The 11 Best Historic Beach Resorts in America
The Breakers Hotel, Palm Beach, Florida
Let's be honest: The Breakers, like virtually all of these properties, is expensive. But what a glorious place to be pampered! A $225 million renovation and expansion reinvigorated the 108-year-old resort, preserving the historic character of the landmark Italian Renaissance-style building while adding every possible 21st century amenity. The splendidly landscaped grounds complement the wide Atlantic Ocean beach. As an indication of its obsession with service, the resort points out that its staff of 1,800 claims a collective fluency in more than 56 languages.
Chatham Bars Inn, Chatham, Massachusetts
Book it here: Chatham Bars Inn
For all the resort's grandness―and the 1914-vintage Main Inn exemplifies the word "regal"―it never puts on airs, as befits its down-to-earth origin as a hunting lodge. The 205 rooms in the resort (40 rooms in the main building and the two dozen or so cottages) take full advantage of the Atlantic Ocean views here on the elbow of Cape Cod. (The inn's name comes from the sandbars just offshore.) After spending its first 90 years as a summer resort, Chatham Bars now stays open year-round. Happily, most rooms feature cozy fireplaces.
Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore, Santa Barbara, California
Book it here: Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore
They don't get more iconic than this. On Santa Barbara's Butterfly Beach, you'll find the gorgeous grounds and charming Spanish Colonial architecture of the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara. Another old movie-star favorite, this luxuriously updated grand dame dates back to the mid-1920s (and wears it well).
Roche Harbor Resort, San Juan Island, Washington
Book it here: Roche Harbor Resort
What started in 1886 as a hotel next to a smoke-belching lime quarry has evolved into a charming resort and marina with lovely sunset views. Rooms in the 130-year-old Hotel de Haro literally creak with history. (Most have baths down the hall.) Other lodging possibilities range from rustic cottages once occupied by quarry workers to the premium McMillin Suites, with vistas of the harbor and Victorian gardens. For activity, try harvesting oysters at low tide or catching shrimp from the docks.
Hotel Del Coronado, Coronado, California
Book it here: Hotel Del Coronado.
Is there a place more fairytale than this Southern California Icon? We love this fairytale place so much. The Ocean Towers and Cabanas rooms, opened in 1977, are nice enough, but the magic really comes alive amid the red-roofed turrets and gorgeous woodwork in the 1888 Victorian Building. The hotel sits along a glorious stretch of beach where you can watch graceful sailboats and massive warships enter and leave San Diego's busy harbor.
The Cloister at Sea Island, Georgia
Book it here: The Cloister at Sea Island
Most places simply demolish outdated buildings. The Cloister, by contrast, faithfully rebuilt its Mediterranean-style signature structure in the spirit of the rickety 1928 original and brought the magic fully from a previous time into the modern era. The family-owned Sea Island Company has always shown extraordinary respect for both tradition and the natural environment of the Georgia sea islands. It also knows how to pamper, with amenities such as a spa, golf, tennis, riding stables, a renowned children's program, even a shooting schoo.
Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island, Michigan
Book it here: The Grand
The Grand truly does provide a style of romantic summer resort experience that literally no longer exists anywhere else. Since 1887, it has presided as queen of a Victorian resort island where cars are banned and little seems to have changed over the past century except the clothing. Like any grande dame, she's aware of her status (nonguests pay for admission to the public spaces). But just one look at that vast, columned expanse of porch overlooking Lake Huron will transport you to a kinder, gentler time.
The Grand Hotel Marriott Resort, Golf Club and Spa, Point Clear, Alabama
Book it here: Grand Hotel Marriott Resort
A $50 million renovation freshened this venerable property on Mobile Bay, adding updated furnishings, limited-edition prints, an expanded beach, and a 20,000-square-foot spa. Fortunately, the oak-studded landscape and exemplary service haven't changed, drawing visitors as they have since 1847. To learn more about the resort's heritage, stop by the bell desk for a chat with de facto historian Chester Hunt. He has been a member of the staff for more than 60 years.
Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club, Atlantic City, New Jersey
Book it here: Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club
It seems to come out of nowhere along two-lane U.S. 9―a red-roofed ghost from a more elegant era, set majestically at the apex of a grand semicircular drive. Serious golfers know about Seaview's two courses, one of which curves along Reeds Bay. But this 1912 gem also deserves attention for its tennis facilities, indoor and outdoor pools, nature trails, and Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa. Faultless service helps preserve the classic ambience.
San Ysidro Ranch, Santa Barbara, California
Book it here: San Ysidro Ranch
In this woodsy retreat overlooking the Pacific Ocean from the hills above Santa Barbara, you feel like a privileged resident of an exclusive cottage community. Your name even hangs in front of your room. The Ranch has welcomed guests since 1893, becoming a celebrity hangout when movie star Ronald Colman bought it in 1935. The Kennedy Suite (where Jacqueline and John F. honeymooned) has the best ocean views. You'll want to hit the exercise room near the pool before enjoying Ranch-grown organic vegetables and local seafood in the Stonehouse Restaurant.
The Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club, Naples, Florida
Book it here: Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club.
Glitz? Ostentation? Not here. The Naples Beach Hotel comes across like a favorite uncle: unpretentious, friendly, and always able to make you feel special. Six lodging buildings rise along the beach amid wide sweeps of green lawn. They may not be glamorous from the outside, but you'll like the Old Florida feel of the colorful guest rooms. You can swim in the pool or the Gulf of Mexico, play golf or tennis, or just romp on those emerald lawns.