You'll have no problem at all finding the Norumbega: Just head north out of town and look for the castle on the right. Well, it's actually a mansion (built of stone by telegraph-system inventor Joseph Stearns in 1886), but it looks like a castle. Wonderfully eccentric and full of curves, turrets, angles, and rich materials, this hotel is on the National Historic Registry. There's extravagant carved-oak woodwork in the lobby, a stunning oak-and-mahogany inlaid floor, and a kingly downstairs billiards room. New management is currently updating all furnishings, but some "king" beds still consist of two twin beds pushed together. Still, all units have robes, some have fireplaces, most have air-conditioning, and three ground-level units sport private decks. The two suites here rank among the finest in northern New England: the bright and airy Library suite, in the original two-story library (so big it has an interior balcony), and the sprawling Penthouse with its superlative bay views, king-size bed, and huge oval tub. And if you're the sort of traveler who goes gaga over Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Angela Lansbury, or the board game Clue, don't miss Norumbega's Murder Mystery weekends -- be the first to solve the mystery, and you win a free stay. No lie.
- Brian Kevin