Strategic Retreats

Summertime, and the living is pretty much the opposite of easy, at least at certain very popular oceanside vacation destinations. Fortunately, there are plenty of spots within three hours or so of Manhattan where the definition of the good life does not include Pilates racks and Brazilian bikini waxing. Our area is rich with stately, beautiful houses, dating from the Victorian era on back, a surprising number of which are now in business as inns and bed-and-breakfasts. Their owner-innkeepers have a passion for both their property and the comfort of their guests, and on the following pages, you’ll find 30 of the best, compiled by Sandy Soule, the recognized expert in the field; she currently edits the Report, a free e-mail newsletter. Soule stays at each of the inns she writes about, and were it not for her editors here, she’d probably be the most relaxed person on the Eastern Seaboard. Spend a weekend at one of her picks, and you’re unlikely to rub elbows with Puffy or a Baldwin brother or any of their personal trainers. On the other hand, you won’t need a vacation to recover.

Griswold Inn
Essex, Conn.

Colonial reproductions are legion, but for the real McCoy, set your sails for Essex, a Connecticut River shipbuilding town settled in 1637, and stay at the Griswold Inn. Open since 1776, the “Gris” (as it’s always called) includes the main inn as well as several adjacent buildings. One of the dining rooms was constructed from a covered bridge, and the Tap Room was built in 1738 as a schoolhouse. Essex’s narrow streets beg for strollers to admire the beautifully maintained Colonial homes and browse the art, antiques, and specialty shops. The Connecticut River Museum at Steamboat Dock houses a full-scale reproduction of the first submarine ever to be used in combat, built in 1776. Children will enjoy the Essex steam train and riverboat ride, and a show at the Goodspeed Opera House is recommended for music lovers. If you prefer buying to looking (or listening), Clinton Crossing, just off I-95, is the area’s best outlet mall.

INFO Griswold Inn, 36 Main Street, 860-767-1776;; $90-$195; 31 guest rooms.

Morning Glory
Madison, Conn.

Morning Glory is an 1806 Federal-style home near Long Island Sound. Owner Charlene Denhardt has a winning way with bold colors, hand-stenciled furnishings, family heirlooms, and beautiful houseplants. While she offers beach passes and towels for Madison’s own town beach, other options include a hike at Chatfield Hollow State Park or a boat cruise through the Thimble Islands. For less than the cost of a beer and a hot dog at Yankee Stadium, you can pick up box seats for the New Haven Ravens, an AA farm team for the Seattle Mariners. Charlene can also help with dinner reservations: Friends & Company in Madison for fresh salads and homemade breads; chef-owned Quatro’s in Guilford for fresh fish and pastas; or the Wharf Restaurant at the Madison Beach Hotel for food with a view.

INFO Morning Glory Bed & Breakfast, 395 Boston Post Road, 203-245-9196; $110-$165; four guest rooms.

Ledyard, Conn.

Some country inns are a means to an end; others are an end in themselves. Stonecroft falls into the latter category. You can visit Mystic Seaport, just five miles away, or take your chances at the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos. But if your goal is to be pampered, stay close to Stonecroft. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this 1807 sea captain’s country estate consists of a sunny Georgian Colonial home and a transformed hay barn called the Grange. The Stonecroft room has a whimsical hand-painted mural of the grounds as they might have appeared in the nineteenth century and a king-size canopy bed; the Buttery is the oldest room, dating back to 1740, with original doors and beams. The Grange, a converted post-and-beam barn, houses the inn’s restaurant, plus six guest rooms, each with a fireplace and double whirlpool tub. Dinners are prepared by the accomplished chef Drew Egy, son of owners Joan and Lynn Egy.

INFO Stonecroft, 515 Pumpkin Hill Road, 800-772-0774;; $130-$250; ten guest rooms.

The Boulders
New Preston, Conn.

When the Boulders was built as a summer home in 1895, it was a two-day carriage ride from Greenwich, where its owners lived year-round. These days, New York City is only two hours away, but the feeling of a peaceful country getaway is still the same. Overlooking Lake Waramaug, the inn offers rooms in its main inn, carriage house, and cottages. We splurged on a cottage – an expensive indulgence, at peak summer rates – but loved having a private deck overlooking the lake, a fireplace for the chilly night, and a double whirlpool tub in the bathroom. Great breakfasts include cooked-to-order omelets with fresh herbs and waffles with fresh berries. On warm evenings, dinner is served on the patio; if it’s nippy, the dining room has a relaxing water view. Entrées include duck breast with cranberry-and-butternut-squash bread pudding, and horseradish-crusted salmon with leeks and oysters. For the energetic, there’s canoeing and paddle-boating on the lake, or a seven-mile stroll up Pinnacle Mountain. The more laid-back enjoy driving winding country roads to local antiques shops.

INFO The Boulders Inn, East Shore Road, 860-868-0541;; $260-$380; seventeen guest rooms.

The Inn at Montchanin Village
Montchanin, Del.

Only in Delaware could an entire village remain in the same family for five generations. Missy Lickle inherited Montchanin – built to house laborers from the nearby DuPont gunpowder mills – and she and her husband, Dan, turned it into a luxury inn. Located in the Brandywine River Valley (just three miles north of Wilmington), the inn has guest rooms scattered among houses, cottages, and a schoolhouse, all surrounded by carefully tended gardens.The former blacksmith’s shop is now a restaurant called Krazy Kat’s, where whimsical décor – complete with paintings of cats and faux-fur upholstery – belies the serious food: crab cakes with wild-mushroom-and-baby-spinach strudel, and chili-rubbed duck breast with Asian noodles and roasted peanut sauce. Rooms are decorated with period furniture and designer fabrics. We could have lived in the bathroom of our luxury suite, with its oversize marble shower, double whirlpool tub, two sinks, and fresh flowers. Within a short drive are Winterthur, now a museum of American decorative arts with a 60-acre garden; Longwood Gardens, 1,000 acres of exquisite gardens, woodlands, and meadows (don’t miss the orchids in the conservatory); the Hagley Museum, site of an early Du Pont gunpowder works; the Brandywine River Museum, with art by three generations of the Wyeth family; and an excellent English pre-Raphaelite collection at the Delaware Art Museum.

INFO The Inn at Montchanin Village, Route 100, 800-269-2473;; $125-$375; 33 guest rooms.

Lee, Mass.

It’s just a short drive to see the rest of the Berkshires, but that would mean you’d have to leave the inn’s inviting living room and cozy fire, relaxing swimming pool, waiting tennis court, and sweeping views of meadows and mountains. The original Devonfield, built by a Revolutionary War veteran, was completely rebuilt in 1928; during the summer of 1942 it was the residence of Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, her daughter, Princess Juliana, and her granddaughters. Guest rooms are comfortable but not lavish, light and airy, and traditionally furnished; many have floral wall coverings and hardwood floors with area rugs. The Berkshire Mountains offer exceptional cultural options, especially in summer, ranging from the legendary concerts of the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood in Lenox to mass moca in North Adams to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge. There are historic sites like Edith Wharton’s home, the Mount; the Hancock Shaker Village; and the Stockbridge estate of sculptor Daniel Chester French (he did the Lincoln Memorial). Area shopping ranges from high-quality craft stores to outlet malls.

INFO Devonfield, 85 Stockbridge Road, 800-664-0880;; $110-$290; ten guest rooms.

The Inn at Richmond
Richmond, Mass.

Breakfast on strawberries with lemon-mint glaze and an asparagus frittata, then stroll outside to watch horses grazing in the meadow. In their imaginative restoration, innkeepers Jerri and Dan Buehler have balanced 225-year-old farmhouse charm with queen- and king-size beds, new bathrooms, air-conditioning, cable TV, and in-room telephones. The diminutive Petite Suite has a pine Cannonball bed topped with a dramatic Waverly floral print and tranquil, camel-colored walls and carpeting. Port and sherry are always available in the book-lined library; sodas and coffee, in the garden room. (For Berkshire activities, see the entry for the Devonfield, above.)

INFO The Inn at Richmond, 802 State Road, 888-968-4748;; $110-$295; ten guest rooms.

Lenox, Mass.

Originally a tavern with lodgings, Rookwood was Victorianized in 1880, complete with gables and turrets. Outside, the inn is a classic “painted lady,” mauve with gray-green and dark-red accents. Inside, innkeeper Amy Lindner-Lesser has furnished it with English and American antiques, Oriental rugs, and period wallpapers. Amy welcomes families with well-supervised children, as well as couples enjoying a romantic escape, and takes pains to ensure that the former don’t disturb the latter. The Rookwood’s breakfasts are delicious, with challah French toast or the frittata with mushrooms, onions, and roasted peppers among the favorites. (For Berkshire activities, see the entry for the Devonfield, above.)

INFO Rookwood, 11 Old Stockbridge Road, 800-223-9750;; $85-$300; twenty guest rooms.

Village Green Inn
Falmouth, Mass.

The best barometer of a B&B’s quality is the percentage of repeat guests, and on our last visit to the Village Green, all were returnees. Welcoming innkeepers Diane and Don Crosby spoil their guests with breakfasts of homemade cinnamon buns and blueberry French toast. Well fueled, we rode one of the inn’s bicycles down the Shining Sea bikeway to Woods Hole, with a quick detour onto Church Street to see the Nobska Point lighthouse. The Falmouth Heights beach has lovely views of Martha’s Vineyard. And if you want to see the Vineyard up close, make it a day trip; the ferry is just three miles from the inn. In the afternoon, relax amid white wicker and red geraniums on one of the porches, sipping lemonade and munching one of Don’s homemade chocolate-chip cookies. Dining favorites include the Quarterdeck in town, Regatta by the Sea on the harbor, and the casual Chappaquoit Grille in West Falmouth.

INFO The Village Green Inn, 40 Main Street, 800-237-1119;; $90-$225; five guest rooms.

The Queen Victoria
Cape May, N.J.

It’s a long drive down the Garden State Parkway to Cape May, but once you’ve checked in at the Queen Victoria, you won’t need your car again. The beach, shops, and restaurants are all an easy walk in this compact Victorian beach town. Although it seems that every second house in the historic district is a B&B (the few that aren’t bear signs reading private home), the Queen Victoria can be counted on to offer standout service. When the Disney people decided to open a Victorian-style beach hotel in Orlando a few years ago, they sent operatives to the Queen Victoria to learn how it’s really done from twenty-year veteran innkeepers Dane and Joan Wells. Guests enjoy period décor in a froufrou-free zone, and Dane can answer almost any question about the area. The nation’s first seaside resort, the entire town is a National Historic Landmark, so be sure to sign up for a walking tour to learn more about its elaborate Victorian architecture. Whale-watching and sailing trips are also available. Few local restaurants have liquor licenses (don’t ask; it’s a New Jersey thing), so bring along a few bottles from your personal stash, or stop in at Collier’s for beer and wine.

INFO The Queen Victoria, 102 Ocean Street, 609-884-8702;; $195-$285; 21 guest rooms.

Spring Lake, N.J.

One of the loveliest towns on the Jersey shore, Spring Lake offers two miles of commercial-free beach and boardwalk, beautifully restored Victorian homes, a charming main street, and sparkling spring-fed lakes. Secluded among holly trees, Hollycroft’s rustic log-and-stone architecture gives it the feel of an Adirondack lodge. Venture capitalists should book the Lord of the Manor suite, an enormous log-beamed room with a huge rock fireplace, private lake-view porch, and a spacious bathroom with a double soaking tub. A great value is the Ambleside Room, with a double canopy bed, a porch with a swing, and a private bath across the hall. Wonderful buffet breakfasts are served until 10:30 a.m., so you can sleep in. Make advance reservations for innovative cuisine at Whispers, in the Hewitt Wellington Hotel, but buy a bottle of wine at the Bottle Shop on Third Avenue.

INFO Hollycroft, 800-679-2254;; $125-$295; seven guest rooms.

Chestnut Hill on the Delaware
Milford, N.J.

A glorious stretch of the Delaware River, just a few hours from the city, runs between Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and Hunterdon County, New Jersey. On the Jersey side, one of our favorite stops is Chestnut Hill. Choose the bright and sunny Rose Garden room for its wonderful views of the river and a relaxing whirlpool tub. Teddy’s Place, a room tucked under the eaves, takes its name from the many bears in residence; you’ll love the “loo with a view.” For maximum space, book the adjacent Country Cottage, complete with a private veranda, living room, bedroom with a fireplace, stocked kitchen, and more. When it’s hot, grab a tube and float off the inn’s dock, or go directly to Point Pleasant and rent a tube or kayak from River Country. Its employees will haul you upstream in an old school bus; then you float effortlessly back downstream. Feeling more energetic? Towpaths on both sides of the river, once trod by mule teams pulling cargo boats along the canal, are perfect for hiking and biking. And in the nearby Ringing Rocks County Park, a two-mile walk takes you to Upper Black Eddy, whose boulder-strewn fields contain rocks that ring like a bell when struck with a rock or hammer. Serious shoppers will want to head downriver to New Hope and Lambertville. Just a block from the inn is the chef-owned Milford Oyster House. In this 1829 home turned intimate restaurant, we feasted on steamed mussels, seared tuna, and striped bass. You’ll be surprised at the quality of the wine selection at the Milford Market across the street.

INFO Chestnut Hill on the Delaware, 63 Church Street, 908-995-9761;; $90-$150; seven guest rooms; no credit cards.

Woolverton Inn
Stockton, N.J.

You can look out over 300 acres of meadows and woods from this 1792 stone manor house, an easy walk from the charming village of Stockton. Young, friendly owners Carolyn McGavin, Matthew Lovette, and Mark Smith are working hard to upgrade the décor and furnishings while preserving the inn’s atmosphere of relaxed elegance. You can splurge on a luxury room like the rustic Stockton Quay, with a spectacular slate-tiled bath and separate large shower, while thrifty travelers will be delighted with the affordable Primrose’s Bower, done in rose and gray, with a private bath just across the hall. Generous breakfasts might include a vegetable frittata with homemade turkey sausage or apple-blueberry streusel en papillote. If you love stained glass, be sure to visit the Sunflower Studio, a mile up the road. (For activities in and around the Delaware River, see entry for Chestnut Hill.)

INFO Woolverton Inn, 6 Woolverton Road, 888-264-6648.;; $100-$285; nine guest rooms.

Silver Maple Farm
Canaan, N.Y.

Don’t forget to check the New York side of the border when looking for a Berkshire Mountains getaway. Owners Meg and Bill Stratton have converted an old barn into a beautiful inn. In the main common area, called the Great Room, guests gather to read, chat, or play board games in comfy wing chairs and couches. (Coffee, tea, and cookies are served there each afternoon at four.) Guest rooms are located in two wings added onto the barn and are simply decorated with handcrafted furnishings. For a delightful meal, ask Meg to reserve a table at the Pillars in nearby New Lebanon. The atmosphere is casual, and the menu is French. (For Berkshire activities, see entry for the Devonfield in Massachusetts.)

INFO The Inn at Silver Maple Farm, Route 295, 518-781-3600;; $75-$275; eleven guest rooms.

Spencertown Country House
Spencertown, N.Y.

Another great B&B on the New York side of the Berkshires is the Spencertown Country House. The original saltbox-style farmhouse was built in 1803 and updated in the 1870s with a turret and wraparound porches. Owners Heather and John Spitzer have added new bathrooms and effective air-conditioning. Fireplaces provide cozy charm on cold nights; the expansive porches and gardens are ideal for relaxing when it’s warm and sunny. Breakfast favorites include sausage-and-cheese omelets with freshly baked corn bread, and cottage-cheese pancakes with maple syrup and homemade applesauce. (For Berkshire activities, see entry for the Devonfield in Massachusetts.)

INFO Spencertown Country House B&B, County Route 9, 888-727-9980;; $65-$175; nine guest rooms.

Freddy’s House
Cutchogue, N.Y.

If you’re trying to decide between Long Island’s North and South Fork, remember that the humbler North may not have the Hamptons’ glamour, but it does have modest B&Bs, great wineries to tour, and pleasant Long Island Sound beaches. Local zoning limits B&Bs to only three guest rooms, so most are simple family affairs, with rates about half those in the Hamptons. Our favorite is Freddy’s House, a 200-year-old home on a 300-year-old working family farm, with two immaculate guest rooms, each with a private bath. Prudence and Dan work the farm themselves, and she prepares dishes like strawberry soup with pound-cake croutons and fresh-baked breads. The farm has acres to roam and provides private access to the Peconic Bay beach for swimming or picnicking. (For additional North Fork activities, see next entry.)

INFO Freddy’s House B&B, 1535 New Suffolk Road, 631-734-4180;; $125-$150; two guest rooms.

Home Port
Peconic, N.Y.

If you’re looking for fishermen who really know the local waters, stay with Jack and Pat Combs at the North Fork’s Homeport. Jack’s forefathers were fishing Long Island’s waters as early as 1640, and the tradition continues today with his saltwater-fly-fishing-guide service. The Combses’$2 1876 Victorian home has bright, pretty guest rooms (one with private bath, two sharing). Common areas include the Teddy Roosevelt Room, filled with antique fishing and hunting paraphernalia; a sitting room with an abundance of period treasures; and an inviting porch and deck. Free tennis courts are in the adjacent park, and the beach is nearby. Even better are the ten wineries within a five-minute drive; favorites include Gristina Vineyards, Pugliese Vineyards, Bedell Cellars, and Osprey’s Dominion. For a casual meal, we like the Seafood Barge on Main Road in Southold, overlooking Peconic Bay. For an elegant dinner, try Coeur des Vignes in Southold. Traveling from Westchester or Connecticut? Take the ferry from Bridgeport to Port Jefferson or from New London to Orient Point.

INFO Home Port B&B, 2500 Peconic Lane, 631-765-1435;; $120-$130; three guest rooms; no credit cards.

The Inn on 23rd
New York, N.Y.

If you live outside the city, try letting someone else mow the lawn, and come into town for a great weekend. The Inn on 23rd is a nineteenth-century commercial building restored in 1999 by the Fisherman family. In the heart of Chelsea, the spacious guest rooms are furnished with individual flair, from the quiet charm of the Bamboo Room to the Art Moderne style of the Forties Room. Innkeeper Annette Fisherman previously owned an art gallery, and her eclectic collection is part of the décor. The inn has a large living-dining area, and rates include continental breakfast.

INFO The Inn on 23rd, 131 West 23rd Street, 877-387-2323; $150-$350; eleven guest rooms.

WhistleWood Farm
Rhinebeck, N.Y.

If you’ve overdosed on Victorian-style B&B’s, ride up the Hudson to Rhinebeck, where you’ll find WhistleWood, Maggie Myer’s contemporary ranch home decorated with antique quilts, Navajo blankets, and primitive farm tools. Guests relax by the fire, in the solarium, or on the deck, but most often they can be found hanging out in Maggie’s kitchen, sampling buttermilk pancakes, French toast, or scrambled eggs and bacon or sausage, all set out on the 1904 Gold Coin cookstove. In the afternoon, homemade fruit pie and chocolate-chip coffee cake with iced tea or lemonade will tempt even the strongest-willed. Guest rooms vary in size and price, from the Juniper Room in the main house, with an antique cherry queen-size four-poster and private deck, to the newly renovated barn suites. The Northwind has a stone fireplace facing the queen-size bed and a private patio overlooking the horse pastures. Area activities include the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome – watch an air show or ride in an open-cockpit biplane. Head north to Hudson to visit the Moorish Olana, home of painter Frederick Church, or south to Hyde Park, home of Franklin Roosevelt and the Culinary Institute of America. Top area restaurants include the Beekman Arms, Le Petit Bistro, and the Cripple Creek Café.

INFO WhistleWood Farm B&B, 52 Pells Road, 914-876-6838;; $95-$325; six guest rooms.

Veranda House
Rhinebeck, N.Y.

Just three blocks from Rhinebeck’s shops, restaurants, and galleries, Veranda House is owned by friendly, knowledgeable innkeepers Linda and Ward Stanley. Linda’s breakfasts look as good as they taste and are thoughtfully served until 10 a.m. on Saturdays, 11 a.m. on Sundays. We were delighted with the Rose Room and its queen-size pencil-post bed with fishnet canopy; the bathroom was small but new and well designed.

INFO Veranda House B&B, 6487 Montgomery Street, 914-876-4133;; $100-$150; five guest rooms.

Inn at Cooperstown
Cooperstown, N.Y.

Sports fanatics and -phobics alike will enjoy a visit to this little town in upstate New York. In addition to the famous Baseball Hall of Fame, the new National Soccer Hall of Fame awaits in nearby Oneonta. And the location of the Inn at Cooperstown – less than two blocks from the Hall of Fame – would be reason enough for many travelers to stay there. Built as a hotel in 1874 in the Second Empire style, the inn has been painstakingly restored by longtime owner Michael Jerome. Immaculate guest rooms are simply furnished with period reproductions; some have three twin beds, a good choice for families. A classic front porch is the perfect spot to relax on a rocking chair with a cool drink. The helpful staff offers refreshingly honest restaurant recommendations. And Cooperstown’s not just for sports nuts. Culture seekers will be pleased with the Fenimore Art Museum, the Farmers’ Museum, and, in July and August, the Glimmerglass Opera. There’s good beer at the Ommegang Brewery, and fine food can be found at Gabriella’s on the Square, the Hoffman Lane Bistro, the Hawkeye Bar & Grill at the Otesaga Hotel, and Blue Mingo overlooking Otsego Lake. There’s boating and fishing, and rolling country roads for bicycling.

INFO The Inn at Cooperstown, 16 Chestnut Street, 607-547-5756;; $98-$155; seventeen guest rooms.

Cooperstown, N.Y.

For a romantic escape, Thistlebrook – an elegantly restored 1866 barn – offers beautiful rooms with an eclectic mix of European, American, and Chinese antique furnishings, outstanding breakfasts, and a peaceful country setting, just three miles from town. An early-morning stroll is a great way to work up an appetite for breakfasts of orange pancakes or frittatas. Long-time owners Jim and Paula Bugonian recommend relaxing on their deck while looking out at the beautiful valley and a pond that’s ideal for bird-watching.

INFO Thistlebrook Bed & Breakfast, 316 County Highway 28, 800-596-9305;; $120-$145; five guest rooms.

Six Sisters
Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Nearly demolished in the sixties in the name of modernization, Saratoga Springs, the “Queen of the Spas,” has regained all her royal charms – and more. Longtime Saratoga innkeepers Kate Benton and husband Steve Ramirez will show you to a comfortable room in their 1880 Victorian inn and give you the inside scoop on all that Saratoga has to offer: swimming and boating on area lakes, hiking in the Adirondack Mountains, tasting the famous waters and enjoying a spa mineral bath and massage, visiting a variety of museums, and watching a world-class ballet or concert at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. There are more than 1,000 gingerbread Victorian buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places, so just strolling Saratoga’s streets, browsing its charming shops, and sampling food in its restaurants can fill a weekend. High rollers come to Saratoga for the Thoroughbred-racing season (July 26 to September 4), when room rates double.

INFO Six Sisters Bed and Breakfast, 149 Union Avenue, 518-583-1173;; $85-$300; four guest rooms.

Bucksville House
Kintnersville, Pa.

Built in 1795, Bucksville House in Bucks County has served as a hotel, a stagecoach shop, a speakeasy during Prohibition, and a tavern thereafter. Now painstakingly restored to its Colonial past, the inn is furnished with owner Joe Szollosi’s hand-crafted reproductions and his wife Barbara’s wonderful antiques, from exceptional early-American quilts to unusual biscuit servers and salt-glaze pottery. Generous breakfasts are served in what was originally the 1795 blacksmith shop with its walk-in fireplace, or out in the garden gazebo. Each guest room is appealing and a great value, but our favorites are the large third-floor suite and the Back Room. Beautiful grounds surround the inn, with a stocked pond and herb, flower, and vegetable gardens. The owners have a few ghost stories to tell, if you care to ask. (For activities around the Delaware River, see the entry for New Jersey’s Chestnut Hill.)

INFO Bucksville House B&B, 4501 Durham Road, 888-617-6300;; $100-$130; five guest rooms.

Fairville Inn
Chadds Ford, Pa.

Two miles north of Wilmington, just over the Pennsylvania border, is the Fairville Inn, with guest rooms located in the 1820 Main House, the Carriage House, and the Springhouse. Mercifully uncluttered, the guest rooms are decorated with pastel colors and soft floral patterns; many have queen-size canopy beds and fireplaces. Since the inn is right on Route 52, light sleepers should ask for a room at the back of the inn, in the Carriage House or Springhouse. We were welcomed into the spacious parlor with tea and cookies upon arrival; breakfast includes hot entrées, fresh fruit, juice, and just-baked pastries. (For nearby activities in the Brandywine River Valley, see the listing for the Inn at Montchanin Village in Delaware.)

INFO Fairville Inn, 506 Kennett Pike, 610-388-5900;; $150-$205; fifteen guest rooms.

Francis Malbone House
Newport, R.I.

Newport, high society’s summer colony since the nineteenth century, has more than 100 inns, many of them first-rate, so it’s hard to single out favorites. But a top pick is the Francis Malbone House, a 1760 Colonial mansion, impeccably restored as a luxury B&B. The elegant décor – Queen Anne-style furnishings, Oriental rugs, and fine paintings and prints – is enhanced by the exceptionally friendly and energetic young staff. Breakfast is served in the garden and can include a warm apple cake and a Mexican frittata. Afternoon tea is no less tempting, with delicious cinnamon scones, oatmeal-chocolate-chip cookies, coconut cookies, and chocolate cake. Be sure to walk the three-mile-long Cliff Walk, past lush lawns and extravagant summer “cottages” on one side and steep cliffs and crashing waves on the other. Check the Website or ask about discounted rates for last-minute availability, a great value for this five-diamond property.

INFO The Francis Malbone House, 392 Thomas Street, 800-846-0392;; $155-$395; eighteen guest rooms.

Cliffside Inn
Newport, R.I.

One hundred yards from the Cliff Walk is the Cliffside Inn, long the summer home of mysterious painter-recluse Beatrice Turner, whose art still adorns the inn’s walls. Shielded from traffic yet within walking distance of Newport’s attractions, Cliffside’s guest rooms are decorated with Victorian antiques. Under the watchful eye of innkeeper Stephan Nicolas, the welcoming staff spoils guests with peach pancakes and strawberry butter, generous afternoon tea, and even little pastries at evening turndown. For a special occasion, reserve the extravagant Seascape Suite on the third floor with a water view as well as skylights in the bedroom and over the double-whirlpool tub. The inn is full most weekends, so call at least several months ahead. However, its Website does offer terrific deals on single nights here and there.

INFO Cliffside Inn, 2 Seaview Avenue, 800-845-1811;; $225-$500; sixteen guest rooms.

Castle Hill Inn
Newport, R.I.

For outstanding water views, reserve at the beautifully renovated Castle Hill Inn, about three miles from town. This once-faded dowager has been amazingly restored and offers first-rate accommodations in a superb location overlooking Newport Bay and the Castle Hill lighthouse. Ask for a room in the mansion, Harbor House, or Beach House; the rustic Beach Cottage units have only the view to recommend them.

INFO Castle Hill Inn & Resort, 590 Ocean Drive, 888-466-1355;; $250-$495; 25 guest rooms.

October Country Inn
Killington, Vt.

Although the location is ideal – close to historic Woodstock, Vermont, and to skiing, mountain biking, and hiking – the main reason guests keep returning to the OCI is for the genuine warmth and hospitality of owners Richard Sims and Patrick Runkel. At this old-fashioned country inn, you can chat, read, or doze by the fire, tan by the swimming pool, feast on Patrick’s superb family-style dinners and tasty breakfasts, and truly relax. Guest rooms are on the small side but are comfortable and pleasant. The Long Trail Brewery is an easy stroll down a quiet country lane, so there’s no need to drive after sipping a sampler (or two). Adults will enjoy Woodstock’s many galleries; families should visit the Billings Farm Museum and the Vermont Institute for Natural Science, home to injured owls, hawks, falcons, and eagles.

INFO October Country Inn, 800-648-8421;; $129-$159; includes breakfast and dinner for two; ten guest rooms.

Four Columns Inn
Newfane, Vt.

Ambitious guests can spend their days exploring southern Vermont, from Manchester’s outlets to area golf courses and antiques shops, but we forgive those who never use their cars after arriving at the Four Columns. Close at hand are a lovely swimming pool, hiking trails, and the picturesque Newfane green, complete with a general store, antique shop, and deli. Favorite guest rooms include Nos. 16 and 17 in the Garden Wing, and Suite No. 3 with double whirlpool and woodstove in the original building. The Tavern Room is a comfortable place to enjoy a drink before or after dinner; it has a wall mural of historic Newfane and an antique pewter bar. Under the supervision of long-time chef Greg Parks, count on delicious dinners and fine service; try the locally raised lamb. Innkeepers Gorty and Pam Baldwin make the inn even more appealing with their exceptionally warm and hospitable style.

INFO Four Columns Inn, 21 West Street, 800-787-6633;; $125-$325; fifteen guest rooms.

Strategic Retreats