A Couple Lovingly Restored This 19th-century Castle in Maine — Now It’s One of Our Favorite New Hotels

With luxe rooms, a flawless design, and a stunning location, it's easy to see why Norumbega stole our writer's heart.

The exterior of Norumbega Inn in Maine during the fall

Courtesy of Norumbega Inn

I fell in love with the Norumbega long before I set foot on its grounds.

Driving north on Route 1 headed toward Acadia National Park, I’d press my nose to the glass as soon as we passed the downtown drag of Camden, Maine, and hope to catch a glimpse of the famed “castle by the sea.” Behind a row of hulking old trees, on a grassy slope with a distant view of Penobscot Bay, sits an 1887 Queen Anne confection in stone and black, a nameplate in the corner reading NORUMBEGA in gilt letters. It captures the imagination on sight: soaring arches, leaded glass windows with their neat little panes, a turret on one side, and a port-cochere on the other. It’s the kind of mysterious old house an orphan might be spirited away to at the start of a turn-of-the-century children’s novel or, should the night be dark and stormy enough, a gothic horror — at least until you set foot inside, as I finally did this summer.

Here, any moody undertones subside with the sight of the wood-clad entry, a cheerful fire blazing away in the landing’s sitting area to assure you that this is a place of abundant creature comforts and not so much a sliver of spookiness. It’s a rare B&B that expertly treads the line between history and modernity without edging too far into either zone, but in the capable hands of Will Tims and Brett Haynie, who bought the storied inn back in 2022 and spent all winter furiously updating the place ahead of the summer high season, the Norumbega hits the mark. Wandering the building and grounds, I felt like a houseguest in the rambling castle of an eccentric, unfathomably wealthy acquaintance with impeccable design sense — the dream scenario for those of us with both Champagne tastes and overactive imaginations. The revived Norumbega is historic and old-world yet never fusty; novel and chic but never in a way that’s out-of-step with the surroundings. 

That’s entirely thanks to a careful, hands-on design process by Tims and Haynie in collaboration with New York-based design firm studiocake. “We wanted it to feel fresh and not replicate what so many New England coastal inns tend to do, which is lean into that nautical theme,” says Tims. In searching for a muse, they landed on Joseph Baker Stearns, the property's original owner. “He wasn’t a sea captain; he was an inventor, and he traveled the world selling his inventions. We wanted the house to feel like it had global influences and was a collection of things you might pick up while traveling, but we also wanted it to feel like a house that belonged in Maine,” Tims explains.

The property is a success on both fronts, with some little delights awaiting discovery in every room. In the Library Suite, a staircase secreted behind the 19th-century needlepoint screen that serves as a headboard leads to a mezzanine library with a stained glass rose window, while a side room has a cozy corner by a fireplace ideal for curling up with some treasure from the bookshelves. The penthouse has a massive picture window and a small terrace where you can sit and watch sailboats bobbing along on Sherman Cove and the Penobscot Bay beyond, their masts snagging the morning mist. My room, Arundel, on the garden level just down the hall from the game room, came with a sweet little deck under a massive old oak, plus a sprawling bathroom with a tub big enough to swim in — the ideal chaser after a day of hiking and gallivanting around the Mid-Coast. The distinctive character of each space practically begged me to return and explore every last corner. How could I possibly know peace until I’ve picked a favorite room?

The Norumbega isn’t the place you’d linger at all day, tempting though it may be. There’s a bocce court, croquet, and expansive grounds with cabanas and lounge chairs for kicking back with a cocktail. Still, the property is far too ideally situated to miss out on exploring all this part of Maine has to offer, be it the hiking trails that wind up nearby Mt. Battie or the boutiques of downtown Camden and Rockport. But as far as a coastal Maine home base, this is as nice as they come, and it’s hard to imagine a better way to cap off a day of exploring than snagging a Negroni at the pint-size bar overlooking the back lawn and listening to the chatter of guests over the plinking of a grand piano. 


  • The prime Midcoast Maine location is within easy reach of Camden’s shops and restaurants but close enough to day-trip up to Acadia National Park if you’re feeling ambitious.
  • The flawless design marries fresh, eclectic influences with old-world grandeur and hits all the right notes. 
  • The jewel box of a bar has perfectly executed classic cocktails — and great views of the grounds. 
  • Rooms feel luxe but not overly fussy, and each has its own unique selling points, be it a soaking tub, a turret, a view of the sea, or a second-story library atrium. 

The Rooms

The property’s 11 glorious rooms are scattered across four stories, each with a special flair.

A garden-level room is a serene escape, with an outdoor terrace overlooking a sweeping oak, plus a soaking tub in the bathroom. On the top floor, a spiral staircase leads you to an eagle’s-nest hideaway with a balcony where you can take in grand views of the sailboats moored in Camden Harbor. In each of the rooms, you’ll find a mix of antiques and chic modern touches — an Art Deco waterfall dresser here, a Schumacher x Backdrop sage checkered wallpaper there, pressed flower collages by Tricia Paoluccio, an ornately carved wooden chair with sumptuous brocade — for an overall feel that’s unexpected yet utterly in keeping with the grandeur of the surroundings. Keep an eye out for a couple dozen paintings by Tims’ retired father sprinkled throughout the hotel. Their presence is just the kind of decor easter egg that exemplifies Tims and Haynies' hands-on, personal approach to Norumbega’s new look. 

Food and Drink

The dining room at Norumbega Inn in Maine

Courtesy of Norumbega Inn

This being a boutique inn and not a sprawling resort with a celebrity chef partnership, say, the food offerings are tightly edited, so if endless buffets and round-the-clock room service are your vacation non-negotiables, this isn’t the stay for you.

But the Norumbega does nothing halfway, and every dish served on-site is delicious and well-executed. The daily breakfast includes a house-made continental spread (think locally sourced yogurt bowls laden with berries and granola, bowls piled high with boiled eggs, and a selection of sweet seasonal breakfast bread and pastries) and a daily rotation of chef-cooked brunch staples such as eggs benedict.

A few evenings a week, the Norumbega offers Peruvian-inspired small plates and cocktails, and visitors flock here to sip French 75s and nibble on ceviche or lobster-topped spiced potato cakes on the patio. If your visit coincides with one of the dinner pop-ups from E. Wales Hospitality, snapping up a table is a must — the owners, Liz Koenigsberg and Will Lavey, were behind the late, great Portland restaurant Blue Spoon and their prix fixe menus include dishes such as seared halibut with a confetti of crisp fried capers and rich fettuccine piled high with mushrooms foraged nearby. I am not a panna cotta devotee, but theirs is a religious experience, and were I not in polite company, I could have quickly downed three or four.

A piano and the bar at Norumbega Inn in Maine

Courtesy of Norumbega Inn

Activities and Amenities 

The lounge at the Norumbega Inn in Maine

Hannah Hoggatt/Courtesy of Norumbega Inn

In the grand scheme of hotels, this is a petite place, so you won’t find a pool, a spa, or any of the resort-style amenities offered by the mega conglomerates. But what this pint-size inn lacks in on-site activities, it more than makes up for with lots of charming little corners to discover and escape to.

You’ll find a foosball table and some tabletop game options tucked away in the garden-level parlor, a grand piano and plenty of books to dive into on the main floor sitting area, and a glorious fireplace nook on the stairwell landing that may be the loveliest spot in all of New England to sit with a book on a chilly evening.

On breezy summer days, the cabanas outside are perfect for lounging, or wander down to the full regulation-size bocce court — a sport you can play with a cocktail in one hand at exactly the right speed for a vacation stay. 

Accessibility and Sustainability 

This being a 19th-century building, it’s not especially accessible and would be a challenge for visitors with mobility issues as most of the rooms and the main floor are all reached via stairs. (The owners had hoped to render the property accessible in the renovation, but adding an elevator wasn’t possible without destroying multiple rooms and much of the home's original character.) 

The garden-level rooms are the most navigable for those with some ability to tackle stairs. On the sustainability front, the property minimizes single-use plastics by opting for filtered water dispensers and glass bottles, along with bulk toiletries in the bathrooms and showers, while a switch to heat pumps in the renovation helped shrink its carbon footprint. 


It’s a two-hour drive from Portland’s Jetport to the Norumbega — stick to Route 1 instead of 95 for lots of small-town coastal charm (and excellent farm-to-table food) along the way. The Norumbega sits just north of Camden’s main drag, with its superb restaurants and shops (two standouts: Hundred Acres, one of the best-curated boutiques in the state, with housewares and design-y treasures sourced from around the globe and Goods, a supremely cool destination for food obsessives, with a collection of niche pantry items and zine-y small press cookbooks along with to-go sandwiches and natural wines). 

Rockport and Rockland are both worth exploring — stop at Seafolk Coffee in Rockport for unbelievable pastries and ocean views, and don’t leave Rockland without the requisite stops at Sammy’s Deluxe, Arctic Tern Books, and the Farnsworth Art Museum. You can’t walk ten feet without seeing a place to get lobster, this being Maine and all, but if you’re truly committed to the cause, it’s worth driving 35 minutes south to Spruce Head for a roll at McLoons Lobster Shack. I’ve eaten my weight in lobster rolls up and down the Maine coast, and McLoons is still the reigning champion in my book. 

There’s great hiking in the area for all skill levels and access to almost any oceanfront activity, from whale watching and sunset sails to lighthouse-hopping and oyster farm tours. If you’re up for a lengthy day trip, you could leave after an early breakfast, explore Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island, and return to the Norumbega after dinner. It’s a couple of hours each way, but this part of Maine is so scenic that driving never feels like a chore.

How to Get the Most Value Out of Your Stay

As a (very) small, independent hotel, Norumbega isn't part of any major chains or alliances. Visitors can maximize the value of their stay by looking to visit Maine during the equally-beautiful, but much-less-expensive, shoulder season, which includes May, September, and October.

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