America's Best Seaside Inns
Castle Hill Inn, Newport, Rhode Island
This robust Victorian mansion built by naturalist Alexander Agassiz on the rocky fingertip where Narragansett Bay meets the Atlantic has managed, while evolving into a modern and luxurious compound, to maintain a distinct sense of being a private wellspring of that gossamer life that Newport invented. In other words, a stay among the compact, tawny coves and sweeping green lawns of Castle Hill Inn confers a sense of belonging to that glorious past. One can be a socialite at home here—a brisk gin and tonic delivered to your Adirondack chair, a Hinckley yacht burbling in the private harbor to whisk you off for a picnic cruise, your own little cottage overlooking the same hidden beach that Grace Kelly used to sneak down to for a sunbath and a swim. Or perhaps even more magically, you can bed down in the mansion’s Turret Room, the wood-paneled aerie where novelist Thornton Wilder frequently stayed, and from its windows spy (as he did) eight lighthouses as they wink slyly in the velvet New England night.
Get here It’s a 45-minute drive from the Providence/Warwick, Rhode Island, airport. Stay here The original Agassiz mansion has seven guest rooms; the historic Chalet has an upstairs suite that sleeps four and a guest room downstairs that sleeps two. The new but historically apt Beach Houses sleep four; Beach Cottages sleep two to three; and Harbor Houses sleep two. Rates start at $295; 888-466-1355 or castlehillinn.com. Inside tip Beat the traffic (and travel in style) to Newport’s many shops and sites via the M/V Mistress, Castle Hill’s private motor launch.
Anchorage 1770, Beaufort, South Carolina
It’s said that a wise man doesn’t have a boat; he has friends with boats. Substitute “mansion” for “boat” and you’re in Beaufort, South Carolina, at Anchorage 1770 and in the welcoming embrace of Amy and Frank Lesesne, your friends who hand you the keys to their mansion. And what a mansion—built from tabby, a concrete made of lime, sand, and oyster shells of the South Carolina Lowcountry—this tawny Federalist beauty with soaring white columns earned its sobriquet as “The Queen of the Bay,” perched as it is along a crescent of waterfront adjacent to Beaufort’s bustling, historic downtown. With the same joie de vivre that motivated the couple to buy and painstakingly renovate the home starting in 2014, the Lesesnes hang out and play ultimate hosts, setting you up on excursions like a tasting tour of Beaufort, fly fishing on local waters, or a paddleboard exploration of the historic harbor. Ponder your good fortune while you stretch out on a four-poster bed and glimpse the sparkle of the Beaufort River from your window. You do have the best friends.
Get here Beaufort is a one-hour drive from Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, Georgia, and about 90 minutes from the airport in Charleston, South Carolina. Stay here The main inn’s 13 rooms have waterfront, town, or garden views. A cottage behind the main house has two suites, one with a private patio. Two rooms are dog-friendly, part of the inn’s “Sea Dog” program. Rates start at $185; 877-951-1770 or anchorage1770.com. Inside tip Don’t miss the nightly happy hour up on the mansion’s topmost deck, with sunset views over the Beaufort River and cold adult beverages.
Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur, California
If retreats could evolve, as one does on a path to Nirvana, this might be the ultimate iteration. Here, on rugged bluffs that overlook the thundering magnificence of California’s Big Sur coastline, is a compound of modern sanctuaries that make up the Post Ranch Inn. There’s nothing ranch- or traditionally inn-like; the focus is on escape into redwood-walled rooms and suites, done in spare but luxuriant style, that promise utter privacy. Your company, other than your lucky companion, is a view of sky and sea. Everything orients toward nature—vast windows at the inn’s Sierra Mar restaurant make horizon-scanning part of the menu, and pools perch lipped, infinity-style, over the Pacific. Even the spa, tucked away on a ridge amid redwoods and granite outcroppings (and open only to guests) is a mountain hideaway that perhaps only the local eagles can spy. What may confirm the splendor of this isolation the most, however, is that no one under the age of 18 may stay here. It’s grown-ups only at Post Ranch Inn, and is there any better amenity? Nirvana reached.
Get here Post Ranch Inn is 150 miles south of San Francisco; the closest airport is Monterey, about a 50-minute drive. Stay here The inn has 39 guest rooms among eight freestanding buildings, plus two very private houses, all in rustic/elegant style, and have either ocean or mountain views. Rates start at $825, and include daily gourmet breakfast, snacks and nonalcoholic beverages in your minibar, daily activities such as yoga, hikes, and garden tours, and more; 800-524-4781 or postranchinn.com. Inside tip A secret bench just below the inn’s meditation pool is a romantic hideaway, and the staff will deliver drinks to you there.
Greyfield Inn, Cumberland Island, Georgia
You married well. Or at least that will be how you feel as you take your daily afternoon aperitif on the broad, shaded porch of the family home in Georgia’s Golden Isles. That is the dreamy sleight of hand at the Greyfield Inn, built in 1900 by Lucy and Thomas Carnegie on wild, windswept Cumberland Island as a retreat from the clamor of the whirring social life of the time. But this is not simply an inn with good history. Greyfield has remained in the Carnegie family, so a weekend (or longer) still feels like a Carnegie house party. Your movements amble from a full Southern breakfast in the morning to an excursion throughout the property’s more than 200 acres of wild flora and fauna (complete with picnic lunch from the house kitchen) to a lazy stroll along a pristine beach. (Only 300 or so day-trippers come and go from Cumberland by ferry, and with no other accommodations on the island, you’ll feel a privacy embrace you come nightfall like a cashmere wrap.) Daily cocktails draw your 31 fellow guests back home, and everyone scrubs and dresses for dinner, served below the flattering and romantic glow of candlelight.
Get here From the airport in Jacksonville, Florida, it’s a 40-minute drive to the inn’s ferry dock in Fernandina Beach, followed by a 45-minute ride to Cumberland Island. (Ferries run three times a day.) Stay here The inn has 10 rooms; two cottages on the grounds have six more rooms between them. Rates per room include breakfast, lunch, gourmet dinner, and nightly hors d’oeuvres, plus access to bikes, the services of house naturalists, and more. Rates start at $525; 866-401-8581 or greyfieldinn.com. Inside tip For early risers, the east-facing Porch Suite has divine morning light.
The Chequit, Shelter Harbor, New York
Ninety-ish miles east of Manhattan and reachable only by ferry and seaplane, the always beautiful Shelter Island was once Long Island’s forgotten middle child, overshadowed by the South Fork’s glitzy Hamptons and the North Fork’s wine country. Now, the island is having a de facto moment, and it’s led by The Chequit, a sprawling Victorian built as part of a Methodist camp in 1872 and newly restored to charming perfection by David Bowd and Kevin O’Shea—skilled innkeepers whose Salt House Inn deservedly stole the spotlight when it opened two years ago in Cape Cod’s Provincetown. Bowd and O’Shea have added luxe touches (rain showerheads) while leaving the historic patina (worn floorboards) on the former camp dining hall, and the result is rustic fairy tale. Two other old-school buildings comprise the property, while a café along with the seriously cozy, local-catch-and-harvest-inspired Red Maple restaurant means you never have to leave the breezy compound. Why leave, when there’s complimentary Prosecco on offer, and a view from the wide porch of wooden sailboats bobbing in Dering Harbor? Not to mention the thrill of keeping New York’s best new secret?
Get here The two ferries that connect the North and South Forks of Long Island to Shelter Island are about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from New York City. The North Ferry departs from Greenport; 631-749-0139. The South Ferry departs from North Haven; 631-749-1200. The Hampton Jitney is a luxury coach service out of New York City and is reachable by taxi from LaGuardia and JFK airports. Stay here The Chequit has 37 antique-studded rooms,from king standard guest rooms to expansive suites, plus a six-room cottage called The Summer House. Rates start at $195; 631-749-0018 or thechequit.com. inside tip Breakfast in bed can be delivered to your door—a perfect coffee and nibble pre-game for the lavish breakfast served in the lobby.
The Inn at Langley, Whidbey Island, Washington
You’ve come to eat, and that is the highest compliment you can pay Matt Costello. Although he runs the Inn at Langley with his wife and therefore oversees the entire luxurious, lodge-style compound, this James Beard honoree is really here to cook. Which is precisely what happens four nights a week in July and August, when Costello makes you (and only 19 other diners for one seating only) the sole focus of the night, producing a three-hour, multicourse meal that celebrates the bounty of the Pacific Northwest. Whether it’s Penn Cove mussels from up island, locally foraged mushrooms, or the best produce from the farmers’ market, Costello’s creativity and sense of visual drama guarantees each night in his open-kitchen restaurant is an event. He’ll suggest wines from the restaurant’s estimable cellar, and will be up the next morning to oversee your sumptuous breakfast of quiche, granola, yogurt and local-roasted coffee. The serene spa? Those eagles circling above the azure Saratoga Passage, and the distant call of ferries? Let’s just call those extra courses, because the feasting never really stops.
Get here Ferry shuttles from SeaTac Airport run every two hours daily, and the trip takes a little over 90 minutes; 877-679-4003 or seatacshuttle.com. From Seattle, drive 30 minutes to Mukilteo, take the 20-minute ferry to Clinton, and drive 15 minutes to Langley; 206-464-6400 or wsdot.wa.gov/ferries. Stay here The Inn at Langley has 22 guest rooms with 180-degree views of Saratoga Passage. Two suites have porch-style balconies with oversize tubs, two master suites have outfitted kitchens, and two two-story cottages sit on the bluff with private patios and wood-burning fireplaces. Rates start at $325 and include breakfast. Dinner is served year-round Friday through Sunday, plus Thursdays in July and August. Cost is $145 per person, which includes sparkling wine on arrival and all nonalcoholic beverages; 360-221-3033 or innatlangley.com. Inside tip Work up an appetite (at low tide) walking tidal flats that wrap the coastline for miles.
Paia Inn, Maui, Hawaii
You’re the smartest person in the world, because you’ve discovered that most rare of Hawaiian treasures: an inn. This boutiquey get-away in the center of Paia Town on Maui has a homey feel and, with just eight rooms, the intimacy of a B&B. The artsy design of the main building echoes the colorful, low-key vibe of its neighborhood, a one-stoplight plantation town that thrives on surf and onshore breezes. The jewel of Paia Inn, however, is its three-bedroom Beach House, with a broad covered patio, green lawns with brightly colored chaises, and quick stroll onto three miles of choice North Shore beach. Grab a (free to guests) boogie board and work the waves, nap in your own Hawaiian backyard, and pull on your flip-flops for fish tacos just up the street. It’s your island life, Paia-style.
Get here From Maui’s Kahului Airport, it’s about a 15-minute drive or taxi ride to Paia Town. Stay here Paia Inn has four small but charming guest rooms with town views, plus six suites with town, garden, or partial ocean views. The three-bedroom Beach House has water views, a covered patio, hot tub, lawn, and short path to the beach. Rates start at $199; 808-579-6000 or paiainn.com.
Inside tip Two brand-new amenities—a breakfast café and small spa—may keep you happily hidden for your entire Hawaiian getaway.
Wequassett Resort and Golf Club, Harwich, MA
Check it out: wequassett.com
Embodying all that is summery and perfect in Cape Cod, this assemblage of cottages (including 22 historic buildings, one of which was built in 1740) has been luxuriously unified into a classic New England hideaway. Perched on Pleasant Bay, close to the elbow of the Cape’s flexed arm shape, Wequassett (which means “crescent on the water”) has a tawny beach and two lovely pools, plus golf, boats, and watersports. And the lineup of excursions (including oystering) will induce the most indolent shore-sitter to hop up and play. Finally, there are the charms of nearby Chatham, with food, shopping, and one of the best candy emporiums on the Cape, to revel in just down the road.
Charlotte Inn, Martha’s Vineyard, MA
Check it out: thecharlotteinn.com/
When one imagines a New England inn, it’s the Charlotte Inn: white clapboard, black shutters, fine art, English antiques, and fresh flowers. Edgartown, the fanciest of Martha’s Vineyard’s towns, is a Currier and Ives setting, and Charlotte Inn has that same elegance. Nestled in a quiet neighborhood close to the center of this bustling resort town, the inn’s gardens and courtyard carry on with an English manor sensibility—wicker, wrought iron, topiaries, and all. And the myriad gifts of Edgartown—from shopping to dining to one of the most charming harbor views anywhere—are merely steps away.
Inn at Perry Cabin by Belmond, St. Michaels, MD
Check it out: belmond.com/inn-at-perry-cabin-st-michaels
Tucked away on the Chesapeake’s Miles River, this waterfront gem on Maryland’s Eastern Shore offers a serene hideaway two hours from Washington, D.C. The town of St. Michaels, rich in regional crabbing and oystering traditions (and elegant Victorian homes), is within walking distance; guests can stroll there for antiquing and other small pleasures or choose to stay near the Inn’s stately manor home, where a full-service spa and a horizon-edge pool await. Complimentary bikes and manicured gardens—including a Kitchen Garden that provides the Inn’s restaurants with fresh produce—offer hours of outdoor diversions for those looking to familiarize themselves with the natural glories of this storied shoreline.
Mt. Ada, Catalina Island, CA
Check it out: visitcatalinaisland.com/hotels-packages/avalon/mt-ada
He was the lord of Catalina Island, and now you can sleep in his home. With just six guestrooms, this villa overlooking Avalon Bay was the retreat of William Wrigley Jr., the chewing gum magnate who escaped to this beautiful resort island 22 miles offshore of Southern California. A stay here is a hideaway of all kinds: You can stay up on the bluff and have complimentary breakfast, lunch, and evening wine and hors d’oeuvres (plus a butler’s pantry with snacks that include ice cream sundaes and popcorn). But you also get a complimentary golf cart for scooting around town and priority booking for beach club cabanas, tennis courts, and golf. The Grand Suite was Wrigley’s and has killer views, with French doors leading to a balcony overlooking the bay.