Perhaps the single biggest difference between winter and summer vacations in New England is where you stay. In winter, my family and I gravitate to the mountains, and ski destinations.
And, truth be told, I’m a big fan of mountains in the summer, with all the options today for hiking and mountain biking. But if you ask my wife, and daughters, their first choice always will be “by the water.”
I can’t blame them. “Summer” and “H2O” are practically synonymous in my house. Which means “waterfront properties” are a must on our summer schedule. Here are several of our top choices from the past three decades of New England escapes.
250 Main Hotel ◼ Rockland | 250mainhotel.com
This fabulous boutique hotel on Rockland Harbor has been making waves since it opened, blending a cool, crisp urban chic with old wood, and peppered with works by contemporary Maine artists and midcentury-modern furnishings. The 26 rooms at 250 Main are designed with style and comfort in mind. Architecturally inspired rooms feature unique, reclaimed and vintage décor and modern style that define a luxury hotel. Most rooms have harbor views and some have balconies, but all guests have access to the hotel’s ultra-fun rooftop deck, where daily afternoon wine tastings are held in good weather. The hotel also is placed perfectly in Rockland’s up-and-coming downtown, giving guests a chance to park the car and explore by foot. Rockland boasts countless options for excellent food and drink, including trendy breakfast spots, casual dining, popular bars and more upscale dining experiences. In addition, Rockland is becoming well-known nationally as a growing arts and culture destination, featuring the Center for Maine Contemporary Arts and the Farnsworth Museum.
Samoset Resort ◼ Rockport | samosetresort.com
I’m an unabashed fan of the Samoset, for two big reasons. First, my golf game is less than stellar. The Samoset’s outstanding course, which offers an exceptional test of any golfer’s skills, is so beautiful that I almost don’t mind that my game doesn’t measure up to the fabulous views. Second, the resort’s harbor location gives us a great chance to get out on the water. Situated on 230 oceanfront acres, Samoset Resort offers guests a seemingly endless array of resort activities for visitors of every age, making it a great choice for families. Active guests love the sports and outdoor games offered in the Ultimate Backyard and the state-of-the-art wellness facilities at The Club, while those hoping to just unwind can slip into the 200,000-gallon “zero-entry” pool or indulge at The Spa.
Seaside Inn ◼ Kennebunk Beach kennebunkbeachmaine.com/seasideinn
The only Kennebunk inn directly on the beach, the Seaside Inn allows guests to enjoy fabulous sunrises and sunsets from their room (or the ocean-view hot tub). Now add surfing, wakeboarding and sea kayaking right out the door, as well as lobster boat tours and whale watching adventures, and you’ve got an idea of the variety of activities found here. Visitors also can rent bicycles, or walk to Kennebunkport’s famous Dock Square shops, boutiques and restaurants. Reservations include breakfast daily in the 1850 Boat House. Not far away, the aptly named Dunes (dunesonthewaterfront.com), a collection of housekeeping cottages and guest rooms, features 12 landscaped acres bordering an Ogunquit tidal estuary. Rowboats waiting at the dock help guests to access the beach, but the Dunes’ heated pool is equally inviting.
Wentworth by the Sea ◼ New Castle | wentworth.com
Rising majestically above New Castle, this spectacular “grand hotel” was destined for the wrecking ball after closing in 1982. Rescued by a non-profit, the Wentworth eventually reopened in 2003. A six-year, $30 million reconstruction incorporated many original architectural details, plus the addition of the 8,500-square-foot spa wing and indoor pool and the luxurious Little Harbor Marina suites. Awarded the American Institute of Architects’ “Award of Excellence,” AAA’s Four-Diamond Award, and National Trust for Historic Preservation recognition, the Wentworth is again a crown jewel among the luxury hotels of nearby Portsmouth. Don’t forget your golf clubs. Nearby, the Great Island Inn offers nicely appointed guest rooms overlooking the town’s harbor. A quiet patio invites guests to gather outside in good weather, and a personal concierge service can help plan seacoast exploration options. The beach is a five-minute walk away.
Anchorage at the Lake ◼ Tilton/Lake Winnisquam anchorageatthelake.com
This Lakes Region vacation destination is located two hours from Boston and just 10 miles from Lake Winnipesaukee, but you’ll feel a lifetime away from civilization. Guests won’t find any televisions, videos games or Wi-Fi. Instead, these rustic and cozy lakefront cabins and two-, four- and five- bedroom houses with porches set on 35 acres of wilderness on pristine Lake Winnisquam, offer boating, swimming on three private beaches with a sundeck, a water raft, water skiing, complimentary kayaks and canoes, and great fishing. But perhaps best of all, they offer serenity.
Mountain Top Inn & Resort ◼ Chittenden mountaintopinn.com
One of the most scenic settings in central Vermont, overlooking the Green Mountain National Forest, this distinctive resort is a superb year-round destination. The lake is 740 acres and washes onto your own private beach, providing almost endless water fun, from boating and swimming to various forms of paddling and fishing. On land, the menu of sports and recreation on and around the resort’s 700 private acres is impressive, with an equestrian center, children’s adventure camp, tennis, clay shooting, disc golf and hiking. Quality golf can be found close by at Green Mountain National and Killington. You can relax in classic rooms and suites, cabins and guesthouses (many of them pet friendly), and choose casual or fine dining in the dining room, tavern or on the terrace.
Winnetu Oceanside Resort ◼ Edgartown, Martha’s Vineyard winnetu.com
This resort is the only property located at South Beach, Edgartown, named one of the “best beaches in the world” by Travel & Leisure magazine. The private beach paths deliver you to stunning swaths of white sand, and breathtaking ocean views morning, noon and night. The Lure Grill restaurant also offers terrific ocean views and quality New American cuisine in a casual setting. Get there early to enjoy an afternoon cocktail on the outdoor deck. Among the many amenities are a shuttle service to Edgartown, a brand-new swimming pool and in-ground hot tub, a fitness center, tennis, yoga and fitness classes, antique fire truck rides, a putting green, bike rentals (which I highly recommend) and outdoor life-size chess. Parents of young children will appreciate the complimentary Children’s Day & Parent/Toddler Programs, and Children’s Evening Program, especially if they want to take the Sunset Water Taxi Cruise to Edgartown.
Ocean House Resort ◼ Watch Hill | oceanhouseri.com
One of New England’s last iconic seaside resorts, the ever-elegant Ocean House is set on the bluffs of Watch Hill, offering priceless ocean views from its rooms, porches and terraces, sweeping grounds and even a private beach with butler service. Past traditions blend seamlessly unfaltering attention to detail, modern amenities (such as flat-screen TVs and loaner iPads), and peerless personal service. Pamper yourself at OH! Spa, one of five restaurants including Seasons, which serves same-day fresh farm-to-table cuisine, or a host of daily activities. For a truly quintessential New England experience, sample the Friday Night Clambakes, held on the beach from July through Labor Day Weekend.
Weekapaug Inn ◼ Westerly | weekapauginn.com
This historic inn sits overlooking Quanochontaug Pond and Block Island Sound, and nearly every room and suite offer views of the water, salt marsh and vast ocean sky. Other lodging accommodations include residence style suites — with expansive water views and private, fully furnished decks — and the Salt Spray Farm Cottage. This 3,000- square-foot, barn-style cottage sits on 13 acres located close to the pond and beach. All of the newly renovated rooms are air-conditioned, but windows still open to welcome the fragrance of marsh grasses and salt-air breezes. Want to learn more? The inn’s naturalist will take guests out to the marshes to explore the area’s unique flora and fauna.