Like baseball and apple pie, New England summers are icons of American life. Here’s a handful of coastal New England retreats that will keep you pampered, refreshed, and feeling relaxed the whole season long. By Bernard Gilkey
New England may be a composite of six states, each distinct in its own right, but there’s no doubting the region’s shared cultural identity. People travel to New England for its sleepy villages, steepled churches, lighthouses, beaches, and of course, the lobstah and chowdah. The allure of New England carries over to its lodging offerings—from ocean-side estates to contemporary resorts that are popular with locals and those seeking the quintessential New England vacation.
Ocean House in Watch Hill, Rhode Island, is the archetypal New England hotel—grand Victorian in design, crowned with a widow’s walk, and replete with views stretching over the Atlantic to Montauk and Block Island. It also has a curious history and a renaissance born out of tragedy: In 2003, a fire at The Station nightclub in West Warwick claimed the lives of 100 people. As a result, fire codes were revisited and enforced more rigorously. Ocean House, which was originally built in 1868, had over time fallen into disrepair and was found to be noncompliant with building codes. New owners acquired the structure in 2003 and did the unthinkable: They demolished it.
The owners had a plan, however, and it all came to fruition when Ocean House reopened its doors in 2010. The new owner, mutual fund manager Charles Royce, made sure that more than half of the new iteration replicated the original building (around 5,000 salvageable artifacts from the original were included). The results have been nothing less than exquisite, attracting fans such as Boston Celtics guard Ray Allen and MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough.
Ocean House is comprised of 49 guestrooms and suites, with the best accommodations being the Tower Suite, Penthouse Suite, and the Atlantic Suite, the latter of which is a top pick for its two large terraces and peerless ocean views. Spread over 1,200 square feet, the Atlantic Suite also includes top tech touches, like an iPod docking station, two 42-inch flat-screen TVs, and another smaller TV in the carpevola-marbled bathroom).
Seasons is the resort’s signature restaurant, and its farm-to-table approach is drawing foodies from all over the region. The menu rotates, so there is no signature dish, but the Harvest Menu is the restaurant’s tasting menu and a must-order.
Ocean House also has an ownership component for those who want the experience to last 365 days a year. There are 21 residences in all, but only six are still available for sale. There are three larger two-bedroom residences (2,200-2,300 square feet), each priced at $3,900,000, and three smaller two-bedroom residences (1,400-1,600 square feet), each priced at $2,900,000. These residences all feature 180-degree oceanfront views and large outdoor terraces. The residences also grant owners year-round covered heated parking and all of the amenities of the hotel, including free membership in the Ocean House Club.
In contrast to the monolithic Ocean House, Cape Cod’s Wequassett plays the role of sprawling resort destination. Over the years, it’s drawn praise from not only guests, but also by voters—it’s the only AAA Four Diamond property on the Cape.
What you have in many of Wequassett’s 120 rooms and suites is a cottagey, shabby-chic feel—think Rachel Ashwell conquers the Cape. The top pick here is the Round Cove Suite, part of the resort’s Signature Collection of rooms. The Round Cove Suite can be reserved in a one-, two-, or three-bedroom configuration and has gas fireplaces and an expansive deck with bay views. Or, guests can opt for a Signature Water Side with views of Pleasant Bay from a private deck.
As impressive as accommodations are, it’s Wequassett’s signature restaurant, twenty-eight Atlantic, that is the showstopper. The food from Chef Bill Brodsky is befitting of a restaurant with a four-star designation, serving dishes that are rife with native and seasonal ingredients. The restaurant’s dish of caramelized day boat scallops with mushroom ravioli and truffle cream sauce would excite even the most jaded gourmand.
On any day, make arrangements with the resort to shuttle you via speedboat to Nauset Beach, the resort’s private beach across Pleasant Bay, where they will provide you with a picnic lunch. The hotel also has a fleet of BMW SUVs to take guests into the town of Chatham, but a daytrip to Provincetown on the tip of the Cape is another advisable option. Dine at the famous Lobster Pot, then stroll Commercial Street, which has an assortment of high-end stores (think Marc Jacobs) and more local shops—stop into Marine Specialties for hard-to-find military knickknacks.
About as far as you can get from one part of New England to the other is the Delamar Southport, in Southport, Connecticut, about an hour north of New York City. The hotel is a salute to traditional New England Colonial architecture and has such a quaint feel that you can easily forget that it is situated in the shadow of I-95. Once you pull up, the comfortable, cozy New England vibe takes hold.
A recent stay in a deluxe king-bedded guestroom was noted for its décor: light, airy, and anchored by a resplendent four-poster bed. Fido will also appreciate the Delamar; the hotel is pet friendly and will set owners up with a dog bowl and bed. The hotel also has six suites, notably the three-bedroom Woodward-Newman Presidential Suite (the famous actor and condiment king lived in nearby Westport).
Suites boast full kitchens—but who needs it when you have an on-property restaurant as good as Artisan? The restaurant is ensconced within the hotel’s courtyard and combines the feel of a New England tavern with 18th-century Scandinavian design. Helmed by Executive Chef Frederic Kieffer, the menu offers seasonally inspired farm-to-table fare. While the restaurant’s inside is particularly warm, dining alfresco is as much a visual as olfactory experience. Outdoor tables are ringed by an array of herb plants (rosemary, sage, and thyme) that the kitchen cultivates and uses in its dishes.
The Delamar Southport also has a sister property, the Delamar Greenwich Harbor, just south in this tony Connecticut enclave. Adjacent to a marina, the 42-foot Grand Banks yacht Pegasus is docked at the harbor and available for private charters for individual guests or groups up to 12.
Visitors to Nantucket may have wondered what happened to the Point Breeze Hotel after it shut down in 2005. Well, the 60-room grand dame, which dates back to 1891, is back in action after a years-long renovation and will receive guests this summer as The Nantucket.
Nestled in the heart of Nantucket town, this turn-of-the-century resort has been doubled in size and completely refurbished to look as it did long ago. The owners, Mark and Gwenn Snider, who also own the Winnetu Oceanside Resort on Martha’s Vineyard, have tapped into the hotel’s bygone era with the hopes of transforming the hotel into the quintessential New England island experience.
The hotel now features one- to four-bedroom suites, as well as summer cottages. Each suite is also equipped with its own kitchenette. Note: Leave the car on the mainland. The hotel offers shuttles to the ferries and the town and the beaches are just a short walk.
From July through September 8, guests at The Nantucket will also have the opportunity to take advantage of a two-island resort stay offered with the Winnetu. Guests can vacation at both resorts, receive complimentary transfers on the islands, and enjoy reserved seating on the high-speed ferry connecting Hyannis, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket.
Need other Nantucket options? Lark Hotels has just added the 11-room Chapman House (larkhotels.com) to its portfolio. Chapman House—which is the sister property to Lark Hotels’ other Nantucket property, Veranda House, and boasts modern-meets-coastal décor by Boston’s Rachel Reider Interiors—will begin welcoming guests June 15.