionally: My first stay I enjoyed a breakfast burrito with sweet potato hash can also have served over a bed of greens (my fave!), and of course I had to try the Maine blueberry pancakes with local Maine maple syrup. You also get a choice of sides, juice, and all the locally roasted dark coffee you want. They have since added bowls that are easily adapted to cater to varying dietary needs.

Craignair Inn Maine Ocean View Deck

An expanded deck allows more space for dinner on nice days, breakfast for guests, or a comfy ocean-view place to hang out.

Normally, during the high tourist season, the award-winning Craignair Inn serves dinner much of the week in its Causeway Restaurant, although hours may vary during the winter. Since dinner service was very limited during my first stay during the pandemic, I took my return opportunity to dine at the Craignair Inn Causeway Restaurant. The menu still caters to organic, regional cuisine yet has a broad variety for all tastes including oysters, crab cakes (and vegan “crab” cakes), lobster bisque, and an array of mains from filet mignon and halibut to pastas and lamb. Since his arrival in June 2023, Executive Chef Gil Plaster has transformed the restaurant into a true premium destination, focusing on matching the vibe and ethos with their local, sustainable approach, he said. With such great food offerings and a cozy feel, the restaurant has gone from “just being there for guests” to becoming an area destination and bringing in nearly triple the business it did before.

Craignair Inn Maine Causeway Restaurant Dinner

Dinner at the Causeway Restaurant at the Craignair Inn is indeed pretty delicious — to the eyes and tastebuds.

New as of late June 2020 is the “Clark Bar,” which is a freshly created bar area in the main dining room of this MidCoast Maine waterfront inn with a window to the deck for outdoor ordering. Guests, community members, or visitors to Clark Island can saunter over, order soft drinks, hard drinks, ice cream, or snacks and alcoholic beverages, and take it all away or enjoy on the back lawn, which since my first stay has been expanded to include additional fire pits, seating areas, and games.

All in all, the Craignair Inn is a delightful choice for top MidCoast Maine waterfront lodging with a personal feel for travelers that are either passing through, dashing from sight to sight, or just wanting to relax in a secluded setting.

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Shopping for the best Made in Maine souvenirs

In Maine, you’ll fall in love with lobster, lighthouses, beaches and mountains, all the things the state is famous for, but they don’t really make the best Maine souvenirs or travel gifts. To find the best Made in Maine gifts, read Best Maine souvenirs – Maine Made products for the perfect travel gift.

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Disclosure: Therese was fully hosted at the Craignair Inn by Visit Maine for her first visit, and then for the article update in 2023 we were fully hosted by Craignair Inn. The review, opinions and ratings here are our own, and are not approved, provided, or otherwise endorsed or influenced by the hotel or Visit Maine.

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Rating The Craignair Inn

93%

Our Rating Our hotel ratings will tell you what we think of an individual property and are not a comparison to other hotels in the area. They are valid at the time of our visit, which in this case was during the COVID-19 pandemic. That meant no daily housekeeping and some limitations on dinner service. Things can – and will -- change, of course, but we hope only back to pre-pandemic operations and not overall with properties like this that we love! We frequently pay for our hotel stays and will disclose whenever we receive discounts or comped room nights as a part of a hotel stay. Our ratings are a percent, with 100% being perfect and 0% someplace not even a rat would stay. We rate cleanliness/upkeep (e.g. dust on the windows, dirt under the beds, unclean bathroom fixtures, need of repairs/maintenance, etc.), comfort (e.g. taking into account quiet, how comfy the bed is, if there is a nice robe, a comfy chair, etc.), amenities (e.g. free parking, breakfast included, free Wi-Fi, free bikes, fitness gear, workout room, pool, etc. -- and we are not fans of hotels that say they include things, but then charge a facilities fee!), location (e.g. how easy is it to get around by foot, bike, and car), and value (e.g. how much we feel we got in return for the amount charged).

Cleanliness/Upkeep
95%
Comfort
90%
Amenities
95%
Location
95%
Value
90%