Haven By The Sea – Pack your bags for Wells Maine
By: Jillian Clark – mtltimes.ca
Nestled along some of the most beautiful beaches in North America, Haven By The Sea is a destination Montreal must see in Southern Maine. Between the privately run inn itself, the surrounding shops of Wells and Ogunquit, neighbouring restaurants, and pristine beaches, The Haven promises a personalized getaway guests won’t find this side of the border.
Classic cathedral ceilings and a friendly English bulldog greets guests as they enter Haven By The Sea. Fresh flowers and soft music floods the entrance inviting guests to explore the other common areas. “When you walk in the front door, you feel peace. That’s the only way I can describe it,” said Nancy Ezzo, owner and operator of The Haven. The feeling of peace flows along the hallway—lined by the original church pews—up the spiral staircase to some bedrooms, and through to the back of the inn to rest on the dining room’s terrace where guests admire the serene salt marsh.
Nancy Ezzo purchased Haven By The Sea in May of this year. A whirlwind of experiences led to her settling on the charismatic 1920s era church-turned-inn by the ocean. “We’re four houses away from the ocean,” said Ezzo. “Guests roll out of bed and have a gourmet breakfast, get their bathing suits on and just walk to the beach.”
Fresh Flowers, the Rocky Shoreline, and Personalized Service
The beach itself is a major drawing point for tourists escaping to the east coast of the continent. The beach is ranked top ten in the United States, and known for its fine sand and rolling sand dunes. Some areas shift from sand to a rocky shoreline—a sight unlike any other. “It’s a really clean, absolutely gorgeous beach,” Ezzo said. “There’s rocks to sit on, and in some area there’s been seals, and there’s tide pools full of hermit crabs, yet the town keeps it so completely immaculate.” Visitors relax amongst the tide pools, soak in the sun, and enjoy the salty air that follows them back to their rooms at the end of each day.
The guest rooms overlook the inn’s surrounding gardens. The gardens overflow, mixing vegetables alongside flowers to maintain its fresh glory, despite the season. Guests find plenty of roses, trumpet flowers, gardenias, lilies, greenery, rhubarb, and red leafy lettuce. Nancy also grows a kitchen garden full of herbs that she uses to mix drinks and cook breakfast.
Mornings at The Haven start early. With the help of her friend, Danny Pelton, Nancy has coffee ready by 6:30am for the first risers, then breakfast runs from 8:30 to 9:30am. Guests have the choice of dining in the dining room or on the terrace. “I’m all about freshness,” said Ezzo, about her choice of living floral décor around the dining room. Succulents sit on each table. Fresh breakfast, too—she even handpicks groceries herself at the local market, catering to allergies and dietary restrictions wherever possible.
Every aspect of The Haven appears personalized, but that’s just Nancy’s way of life. “I’m a perfectionist,” she said. Nancy tracks the tides for each of her guests, informing them at breakfast what times are best spent along the water. She also helps her guests choose a place to dine in the evening, and makes their reservations to ensure they receive the best service at her neighbours’ establishments.
The general consensus from guests is awe in how one woman provides such a highly personalized, perfect vacation to every single one of her visitors. “When people ask how I do it, I say I basically just live,” she said. Nancy feels an overwhelming gratitude and a connection with The Haven and its visitors that she loves to share. “When I walk in the front door, I’m still like ‘pinch me’ because I can’t believe this is mine.”
Evenings among Friends
Haven By The Sea was converted to an inn in 1982, but much of the original touches remain. “We tried to keep the old church feel to it,” said Ezzo. Nancy maintains all of the best church-like qualities, with modern, fresh adjustments, including the fresh flowers that are delivered each week. The cathedral ceilings, stained glass accents, and hardwood floors were all restored from the original building. The original church confessional was converted into a fully stocked and licensed bar, called Temptations. The bar features stained glass accents and the original confessional screen.
The parlour is a popular gathering spot for guests, as well as a favourite place of Nancy’s to exchange stories with her visitors. “We offer complimentary port and brandy in the evenings, so it’s usually a place of gathering for people,” she said. “It’s healing hearing everybody talk about their stories and seeing everyone come together. They become friends. It’s a little bit of a miracle.” Guests also like to gather in the library to try their hand at the community puzzle, and snack on old fashioned candies.
A luxurious touch to The Haven’s already stacked repertoire is its baby grand piano. Nancy has been taking lessons: “My goal someday is to be able to play a grand march.”
Salt Marsh Sunsets
The views beyond the gardens are what makes The Haven extra special: “I feel really blessed because in the morning there is a gorgeous sunrise out the front of the building, and then in the evening there’s a gorgeous sunset over the Wells salt marsh,” Ezzo said. “The sunsets are incredible.”
The Wells salt marsh begins just beyond The Haven’s backyard and terrace. Equally as beautiful as the rocky shoreline and ocean setting on the opposite side of the inn, the Wells salt marsh is a nature lover’s paradise. The Wells salt marsh is part of the Rachel Carson Wildlife Reserve, and home to plenty of birds, as well as peaceful land mammals like deer and moose. Guests soak in the marsh’s beauty either from the comfort of the terrace where breakfast is served each morning, or as they wind through the rose-shaped pathway in The Haven’s backyard. Guests can stroll through the wildlife reserve to get a glimpse of Southern Maine’s natural beauty.
Picture Perfect Events
Given its picturesque location and characteristic charm, The Haven is the perfect place to host a small, quaint wedding. The commercial kitchen in which Nancy prepares breakfast is equipped to host both cocktail hours and multi-course wedding feasts. The inn can hold up to 22 guests, providing the most romantic wedding experience possible along the Southern coast. Haven By The Sea can accommodate other buyout events, such as birthday parties, corporate functions, and retreats.
Contact Nancy at Haven By The Sea to book your personalized vacation in paradise.