Cheap sleeps on the Maine Coast

Looking for a place to rest your head that won’t bust the budget? Check out these accommodations. Some are waterfront, others not. Some have a bit, uhm, more character. If you’re used to five-star lodgings, these won’t cut it; some wouldn’t earn two, perhaps barely one. But all are clean and pass my sniff test. And each has peak-season rooms (not every room mind you, but at least a few) that go for less than $100 per night, some considerably less.

Southern beaches

Katahdin Inn, York Beach
Only a sliver of road separates the Katahdin from Short Sands Beach. Owners Rae and Bob LeBlanc call their homey operation a bed and beach. No breakfast, but it’s only a five-minute stroll to restaurants. Almost every room has an ocean view, and each has a refrigerator. The sunshine yellow inn is decorated with comfy Victorianesque furnishings, lacy curtains, and nubby white bedspreads. Perks include Wifi, coffee, and parking. To keep it under $100, you’ll have to share a bath, but with this location, even the pricier rooms are a deal.

Franciscan Guest House, Lower Village, Kennebunk
img_7648One of the least pricey lodging options in the Kennebunks actually has one of the most primo locations. The nonprofit Franciscan Guest House is situated on the 200-acre, riverside grounds of the St. Anthony’s Franciscan Monastery, within walking distance of both Kennebunk Beach and Dock Square. The rooms, spread between a main lodge in a renovated high school and a few smaller cottages, are classic 1970’s décor. Rates include a hot buffet-style breakfast; an inexpensive buffet dinner is usually available, too. Frills include a seasonal saltwater pool and Wifi. What’s the catch? Fresh linens are available, but there is no daily maid service.

Greater Portland
Inn at St. John, Portland
A room for less than $100 in Portland? Yes! Built by railroad baron John Deering in 1897, The Inn at St. John delivers a lot of bang for the buck. Local calls, Internet access, bicycle storage, access to a refrigerator and microwave, newspapers, umbrellas, and a continental breakfast are all included. So is parking, but why drive? The inn provides free pick up at the Portland Transportation Center, where the Amtrak and Concord Coach bus dock; the Greyhound bus station is across the street; and the Metro bus accesses downtown (or walk). “Value” accommodations have either shared or detached bathrooms, but are pleasant and include all perks. The neighborhood is so-so at best, but still.

Eighth Maine Living Museum and Lodge, Peaks Island, Portland
site1026In a class of its own and definitely not for everyone is the ultra informal and uniquely historic Eighth Maine Living Museum and Lodge. Guests rusticate in much the same manner as the Civil War veterans who built the shorefront lodge in 1891, using a gift from a veteran who had won the Louisiana Lottery. It bills itself as a living history museum, and guests are immersed in a late-19th-century environment. Accommodations are more hostel than inn, with shared baths and kitchen space, and evening activities including games and sing-a-longs. The pluses include extensive Civil War books, artifacts, and memorabilia, and Wifi. There are no housekeeping services; guests must strip linens and clean their room and their respective kitchen area before departing. Still interested? Best rates are Sunday through Thursday nights or for a Sunday-to-Sunday stay.

Maine Idyll Motor Court, Freeport
Charming, retro, rustic, simple: That sums up this tidy cottage colony established in the 1930s by the Marsteller family and still operated by them. Rates will leave you with enough in your wallet for a Freeport outlet binge. Frills include fireplaces and/or kitchenettes in some of the pine-paneled units, older children’s playsets, walking trails, and a light continental breakfast, but overall, this is a back-to-basics kind of place. Only drawback might be traffic noise; it’s located between Routes 1 and I-295. Pets welcome at a small additional charge.

Mid coast
Mid-Town Motel, Boothbay Harbor midtown_front_600
Smack dab in the center of Boothbay Harbor, the appropriately named Mid-Town Motel has been owned and operated by the Lewis family for 54 years. “My Father always said keep the property well maintained, have good clean rooms, make people feel at home, and keep the room rates reasonable, and I still think those words ring clear today,” says owner Tim Lewis. The walk-to-everything location eliminates the hassle of parking in this seaside village. The cozy rooms are classic 1950s in style. No frills, but at these prices, who cares!

Hotel Pemaquid, New Harbor, Maine
Although guests can’t see Pemaquid Point Light from the Hotel Pemaquid, they sure can hear the foghorn when it blows. The current owners have gently renovated and upgraded the 1888 accommodations without loosing the charm of seaside Victorian hotel, right down to the rockers on the front porch. Antiques are plentiful, but the emphasis is on comfort. Coffee is served in the morning, but most guests stroll over to the oceanfront Sea Gull restaurant for blueberry pancakes served with a view of the lighthouse.

dsc_2133Moody’s Motel, Waldoboro
Moody’s Diner (photo) has been a landmark for generations of travelers heading up Route 1 through Maine’s mid coast, its neon sign a beacon for weary drivers seeking a cup of joe and a slab of pie. Hidden from sight up a quarter-mile drive behind the diner is Moody’s Motel and Cabins, a coastal tourist cabin classic that’s been operating since 1927. The location is convenient for exploring from Wiscasset through Searsport. Every unit has a screen porch and TV; some have kitchenettes. And the rates? Right out of a different era.

Acadia Region, Isle au Haut through Schoodic
Boyce’s Motel, Stonington
Check into Boyce’s, and perhaps purchase artwork from one of Deer Isle’s numerous galleries with the savings. The hodgepodge of rooms and apartments are strung perpendicular to Main Street. The décor isn’t fancy, but the frills include a harbor-front dock, Wifi, and in-room refrigerators. Some rooms have kitchens, water views, and private decks. Pets are accepted in some rooms for an additional $10. The nearby Harbor Café is the local hot spot for grub and gossip, and the gussied-up Fisherman’s Friend serves lobster 30 ways. It’s an easy walk to the Isle au Haut ferry accessing a remote section Acadia National Park.

Edenbrook Motel, Bar Harbor
Snagging a cheap and decent room in a convenient location isn’t easy in Bar Harbor. Meeting the criteria is the Edenbrook, with four buildings tiered up a hillside, a walk-able mile from downtown. The least expensive rooms are on the lowest level, but those on the upper ones have increasingly panoramic views over Frenchman Bay. No flash here, expect 1960s-esque style and amenities. It’s on the free (with Acadia park pass) Island Explorer bus system, which provides access to most of Mt. Desert Island, and a short walk from College of the Atlantic, with an inexpensive cafeteria, and The Cat ferry to Nova Scotia.

Lighthouse Inn and Restaurant, Seal Harbor
Here’s a gen-u-ine bahgain in oh-so-tony Seal Harbor. Sure, it’s a bit dated and dowdy, but at these prices ($50-$75 in season, $45 off), who cares? All rooms have private baths; there’s a restaurant downstairs serving inexpensive meals; and it’s a short walk to Seal Harbor Beach and the Seal Harbor entrance to Acadia National Park’s carriage road system.

Harbor View Motel and Cottages, Southwest Harbor
Shhh, don’t tell too many folks about this property at the head of Southwest Harbor. The shorefront Harbor View is on the edge of downtown, but hidden from the highway. Picnic tables dot the grassy lawn, and at low tide there’s a private pebble beach. Rooms are split between two vintage motels and a newer three-story building with fancier (and a bit pricier) units. During peak season, July 12 through Labor Day, rates include a continental breakfast featuring homemade blueberry muffins. The Island Explorer bus stops nearby. Pets are allowed in some rooms for $10 per day. Also here are cottages that rent by the week.

Main Stay Cottages, Winter Harbor bthse2
Niftiest cottage at the Main Stay is the one-bedroom Boathouse, which dates from the 1880s. It hangs over Henry’s Cove, letting water lapping below serenade guests to sleep at high tide. More spacious is Little Cranberry, a one-room cottage with full kitchen, gas fireplace, and big deck taking in those harbor views. There’s also an expansive second-floor room in the main house with private entrance off the deck. The property is adjacent to the Bar Harbor Ferry dock and on the Island Explorer Schoodic route, making it easy to explore the region.

image003-1Albee’s Shorehouse Cottages, Prospect Harbor
The Ritz these aren’t. Albee’s comprises 10 rustic and rather ramshackle cottages hugging the shorefront; some are just feet away from the high-tide line. The cottages are decorated with homey touches such as braided rugs and fresh flowers, and most have views to Prospect Harbor Light. Guests often lounge on the ledges with computers, taking advantage of the Wifi. And how’s this for service: Purchase lobsters, and owner Richard Rieth prepare and deliver them to your cottage. In peak season, cottages rent by the week, but shorter stays often are available. Rieth is slowly fixing the place up, but if you’re the least bit fussy, look elsewhere. Dogs are welcome.

Down east
Pleasant Bay Bed & Breakfast, Addison
How cool is this? Stay at Leon and Joan Yeaton’s rural, waterfront B&B, and for $15, you can take a llama for a morning walk. Pleasant Bay B&B doubles as a 110-acre llama farm, raising pet, breeding stock, and guard llamas. The modern, elongated cape has just four guest rooms, all with peaceful water views and Wifi. Downstairs is plenty of living space, including decks overlooking the Pleasant River and Pleasant Bay.

Blueberry Patch Motel, Jonesboro
For inexpensive digs, you can’t beat this clean and bright motel and tourist cabins, with three efficiency units. All have been nicely updated. Frills include air-conditioning, satellite TV, Wifi, in-room phones and even an outdoor pool. A continental breakfast is included, but there’s a restaurant next door if want something more. One hint: If you’re taller than 6 feet, opt for the motel instead of the cabins—bathrooms in the latter are tiny.

Milliken House B&B, Eastport
Eastport is actually an island, tethered to the mainland by a causeway from Pleasant Point. In recent years, artist studios and galleries have brought new life to the downtown, which edges tidal wonder Passamquoddy Bay. Just two blocks up from the waterfront is The Milliken House, built as a grand private home in 1846. The interior drips with Victorian architectural embellishments and furnishings. Nods to the present include private bathrooms, TV in the double living room, and Wifi throughout. Rates include a huge breakfast in the formal dining room. Kids are welcome.

Hilary Nangle is freelance travel writer and USA’s Maine expert. She lives, shops and drives the back roads there and has written about the state for decades, including three guidebooks — Moon Coastal Maine, Moon Acadia National Park, and Moon Maine. 

Visit her Web site and read her blog for more insights about her travels.