With its turrets, dormers, and porches, the Union Bluff looks like a 19th-century beach hotel -- except it was actually built in 1989, replacing the previous version (ca. 1870) of the hotel, which had burned in a fire. Inside, the hotel is modern if bland; but rooms have oak furniture, wall-to-wall carpeting, and small refrigerators, and the place seems to be getting better over time, not deteriorating like most beachside hotels do. There are about 20 rooms in an annex next door, but the main inn's rooms and views are better -- the best units are the suites on the top floor and have beach vistas (and some have Jacuzzis, fireplaces, and decks overlooking the sea). It's amazing how low rates plummet here midweek and off season, when the hotel becomes among the most inexpensive places to stay in all of southern Maine; but weekends, even before and after summer, are quite expensive. Step outside and you're a half-block from Short Sands Beach, downtown T-shirt and shell shops, and the bowling alley and arcade. The hotel assigns one parking spot for each room, a boon because parking is very tight in Short Sands. But if you've brought an RV or a second car, you'll need to use the big parking lot adjacent to the hotel -- bring lots of quarters.
- Brian Kevin