Check-In Time

Along the route to all our stories, Coastal Living writers and editors uncover some lodging gems.

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Open Gates Bed & Breakfast
Darien, GA

Overlooking the Altamaha River, Open Gates Bed & Breakfast peers graciously at guests through its mossy cloak of giant oaks. The five-bedroom B and B appeals to nature lovers visiting this historic Southern community. Biologists Kelly and Jeff Spratt work to preserve endangered species and do double-duty as innkeepers. They also provide excellent advice on local sights and sounds: Take a ferry to Sapelo Island, one of Georgia's intriguing barrier islands. Or drive through Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge and explore―from a safe distance―seven miles of diverse wildlife such as alligators and wood storks. After an all-day outdoor expedition, return to Open Gates for cocktail hour in the library. But don't sleep too late the next morning or you'll miss Kelly and Jeff's superb shrimp and grits. (The Island Room, Bluebird Room, and Garden Room have private baths.) Rates: $90-125; 912/437-6985 or opengatesbnb.com―Charly Porter

Casa Monica Hotel
St. Augustine, FL

The sound of classical Spanish guitars radiates beneath gold-garnished beams and brass Moorish chandeliers, past Alhambra-like columns and arches, off walls and marble floors hued in pale sand. All would have gladdened the heart of Henry Flagler, the 19th-century tycoon who once owned Casa Monica and who created modern tourism in Florida. After generations of mixed use and neglect, the hotel was restored to its original gilded-age splendor and reopened in December 1999, 111 years after its debut. Here in the United States' oldest city, settled by the Spanish in 1565, Casa Monica is the oldest hotel. Spanish-style furniture maintains the theme throughout the 138 rooms and multiple-story suites, as well as in the restaurant and piano bar. The respectful reincarnation heeded modern expectations with a parking garage, fitness center, and outdoor swimming pool. It's an easy walk from the hotel to many St. Augustine attractions. Rates: $189-500; 800/648-1888 or casamonica.com―James S. Wamsley

Cuthbert House Inn
Beaufort, SC

Fronting Beaufort Bay, the 1790 Cuthbert House Inn easily transports guests back to the gentility and grandeur of the antebellum South. You can almost hear the rustle of a hoop skirt against the door frame or the scuffing of Union soldiers' boots on the hardwood stairs. Such plantation-style antiques as four-poster beds and footed tubs fill the pre-Civil War mansion's seven guest rooms. One, the Eastlake Suite, boasts a black-marble fireplace surround etched with the signatures of Union soldiers and the date "November 27, 1862." In keeping with traditional hospitality, overnight guests enjoy a five-star-caliber Southern breakfast and afternoon refreshments in the parlor or, weather permitting, on the veranda. Complimentary bikes await for those wishing to explore the area. Other visitors answer the call of the veranda's wicker chairs, spending time as leisurely as the ebb and flow of the nearby tide. Rates: $145-265 (including breakfast); 800/327-9275 or cuthberthouseinn.com―Kay A. Fuston

Balance Rock Inn
Bar Harbor, ME

Lounging near the pool, sipping from a chilled glass, gazing at the green lawn that sweeps gently down to Frenchman Bay, you feel pleasantly adrift among summers past and summers stretching lazily into an unchanging future. Built as a private mansion in 1903, this 23-room inn hearkens to a more gracious era. It also provides every possible contemporary convenience: a gym, fluffy robes, flocks of Gilchrist & Soames toiletries, even inflatable mattress tops with separate softness controls for each side of the bed. There's an impishness here that's rare in such a venerable establishment. Co-owner Michael Miles has been known to build an angled wall across a perfectly square room, just to make it more interesting. Some rooms have their own saunas, and a ladder in Room 304 leads to a private rooftop patio. The inn's name, by the way, derives from an intriguingly positioned water's-edge boulder. Balance Rock is open May 8 through October 25. Rates: $95-625 (including breakfast); 800/753-0494 or barharborvacations.com/welcomebri.htm―Steve Millburg

The American Hotel
Sag Harbor, NY

For a great place to coffee up and wine down when exploring Long Island's premium vineyards, affix yourself here on the island's South Fork. Start the day with the hotel's fresh fruits, rich brioche, imported jams, and strong, dark coffee. Drive to the handful of wineries on this fork, then ferry-hop over Shelter Island to myriad North Fork wineries. Return for cocktails in The American's popular mirrored bar and order an elegant dinner in its antiques-filled dining room. Try the orange-spiced, bitter-roasted lobster with blue potato salad. With no TV, no elevator, and all eight rooms on the second and third floors, the tiny hotel has a European feel, despite its name. Infused with Colonial and Revolutionary history, however, the Sag Harbor setting is quintessentially American. The 1846 hotel found a caring owner when Ted Conklin bought it in 1973. He maintained its authentic bones even while installing private baths and whirlpools in every room. Rates: $195-325 (including breakfast); 631/725-3535 or theamericanhotel.com.

The Francis Malbone House Inn
Newport, RI

After exploring the waterfront, touring the Astor "cottages," or braving the dramatic Cliff Walk, you'll welcome the serenity of The Francis Malbone. Though the 1760 brick Georgian mansion sits conveniently on busy Thames (rhymes with James) Street, its own atmosphere entices guests to linger, to read, to lounge. Among the original house and property additions, there are 20 well-appointed rooms. Gleaming plank floors, rich paneling, and unusually high ceilings convey the 18th-century success of Col. Francis Malbone himself, but this inn is not a museum. One sitting room brims with the day's newspapers, another with stacks of local menus, a third with a serve-yourself bar. Innkeepers help guests plan tours or dining reservations and give each person a choice between two breakfast entrées. Pick the Dutch baby pancakes for sure. Rates: $99-475 (including breakfast, afternoon tea, and off-street parking); 800/846-0392 or malbone.com―Lynn Carter

The Inn at Henderson's Wharf
Baltimore, MD

Today nearly all 38 guest rooms in this ingenious hotel/private apartments combo are for guests requesting "nonsmoking." But that wasn't always the case; the 1893 brick building began life as a tobacco warehouse. Now it's part of Baltimore's Inner Harbor renaissance. Like other sites here, the warehouse succumbed to blight until the 1980s, when local visionaries took charge. Urban renewal has revitalized historic buildings for modern use, constructed real estate to blend in, and resuscitated the community for commerce, residence, and tourism. Walk from the hotel for just a few minutes to sample this 'hood of plenty: its renowned aquarium, an early 1900s power plant turned Barnes & Noble, and numerous other attractions. Ten minutes on foot puts you at Black Olive, for mouthwatering seafood. All inn rooms occupy the ground level, with resident apartments above, and more than half have sweeping water views; the rest face the courtyard garden. Thoughtful provisions include stylish take-home kits packed with personal toiletries. Plump fresh fruits, a variety of cheeses, and chocolate-chip croissants take center stage at the breakfast feast. Rates: $179-259 (including breakfast); 800/522-2088 or www. hendersonswharf.com.

Stafford's Perry Hotel
Petoskey, MI

This grand matriarch presides over a longtime Lake Michigan resort area. From her honored place in the heart of town, she gazes benevolently down at Little Traverse Bay on one side and the historic Gaslight District on the other. (The latter, which really is lit by gaslights, features a pleasing assortment of shops, galleries, antiques stores, and dining establishments, plus seasonal bursts of flowers sprouting from window boxes and lining the sidewalks.) The 80-room hotel occasionally shows her age (it was built in 1899). Stairs creak, elevators refuse to be hurried, and the decor can come off as either charmingly old-fashioned or a bit on the fusty side. After awhile, those quirks begin to seem endearing, even essential. "Slow down," they say. "Relax. Wander out onto the porch and claim a wicker rocker. Enjoy the evening. The rest of the world can get along without you for a while." Rates: $89-249; 800/737-1899 or staffords.com―Steve Millburg

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