Two years ago, I compiled this list for discerning travelers who want to avoid busy, crowded places, and wrote this introduction: Right now, when the world seems to be getting scarier by the week, travelers long for - no, are desperate for - an escape close enough to drive to, but far from the maddening and frightening crowds. Those sentiments still apply, doubly, today.
Each of these 18 hideaways from Maryland to Maine - at the end of long country roads, out in the boonies, and on islands so rustic, you have to take a Mail Boat to get there - revolve around a charming, upscale hotel, inn, or B&B that will soothe your soul, be it through views, food, art, innkeepers, or all of the above. As always, you can find more in-depth information on these and other destinations in Northeast USA through GetawayMavens.com.
1. Omni Bedford Springs, Bedford PA. In mid-Pennsylvania, 100 miles from both Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, Bedford Springs has been a tony sanctuary for over 200 years. In 1806 Dr. John Anderson built the Stone House as a retreat where weary patients could drink and swim in the restorative water. Thomas Jefferson stayed a few weeks in 1819, James Buchanan considered this his “summer home,” and other US Presidents have visited since then. Over the years, the property morphed into a summer resort for the rich and famous, necessitating more and more additions, which led to its unique asymmetrical, meandering multi-architectural style. New owners in the 1990’s sunk $120 million into renovations, reopening the hotel as the luxury 216-room Omni Bedford Springs Resort in 2007. One of the hotel’s highlights is the indoor mineral spring-fed pool built in 1905 as one of the first in the country. Originally 9 feet deep from end to end, it was just the right depth to inspire guests to swan dive from the overhead balcony. The pool has since been reconstructed with a shallow area, but remains spring fed and crystal clear. The Colonial-style lobby is large and appealing, with lots of windows and natural light, period décor, and a double split staircase leading to ballrooms on higher floors. Public areas, including the corridors throughout several buildings, serve as a museum galleries showcasing photos, art, and artifacts from the resort’s early years to present. Omni Bedford Springs is a respite in every sense.
2. Migis Lodge, Sebago Lake ME. Legend has it that Migis is Native American for “A place to steal away,” and though that might not be completely fact checked, the translation certainly fits. People have called this upscale lakeside compound “magical” – which is the real reason guests come every year, generation after generation. Though there are other ways to access Sebago Lake, Migis Lodge is a self-contained summer camp, mostly for a highbrow clientele, but also for those who’ve saved up to splurge, with everything you need right on the grounds. The restaurant is the finest in the area (three meals a day included), and there are many ways to get in or out on the water, from the swimming platform, sandy beaches, canoes, kayaks, sup’s, sail, and motor boats.
3. Castle Hill Resort and Spa, Proctorsville VT. There are actual “angels in the architecture” at this man-cave-luxe inn several miles from the town of Ludlow and Okemo Ski Resort. Built in 1901, in the “English Cotswold Style” of rough-hewn granite, as a summer home for industrialist Allen M. Fletcher (who was elected Governor of Vermont in 1912), the 10-room Castle Hill Resort and Spa, the first home in Vermont to be wired for electricity, is on the National Historic Register and a Historic Hotel of America. Owners have lightly updated rooms and amenities for modern visitors, but Castle Hill retains its original beauty. On 100 landscaped acres, it sits atop a hill overlooking its sister property – The Pointe – below. A walk around the manor yields some cool surprises, such as cherub faces in the intricately carved wooden trim around the roofline that lends Bavarian embellishment to an otherwise English design. Walk inside, and your eyes have to acclimate to the darkness of the polished paneled walls and 12 ft. high molded plaster ceilings. Fletcher went all out, apparently, with an eye for detail, right down to the wallpaper (original) in the staircase that mirrors the design in the library ceiling: glamorous in a clubby, masculine way. These elements extend into the baronial guestrooms and fine in house restaurant.
4. Bernards Inn, Bernardsville NJ. Built in 1907, the 20-room Bernards Inn has been a central player in this small town for over 100 years. Run more like a country inn – with room décor a page right out of George Washington’s look-book- and a terrific restaurant, Bernards Inn is perfect for the history buff who shuns cookie cutter hotels for a more authentic stay. Though rooms are nice, it’s the restaurant that shines here. Chefs go almost every day to the Inn’s farm, which gives you an indication of how fresh the food is here, even for breakfast. While the 6-course Tasting Menu ($95 for food alone, $145 and $195 with wine) is fantastic for a celebration, try one of the seasonal signatures. Appetizers, the likes of Charred Asparagus on freshly picked greens, and Roasted Cauliflower Soup will wow vegetarians, and meat dishes like Rack & Crepinette of Lamb will satisfy the most carnivorous eaters.
5. Inn Boonsboro, Boonsboro MD. Inn Boonsboro sits on the busy crossroads of the tiny town of Boonsboro MD. The stone French Second Empire Style building, erected in the late 1700’s, operated as the Eagle Hotel until it was left to rot. The building was saved, renovated and beautified by the Roberts family in 2008; an endeavor fictionalized, but hardly, in Nora Robert’s Inn Boonsboro Trilogy. Fans have been known to call up the B&B, surprised that an actual human answers. “You mean, you’re a real place?” Indeed, it’s real. And lovely. All 8 rooms are named after literary characters from the Classics: Elizabeth & Darcy, Jane & Rochester, Nick and Nora, and the like. And each room is decorated to the nines as nods to those stories the characters represent. Just don’t expect Nora herself to check you in, or check in on you once you’re here. She lives a few miles away in Keedysville, and stays home to write from 9-5 each day. Six times a year, Roberts comes to Boonsboro to sign books at Turn the Page Bookstore. So the answer to the question, “will I get to meet Nora?” is, “Not unless you visit on one of those six book-signing days.”
6. Wooden Duck B&B, Newton NJ. If you’re seeking a place that provides serenity and peace just an hour from New York City, you won’t find better than the 10-room Wooden Duck B&B. Jason and Maryann Jerome took over as innkeepers three years ago, painted walls with color, and put their own stamp on this elegant, luxury, out-in-the-country inn. Wooden Duck B&B straddles the border of Kittatinny State Park in the midst of farm and pastureland (though progressive enough to feature an electric car charging station!). To say that it’s bucolic is an understatement. Enter the driveway, climb the hill, and you’ve found “an escape without an itinerary,” says Maryann, whose quiet, calming voice is itself a balm in these frenetic times. This is a haven for birdwatchers, Mother-Daughter combos (there’s one room with two beds), romantics – anyone who wants to escape the world. If it’s raining, put your feet up. Read. Play a game (provided). Watch a movie (from stack of DVDs). When it’s hot, dip in the pool. When sunny, hike the trail on the B&B’s 10-acre property that changes from mossy to rocky granite to forest, and connects with a 26 mile rail trail. Hike in the adjacent State Park. Bike the Rail Trail. Or, do nothing. It’s that kind of place.
7. Inn @ Ragged Edge, Chambersburg PA. Owned by Ken and Barb Kipe since 2015, The Inn at Ragged Edge is a wonder of woodwork, the brook-view out of the massive picture window, breathtaking, but it’s the 1901 Steinway piano – commissioned by Harrods’s of London, now sitting in the stately parlor – that beckons World Class musicians and romantics of all kinds to this rural area of Chambersburg PA halfway between Gettysburg and Antietam. Conceived by well-known architect, Frank Furness in 1900 as a summer cottage for Pennsylvania Railroad VP, Moorhead Kennedy, the building itself is a draw. Some guests come just to stay in a Furness-designed home, focusing on the carved chestnut banisters, rich wood paneling, and other architectural elements that would later influence Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright. Other guests book a stay here based on a Catfish episode, filmed on the premises, which aired in August 2016. Still others come for the concerts. “We’re in cow and farm territory,” says Ken, “not exactly classical piano country.” And oh, that piano. Ken purchased the burnished golden Steinway, the “crown jewel of furniture in the house,” from PianoCraft, experts in refurbishing pedigreed pianos. He went so far as to ask an acoustical expert to clap around the inn’s main floor to find its perfect placement. At a cost of $100,000, the piano is not the most expensive musical instrument to come through the inn’s doors, however. Just recently, a celebrated cellist brought his $7 million Stradivarius to play. Well-known concert Pianist, Eric Himy, who has performed all over the world and at Carnegie Hall, has been here twice already, and raves about the quality of piano sound and room acoustics. In fact, The Inn At Ragged Edge has become quite the Music Salon, opening its doors to the community for free, and creating a new rural classical music fan base.
8. Roger Sherman Inn, New Canaan CT. Ask locals if they’ve dined at the Roger Sherman Inn lately, and you’ll hear, “not in 30 years.” By the 2000’s, this Connecticut landmark had seen much better days. But as of November 2017, things have changed for the better, with the addition of prominent chef, Francois Kwaku-Dongo, formerly Executive Chef at Spago in CA and L’Escale in Greenwich CT. New Canaan CT is a small quiet suburb of NYC that doesn’t flaunt its considerable wealth. Celebrities like Martin Mull, Christopher Lloyd, Paul Simon, Harry Connick, Jr. and Brian Williams are either from or live here. Perhaps the most famous New Canaanite is starchitect Phillip Johnson, who built his iconic Glass House nearby. The Roger Sherman Inn was named for the Founding Father who helped draft the Declaration of Independence, and though he never lived in New Canaan, you’ll encounter echoes of our country’s Revolution within its walls. (Such as two Revolutionary War era scenes painted, somewhat erroneously, by famous wallpaper artist Jean Zuber in the mid 1800’s: one, the Surrendering of Cornwallis set at West Point, though it took place in Yorktown). Roger Sherman Inn’s 17 redecorated rooms are interspersed throughout a rambling 18th and 19th century building – one that was facing the wrecking ball in 2016, until the community came to its rescue. Thank goodness they did. Kwaku Dongo and Chef de Cuisine, Adam Truelove, do wonders with regional fare – tweaking items on the formerly staid, stale menu into inventive and surefire hits. Franscois’s Seafood Risotto with succulent sweet lobster, Mussels, and Ginger is a revelation, and his creamy deliriously good Roasted Chestnut Soup with Juniper Cream is like sipping the essence of Winter in New England. There was nary a miss on a recent December Tasting Menu – and much to look forward to at this tranquil inn.
9. Southampton Inn, Southampton NY. The first choice of most visitors to Southampton, or any of “The Hamptons,” would be to stay with friends or family, especially if those important people have a huge house on the water with ample room. The second choice, particularly for travelers who don’t have those kinds of relatives and require a more modest overnight rate for a room that won’t insult their design sense, should be the newly renovated Southampton Inn. Redone in mid 2016, rooms are nicely designed with deep-colored walls, Temperpedic Beds, small but immaculate white tiled bathrooms with black and white mosaic floors, flat screen TV’s - and not a brass drawer pull in sight. And here’s a unique perk you’d never expect (and I’ve never come across anywhere else): you can read and take home a newly published book for free. Every year before Memorial Day, a publishing house holds a conference here and brings cases of New Arrival Books as a gift; many in multiple copies. These go up on the shelves in the lobby, and are offered, complimentary, to guests.
10. Gage Mansion B&B, Huntingdon PA. If you want to stay in Victorian-age grandeur, without the clutter and frou-frou that are hallmarks of the era, choose the Gage Mansion Bed & Breakfast, a beautifully restored brick and multi-colored trimmed Queen Ann Victorian right in the mid-Pennsylvania town of Huntingdon PA. Built by Colonel George Gage, inventor and railroad man who was hired in the mid-1800’s to oversee the Huntingdon and Bread Top Short Line, as the railroad succeeded, so did the house; expanding in stages with ever-growing panache. Purchased a couple of years ago by candle moguls, Angie and John Thompson (founders of Thompson Candle Co.), Gage Mansion has been lovingly restored as a luxury B&B. The interior of the mansion is magnificent. Full of grey-grained white Carrera marble, stained glass by Ann Dorris Chisholm, striking wood details, Italian Delft Tiled fireplaces, ornate lamps – all original to the home – and high ceilings throughout, Gage Mansion is a marvel of Victorian finery melded with contemporary features.
11. Vintage Garden B&B, Newark NY. The Vintage Gardens Bed and Breakfast, an exquisite 5-room inn, 30 minutes from Seneca Falls, (and 45 minutes from Rochester) in the small, walkable Erie Canal town of Newark, has a special pedigree: It was the home of Charles Perkins and headquarters of the Jackson Perkins Rose Co. – the floral brokers who brought roses to America. (Prior to the Jackson-Perkins Mail Order Rose introduction at the 1939 World’s Fair, only the very wealthy could afford these flowing plants). In 2006, Kimberlee and Michael Meeks moved from California to Newark, a “Mayberry picturesque community on the Canal,” purchased this fine Tudor mansion – first built in 1838, renovated in the 1920’s – and have been “restoring it ever since.” Many guests are through bicyclists on the Erie Canal Bike Trail looking for a splurge, TLC and a luxury overnight. They find it all here.
12. Inn at Haven Harbor, Rock Hall MD. The chic, newly opened 9-room Inn at Haven Harbor, a little ways from the teeny Chesapeake town of Rock Hall MD, is part of a yacht marina complex that includes two pools, shuffleboard, Fishing Pier, Restaurant and Bar, and a huge Marina store. The Inn itself sits about a block away from the Marina, on a main road, and backs up to a cove where guests can just grab a kayak or SUP from the dock and go forth into the water, no paperwork involved. Run more like a Guest House than an inn (in this case with no innkeeper on premises, you get your key from the Marina office), rooms are nevertheless upscale, bright, nautical, and spacious, some with balconies overlooking the Inn’s dock and marina beyond. Décor is Chesapeake-chic – heavy on anchors, ships wheels, oars, crabs, sailing ships, and sea charts.
13. Monhegan House, Monhegan Island ME. Ten miles off Mid-Coast Maine, Monhegan Island is known for its artists and lobstermen, who live, symbiotically, on this tiny crust of land just under a square mile in size. Though the population dwindles to 50 year round, when lobstermen continue to pull in those popular Maine crustaceans, warm weather brings artists, writers, birders, nature lovers and curious tourists who don’t mind experiencing a simple life without cars (or paved roads), private bathrooms, or even, in some cases, electricity (which costs four times more than it does on the mainland). But, ah, those views that inspired some of America’s most famed artists. If you’re traveling solo, for my money, there is no better room than one of the top floor (4th, walkup) shared-bath single-twin rooms at Monhegan House – with arguably the best harbor view on the island. A well-kept secret, two tiny chambers are just $95 low season, $115 high season (and that includes a made to order gourmet breakfast). OK, so you have to walk downstairs to get to several shared, but immaculate, bathrooms. And there’s no TV, heat, or AC (however, there is internet service). And yes, the room is miniscule, with just the bed, small chest of drawers, lamp table, and cane chair. But, with fresh paint, cloudlike comforter, and that view, it’s cozy bliss. Downstairs, the in-house restaurant is considered the best on the island. The food, care of Chef Michael Cennamo, is excellent, innovative, and surprisingly sophisticated; so good, in fact, this tiny island eatery can stand on its own in any major city. Live music, or piped in jazz/classical plays as you dine on ambrosial freshly baked (daily) warm, crusty-chewy Focaccia bread (served with a little pot of warm olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper), Grilled Romaine, “Smoke and Salt” House Smoked Cured Salmon with marinated Watermelon Radish, Olive Oil Poached Salmon Salad, House Made Lobster Gnocchi, and the like.
14. Springside Inn, Auburn NY. This historic 7-room inn, built in 1851 as a boy’s boarding school by the then adjacent Dutch Reform Church, is set back from the main road across the street from quiet Owasco Lake. The Springside Boarding School for Boys, mentioned in Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman (written in 1869), was quite possibly on the Underground Railroad. Freedom Seekers would leave railcars about ¼ mile away and make their way, sometimes with Tubman’s help (she lived just two miles away), to the thicket behind the inn to hide. This possibility just thrills Sean Lattimore, a local who, with his wife, Beth, bought Springside Inn from in-laws 18 years ago and has owned it ever since. The Lattimore’s continue to make improvements, and though the rooms have been renovated over 5 years ago, they appear to be freshly updated. Each of seven immaculate rooms is thoughtfully and individually decorated. Room 23, is large and richly dressed in Federal finery, with a separate sitting room featuring a brick fireplace, a carved four-poster canopy bed, burnished wood floors and paneling, and flat screen TV. A hot Continental Breakfast, arranged buffet style in in-house restaurant, Oak & Vine, is complimentary with the room. Spend an enjoyable few minutes perusing the black and white photos on the walls, and you’ll get a good idea of what the place looked like when first purchased, and the notables who have dined and stayed here, including US Presidents, CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies, and other Bold Faced Names.
15. Whitehaven Hotel, Whitehaven MD. If you’re the kind of traveler who seeks out remote, charming, river-set historic inns, you’ll love the Whitehaven Hotel – an 8 room 1810 B&B, 7 miles down Whitehaven Road in the historic district of White Haven (in Quantico). On the banks of the Wicomico River it sits right across the street from the free-to-use three car Historic Whitehaven Ferry. Saved from certain demolition, this former home was turned into an upscale, though not opulent, place to de-stress. Built originally for one family, The White Haven Hotel quickly morphed into lodging for “drummers” – salesmen who’d take the steamboat up the Wicomico and stop here to “drum up” business along the waterfront. At the time, White Haven was a larger port than Salisbury – another hour upriver – complete with general store, a hat shop and a post office where the gift shop is now located in the hotel. There was a tomato cannery on what is now the hotel dock. It was a bustling place that eventually fell into decline. In mid March, when I visited, there was a preponderance of birds atwitter right outside my window. Momma and Poppa Osprey stood watch over their nest steps away from the hotel. A massive barge made its way silently and swiftly past the ferry dock. In the morning, as the sun rose, birds and boat engines sang a symphony of Spring on the Eastern Shore – a soul-cure for the havoc in Washington just a couple of hours away.
16. Inn at the Canal, Chesapeake City MD. Built in the 1870’s by a boatman on the C&D Canal, the Inn @ The Canal is not technically right on the canal, though you can see it from a 70 ft long side porch, and walk to its banks in a minute from the charming front porch. Now owned by Culinary Institute of America (CIA) grad, Bob Roethke and his wife Carol, it is a gracious and delicious place to bed down in picturesque Chesapeake City (that sits astride the 14 mile C&D Canal - the “World’s 3rd busiest canal” connecting the Chesapeake Bay with the Delaware River). All 7 guest-rooms are Victorian period vignettes – each slightly different. One of the larger rooms features carved four-poster canopy bed, antiques, floral bedding, and a clean, step-down bathroom with wooden chest of drawer sink, and ceramic floor. Breakfast, of course, is fantastic – a full gourmet treat, with fluffy French Toast and warm Apple-Berry compote to start.
17. Vandiver Inn, Havre de Grace MD. Business tycoon, Murray Vadiver, built this Victorian home in 1886, as a gift to his wife, on a leafy residential street a block from the waterfront in the small duck-hunting town of Havre de Grace MD. The Vandiver Inn features 18 lovely rooms spread out over four houses, though much of the main house remains just as it was in the 1800’s – sporting original claw-foot tubs, carved fireplaces, and an eclectic mix of Victoriana, 20’s mirrored surfaces, and Art Deco delights. Rooms are delightful, and eclectically styled, with additional fireplaces and deeply hued walls, antiques, and large wall mounted TV’s.
18. Starlux Hotel, Wildwood NJ. OK, so Wildwood on the Jersey Shore is not exactly a “hideaway.” But it was a fading resort town, now worth a second look. To that end, proving that a hotel doesn’t have to be 5-star to be special, The Starlux Hotel, a retro-chic starburst of a lodging, is not “luxurious” in the private-butler lavish sense, but is a portal back to a simpler time, with witty, sweet, and immaculate rooms, a cool style that harks to the Mad-Men 60’s, and a warm and welcoming family friendly vibe. On a corner of Rio Grande Ave., one block from the infinitely Instagrammed Wildwood sign at the Boardwalk, the Starlux perfectly encapsulates a Doo Wop weekend of sun, fun, and a ton of 50’s music and architecture.