Now's a prime time to enjoy a cozy bed-and-breakfast. Whether you want to trek a nature trail or shop along a dock, these places offer a great escape.
Santa Barbara, California
For those who dream of living in Santa Barbara, staying in one of its 15 B&Bs is the next best thing. Find 100-year-old Victorian inns, France-inspired cottages, and Craftsman-style country homes nestled within exclusive neighborhoods. One standout, the Simpson House Inn, sits amid English gardens and has garnered accolades as one of the best B&Bs in North America. For more information, call 805/966-9222 or visit santabarbaraca.com.
Minutes from the popular Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo resorts, Troncones has an attraction all its own. The small village has emerged as an eco-retreat with more than 10 boutique inns. Choose from beachfront bungalows, waterfront rooms, private suites, and villas. Most inns offer yoga sessions, spa treatments, and snorkeling and surfing lessons. For more information, visit troncones.com.mx.
Check into: Casa Delfin Sonriente, a Mediterranean-style retreat; 831/688-6578 or casadelfinsonriente.com/delfin.htm. Casa Viva, with thatched-roof bungalows and solar panels; 011/52/755/553-2913 or casavivatroncones.com.
This Great Lakes town features old mansions and cobblestone streets. Eight inns combine historic charm and modern amenities. Each is within view or earshot of Lake Superior, and near the Lakewalk, Canal Park shopping district, and fine restaurants. Nature lovers can stay at one of the "birder-friendly" inns that offer birding resources and excursions. For more information, call 800/438-5884 or visit visitduluth.com or duluthbandb.com.
Check into: The birder-friendly Firelight Inn; 888/724-0273 or firelightinn.com. The Olcott House, a Georgian Colonial mansion and carriage house; 800/715-1339 or olcotthouse.com. Solglimt, on the water between the lake and Superior Bay; 877/727-0596 or solglimt.com.
The state capital welcomes visitors to spend a night at restored Colonial homes in the historic district, where you're a short walk from shops, art galleries, and the bustling dock area. Or, head across the drawbridge to Eastport for a water-view room near restaurant row. For more information, call 888/302-2852 or visit visitannapolis.org.
This small fishing town off southeast Alaska embraces its Norwegian heritage with public art and sidewalks embossed with traditional designs. Accessible only by boat or plane, it's a rustic getaway filled with friendly, no-frills accommodations. B&Bs, many with water views, welcome visitors after a day of seeing wildlife and exploring the Tongass National Forest. For more information, call 907/772-4636 or visit petersburg.org.
Key West, Florida
The old town section has a timeless appeal not often associated with free-spirited Key West. Century-old trees shade classic-American homes with white or pastel finishes, ornate gingerbread trim, and working shutters. The large Hemingway Suite at Lighthouse Court, which neighbors the writer’s home, melds history with modern amenities (including a 42-inch plasma television), and offers views of the lighthouse.
Check into: The Popular House, a three-story Victorian home built by Bahamian shipbuilders in 1898; 800/438-6155 or keywestbedandbreakfast.com. Lighthouse Court, next door to the Key West Lighthouse and Keeper’s Quarters Museum; 877/294-9588 or historickeywestinns.com.
Georgetown, South Carolina
Stay overnight in a Georgetown bed-and-breakfast and step back in time. Visitors can turn in at a renovated circa-1765 Colonial on the historic waterfront, while others bunk at a pre—Civil War plantation featured in the blockbuster hit The Patriot. For more information, call 843/6595 or visit visitgeorgetowncountysc.com.
Check into: Harbor House, with guest-room views of Winyah Bay; 877/511-0101 or harborhousebb.com. Antebellum Mansfield Plantation has nine rooms within three guesthouses nestled on nearly 1,000 private acres; 866/717-1776 or mansfieldplantation.com.
Lacking fast-food chains and strip malls, Yachats (derived from a Chinook Indian word meaning "dark waters at the foot of the mountain"), is a small vacation town known for uncrowded beaches and a breathtaking location on Oregon's central coast. Accommodations with simple amenities and water views welcome travelers. For more information, call 800/929-0477 or visit yachats.org.
Check into: See Vue Motel (specifically Crow's Nest, a nautical-theme room with expansive ocean views); 866/547-3237 or seevue.com. Heceta Head Lighthouse's Keeper's House serves a seven-course breakfast; 866/547-3696 or hecetalighthouse.com.
Cape May, New Jersey
Cape May has attracted visitors since the late 1700s. Restored Victorian inns line the streets of the "Queen of the Seaside Resorts." The Mainstay Inn, a former private gambling club, operates as the town's oldest bed-and-breakfast. For more information, call 609/884-5508 or visit capemaychamber.com.
Check into: Angel of the Sea, a castle-like inn about a half-block from the beach; 800/848-3369 or angelofthesea.com. The Queen Victoria, 32 rooms in four restored properties in the historic district (complimentary bicycles included); 609/884-8702 or queenvictoria.com. The Mainstay Inn; 609/884-8690 or mainstayinn.com.
You may have trouble choosing among your options in this famous port city. There's a historic Colonial edging the Cape Arundel Golf Course, private coveside cottages, an 1805 sea-captain's mansion, even a cushy lodge next to the marina. Each June, Kennebunkport kicks off the summer season with its Arts in the Inns festival (artsintheinns.com), which features dinners with local artists and a tour of 16 area hostelries; 207/967-0857 or visitthekennebunks.com.
Check into: 1802 House Inn, on the 15th fairway; 800/932-5632 or 1802inn.com. The Cottages at Cabot Cove; 207/967-5424 or cabotcovecottages.com. The Captain Jefferds Inn, a restored home and carriage house that serves breakfast and afternoon tea; 800/839-6844 or captainjefferdsinn.com. The Yachtsman Lodge, 207/967-2511 or yachtsmanlodge.com. The Kennebunkport Inn, in Dock Square with a piano bar and on-site spa treatments; 800/248-2621 or kennebunkportinn.com.