This article is a part of the Ogunquit in September Guide I am writing, for the model aeronautically-inclined. This installment is about the Ocean Terrace Rooms at Cliff House, near Ogunquit. We stayed at this place during the second leg of our trip. And I had a good time flying my model sailplane, while standing on perilous rock formations, with multi-person-tall waves pounding on these same rocks.
We called the booking service of the hotel directly when making our room reservation. The agent convinced me to book a room at the highest floor available, for it afforded the best view of both the ocean and the cliff, despite its higher room rate. But I read afterwards on TripAdvisor that some of the rooms on the higher floors actually had balconies with partially blocked views. Some rooms were situated directly behind other buildings, so they looked over ugly rooftops instead of the ocean and the cliff.
I agonized over this issue before the trip. The uncertainties tortured me. There wasn’t much useful information and pictures to be found online, to ease my mind.
Those who have read the previous article on Tidal Rooms at the Norseman can be forgiven for thinking that I have the buyer’s remorse syndrome as a chronic condition. This article is born after the trip, partly because I am anal, and partly because I want to help the next guy in my situation.
If you landed on this article during your research for a room at the Cliff House, then you have found the right resource. Most of pictures showcased here are taken by Elisha Huang.
Where the rooms are
A satellite view on Google Maps shows the layout of the resort. Note that the construction site on the upper right no longer looks like a construction site. The new building is already up, and in fact looks quite finished from the outside. Some wings of the new building already house guests. However, workers are still seen trucking materials in and out of other wings. You may find this hotel map useful when compared against the satellite picture below.
The following picture was taken standing at the almost-finished new building to the north, looking south.
The terrace is built on the edge of a cliff which cannot be seen from this angle. The Tiller restaurant is found to the right. A staircase leads down to rock formations that is constantly being attacked by waves from the Atlantic Ocean.
The large rock formation seen here is dwarfed by the Bald Head Cliff to the north. But it is a great spot for flying model airplanes.
A path is built following the cliff, with a swimming pool to the left. There is a fire pit on the, er, Firepit Terrace.
On a very rare occasion I took this picture of the cliff and the main rock formation against a blue sky. Throughout our stay it was either cloudy, foggy, raining, or a combination thereof. This picture was taken a few days before our actual stay at the Cliff House.
Ocean Terrace Rooms
Use this map from the hotel to find the Ocean Terrace Rooms. Floors in this building are labeled 4th, 5th and 6th. Rooms in this building overlook the Ocean Terrace, thus the name.
The guest room itself is marvelous. And the view it affords is worth the money… assuming that you’ve got one of the good rooms in this building.
The room we stayed in probably offers the best combination of views of the ocean, the main rock formation, and the painstakingly-manicured resort landscape. No guest appears to be able to resist the call to climb down and walk on the rock formation that is the main attraction and the centerpiece of this resort. The Ocean Terrace is in the foreground. Staff can be seen throughout the day polishing handrails.
The cliff drops off immediately to the right of the walking path, thus the fence. A fire pit is in view on the left. The outdoor swimming pool is usable and heated. A jacuzzi is located further away. There is an indoor swimming pool as well, but it was closed for renovation during my stay.
If you look closely at the next picture, you’ll find me standing on the rock, holding a sail plane. That was the main purpose of my visit to this place, after all. The picture was token from the balcony of the room.
The following video was also shot from the room balcony. I flew a lightweight radio-controlled sailplane. Visibility was not good at all – for most of my stay it was foggy as shown in the video. Once in a while the sky cleared up and the fog lifted. But those good moments did not usually last long.
More on the room
I was told that these rooms were recently renovated. I can confirm. Everything looked new. Luxury could be found around every corner.
For instance. The resort wants you to have an unobstructed view of the ocean from within your room. So they installed a retractable screen door instead of the usual sliding screen door. You never need to look through a screen door, unless you want to enjoy the ocean breeze during summer when bugs reign supreme. This is something I do not recall ever seeing in a hotel. But then I don’t travel much…
The equirectangular panorama below shows a 360° view of the surroundings from the balcony of the room. The 2D view is deceiving. Click on the image to see what the view looks like interactively, on Google Street View. Click here to see a larger version of the equirectangular picture in 2D.
The room at night is quite classy. Leaving the curtain and the balcony door open lets the ocean in. No one from outside can see the inside of the room. There is plenty of privacy.
We asked the booking agent whether there would be a tea kettle. It’s my wife’s thing – she needs a tea kettle everywhere and anywhere we go. We were told that no room had a coffee maker or a tea kettle. I told Elisha that this was to be expected. Clearly everyone luxuriating at this place came with their own entourage who would go procure refreshment on command. That must have been how this place operated.
As it turned out, there was a shared pantry on the floor with good coffee and tea. There were paper cups with lids for the convenience of your day trips. Everywhere we turned we saw people strolling around the premises with a cup of coffee in hand, complete with the Cliff House logo. Right quantity of ice cubes were packed in each bag, for you to bring back to your room and dump into your champagne ice bucket.
Which rooms to avoid
We now come to the main purpose of this article.
It was not an accident that I got this room with a great view, at Ocean Terrace Rooms.
First, I am not sure the booking reservation agents are onsite. It is not clear to me that the gentleman I talked to actually knew much about the layout of the resort. We kept talking past each other as I asked questions.
It did not help that the Hotel’s website conflates “terrace” with “balcony”. This page says, “Our 226 inviting accommodations… boast private terraces and incomparable oceanfront and water views”. These private spaces in guest rooms are not terraces. They are balconies. The hotel then proceeds to name most of its outdoor platforms “terraces”, such as Ocean Terrace, Firepit Terrace, Coastal Terrace, etc. Finally, there is Ocean Terrace Rooms to top them all. See the hotel map.
Imagine talking to someone over the phone about “an ocean terrace rooms room with a private terrace overlooking the ocean terrace”, over the phone. What with what overlooks what?
The agent on the phone then made me even more confused by saying that I had a better oceanfront room than most. The agent told me he wrote down “prefer higher floors, 4th, 5th or 6th” on my reservation, but couldn’t confirm which building I would be in. This was really weird. There is a building named Oceanfront Rooms. But it has no floors above the 3rd floor.
In the end we established that I was getting an Oceanfront Terrace room, whatever that meant. But presumably it offered a view of the ocean as well as the cliff. I couldn’t get a good description of what a cliff view entailed. But I was assured that having both views was better than having just the ocean view.
By the time I write this article, I now understand that by “cliff”, the agent was actually referring to the main rock formation. “Oceanfront” means that you can see waves pounding on the shore, as opposed to a “water view”, or worse, “land view”. The word “terrace” here means that the room overlooks the Ocean Terrace, and not that you have a balcony – all rooms at the property sport a private balcony of its own. A room with the Ocean Terrace in view will also have the main rock formation in sight. That is what the agent mistakenly meant by “cliff view”.
Back to the booking… so the agent couldn’t tell me which building I would be assigned – they didn’t assign rooms until you check in. But I’d read complaints online about construction noises, and wanted to make sure I didn’t end up in the wrong building.
I did some thinking. First I excluded the new buildings – from reviews I read online they were not open yet by August. Even if some rooms where open in the new building, as the agent told me, they would be too close to the construction site. Even Oceanscape Guestrooms was apparently too close to the construction, according to some reviews. Given that the agent said high floors, that left only two possible buildings, Coastal Rooms and Ocean Terrace Rooms. And Coastal Rooms did not seem to have a view of any cliff.
So I figured that I must insist on a room at the Ocean Terrace Rooms.
Since no one would confirm at the time of booking what floor, less exact room number, we were getting, we drove to Cliff House one day during the first leg of our trip. Perhaps we could get the front desk to assign us a room in person. We were driving back to Ogunquit from Cape Neddick. So it wasn’t too much trouble.
I walked around the premises and looked at the Ocean Terrace Rooms from the outside. The red arrow points to the south segment of the wing to avoid. The rooms on the 6th floor are looking at a dirty rooftop (the hall inside is however magnificent). The few rooms to the south on the 5th floor have their views blocked on the right. The 4th floor rooms have zero privacy. If you end up getting these rooms, you may as well request a transfer to the cheaper Oceanfront Rooms.
The front desk confirmed that our room was on Ocean Terrace, but would not commit to a room number, even thought my arrival day could be counted down on a single hand by then. The best they could do was to make sure I was on the 6th floor. We left with mixed feelings.
When I actually arrived for check in, on D-day, I made sure to arrive at 10am, so they could assign a room to me ahead of others. The guest rooms were not yet ready – it was only 10am. But I was told I did have a room number now – it was at the south end of Ocean Terrace Rooms. That was exactly what I did not want, and what I’d been repeatedly telling agents over the phone, and the front desk in person, not to assign to me. But they did anyway.
I made noises and asked to speak to a supervisor. I was then told it was not necessary. They could move me. I foolishly asked to be moved to the last room on the north end. The lady reminded me that it was not the best choice. She said that the last room had special structural components around the balcony, limiting its view. She said the second last room was also not the best choice. She gave me the third last room in the north end instead.
If you want to know the number of the room I got, you can send me an email from my About page. Ask for the room number, and I will email it to you.
I don’t have pictures of the Oceanfront Rooms, for some reasons. That is unfortunate. Recall that during booking, the agent also told me “oceanfront terrace” rooms (whatever that was) had a view of both the ocean and the cliff. When pressed he couldn’t elaborate on what the cliff view entailed. But he reassured me that having both views was desirable.
I think the agent was mistaken. My room at Ocean Terrace Rooms affords a view of the main rock formation. Of all rooms at the resort, only from the Oceanfront Rooms can anyone actually see the face of the cliff. But I don’t have pictures to show you that.
However, I do have pictures of the Oceanscape Guestrooms, and the two wings of the new building, codenamed Northpoint in some hotel literature. See the hotel map.
For some reason, the higher-level floors of the Oceanscape Guestrooms appear to be much shorter than lower-level floors.
Lower-level floors apparently are event spaces. They are not real guest rooms.
Some wings of the newest building appear to be occupied by guests. Apparently parts of the new building, codenamed Northpoint, is already open for business. This was contrary to what I read online from comments as late as August 2017.
Dinning at the Tiller
The Tiller Restaurant overlooked the rock formations. Both food and atmosphere were superb. And the service was impeccable.
Mussels are one of my favorite food items. These were huge and delicious. It did not occur to me to take pictures of the dish until after I ate almost all. Of all mussel pots I’d ever had, only one beat these in actual size of mussel. And that one was advertised explicitly as “giant mussels”, and the dish came with a mere 5 of them.
More traditional main entrees can be had as well, with flair.
The main rock formation is safe to access at night, thanks to bright spotlights trained on them and on the cliff.
There were not many guests at the hotel in September, it seemed to us. But that was only an illusion. There were probably a hundred people attending a conference held here apparently. And half of the times they were confined to their conference rooms, thus the illusion.
A private party was held at the Firepit Terrace. I took a few pictures after this conference event ended.
It was chilly. But the heated swimming pool was perfectly usable.
Remember that this is a part of the Ogunquit in September Guide I am writing, for the model aeronautically-inclined. The previous installment can be found at Tidal Suites at the Norseman Resort on Ogunquit Beach. More articles will come out, when I get to them. The next installment will focus on other aspects of the Cliff House, and on flying my sailplane on that perilous rock formation.