Top U.S. Seaside Inns
Fishing boats bob in the harbor, the streets are lined with mom-and-pop stores, and the whitewashed houses are surrounded by gardens. Welcome to the village of Camden. Dutch natives Raymond Brunyanszki and Oscar Verest fell in love with the town on a visit here in 2004, and three years later they decided to buy and renovate the Camden Harbour Inn (doubles from $295, including breakfast). The 18 rooms are named after Dutch East India Trading Company ports—Curaçao, Sumatra, Mauritius—and filled with Asian antiques. At the on-site restaurant, chef Lawrence Klang prepares a stellar lobster tasting menu.
Don’t Miss: A bike ride along Rockport Harbor. Bicycles are available at Maine Sport Outfitters (rentals from $20), and the inn’s friendly front desk clerk Patty Ross will map out the best routes.
Prouts Neck, Maine
On a craggy peninsula just south of Portland, the gray-shingled 1878 Black Point Inn (doubles from $480, including breakfast and dinner) occupies a prime waterfront location. The owners have updated the public spaces and 25 nautical-themed rooms. Now you’ll find a geothermally heated sauna and outdoor pool, Frette linens, and flat-screen televisions. Watch sailboats from a wicker rocker on the porch, stroll the sandy beaches (a Down East rarity), or hike the Cliff Walk, a nearby trail where artist Winslow Homer painted scenes of the coast.
Don’t Miss: Picnicking at Ferry Beach State Park. Pick up supplies—country pâtés; Fern Hill Farm goat cheese; Pink Lady apples—at the Cheese Iron, in Scarborough.
Southwest Harbor, Maine
Great Value Down a winding road amid the pine trees on Mount Desert Island, the 19th-century Claremont Hotel (doubles from $205) looks like a country estate—it’s easy to picture the blue-blooded Rockefellers and Morgans (many of whom still have houses in the area) sipping gin on the wraparound porch and playing croquet on the lawn. The 24 rooms are traditional but polished, eschewing lacy bedspreads for crisp linens and bleached-wood furnishings. Best of all is the view of Acadia National Park from the wooden dock at the edge of Somes Sound, considered the United States’ only fjord. At night, there’s no better place to stargaze.
Don’t Miss: A fisherman’s lunch of chowder and fried clams at the no-frills Docksider (lunch for two $32), in Northeast Harbor.
Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
A short walk from the center of Edgartown, the Hob Knob (doubles from $395) has the notion of coastal living down pat. Inside the three-story Gothic Revival building are 17 light-filled rooms dressed in toiles and stripes, each grounded by an English antique or two. Breakfast is made to order from local farm ingredients, including homemade fig preserves, and served in two sunny rooms, one with Currier & Ives blue-patterned plates nearly covering the walls from floor to ceiling. Book a treatment in the small spa, bike the island’s well-maintained trails, or go fishing in the inn’s Boston Whaler.
Don’t Miss: Clamming or oystering like a native—the hotel will give you the tools and know-how to bring home the seafood, then serve it up back at the inn.
High above the tide mark on private docks along Nantucket’s harborfront, you’ll find the Cottages & Lofts at the Boat Basin (doubles from $490). Most of the 24 saltbox bungalows have balconies or terraces with views of the marina. Guest rooms are decked out in red, white, and marine blue; a concierge will stock the kitchen with groceries and arrange for a picnic at nearby Surfside Beach. It’s the perfect jumping-off point for exploring the miles of hiking paths that weave around cranberry bogs and grassy dunes.
Don’t Miss: Shopping for delicate straw summer hats at Peter Beaton Studio, where each style is named after one of the island’s romantic spots.
Plum Island, Massachusetts
Unlike Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, this 11-mile-long barrier isle off the state’s North Shore has remained relatively undiscovered. Which is why the opening of Blue, the Inn on the Beach (doubles from $345, including breakfast) two years ago was a pleasant surprise. Hotels like the Delano, on South Beach, served as the inspiration for Blue, with its modern aesthetic. The eight suites and six cottages are connected by mosaic-tiled walkways, while the stark white-on-white rooms have touches of blue throughout—a throw, a vase, wineglasses, flip-flops.
Don’t Miss: Scoping out the marshes and thickets of the island’s 4,600-acre wildlife refuge with one of the hotel’s bicycles.
Great Value Close to the tip of Cape Cod, the rose-covered Red Inn (doubles from $140, including breakfast) provides a respite from the parade of characters that transforms much of Commercial Street into an open-air theater all summer long. Here, the entertainment is the dance of light over the harbor, which you can see from each of the eight aptly named rooms (Sunset View; Cape Light). Built in 1805 by a ship’s captain for his wife, this sweet little hotel also has a popular dining room that serves fish caught just offshore.
Don’t Miss: The Cranberry Bog Trail, in nearby Truro, which passes through the woods and over high dunes to deserted Ballston Beach.
Cape May, New Jersey
With its Victorian-era houses, 19th-century working trolley, and chiming church bells, this village at the southernmost tip of the state is postcard-perfect. On its main road, you’ll find the Virginia Hotel (doubles from $349, including breakfast), a contemporary 24-room retreat with sleek cherry-red sofas and a baby grand piano in the lobby. Upstairs, the bedrooms are outfitted with Belgian linens and bathrooms have a trio of showerheads. At the Ebbitt Room restaurant, leather banquettes line the minimal space, where chef Lucas Manteca serves native oysters topped with champagne granita and trout caviar.
Don’t Miss: A trip to Bay Springs Farm Alpacas, run by the Nestle family. Here, you can visit a herd of alpacas and buy homespun scarves, shawls, and sweaters.
Southold, New York
A two-hour drive from New York City, North Fork Table & Inn (doubles from $275, including breakfast) is owned by a pair of Manhattan culinary stars, chef Gerry Hayden (from Aureole) and his wife, James Beard Award–winning pastry chef Claudia Fleming (formerly of Gramercy Tavern). The duo turns out New American dishes, such as raw hamachi and seared Hudson Valley foie gras. Come for the food, but stay in one of the four cozy rooms, which have cherrywood sleigh beds and exposed red brick. You’ll wake up to the best blueberry and apricot scones you’ve ever tried.
Don’t Miss: The Tasting Room, a tin-ceilinged wine boutique nearby with samples from 10 North Fork vineyards.
Great Value You may not think of Stamford as the ideal summer getaway, but the Hotel Chesterfield (doubles from $239), set in a well-heeled residential enclave, is just a stone’s throw away from a private beach. You’ll find a mix of old and new in the nine rooms: flat-screen TV’s are propped on hand-carved mantels; antique desks are stacked with Assouline art books. Windows overlook Dutch Colonial manses, Queen Anne–style residences, and the broad oak trees lining Westcott Cove.
Don’t Miss: The soft-serve at Sunny Daes (ice cream for two $6), a pink-and-teal ice cream stand across from 79-acre Cummings Park.
Great Value Occupying a mile-long peninsula, this village of beautifully preserved 18th- and 19th-century houses is not just a time capsule, it’s home to a commercial fishing fleet. At the Inn at Stonington (doubles from $190, including breakfast), you’ll find luxurious amenities (Frette linens and robes; whirlpools in 16 of the 18 rooms), vintage maritime prints, and modern touches (Asian-themed room No. 7, with its balcony overlooking the harbor, is a guest favorite). A five-minute walk leads to tiny Dubois Beach, where guests can go kayaking or simply take in the view.
Don’t Miss: Nearby Mystic Seaport, a waterfront museum of historic whaling ships that you can climb aboard and explore.
Pawleys Island, South Carolina
Great Value Southerners who prefer substance over style love the Sea View Inn (doubles from $215, including all meals), just a dune away from the surf on a laid-back barrier island 70 miles north of Charleston. The 25 pine-paneled rooms are beach-rental basic: think patchwork quilts, ceiling fans, and half-baths (caveat: you’ll be sharing the showers, which are scattered throughout the property). Catch your own crab for a pre-dinner snack off a tidal-marsh dock or wander down the shore with a bucket and spade to build your own dream castle on the Atlantic.
Don’t Miss: Buying a classic rope hammock from the Original Hammock Shop.
Little Compton, Rhode Island
On Sakonnet Point, 30 miles from Newport’s crowded beaches, the 13-room Stone House (doubles from $395, including breakfast) is a quiet hideaway. The 155-year-old stone Italianate villa just opened after a two-year renovation. Despite contemporary flourishes—tiled Japanese soaking tubs; platform beds—the narrow front-hall staircase retains its 19th-century scrollwork detailing, and the original wooden shutters still hang in recessed windows that catch the sea breeze off Rhode Island Sound. Next door, the shingled horse barn contains a four-room spa and a Tuscan-style restaurant.
Don’t Miss: A cruise on the Eclipse, the inn’s 59-foot Hinckley sailboat, which takes you along Narragansett Bay.
Cumberland Island, Georgia
This 17-mile stretch of pristine marsh, beach, and woodland would seem a million miles from civilization were it not for the stylish Greyfield Inn (doubles from $475, including meals and transportation), run by descendants of 19th-century industrialist Thomas Carnegie. The place is such a bolt-hole that John F. Kennedy Jr. chose Cumberland Island in 1996 when looking for a location for his wedding to Carolyn Bessette. Its 16 rooms have the low-key chic of an aristocrat’s private house. After sunset, the only people on the island are the guests seeking refuge and a handful of campers.
Don’t Miss: Hunting down prehistoric shark’s teeth, found all over the island—at creeksides, beaches, and occasionally even on the paths leading from the Greyfield Inn.
Key West, Florida
Great Value On this tiny island in the Straits of Florida, the most graceful place to stay is the Gardens Hotel (doubles from $250, including breakfast), a boutique B&B housed in a circa-1870 plantation-style mansion. Beginning in 1930, former owner Peggy Mills spent nearly 40 years on the gardens, adding orchids, palms, winding brick pathways, fountains, and enormous Cuban earthenware jars. Since then, subsequent owners have introduced a heated pool and several outbuildings with mahogany furniture, verandas, and work by local artists.
Don’t Miss: Exploring Nancy Forrester’s Secret Garden, an acre of wild jungle run by artist Nancy Forrester.
Dana Point, California
Great Value Laid-back southern California meets New England at the Blue Lantern Inn (doubles from $215, including breakfast), an hour south of Los Angeles. The 29 airy rooms, decorated in neutral creams and beiges, are situated on a bluff above the harbor, and many have views of the Pacific. French doors open to the ocean air in the downstairs sunroom, where a breakfast of artichoke quiche and fluffy pancakes is served. Spend your day biking along the point’s coastal paths, playing board games in the library, or reading in the gazebo or at the beach.
Don’t Miss: The summer regattas on July 25 and August 22, which start at the nearby Dana Point Yacht Club.
Los Angeles, California
Great Value Santa Monica’s Channel Road Inn (doubles from $230, including breakfast), a blue-shingled Colonial Revival, is just a short walk from the surfing haven of Topanga beach—but it feels more like Cape Cod. The wicker-clad main room has turn-of-the-century woodwork; upstairs, the 15 suites are furnished with four-poster beds (some with balconies). In the afternoon the staff bakes chocolate-chip cookies—a welcome treat after a walk along the shore.
Don’t Miss: A lesson with veteran surfer Pat Murphy from Learn to Surf LA (1 3/4-hour classes from $120) at Santa Monica Beach.
Just an hour north of the Golden Gate Bridge, the 1930’s-era fishing lodge Nick’s Cove & Cottages (doubles from $355, including breakfast) looks straight out of an Edward Hopper painting with its rusted gas pumps and vintage Coca-Cola signs. Details that in lesser hands might seem cloying—shell-frame mirrors; mounted moose heads—fit naturally in this rustic corner of Marin. Our favorite cabin is the Bandit’s Bungalow, a two-bedroom suite with handsome wainscoting and beadboard, wraparound windows, and a claw-foot tub.
Don’t Miss: Point Reyes Station, a tiny foodie hamlet 10 miles away that’s home to the famed cheesemakers at Cowgirl Creamery.
The Inn Above Tide (doubles from $305, including breakfast) gives new meaning to the term waterfront—the modern property is built on pilings over San Francisco Bay. From ferries and kayakers to sea lions and migratory birds, guests here have a prime spot for taking in the harbor’s goings-on. Most of the 29 rooms feature fireplaces and floor-to-ceiling windows. For the best view of the San Francisco skyline, book room No. 107—its private deck is ideal for watching the sunrise.
Don’t Miss: The West Coast rendition of a lobster roll, made with Dungeness crab, at nearby Fish (dinner for two $52).
Lummi Island, Washington
Great Value Slow Food devotees make the pilgrimage to under-the-radar Willows Inn (doubles from $165, including breakfast), in the San Juan Islands, a hundred miles north of Seattle. The 1910 main building has five unfussy rooms, and there are four freestanding bungalows in the surrounding hills. Wander through the forest to the inn’s organic Nettles Farm, which has rows of greens and tomatoes. Free-range hens supply the eggs for breakfast, and Mangalitsa pigs provide the lardo and cured meats. Kick back on the deck and spot migrating orca pods—so close you can hear them exhale.
Don’t Miss: The Sunday night feast of locally harvested giant spot prawns at the hotel’s restaurant.
Orcas Island, Washington
With just three secluded cottages, the Place at Cayou Cove (doubles from $295) feels more discreet than your average inn. At the southwest tip of Orcas Island, the five-acre property is surrounded by a rambling lawn that extends to the shore. The rooms are well curated: antique beams, wood-burning fireplaces, and hot tubs, plus fully stocked kitchens and outdoor grills. Guests can go clamming with the staff in the mornings, then stargaze in the evening on the inn’s private beach, lit up by a blazing bonfire.
Don’t Miss: Arriving by seaplane from Seattle on Kenmore Air (one-hour flights from $218, round-trip), for sweeping views of the San Juan Islands.
Depoe Bay, Oregon
On a bluff overlooking the rugged Pacific coastline, the Whale Cove Inn (doubles from $395, including breakfast) is a two-year-old retreat made of stone, steel, cable, and glass. Its seven 1,000-square-foot-suites have white wood-beam ceilings and understated accents such as cream-colored sofas and mahogany tables. Watch bald eagles, gray whales, and distant ocean storms from the terrace in your suite. The nearby Tidal Raves Seafood Grill(dinner for two $65) serves excellent fish and is surprisingly affordable, and the hotel recently opened its own restaurant, Beck (dinner for two $60).
Don’t Miss: Shopping for fused-glass objets by area craftsmen along Main Street in Toledo, a 20-minute drive south.
Great Value A clutch of 12 cottages lining white-sand Kuau Cove make up the Mama’s Fish House Restaurant and Inn (doubles from $175), a Polynesian-style hideaway on Maui’s North Shore. Inside, rooms come with breezy lanais and touches such as flowers folded into the towels. Topping off the experience is the open-air Mama’s Fish House next door, which serves some of the best food on the island (try the “pua me hua hana” sampler of mahimahi and kalua pig).
Don’t Miss: The old cowboy town of Makawao (eight miles inland), where the Komoda Store & Bakery makes doughnuts reflecting the town’s diverse communities—Portuguese malasadas, Japanese anpan, and classic cream puffs.