Once named one of America’s coolest small towns by USA Today, Belfast is an economic and cultural hub of midcoast Maine. Brimming with art galleries, old sea captains’ mansions and charming shops, the city overlooks Penobscot Bay from a hill along Route 1, minutes south of French’s Point.
On Main Street, just steps from the water, is the Belfast Bay Inn. It’s the only boutique hotel in Maine to win AAA’s four-diamond rating, thanks to the expert management of owners Ed and Judy Hemmingsen.
Please tell us about your background in the hospitality industry.
BBI: Eddie and I bought the Bluenose Inn in Bar Harbor, Maine, in 1980, when it was a 19-room motel. We transformed it into a 97-room, AAA-Four Diamond hotel with a beautiful indoor pool and outside pool and added a restaurant that became one of 41 AAA-Five Diamond restaurants in North America. We operated the Bluenose for 21 years and sold it in 2000 to retire.
We retired to Belfast and decided after four years to purchase a pair of row houses on Main Street in Belfast for a European Boutique Hotel.
You and your husband spent years renovating the property. Can you tell us about its history?
BBI: The building dates back to 1840. We spent nearly three years renovating the building and opened with eight luxury suites. Although we are not a bed and breakfast, we do serve a hot breakfast every morning and deliver it to the suite, room service style or, weather permitting, serve in our Garden Courtyard.
Please share a bit about the inn’s European boutique hotel atmosphere.
BBI: Our intimate and private boutique hotel has a reputation that is founded on gracious hospitality, personal service, comfort and attention to detail, which is evident from the moment you arrive. The hotel has a home away from home atmosphere and we have a genuine concern for each individual guest’s comfort and needs, while providing them with immaculate and stylish, residential quality, furnished guest accommodations.
We offer the discriminating traveler a variety of personal touches and extra amenities, such as plush fluffy robes, fluffy towels, Molton Brown amenities, Bose clock radios with CD player, WiFi, hairdryers, irons and ironing boards, umbrellas, coffee and tea available in their suite. Some of the suites have a gas fireplace and some have distance water views, all have hardwood floors and original artwork and individual decor.
Our Garden Courtyard offers the perfect setting to toast a beautiful day as the day draws to an end.
What activities do you most recommend to people visiting the midcoast area?
BBI: Our guests love the midcoast area because it allows them to day trip to Acadia National Park and also to visit our neighbors to the south — Camden, Rockport, Lincolnville and Rockland — and then return to the eclectic little waterfront city of Belfast. Belfast has some fabulous shops and galleries and local restaurants that are all within walking distance.
Many of our guests enjoy a morning, afternoon or dinner cruise sail, which leaves right from our town pier, about a two minute walk away. Belfast will have a beautiful walkway along the shore from the boathouse to the footbridge, which will be great for walkers and runners. (It will be available next summer).
We have a beautiful little state park right on the shore, a sandy and rocky beach next to the boathouse within walking distance.