Get Out of Town

Don't fence me in: Outside the Weather Bureau Inn, on Block IslandPhoto: Stewart Ferebee

Yin has yang; Astaire had Rodgers; Starsky had Hutch. And similarly, life in New York City is unimaginable without its opposite number, complement, and soul mate: the country. This is where the plot thickens. Do you want to spend your downtime fly-fishing in a mountain stream? Stretched out on the beach? Dressing for Tanglewood on a midsummer’s night? Shooting the breeze with old-timers in a country store? Or maybe up to your elbows in mulch in your very own, very big backyard? Whatever your fantasy may be, we hope these dispatches from eight distinctive summer-home communities will inspire you to bring it to life. What you won’t find here is any mention of the South Fork. We figured that that little corner of the world doesn’t need any further publicity.

Block Island, Rhode Island
Live life in the slow lane at this isolated escape off the coast of New England.
“It’s against my principles to encourage anyone else to come here,” says a man who retired to Block Island after vacationing there since the sixties. “It’s a barefoot-and-bicycle kind of place.” If you’re looking for glitz, this pork-chop-shaped eleven-square-mile island off the coast of New England probably isn’t the right speed. In fact, speed is another thing that goes against Block Islanders’ principles. When mopeds got to be too popular in the eighties, and the Rhode Island DMV refused to restrict them, the island threatened to secede. (Massachusetts and Connecticut offered to annex it.) Locals still prefer that visitors park their cars on the mainland and ferry over on foot. Of course, this inconvenience only increases the island’s aura of exclusivity and isolation. “There’s no golf, no tennis,” says a Connecticut weekender. “And no place to go to be noticed.”

Lay of the Land Old Harbor, with its Victorian bed-and-breakfasts, welcomes incoming ferries. New Harbor – on the Great Salt Pond on the west side – has seafood restaurants and a marina. The beaches are all public, as are the southern end’s Mohegan Bluffs – dramatic 180-foot ledges that are often compared to the coast of Ireland. Nearby is a 200-acre bird sanctuary with a web of flower-lined trails known as the Maze.

Things To Do Cyclists abound. A hilly but scenic ride takes you from Old Harbor, where many of the bike-rental shops are, to the historic Southeast Lighthouse on Mohegan Bluffs. The boating crowd converges for race week, the third week in June. In September and October, the bird-watchers descend on the island, which sits in the path of the Atlantic Flyway. Surf-casting and spearfishing for striped bass and bluefish are popular pastimes, as is clamming on Great Salt Pond.

Familiar Faces Ted Kennedy Jr. held his wedding reception at the Spring House Hotel overlooking the ocean. AOL Time Warner’s Richard Parsons, Christopher Walken, and author Roy Rowan all have homes here. “Woody Allen tried to buy a place in the eighties,” says a weekender, “but they didn’t sell it to him.”

Social Scene Nightlife revolves around traveling dinner parties – from casual barbecues to catered seafood-and-tenderloin cookouts. “You’ll never find an ice carving on Block Island,” insists Joan Abrams, owner of the 1661 Inn & Hotel Manisses and the island’s top caterer. The two movie theaters draw a good summer crowd. Bars like McGovern’s Yellow Kittens Tavern in Old Harbor host bands on the weekend. Captain Nick’s Rock & Roll Bar will throw a music festival on June 11.

Property Values Quaint shingled homes with wraparound porches predominate, along with a few colorful gingerbreads and modern split-levels. The average sale price is $1.3 million. You might find a rare fixer-upper for $500,000, says a broker. When land is sold, the buyer pays 3 percent of the purchase price into the Block Island trust, which buys open land to preserve it from development. “We’re about 33 to 35 percent protected now,” says a year-rounder. Some of the island’s founding families still own substantial undeveloped tracts, but if the acres become available, buyers will be bidding against the deep-pocketed land trust. Rentals range from $1,000 per week for a two-bedroom cottage to $8,000 per week for a nine-bedroom house on the ocean.

Recommended Realtors Attwood Real Estate (401-466-5582), Ballard Hall Real Estate (401-466-8883), and Sullivan Real Estate (401-466-5521) all have a good mix of sales and rental listings.

Weekend Visits The 1661 Inn & Hotel Manisses, outside Old Harbor, is a complex of Victorian cottages, many with ocean views (800-626-4773; doubles start at $185; The Manisses’s dining room is one of the best on the island. Joan Abrams describes the menu as American, “with local fish and herbs from our garden.” For down-home fried-fish meals, try the Beachhead (401-466-2249).

Down by the sea: The Ocean Grove BeachPhoto: courtesy of Ocean Grove Chamber of Commerce

Ocean Grove/Asbury Park, N.J.
A honky-tonk Jersey Shore gem gets rediscovered by bargain-hunting Fire Island exiles.
Holy smokes! What happened here? Thought domenic Santana when he returned to Asbury Park for the first time in twenty years in 1998. Still reeling from seventies race riots, subsequent redevelopment disasters, and a history of shady politics (the FBI raided City Hall this January), this community of 17,000 sometimes seems more like a banana republic than the fabled seaside resort of Santana’s youth. But a growing influx of entrepreneurs and New York professionals – especially gays and lesbians – is rediscovering the town, attracted by its diamond-in-the-rough boardwalk, edgy diversity, and spacious fixer-upper houses. “I used to never cross a bridge or tunnel except to go to the Hamptons,” says Barbara Butcher, who, with partner MaryAnn Vitiello and Vitiello’s son, moved here last year. “I love the diversity, the houses, the character. It’s fabulous.” And with the Victorian charm of Ocean Grove – an immaculate enclave first built as a Methodist retreat – just next door, it’s no wonder that the area is booming again. “Asbury’s development madness is turning into a real gold rush,” continues Santana, who moved his family here from Jersey City in 2000 to reopen the Stone Pony club, which Bruce Springsteen made famous. “The place is really coming up.”

Things To Do “Our lives revolve around house renovations and decorating–faux pas gossip,” jokes Vitiello, referring to her circle of fellow newcomers. But music and nightlife still reign in Asbury Park. The waterfront Convention Hall and Paramount Theatre host regular concerts, while summer music festivals and local bars and lounges cater to everyone from club kids and jazz lovers to the rocker-and-biker set. New York nightlife impresario John Dorian, of Rebar and Suite 16, is opening two restaurants, Harry’s Roadhouse and 660 Cookman, next month. By day, downtown’s antique shops and galleries are buzzing with shoppers. Ocean Grove offers quaint strolls and restaurants, and the beaches are clean and uncrowded. “I prefer it here because you can have the time of your life,” says Gary Thomas, half of a gay Manhattan couple who traded in their Fire Island weekend share for a home of their own in Asbury. “Or you can just relax.”

Sightings Russell Crowe, James Gandolfini, Jon Bon Jovi, and the Boss himself have all been spotted at the reopened Stone Pony. And Paradise – a sprawling gay club owned by former Madonna producer Shep Pettibone – books the likes of Cyndi Lauper and Taylor Dane. (Still no sign of Madonna, “but you never know,” Pettibone says coyly.)

Tale of Two Beach Towns “The psychological barrier between us is definitely diminishing,” insists Malcolm Navias, a New York expat who moved from Ocean Grove to Asbury Park this year. It wasn’t so long ago that Ocean Grove was gated off from Asbury at night. On Sundays, Ocean Grove’s beach is still closed until 12:30 p.m. and you can’t buy alcohol no matter what day of the week it is. “It’s nice for brunch, but I would never live there,” declares Asbury newcomer Bernard Figueroa, who now commutes to Manhattan from the house he shares with his partner, Ted, and their 6-year-old son. “It’s too uptight.”

Buying in Asbury “Prices have increased dramatically in just three years, but when you compare us to the surrounding towns, we’re still a very good buy,” explains longtime Asbury Realtor Bruce Donaldson. Houses in varying conditions – from bungalows and Victorians to Neo-Colonials and Tudors – go for between $125,000 and $500,000 (averaging about $225,000). Values decline as you move from the more affluent north end to the somewhat seedier southwest. Rentals are scarce, though a market is developing.

Renting in Ocean Grove “There’s not much left to buy here,” says 30-year Ocean Grove real-estate veteran Arlene Fox. But rentals are more plentiful. The average three-bedroom house ranges from $750 to $2,000 per week, or $8,000 to $20,000 for the season.

Recommended Realtors In Asbury Park, Bruce Donaldson (732-775-0655), John C. Conover (732-531-2500). In Ocean Grove, James J. Pentz (732-988-7271), Arlene Fox at Diane Turton (732-775-2774).

Weekend Visits The best overnight options are in Ocean Grove, with its many bed-and-breakfasts (check for listings). The newly relocated Moonstruck restaurant (opening June 2; 732-988-0123), offering Continental fare, is the place toeat out.

Cape May, New Jersey
A Victorian-era time capsule down the Shore.
Cape May, the country’s oldest oceanfront resort, was a vacation getaway for P. T. Barnum, Civil War generals Robert E. Lee and William Sherman, and even Abe Lincoln. After a fire destroyed most of the whaling village in 1878, it was rebuilt with Victorian gingerbread-style houses. The city was designated a national historic landmark in 1976, and the nineteenth-century charm has been preserved; slate sidewalks are lit by gaslights and surrounded by intricate plantings and flower gardens. “There’s just a wonderful character about it,” says one yearly visitor.

Things To Do All of Cape May’s beaches are open to the public for a small surcharge ($17 for the season, $4 for the day; children under 12 are free). The boardwalk is a little tame by Jersey Shore standards, but the one in nearby Wildwood is loaded with amusements. Grown-ups who’ve had their fill of the Ferris wheel can make the 30-to-45-minute trip to Atlantic City or easily fill afternoons in Cape May antiquing, bird-watching, biking, golfing, boating, or taking historic-house tours.

Social Scene For the “cottagers,” as the folks from Philadelphia, Baltimore, and D.C. who’ve summered in Cape May for generations are known, socializing revolves around private tennis, yacht, and beach clubs. “They do the martini cocktail-hour thing,” says a New York weekender. The rest settle for leisurely dinners at 410 Bank Street or the Pelican Club, which overlooks the ocean from the penthouse of the Marquis de Lafayette.

What’s New On June 7, Congress Hall, one of the oldest hotels on the beachfront, will reopen after a three-year renovation, sporting a Tiffany-blue ballroom and a zebra-print lounge.

Property Values The fantasy of living in a turreted Victorian home complete with cupola and gazebo is what drives the real-estate market here. “Cape May houses have to have clashing colors,” says a New Yorker who visits every summer. “Bright canary yellow with hot-pink shutters. Velvet couches and crystal chandeliers. Everything has something dangling off it – tassels and bows. It’s so bizarrely flamboyant and fun.” A Victorian within walking distance of the beach (few are actually on Beach Drive) will set you back at least $600,000. A single-family home on the water will be in the $1 million–$1.5 million range. During the season, most properties are rented on a weekly basis. Beachfront condos or large Victorian bungalows go for $1,250–$4,000 a week. A six-bedroom Victorian cottage within walking distance of the water goes for $4,800 a week, but $7,000 is not unheard of. A three-bedroom ranch is $2,500.

Recommended Realtors Homestead (609-884-1888 or, Tolz Realty (609-884-7001 or for sales listings only), and Manzoni Realty (609-898-8200 or

Weekend Visits A stay at the Chalfonte (888-411-1998 or; doubles start at $135) is a classic Cape May experience: The oldest hotel in town, it has no A/C (ceiling fans and ocean breezes suffice) and few private bathrooms. Locals rave about a garden brunch at the Mad Batter (609-884-9619). For an old-school raw-bar spread, get your bib on at the Lobster House (609-884-8296), which also has a fish market and a docked schooner where guests can sip their cocktails.

Great Barrington, Massachusetts
A bucolic Berkshires town where the arts-and-leisure crowd converges.
nestled among small new england towns like Lenox and Norman Rockwell’s Stockbridge, Great Barrington has been a summer retreat for sophisticated New Yorkers since the nineteenth century, when Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, Edith Wharton, and Herman Melville kick-started its evolution from mill town to arts-and-culture epicenter. But Great Barrington is still a rural town, and the most coveted second homes are often tucked away on dirt roads. “We love that we can dress down in jeans and sneakers yet still get our fill of Manhattan-worthy arts,” says one weekending couple. “Some of the galleries – and many of the restaurants – are as good as those in the city,” says another. “But minus the attitude.”

The Great Outdoors Active types hike the two-mile loop around Benedict Pond in Beartown State Forest or head just a few miles north to Monument Mountain, where a 2.6-mile climb to the summit brings you to an idyllic picnic spot with spectacular views. There’s also excellent fly-fishing (Green River and Williams River are hot spots for trout and small-mouth bass), horseback riding, and boating. Benedict Pond and the Housatonic River draw canoe and kayak enthusiasts.

Artists’ Colony Hot tickets include Tanglewood, where the Boston Symphony Orchestra plays every weekend in July and August, and Jacob’s Pillow, New England’s most popular modern-dance festival. “There’s also the Norman Rockwell Museum and great antiquing along Route 7 between Great Barrington and the Connecticut border,” says one Fifth Avenue resident who’s had a second home in Great Barrington for almost ten years. And there is a slew of local galleries to explore, including the Loring gallery, Joyous Spring Pottery, and Holsten Galleries, known for its large selection of Chihuly blown glass.

Summer Gossip “Seiji Ozawa’s retirement announcement was all anyone talked about last year,” groans one second-home owner. “People were actually placing bets on who was going to take over the BSO!” Now that the baton has been passed to James Levine, vacationers are gossiping about who got tickets to the farewell performance and who was shut out. “It’s such a touchy subject,” says one lucky attendee.

What’s New Bizen, the always-packed Japanese restaurant on Railroad Street, is expanding into the space next door and will showcase owner Michael Marcus’s pricey handmade pottery as well as a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. The Mahaiwe Theatre, a movie theater built in 1905, is being renovated and will house the Berkshire Opera Company. Although funding has been slow, and the company is staging only one major production this year (The Turn of the Screw), residents still think “it’s going to do wonders for the town’s cultural quota.” Talk about an embarrassment of riches.

Property Values Summer rentals are available in Great Barrington (ranging from $2,500 to $30,000 per month), but second homes are more common. You’ll find an equal number of Victorian homes, lakeside cottages, and farmhouses; the most expensive are secluded, with large acreage and mountain views or proximity to a lake or pond. “The main draw is Tanglewood,” says Dorian Held, who has been selling vacation homes to New Yorkers for almost twenty years. “Everyone wants to be within a fifteen-minute drive.” Recent sales include a four-bedroom Victorian a short walk from town for $557,500; a three-bedroom contemporary with a pool on a quiet country road for $570,000; and an 1850s farm house with six bedrooms on 33 acres for $660,000.

Recommended Realtors Dorian Held at Wheeler & Taylor Realty (413-528-1006), Apple Hill Realty (413-528-3458).

Weekend Visits Stay at the Wainwright Inn, a modest bed-and-breakfast in a converted Victorian within walking distance of downtown (413-528-2062 or; rooms start at $150). Book a table well in advance at Aegean Breeze, a new Greek restaurant that serves delectably fresh charcoal-grilled whole fish (413-528-4001).

Log on: A hiker near Mount Riga.Photo: Stewart Ferebee

Salisbury, Connecticut
An eighteenth-century village nestled in the rolling hills of Litchfield County.
Tucked up in the northwest corner of the state, Salisbury may not have beaches (unless you count the shores of Lakeville Lake) or a Bridgehampton-caliber social scene (though Meryl Streep and Joel Siegel are residents), but it is one of the most charming villages in the area, with a postcard-perfect Main Street peppered with little shops and bakeries, white clapboard neoclassical estates, and the country’s oldest public library. The surrounding countryside seems about as removed from the metropolis as you can get, with its rolling hills, string of placid ponds, uncrowded roads, and abundant wildlife. “We were determined to find a place down the road in Washington; it seemed so chic,” says a New Yorker who bought a weekend place here three years ago. “But once the Realtor took us to Salisbury, we couldn’t go back. It has all the charm and – thank God – none of the pretensions.”

Familiar Faces The aforementioned Streep and Siegel, along with Jill Clayburgh and Ed Herman, all live within town lines, while Jasper Johns, a brace of Buckleys, and Kevin Bacon et famille live in neighboring Sharon.

Things To Do “There’s kayaking, walking, hiking, biking – plus music, dance, and theater right over the border in the Berkshires. The only problem is that there are too many choices,” says Noreen Driscoll Breslauer, who owns a local flower shop, Sweethaven Farm. The Harlem Valley Rail Trail, a 12-mile paved car-free track that runs from Amenia to Millerton, is popular with cyclists and joggers. The famous Lime Rock Park raceway is only ten minutes away; you can make it in even less time after you take the Skip Barber race-car-driving course.

Social Scene “Our family has been here for over 50 years, and you can understand why,” says one New Yorker who gave up a place in East Hampton for Salisbury. “It’s the pleasure of living in a small town; you know everyone by their first name; people have a real dedication to the area.” The Fourth of July celebration at Town Grove is the kind of old-timey cookout that will take you back to your childhood – or to the childhood you wish you’d had.

Property Values Local stock ranges from the eighteenth-century clapboard houses that line Main Street to cabins on the side of Mount Riga and along Riga Lake – which are only accessible via a steeply pitched dirt road and, in many cases, have no electricity or running water. “Rentals have been much slower this year,” says broker Elyse Harney. “There are an extraordinary number of places still available – usually everything’s gone by February. For the month of August, we range from a charming three-bedroom for $4,000 to a stunning estate with a main house, guest cottage, and swimming pool for $20,000.” House sales, however, have been brisk. Prices range from $128,000 for a cottage to $4.9 million for a full spread. Recently a four-bedroom, three-bath Colonial, priced in the low $500,000s, sold in a day. Another swift sale was in the $2.6 million range; “It was not on a lot of land – only seven or eight acres,” says Harney. “But it was done.”

Recommended Realtors Elyse Harney (860-435-2200), Robinson Leech (860-435-9891).

Weekend Trips The White Hart Inn has been in business for over a century, and it has clean, well-appointed rooms (860-435-0030 or; doubles start at $149). The best local restaurant is West Main (860-435-1450), which has brightly flavored Asian-inflected fare. On Thursdays and Fridays, it hosts local bands, and the bar is packed every night of the week.

Milford, Pennsylvania
A wooded, writerly retreat just beyond the Delaware Water Gap.
although it’s technically part of the poconos, Milford, Pennsylvania, draws a crowd that’s much more Yaddo than Mount Airy Lodge. “It attracts a lot of artists and writers,” says Jerry Beaver, a New York City casting director who has owned property here for nearly two decades. “It’s so rustic and pristine – it’s probably easier for them to be creative someplace where you can find great peace of mind.” The downtown area – officially a historic district – is lined with landmarked Victorian homes on almost every street. But many of the homes in the surrounding area are set back in the woods, with plenty of wildlife for company: bears, foxes, or trout in a stream nearby. “In the Hamptons, you spend all this money, and then you end up feeling like you’re missing something,” says Barbara De Vries, the original designer for CK. “In Milford, there’s nothing to miss. And I like it that way.”

Familiar Faces At the turn of the last century, Milford was briefly a proto-Hollywood celebrity magnet while D. W. Griffith was shooting films nearby (bringing Lillian Gish, Mary Pickford, and Pearl White with him). Now Milford draws literary types like Frank McCourt, John Berendt, Eric Bogosian, and Spartina author John Casey (who likes to write in a tent he’s pitched in the woods near his home). Todd Oldham has also discovered Milford, and built a live-in tree house 60 feet off the ground on his ranch. “It’s still the kind of place where no one at the Milford Diner is even going to know who Todd Oldham is,” says Sean Strub, a second-home owner in Milford (and founder of the magazine Poz).

Talk of the Town “There really isn’t much of a scene,” says Deborah DuCharme, a magazine executive who’s been making regular visits to Milford for fifteen years. “If you want to know where all the people in black run into each other, it’s at the garden-supply store.” And when they do, it’s probably conservation, not the cable industry, that they’re discussing. Milford’s well-organized advocates have so far managed to successfully oppose Home Depot and other signs of suburban sprawl. “The hottest topic last year was whether to put in Victorian- or Colonial-style lamps on the main street in town,” says DuCharme. “Colonial won, but there was grumbling that someone had fixed the votes.”

Things To Do You can hike to the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River and Delaware State Forest, where there’s a nature center and more fishing and hiking and biking trails than anyone on vacation should have energy for. On rainy days, there’s always antiquing on Hartford Street or a visit to the Peters Valley Craft Education Center on the Jersey side of the river, where local artisans give courses in photography, weaving, and ceramics.

What’s New As much as Milford’s New Yorkers say they want to escape, they’ll no doubt welcome the new Brasseria, co-owned by Scott Morgan, former wine manager of the Royalton. To complement the formidable antiques scene in the area, Donna Hamilton, set decorator for Zoolander (among other movies), and her husband, Yilmaz Guver, recently opened Indigo Arts, a store with all the opulence of ABC Carpet & Home. The new Mountain Laurel Center for the Performing Arts is scheduled to open in full glory in 2003, with the Pittsburgh orchestra committed to perform. Grey Towers, a restored château with landscaped gardens, is launching a chamber-music series; violinist Anastasia Khitruk performs in July.

Property Values Within the town confines, “we still have MasterCard houses,” says Strub, citing a twenties three-bedroom home on postage-stamp-size property that recently sold for $65,000. On the other hand, a southern-plantation-style 10,000-square-footer is currently priced at $995,000. More typically, the small Victorians in town go for around $200,000, with houses outside town (on three or four or more acres) running about the same. The housing stock ranges from classic Adirondack-style lodges to airier, modern structures with an emphasis on glass and open views. Rentals range from $1,200 a week in town to $3,000 a week for properties on Twin Lakes, five miles down the road.

Recommended Realtors Davis R. Chant Realtors (800-372-4268) or re/max (570-296-9290; ask for Vicki LaSpina).

Weekend Visits Right in town, there’s Muir House Inn and Restaurant (570-296-6373 or; doubles start at $85), a former barn turned boarding house that’s been renovated. The in-house Italian restaurant is fairly upscale, but also will let you catch your own trout in the backyard brook. A bit farther out of town, the Pine Hill Farm bed and breakfast (570-296-5261 or; rooms start at $140) has breathtaking views and sink-into-sleep king-size beds.

Mount Desert Island, Maine
Lobster pounds and lakeside cottages where the Rockefellers once roamed.
First of all, it’s “de-sert” – as in what you might want to forgo after you’ve put away that four-pound lobster all by yourself. Mount Desert’s popularity rests in part on the fact that (as one native puts it) “it’s about as far as you can go on the highway without going through Customs,” but mainly on its breathtaking mountains, lakes, streams, and seashore. In the first half of the twentieth century, it was the summer destination for well-to-do families from all over the East Coast. Mia Thompson Brown, whose grandmother first began leaving Philadelphia to summer on Mount Desert in 1905 (“They called it Philadelphia-on-the-rocks”), says simply that it’s “the beauty of the island” that has kept her family coming for generations. “As a child, I was completely independent here,” says Brown. “I’d go out on my bike in the morning and ride back home in time for dinner.”

Lay of the Land The main town of Bar Harbor is a charming tourist mecca for shopping and eating; but with 3,000 hotel rooms, it’s not the place to seek solitude, at least not during the summer months. Southwest Harbor calls itself the Quietside and is more local in flavor – plenty of lobster pounds and boat-building shops – though some galleries and inns have popped up in recent years. Northeast Harbor and Seal Harbor? Old money and old money.

Familiar Faces “New Yorkers are in luck,” reports Earl Brechlin, editor of the Mount Desert Islander. “New Yorkers are just fine. It’s Massachusetts plates that get local blood boiling.” (Some locals have been known to call them Massholes.) Mainers are even less impressed by celebrities than they are by Massachusetts. “The only thing wealthy people can’t buy is acceptance,” Brechlin continues, “and that’s the one thing Mainers hold back. They’re warm and friendly, but you have to earn it.” Among those who’ve been earning it over the years are Brooke Astor, Julia Child, Martha Stewart, Caspar Weinberger, Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Norman Mailer, Connie Chung, and native son Maury Povich, who was born in Bar Harbor.

Things To Do In spectacular, 30,000-acre Acadia National Park – that’s half the island – there’s hiking, picnicking, and, best of all, biking along the 45 miles of wide, smooth gravel carriage roads, which were built by John D. Rockefeller and which regularly offer up Kodak-moment vistas. On the island’s ponds, lakes, and streams, there’s canoeing; off the coast, sea-kayaking, sailing, and whale-watching. Elsewhere: golfing, camping, and, of course, lobster-eating.

Last Summer’s Gossip Martha Stewart’s confrontation with a limo driver she discovered driving through her estate one night (he said he was lost) was widely and enthusiastically discussed.

This Year’s Talking Points It remains to be seen, of course, what will displace the traditional how-much-growth-is-too-much-growth issue, though something surely will (Martha … ?). Right now, it’s reportedly hard for anyone to resist batting around the pros and cons of the Cat, the new, whiskered high-speed ferry to Canada. “That’s got folks talking,” says one resident.

Property Values The most appealing, and expensive, summer house here is a “classic” shingle on the shore. “There’s nothing on the ocean that you can touch for under a million and a half,” says one Realtor. For a “decent, suburban-type three-bedroom house” farther inland, expect to pay around $250,000. As for rentals during July and August, Joe Wright at L. S. Robinson says that “lakefront and oceanfront go the quickest, and you’re looking at a minimum of two weeks” (prices are $2,000 a week and up for those). For a two-bedroom in the town of Bar Harbor, you might pay $1,300 a week.

Recommended Realtors A few of the big ones: the Knowles Company, Northeast Harbor (207-276-3322); Lynam Real Estate, Bar Harbor (207-288-3334); Swan Agency Real Estate, Bar Harbor (207-288-5818).

Weekend Visits The centrally located Bar Harbor Inn (207-288-3351 or; doubles start at $99) was a popular, um, “reading room” during Prohibition. And the Claremont Hotel (207-244-5036 or; doubles start at $115), in Southwest Harbor, the island’s oldest hotel (established 1884), is a resort in the grand style: huge porch, lawns, and jackets at dinner.

Green pastures: Scene around the Margaretville Mountain InnPhoto: Margaretville Mountain Inn

Margaretville, New York
A back-country playground for grown-ups in the Catskills.
It’s a warm summer evening, you’re pleasantly fatigued from a hard day’s fly-fishing, and now you’re kicking back on the porch looking out over rolling hills and a country road far in the distance. If this is more your style than baking on the beach all day, wondering where your next mojito is coming from, then Margaretville, the center of activity in Eastern Delaware County – and the only town with a supermarket – might be for you. You won’t find much activity: The sidewalk café has only a handful of seats, and there aren’t any nightclubs. “We’ve got the only streetlight in a 30-mile radius,” says Gretchen Goth, a longtime resident. “If you need to go to the movies, it’s an hour away.” But then, surrounded by hiking trails, trout streams, swimming holes, waterfalls, and reservoirs, who wants to go to the movies?

Lay of the Land Located on the northwestern edge of the Catskill Park, where forest gives way to farmland and the Delaware River, Margaretville is surrounded by quiet hamlets. None of which are much more than a convenience store and a gas station. But they, too, are starting to attract summer visitors. “We always called Margaretville the Soho of Delaware County,” says broker Susan Doig. “Now some people are starting to call New Kingston ‘Tribeca.’ “

Things To Do A summer in Delaware County’s a lot like camp: You’ll want hiking boots, riding boots, a compass, and a gallon of bug spray. And you can leave your Eres bikinis at home – ponds, not pools, are the dips of choice. (In fact, as Dennis Metnick, a local real-estate lawyer, puts it: “Many people up here think a pool actually lowers the value of a property, and they tear them out.”) Other local pastimes include trout fishing in the mountains, floating down Esopus Creek on an inner tube, or hurtling down a 3,500-foot drop at Plattekill. Still pining for the beach? Stretch out your towel on the sand strip at the man-made lake at the base of Belleayre Mountain in Pine Hill. In the evening, wind down at the Belleayre Summer Music Festival, held outdoors on the ski slopes in July and August.

Talk of the Town It’s been three years since developer Dean Gitter announced his plans to build two golf courses on the edges of Margaretville, but it’s still a hot topic, pitting those who prize their pastoral views against a handful of local politicians. But the weekend crowd has wrought some good: Locals are thrilled with the arrival of an Italian grocery store on Main Street. “Sure, there’s a market for it,” says Karen Sacks, owner of an office-supply shop in Margaretville. “We needed bread up here!”

Social Life The main social scene in “these parts,” as locals call the area, consists of salt-of-the-earth types who gather at night in Margaretville’s Village Pub or the Round Barn farmers’ market. Knowing them won’t land you many cocktail-party invites, but it will come in handy when you need, say, someone to plow your drive.

Property Values Houses here rarely sell for more than $400,000 – and those that do are usually attached to dozens of acres of land (typically a combination of woods and meadows, with a few streams, ponds, and barns to boot). The majority of homes fall in the $200,000-to-$300,000 range and sell fast. “Inventory’s my biggest problem,” says Doig. “Second-home owners now account for 70 percent in some areas.” Renting here will run you anywhere from $1,000 per month (for a tiny streamside cottage) to four times that for a week at Sunset View Farm, a 220-acre property in Bovina; $10,000 will get you a very well-appointed home with a swimming pond in the Belleayre-Margaretville-Andes area for the entire summer.

Recommended Realtors For sales, Coldwell Banker Timberland’s Susan Doig (845-586-3321) and Ron Guichard (845-676-3600), Belleayre Realty (845-254-4111), Rosemount Real Estate (845-254-5454), and Frank Lumia Real Estate Plus (845-586-4486). For rentals, try Ed Ludde, who handles most of the area’s seasonal listings (845-586-4227). Also check

Weekend Visits The motel-style rooms at the recently restored Andes Hotel (845-676-4408; rooms from $50) won’t thrill you, but its restaurant, with a menu heavy on Bovina beef, Esopus trout, and other local ingredients, is one of the best in the area. For spectacular views and antiques-filled rooms, try the Margaretville Mountain Inn, just a few minutes from town (845-586-3933 or; rooms from $75).

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