We arrive on Prouts Neck in late Spring when the snow and crashing waves of winter have been replaced by manicured green lawns, budding trees, and tranquil beaches.
It was here on Prouts Neck that great American painter, Winslow Homer, lived and painted from 1883 until his death in 1910. We took the occasion of the Portland Museum of Art's new Winslow Homer Studio tours to come "walk in Homer's footsteps" and see the same dramatic views of the sea that influenced his artistic vision.
We check in to the Black Point Inn -- the sole remaining inn on the peninsula dating back to 1878. With just 25 rooms and an inviting lobby with living room, library, fireplace, sun porch and dining rooms, the feeling is that of a seaside estate rather than a hotel.
Black Point Inn overlooks beautiful Garrison Bay
Our suite looks out onto sweeping Garrison Bay in front of The Inn and I can't wait to go down for a walk on the beach. After getting my fill of sunshine and sand, we meander back to The Inn for afternoon tea and cocktails. Heidi, the bartender, tells us about the Cliff Walk which offers an hour-long walk amidst the rugged beauty of Prouts Neck. The 150+ year old path winds along the cliffs and rocky coastline, sometimes plunging into vales of roses and evergreens. This was the inspiration for Winslow Homer and his favorite daily indulgence.
The history of Prout's Neck dates back to 1631 when the Council of Plymouth granted Thomas Cammock, nephew of the Earl of Warwick, 1,500 acres between Black Point and the Spurwink River. The Neck became a popular summer retreat in the 1800's with multiple summer cottages and eight hotels, but only the Black Point Inn still remains.
Winslow Homer's connection to Prouts Neck was forged in 1875 when he was 39 years old. Winslow's brother, Arthur, took his wife here for their honeymoon and the whole family joined them as was the custom back then. Arthur built a house here in 1881, and Charles Savage Homer, Winslow's father followed two years later, buying a home that he named 'the Ark'. Homer's humble home and studio stands right next door to the Ark and is now a National Historic Landmark. It was opened to the public for the first time in September 2012.
Beginning of Prouts Neck Cliff Walk
Staying at the Black Point Inn affords us exclusive access in this private community. Guests gain entry to the Prouts Neck Country Club and the Prouts Neck Yacht Club, in addition to the use of private beaches which have been called "Maine's most beautiful".
Outdoor activities to fill spare time include bicycles, kayaks, croquet, and a swimming pool. Nature enthusiasts can stroll through the bird sanctuary that is a half mile boardwalk through the spruce forests of Prouts Neck. On a rainy day, hole up in the 'Sun Porch' with a game of chess or a board game, sit by the fire and read a book from the library, or gaze out at the storm from The Chart Room bar. Sunshine or rain, the Inn is always romantic.
Our first night, we have a casual dinner in The Chart Room overlooking Garrison Bay (I can't get enough of this view). It may sound like a shame to be in Maine and not enjoy the seafood, but we are vegans, so the chef creates an imaginative dish just for us of French lentils topped with grilled asparagus and green beans, surrounded by olive and tomato tapenades and grilled green apples drizzled with olive oil. A talented jazz trio plays in the lounge while we dine, adding to the air of romance.
At this time of year, the days are long in Maine, so when we retire to our suite we are treated to a stunning sunset view outside our bedroom window.
Black Point Inn sunset from Suite #213
We awake in the morning well rested realizing our bed, pillows and sheets were supremely comfortable. The most delightful hotel bedding we've experienced in recent memory. Our room amenities also include luxurious bath robes and towels, fresh flowers, and Gilchrist & Soames 'Spa Therapy' bath products. We are early risers so it's great to to have coffee, tea, and freshly-baked pastries waiting for us in the living room right at the bottom of the stairs at 6:30 in the morning.
Today we take the short drive into the city to visit the Portland Museum of Art where we see some of Winslow Homer's masterpieces in person. They really are iconic pieces of American art.
Weatherbeaten, oil painting by Winslow Homer
Just our good luck, we find a fantastic vegetarian restaurant for lunch just steps from the museum, called the Green Elephant. Portland is a charming, walkable port city with many great dining and shopping options along cobblestone streets.
After lunch we take the exclusive museum tour back out to Prouts Neck to visit the site of Winslow Homer's restored studio and home. Homer's direct encounters with the Maine sea and the rugged coast informed his work, finding expression in vigorous paintings that grapple with themes of life, death, and renewal in nature. The culminating paintings of Homer's career are dramatic portrayals of the ceaseless battle of waves crashing against the ledges near his studio. Some of his finest oil paintings were inspired by his studies of the Neck, including Fog Warning, Eight Bells, Cannon Rock, The Wreck, and The Northeaster.
Winslow Homer studio landscape
Tonight we experience the Inn's more formal dining room, The Point, and again are delighted by special vegan entrées created just for us by the chef. For seafood lovers there are plenty of local specialties like Seared Gulf of Maine Scallops, Iced Damariscotta Oysters, Twin Maine Lobsters, New England Clam Chowder, and more. The inn offers a great wine list as well.
We've had an amazing stay. The combination of the Black Point Inn and the Winslow Homer experience give this locale a real sense of place. We also feel right at home here speaking with the well-traveled staff about other unique places around the world.
More information: Black Point Inn