10 Great Winter Getaways
Prince Edward Island, Canada
The country’s smallest province turns into a winter wonderland in the colder months.
What to do: Travel to Prince Edward Island National Park to ice skate on Dalvay Pond. Then bust out your hiking boots or skiing gear: Trails for snowshoeing and hiking are available for all skill levels, with some trails leading to the beach and others leading to warm-up huts. Hungry? The famous PEI oysters and mussels are delicious during the winter months; get your fix at Sims Corner Steakhouse & Oyster Bar.
Where to Stay: The Barachois Inn in the town of Rustico is a sweet, family-owned spot to settle in, warm up with a cup of tea, and take in the amazing North Shore water view; 800/963-2194 or barachoisinn.com.
Olympic Peninsula, Washington
The Pacific Northwest is famous for its winter storms, and the Olympic Peninsula may be the best place to watch them. It’s also the backdrop for the famous vampire drama, "Twilight," filmed in Forks, Washington.
What to do: Storm watch from a hotel on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean—you can watch the tides roll in on the jagged rocks below from the safety of your cozy room. Because most visitors come during the summer, you'll have the seven surrounding beaches mostly to yourself. Or take a "Twilight"-themed tour through Forks to check out the locations described in the novels.
Where to stay: Kalaloch Lodge on the Pacific Ocean. Situated between two rainforests, Kalaloch is part of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary and is the permanently protected home to puffins, sea otters, and the largest populations of bald eagles in the lower 48 states; 866/525-2562 or thekalalochlodge.com.
The Reefs Resort, Bermuda
What to do: There are no car rentals on Bermuda, so rent a moped and explore Hamilton, the island’s capital, and picturesque St. George’s, its oldest town, for historic buildings that house museums, restaurants, pubs, and shops.
Where to stay: Many resorts close in the winter, but the exquisite Reefs Resort is open. The Reefs is a complex of pink buildings that cascade down the hillside to a private beach. At the top, 19 new, pastel-washed club suites are ideal for larger families, with two or three bedrooms, a spacious living room, kitchen, dining room, and private balcony with hot tub. The bedrooms have floor-to-ceiling sliding doors that open to long balconies overlooking coral grottoes, surf-lapped beach, and the ocean. Bounteous breakfasts and dinners are served in Ocean Echo, a semicircular glass-fronted restaurant with sweeping views; 800/742-2008 or thereefs.com.
Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Cape Cod is a beloved summer destination, but when the temperature drops the beaches are quiet and cozy inns create the perfect escape.
What to do: In the town of Chatham, tour the 1877 Coast Guard-operated Chatham Light. For some retail bonding, hop on Route 6A and drive north to browse through one of the largest concentrations of antiques shops in Massachusetts.
Where to stay: The Captain’s House Inn is less than a mile from Chatham. The iconic B&B is an 1839 Greek Revival mansion with 16 rooms, four suites, and an attached Carriage House, stables, and cottage. Most rooms have a warm fireplace, and the white-tablecloth dining room serves delicious blueberry pancakes and muffins in the morning; 800/315-0728 or captainshouseinn.com.
Winter visitors to tiny Lanai find lush landscapes and luxury accommodations.
What to do: Book a guide and head out in a four-wheel-drive to Garden of the Gods, a mysterious display of rocks and boulders in all shapes and sizes. For more adventure, follow the Munro Trail, a 12-mile drive through rain forests to mountain summits.
Where to stay: After a long day on Lanai’s unpaved terrain, you can indulge in a spa treatment at the Lodge at Koele (808/565-4000) or enjoy spectacular Pacific views at the Manele Bay Hotel (808/565-2000), both Four Seasons Resorts; fourseasons.com.
Take advantage of mild year-round weather to experience Alabama’s Gulf Coast.
What to do: For views of Mobile’s skyline, take a cruise around Mobile Bay aboard the wooden schooner Joshua, the Official Tall Ship of the State of Alabama. Then stroll through the city’s historic districts where you can tour antebellum homes or the USS Alabama battleship.
Where to stay: Spend the night at the 19th-century Malaga Inn, where you can enjoy true Southern hospitality in one of 39 rooms or suites in two restored Mobile homes centered around a picturesque courtyard; 800/235-1586 or malagainn.com.
On the Monterey Peninsula, just a two-hour drive from San Francisco, this seaside enclave is as charming as its name. Quaint, moss-covered cottages; a budding art scene; and streets lined with boutiques and restaurants make this town a relaxing escape anytime of year.
What to do: Enjoy Carmel’s scenic beauty by capturing the landscape on canvas. Big Sur-bred landscape painter Cyndra Bradford, of Galerie Plein Aire on Dolores Street, offers lessons where she’ll teach you to mix oils and suss out some surprising, vibrant colors in the scenery; 831/625-5686. Afterward, hit the vast array of shops hocking everything from reclaimed metal mirrors and succulent shaped candles in pots to local art and jewelry.
Where to stay: Pamper yourself at the Tradewinds Carmel, a 28-room Asia-inspired hotel that offers kimono robes for use during your stay, organic Aveda products, and gourmet chocolate-covered strawberries at check-in; 831/624-2776 or tradewindscarmel.com.
What better way to battle the winter blues than to cruise down a mountain? For a slope experience like no other, Camden Snow Bowl offers views of the Atlantic as you schuss and carve through the runs on a 1,300-foot-tall Ragged Mountain.
What to do: If skiing isn’t your thing, the toboggan shoot provides the same adrenaline rush with significantly less work. After a day on the slopes, take the 20-minute drive to Camden Harbor for dinner and shopping. Save this vacation for after Christmas because the slopes don’t open until mid-December; 207/236-3438 or camdensnowbowl.com.
Where to stay: Bunk for the night at Camden Harbour Inn for 180-degree views of Camden village, harbor, mountains, and Penobscot Bay. Book their Winter Wonderland package, which includes ski passes, a Champagne breakfast, homemade goodies, afternoon hors d’oeuvres, a 5-course tasting menu at the hotel restaurant, and a massage for the ultimate winter weekend escape; 800/236-4266 or camdenharbourinn.com.
Ranguana Cay, Belize
It’s easy to pretend you’re on a deserted island on Ranguana Cay, a 2-acre sand spit in the Caribbean Sea, off the coast of Central America. Here, salt-baked sands bleach white under constant sun.
What to do: Wade into the translucent water and snorkel the reef that surrounds the island, swim to coves that shelter nurse sharks, or summon a dive boat to whisk you to the world's second-largest reef.
Where to stay: Ranguana’s accommodations are few—just a couple of shacks amid coconut trees—but you can stay in your simple cabin with two beds, a rustic toilet and shower, and, most important, a hammock. If you can pull yourself back to the Placencia Peninsula, The Inn at Robert's Grove, which operates Ranguana for private owners, makes a wonderful place to re-enter society. Standard tropical ceiling fans, slatted windows, and rattan seating―fused with handpicked African decor―outfit the 52 units in plantation-style buildings. Rooftop hot tubs invite a dip with a treetop view, and wireless Internet radiates around the Mexican-tile pools; 800/565-9757 or robertsgrove.com.
Grand Marais, Minnesota
Frigid temperatures and icy terrain may not seem like typical vacation fare, but for an adventure-filled holiday, northern Minnesota offers the perfect destination.
What to do: Where else can you guide a dog team along the North Shore of Lake Superior? Let Arleigh Jorgenson Sled Dog Adventures set you up for a half- or full-day of mushing through wooded paths. For a similar—but less exhausting—experience, ride along with a veteran musher. Hot chocolate and cider await your return; dogmushing.com.
Where to stay: Relax at the Lutsen Resort for Scandinavian-style ambience and take advantage of the hotel’s sauna and pub. Choose one of the Sea Villas for breathtaking views of Lake Superior and wood-burning stoves to keep you toasty warm; 800/258-8736 or lutsenresort.com.
(Published December 2011)