Yankee editors share some of their favorite places to eat, places to stay, and things to do in Scarborough, Maine.
By Yankee Magazine
Aug 20 2021
Things to Do in Scarborough, Maine | Coastal Weekend GetawaysPhoto Credit : Ken Gallager at English Wikipedia/Wikimedia Commons
Located less than 10 miles from Maine’s largest city, Scarborough is one of those best-of-both-worlds destinations. You can easily access all the food, art, and shopping action in Portland, and yet you’ll also find plenty to do in this classic coastal town of almost 20,000 residents. Home to Maine’s largest salt marsh, pristine white-sand beaches, and dramatic ocean vistas, Scarborough — as you’ll soon discover — has its own distinctive collection of things to do, places to eat, and places to stay.
SEE MORE: Coastal Weekend Getaways in New England | Your Perfect Weekend
The little peninsula that once provided the backdrop and inspiration for the legendary painter Winslow Homer is still stirring the souls of visitors today. One of the best ways to experience its rugged, boulder-strewn beauty is via its cliff walk. From the route’s starting point near the Black Point Inn, you’ll walk a roughly 1.5-mile-long loop around the peninsula, taking in both genteel historic homes and picture-perfect seascapes along the way.
SEE MORE: Walks Worth Their Salt | New England Ocean Walks
It takes a little advance planning, but it’s worth it: By booking a tour through the Portland Museum of Art, you can step back into the world of Winslow Homer at his faithfully restored home and studio on Prouts Neck. Touted as “one of the most significant locations in the history of American art,” the National Historic Landmark building is filled with original furniture and artifacts, copies of Homer’s masterpieces, and museum displays that help bring the artist’s genius to life.
SEE MORE: Portland’s Year of Winslow Homer
Although the stunning 3,100-acre estuary known as Scarborough Marsh is open year-round, one of the best ways to get oriented is by visiting the Audubon center located on its southwestern edge, on Pine Point Road. Open from May to September, the center is the jumping-off point for an estimated 10,000 annual visitors to Maine’s largest salt marsh. Here, you can take a guided walk or follow a marked nature trail on your own; rent a canoe or kayak; check out the wildlife and natural history exhibits; and shop for Maine-made gifts, birding equipment, and more at the Nature Store.
No trip to Scarborough is complete without a stop-off to see Lenny, the world’s only life-size chocolate moose. Weighing nearly 1,700 pounds, this milk chocolate colossus has stood majestically for 20 years in the Len Libby sweets shop along Route 1. After paying your respects, you can pick out a tasty reminder of your visit, such as a chocolate moose footprint or even a little Lenny of your own.
If you’re looking for an authentic Scarborough experience, it’s hard to top this venerable seafood spot, run by a family whose local roots go back more than 100 years. The simple two-story building lets you order from a takeout window and carry your meal to a nearby picnic table, or head inside to grab a booth in the dining room. Best bets are the thick, creamy clam chowder and the lobster roll, featuring fresh, succulent meat piled on a toasted hot dog bun. Even better, the family’s ice cream shack is right next door.
Ocean views accompany every dinner at this fine-dining option located in the Black Point Inn. The menu changes seasonally but always focuses on fresh and local produce and seafood; look for upscale fare such as brioche-crusted Atlantic cod with celeriac purée and charred Brussels sprouts; a duo of grilled filet mignon and braised short rib with a rich Bordelaise sauce; and oh yes, the classic twin-lobster dinner. Reservations are a must.
Named for the Italian Feast of St. Joseph, St. Joe’s Coffee began in York in 2009 and added this, its second location, in 2012. Like its predecessor, the Scarborough café is a can’t-miss pick for casual breakfast and lunch eats. For an a.m. fill-up, once you’ve ordered your coffee (made with beans roasted at Seacoast Coffee Company in Newcastle), choose from the all-day breakfast lineup of hearty biscuit sandwiches such as the Popeye: egg, garlicky spinach, feta, and tomato. Lunchtime fare includes signature grilled cheese creations, wraps, and sandwiches piled high with fresh fixings. Good anytime? The St. Joe’s “bennie” — bites of deep-fried dough that arrive dusted with powdered sugar and accompanied by your choice of chocolate, blueberry, raspberry, or maple-cinnamon dipping sauces.
It has long been a tradition in Maine potato country to add mashed spuds to doughnut batter, yielding a fluffier, moister dunker. So when Leigh Kellis decided to open a doughnut shop in Portland in 2012, it was only natural that she would make her rounds with potatoes. The results not only nail the perfect texture but also come in 20-odd flavors that are uniformly excellent (don’t miss the chocolate glazed sprinkled with sea salt). Locations in Portland and Scarborough.
Built in 1900 as a summer home for a Portland businessman, this Higgins Beach landmark transitioned into a hotel in the 1930s and has been welcoming visitors to Scarborough ever since. The turreted three-story building is impressive without being imposing, and its décor is basic yet tidy and welcoming. Factor in its easy access to the water and its proximity to Scarborough State Beach and Prouts Neck, and it’s obvious why some families choose to come back to the Breakers year after year — even continuing into the newest generations.
SEE MORE: Best Beachside Lodging | Sandcastles by the Sea
At this beautiful shingled 19th-century inn, you can take you pick of ideal spots for unwinding — be it in the heated saltwater pool, on the oceanside deck at sunrise, in an Adirondack chair on the sweeping lawn, or, on chilly days, in front of the lobby’s fireplace. Looking for a more active stay? Black Point offers the use of bikes and kayaks; there’s access to a private beach club, too, and free outdoor yoga classes. As for the rooms, there are 25 comfy and individually decorated guestrooms and suites to choose from, ranging from single bedrooms to connecting rooms and suites.
SEE MORE: 10 Best Seaside Inns in New England
Just a few minutes up the road from Scarborough, in Cape Elizabeth, sits this relaxed, contemporary, and pet-friendly boutique resort. In addition to the luxury accommodations — which span guest rooms, suites, and cottages — a stay here comes with peace of mind for the eco-concerned. Inn by the Sea was Maine’s first hotel to heat with biofuel and to go carbon-neutral through offsets, and throughout the property are such earth-friendly touches as dual-flush toilets, CFL and LED lighting, and recycled building materials. The prettiest of its green efforts? Five acres of indigenous gardens certified as wildlife habitat.
What are your favorite things to do in Scarborough, Maine? Let us know in the comments!
This post was first published in 2017 and has been updated.