- Bar Harbor,
- Cape Cod,
- Lower Cape,
In honor of Lonard Santos, my Brazilian soul mate.
A stroll through the North End's narrow cobblestoned streets is a romantic way to end a night. Mike's Pastry attracts hordes of tourists, but skip it and cross the street to the smaller and more modest-looking Modern Pastry Shop for éclairs, lemon squares, and Boston cream pie. You'll want to get your treats to go, though, since there's just a smattering of tables. If you prefer to linger, settle in at a marble-topped table at Caffe Vittoria and ask the no-nonsense waitresses to bring some cappuccino and ricotta pie. All-night establishments are a rarity in sleepy-eyed Boston, but when every other shop is shuttered, Bova's Bakery is still serving up fruit tarts, cookies, and cannoli, 24 hours a day. And if you'd like something more savory, Bricco serves a wood-oven Margherita pizza (and, if you ask nicely, pretty much anything else on the menu) until 2 am.—updated by Jon Marcus
Mojito's Lounge, Massachusetts
Boston, Massachusetts 02108
Tel: 617 834 0552
Boston isn't normally associated with Latin dancing, but on Fridays and Saturdays this club near Park Street packs in a young, multicultural crowd for hip-swiveling salsa and merengue on a narrow upstairs dance floor. Downstairs, a smaller cluster grooves to Latin rock, bachata, and reggaeton. No worries if you're a little timid about your moves: There are free lessons from 9 to 10 pm on Fridays and Saturdays, and, inevitably, a pro will pluck you from the sidelines and explain that it's "all in the hips." Of course, you've got to try the Mojito at a place named after this Cuban libation. It's heavy on the rum and redolent of mint, just like the club itself.
Open Thursdays from 10 pm to 2 am, Fridays and Saturdays 9 pm to 2 am.
Barking Crab Restaurant
See + Do
Sailing Tours on Nantucket, Massachusetts
Nantucket, Massachusetts 02554
Tel: 508 228 5585
Captain Jim Genthner sails Nantucket Sound several times each day on his 31-foot Friendship sloop Endeavor. The tours leave from Straight Wharf and take in sights like the Brant Point Lighthouse, Nantucket Harbor, and the mansions along the coast. If you're a sailor, you can help hoist the sails; if not, just enjoy the ride while Genthner regales you with tales of the island's maritime past. A one-hour morning sail costs $15 per person; it's $35 for a romantic 90-minute sunset sail.
Open May through October
See + Do
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Massachusetts
Boston, Massachusetts 02125
Tel: 866 535 1960
The JFK Library, which opened in 1979 in an I.M. Pei–designed building, is dedicated to the study of the 35th president's life and work, and houses his presidential papers and a museum. Start with a film chronicling JFK's life until the 1960 campaign season, then work your way through exhibits of campaign memorabilia (signs, buttons, and TV ads); video of the Kennedy–Nixon debates; correspondence between family members; and photos of the Kennedys at Hyannisport. It's great for history buffs, but be aware that getting there without a car is a bit of a schlep (on the T's Red Line, then a free shuttle bus); leave about 30 minutes each way. The museum, ringed by a pleasant harborside walking trail, is located adjacent to the University of Massachusetts Boston campus and steps away from the Commonwealth Museum of Massachusetts history, where you'll find original royal charters, John Adams's Massachusetts state constitution, and the copper plates from which Paul Revere engraved his famous etching of the Boston Massacre (220 Morrissey Blvd.; 617-727-9268).—updated by Jon Marcus
Open daily 9 am to 5 pm.
See + Do
Chappaquiddick, an island just off Edgartown, is the least-known part of the Vineyard…well, least-known except for The Bridgethe one on which Mary Jo Kopechne lost her life and Ted Kennedy nearly lost his political career. But this tiny island is also one of the most beautiful places on the Vineyard. Hidden among its pines and oaks is the 14-acre Mytoi Japanese garden. Its red fretwork bridge, designed by architect Hugh Jones, is framed in daffodils, azaleas, hinoki cypress, and holly (depending on the season). You also can hike, fish, kayak, bird-watch, and pick blueberries. To get there, hop aboard what locals call the one-minute ferry (it actually takes three minutes) from the Edgartown wharf (Dike Rd.; 508-627-7689; thetrustees.org). There's another 14 miles of hiking trails in the Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge on the eastern edge of Chappaquiddick, including a stretch along a seven-mile barrier beach. The refuge includes ponds, cedar groves, salt marshes, and the 1893 Cape Poge Lighthouse, and there are tours that cover natural history, fishing, lighthouses, and wildlife (aboard a kayak or canoe) as well as self-guided tours. Over-sand vehicle permits (available at the gatehouse for $180) allow four-wheel-drive vehicles access to 14 miles of dune roads.
See + Do
Biking on Martha's Vineyard
Martha's Vineyard has miles of bike routes, most of them wide paths set apart from the main roads by grassy strips. There are short trails such as the scenic two-mile run along Main Street in Vineyard Haven to the West Chop Lighthouse, the three-mile route from Edgartown to South Beach, or the seven-mile path from Vineyard Haven to Edgartown. More serious cyclists can ride 20 miles from Edgartown, around the state forest, and back. Bringing your own bike to the island costs from $3 to $6 each way on the ferries, bicycle rental shops proliferate, and most hotels and many inns have bicycles for loan or rent. (There are bike racks on the buses of the Martha's Vineyard Transit Authority.) On coastal routes, be aware of occasional patches of sand and strong head winds; inland trails aren't always particularly scenic.
The bike routes are clearly marked on most street maps; otherwise you can find a trail map online at mvy.com or mvol.com, or pick one up at Anderson's Bike Rentals in Oak Bluffs (23 Circuit Ave. Extension; 508-693-9346) or Edgartown Bicycles (212 Main St.; 508-627-9008; edgartownbicycle.com). Trike Panther Travel Adventures, started by a retiree who cycled from California to Florida, rents recumbent trikes and leads half-day, full-day, and five-day guided island tours (888-443-2071; guidedcycling.com).
See + Do
Biking on Nantucket
Low-lying and just 14 miles long and 3.5 miles wide, Nantucket is easily toured by bicycle. Of the island's seven clearly marked trails, the best is the 5.5-mile Madaket Bike Path, which heads west from the Nantucket Town rotary toward Madaket Beach, a prime place to watch the sunset. Eight-mile Polpis Bike Path heads east from the rotary toward the bluffs of Siasconset and Sankaty Head Light. Bicycle rentals are readily available in town and at the airport. Young's Bicycle Shop near the Steamship Authority ferry terminal has great free maps of the island's tangled streets and extensive bike routes (6 Broad St.; 508-228-1151; youngsbicycleshop.com). For more information, check out www.wheelsheelsandpedals.com.
See + Do
Beaches on Martha's Vineyard
The Vineyard has 14 public beaches as well as six residents-only beaches that are off-limits to outsiders (unless your hotel provides guest passes or you're renting and can provide a copy of the lease). Lucy Vincent Beach in Chilmark is one of the most beautiful (it's also clothing-optional) and fair game for guests of the Inn at Blueberry Hill. Lambert's Cove Beach in West Tisbury has the finest sand and is also resident-only, though guests of Lambert's Cove Inn can go there. For big waves, try the Atlantic-facing Katama Beach, also known as South Beach, just outside Edgartown: It's open to everybody, although there's a strong undertow that makes it dangerous for kids. A public beach with gentler waves is Joseph Sylvia State Beach, the narrow two-mile stretch between Oak Bluffs and Edgartown. The small Menemsha Public Beach, beside Menemsha Harbor, also has gentler waters, and is conveniently close to great take-out seafood from Larsen's Fish Market (Dutcher Dock; 508-645-2680) and The Bite (29 Basin Rd.; 508-645-239; thebitemenemsha.com). Two of the prettiest Vineyard beaches are well off the beaten path: Aquinnah Public Beach, also known as Moshup Beach, is located under the dramatic Aquinnah cliffs (it's a ten-minute walk down Moshup Trail from the parking lot); East Beach, in the secluded Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge, requires taking the ferry from Edgartown to Chappaquiddick and paying a fee to the Trustees of Reservations (unless you're a member). There's also a freshwater beach on Long Cove Pond in the Long Point Wildlife Refuge.
See + Do
Beaches of Nantucket
Nantucket has 10 public beaches, some reachable only by foot or bike. The most popular North Shore spots are Dionis and Jetties beaches. Dionis's mild surf and wide dunes make it ideal for families with older kidsit's a three-mile bike ride from town to get there. At Jetties Beach, you can learn to sail, windsurf, or kayak from the nonprofit Nantucket Community Sailingprivate, group, and women-only lessons are available (508-228-6600; www.nantucketsailing.com; closed Labor Day through early June) and chow down at a casual seafood restaurant. Surfers head for the wilder South Shore; among the best beaches are Surfside and the more remote, westerly Cisco. The latter has especially big waves and is home to the Nantucket Island Surf School, which provides boards and wet suits for its private and group lessons. You can call ahead if you want to (and reschedule if the waves aren't crashing), or just show up in your bathing suit and head for the van hung with wet suits. Boards and wet suits are also available for rent by the hour, half day, full day, or week. (508-560-1020; nantucketsurfing.com). For more information and a map of the island's beaches visit www.nantucketchamber.org/visitor/beach.html.
Sweet Life Café, Massachusetts
Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts 02557
Tel: 508 696 0200
It doesn't get any sweeter than this gem of a restaurant in a restored Oak Bluffs Victorian house. Chef Scott Ehrlich's constantly changing, French-inspired menu makes good use of seafood and local produce (Ehrlich himself lives on a farm). Starters include Sweet Life artichokes with herbaceous vinaigrette, followed by squid ink fettuccini. The name of the place pretty much demands you pay attention to the dessert menu (try the dark chocolate cake with cappuccino custard, ganache and crème angalise). There's a choice of intimate dining room, outdoor bar, or a serene garden lit by candles and warmed by heaters in the fall. French owner Pierre Guerin has assembled a superb wine list, with 120 varieties from around the globe.
The Newes From America, Massachusetts
Edgartown, Massachusetts 02539
Tel: 508 627 4397
This colonial-era pub, attached to the Kelley House hotel, is popular in winter for its roaring fireplace and in summer because its stone exterior and wood-beam ceilings make it naturally cooler than anywhere else. It draws locals and visitors alike for its well-prepared basics: onion soup, fried onion rings, fish and chips, and half-pound burgers. The cozy rooms are small and dark, with exposed brick and comfortable cushioned chairs. Some customers, of course, just come for a brew. You can order a "rack" of five drafts to sample the on-tap offerings, but the selection isn't all that exoticSam Adams, Harpoon, Anchor Steam, and the like, plus the house beer, Light Newes.
Mad Martha's, Massachusetts
Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts 02557
Tel: 508 693 9151
Don't be distracted by the other ice cream shops on the Vineyard; there's a reason why Mad Martha's has lines out the door all summer long. The ice cream, made at the Oak Bluffs establishment but also sold in Edgartown (7 North Water St.; 508-627-8761) and Vineyard Haven (20 Union St.; 508-693-5883), comes in more than 20 flavors, including a killer black raspberry and a nutty, not-too-sweet pistachio. Avoid the sundaes, though, unless you're lucky enough to score one of the few tables: They're too gloppy to eat standing up.
Open mid-May through late October.
Black Dog Tavern, Massachusetts
Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts 02568
Tel: 508 693 9223
Less known for its food than for the T-shirt Bill Clinton gave Monica (which set off a run on its famous apparel), this island icon has become a touristy clichéthe Hard Rock Café for the Vineyard set. The wait in summer can top an hour, and nary a diner leaves without a black-Lab-emblazoned souvenir from the gift shop, which peddles everything from tote bags to ice buckets. If you must, go for breakfastthe Black Dog has the area's largest menu of omeletsand be sure to snag a seat on the deck for the harbor views. At other times of day, the kitchen turns out serviceable seafood, burgers, chowders, and its famous Blackout Cake.
Edgartown, Massachusetts 02539
Tel: 508 627 9999
This buzzy (sometimes to the point of earsplitting) bistro with polished wood floors, French café-style rattan chairs, and large front windows seems more SoHo than Edgartown. But locals love the converted onetime grocery store for its eclectic menuwild mushroom risotto balls, braised short ribs, gnocchi, burgers, just-plucked-from-the-water steamers, and lobster shepherd's pieand because everyone drops in here, especially when the Red Sox game is on.
Wequassett Inn Resort & Golf Club, Massachusetts
Chatham, Massachusetts 02633
Tel: 800 225 7125 (toll-free), Tel: 508 432 5400
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139
Tel: 617 661 0505
To experience what farm-to-table really means, come to Oleana during the growing season. Between April and November, almost all the vegetables chef Ana Sortun immaculately prepares are grown on her husband's organic farm in Sudbury, some 20 miles outside the city. Sortun has also earned a devoted following among the artsy intelligentsia for a liberal use of exotic spices in the Eastern Mediterranean–influenced dishes that emerge from her surprisingly tiny open kitchen: A sculpted disc of smoky eggplant purée dotted with pine nuts complements impossibly tender tamarind-glazed beef, and three pieces of spinach falafel sit on top of a flatbread spread thinly with tahini and topped with yogurt, beets, and mâche (cut lengthwise between the fried balls to make individual roll-ups). Like the food, the restaurant blends natural elements, such as wood and stone, with Middle Eastern accents (woven rugs serve as wall hangings). Book ahead when the weather is nice, and ask for a table in the blooming garden. There's also a spin-off bakery and café, Sofra, across town in the Fresh Pond neighborhood of Cambridge (1 Belmont St.; 617-661-3161).
Open Sundays through Thursdays 5:30 to 10 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 5:30 to 11 pm.
B&G Oysters Ltd., Massachusetts
Boston, Massachusetts 02118
Tel: 617 423 0550
Chef/owner Barbara Lynch's South End hot spot attracts le tout Boston for excellent lobster rolls and, of course, bivalves, shucked to order and washed down with Prosecco. The room is gorgeous and sexy with its ocean-hued mosaics, mother-of-pearl colors, and flattering spotlights, and the joint is always jumping—so much so that you should be prepared to wait up to two hours for a spot at the bar, and without reservations, it's unlikely you'll get a table. Also check out No. 9 Park, Lynch's first restaurant, on Boston Common (9 Park St.; 617-742-9991), or Menton, her French–Italian hot spot in the Fort Point Channel neighborhood, which was a James Beard Award nominee for best new restaurant in 2011 (354 Congress St.; 617-737-0099).—updated by Jon Marcus
Boston, Massachusetts 02215
Tel: 617 536 7200
Put simply, Clio chef Ken Oringer is one of the best in America. His French–Asian hybrids (heavy on the French) astonish everyone, however jaded. Reading the menu clues you in: cassolette of lobster and sea urchin with yuzu and Japanese pepper; lacquered foie gras with sweet-and-sour lemon and bee pollen; roast suckling pig with fresh bacon-and-endive confit. The setting is elegant, the service, flawless. Consequently, Clio, in the Eliot Hotel can be one tough table to score, especially on a weekend. Book ahead, or try Oringer's other spots—all very different from this and one another—including Uni a sashimi bar, just a few steps away, in a corner of the Eliot; Toro a Spanish-style tapas restaurant in the South End (1704 Washington St., 617-536-4300) Coppa a South End enoteca (253 Shawmut Ave., 617-391-0902), KO Prime a steakhouse inside the Nine Zero Hotel (90 Tremont St., 617-772-0202,), or La Verdad a Mexican taqueria near Fenway Park (1 Lansdowne St., 617-351-2580).—updated by Jon Marcus
Open Mondays through Saturdays 5:30 to 10:30 pm.
Bulfinch Hotel, Massachusetts
Boston, Massachusetts 02114
Tel: 617 624 0202
It takes a little creativity to pull off a stylish-yet-affordable hotel in a desirable Boston neighborhood. The owners of the Bulfinch Hotel went with a Scandinavian feel (blond woods, brushed steel, large windows, and smooth marble), and custom-designed tufted-leather headboards and silk curtains mold to the highly unusual spaces. Since it's a budget hotel, expect to give up a few luxury amenities. Standard rooms can be tight at only 250 square feet (it's worth the extra $60 to upgrade to one of the 450-square-foot Junior Suites, located in the "nose" of the building). The minibar is a bottle of Voss, and valet parking is nonexistent, though guests get a few dollars off parking in a nearby garage. The upside is that just by walking a few minutes, you can pick up a cannoli in the North End, catch a Celtics game at the Garden, or take in a history lesson at Faneuil Hall. And since it is so close to Massachusetts General Hospital, the hotel offers a flat fee of $165 a night for those visiting sick loved ones. In 2006, the three-year-old hotel opened a tapas bar and lounge downstairs—after a few Mata Haris (cognac, chai-infused vermouth, and pama), you won't even notice how small the rooms are.
The White Barn Inn Restaurant, Maine
Kennebunkport, Maine 04043
Tel: 207 967 2321
Dining at the White Barn should be on those life-lists that crop up everywhere these days. British-born Jonathan Cartwright, the chef since 1994, oversees a 25-person kitchen staff to create such in-season fancies as English pea soup with a Maine shrimp fritter, or seared local halibut filet on a spring morel. The lobster spring roll is a dazzling surprise; the intermezzo includes Kennebunkport seafood bisque and lemon-thyme sorbet. And dessert means a milk chocolate mille-feuille with caramelized bananas or orange-infused rhubarb crêpes. Should you take your eyes off the menu, the food, or your dining companion (the romance is undeniable), you'll notice that each table is graced with an animal fashioned from sterling silver. Meanwhile, the scene out of the enormous picture window is of perennials, pumpkins, or Christmas lights, depending on the time of year. The four-course tasting menu is $91 per person; the sommelier will pair wines from the 7,000-bottle cellar for an additional $50.
Dinner nightly (Closed Monday and Tuesday in off-season: January through April).
Phil's Route 27 Lobster Shop, Maine
Boothbay, Maine 04537
Tel: 207 633 5189
Phil "the Baker" McLellan is a man of few words, and those that he does mutter might seem unintelligible unless you're a Maine-ah yourself. No matter: His lobster pies and blueberry pies at this roadside hut near the Five Gables Inn do the speaking for him. There's no menu here, just pieces of paper taped to the counter that present what Phil feels like making for you. Go for the $10.95 lobster roll—meaty chunks on a freshly baked homemade hero roll—and a $1 can of soda. After one bite while sitting at the outdoor picnic table, you won't be doing much talking, either.
Open May to October.
Bar Harbor, Maine 04609
Tel: 207 288 5077
If you go to Acadia National Park to escape chaos, then you go to Geddy's to reenter it—in a good way. A Bar Harbor institution since 1974, the cheeky pub is better known for its kitsch than its kitchen: The restroom doors read "inboards" and "outboards," while a sign above the bar, amid the various license plates, water skis, and lifejackets, proclaims "this mess is a place." Among the menu items is Spam on the half-shell. But after a couple of days in the park, nothing tastes better than Geddy's wood-fired pizzas topped with roasted garlic, or the bacon-and-blue-cheese burgers. (Uh, pass on the Spam.)
Lunch and dinner daily.
Fore Street, Maine
Portland, Maine 04101
Tel: 207 775 2717
When people who don't have a date with the bingo table start lining up for dinner at 5 pm, you've probably found a first-rate restaurant. Fore Street is a superpopular Old Port joint steered by superstar chef Sam Hayward, who has earned acclaim from the James Beard Foundation and Gourmet, among others. A discreet metal sign outside marks the brick-and-wood façade; inside, an open kitchen with an 800-degree oven and a glassed-in cooler brimming with organic salad greens is the focal point. Hayward designs a new menu every day, but it's a good bet there'll be mussels roasted in almond-and-garlic butter, and dry-rubbed pork loin with tangy sauerkraut. As for that oven, he uses it to cook specialty dishes such as a whole-roasted Atlantic sea bass stuffed with herbs. Finish things off with the cheese course of New England triple-cream and Maine Caprino. And leave the finery in your hotel room: The servers wear jeans and you should, too. Sister restaurant Street & Company is another good bet, where Hayward's fellow chef and business partner Dana Street prepares what is arguably the city's best local catch (33 Wharf St.; 207-775-0887).
Open Sundays through Thursdays 5:30 to 10 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 5:30 to 10:30 pm.
See + Do
Freeport and L.L. Bean, Maine
Sometimes you just gotta give in to your inner materialist and buy a few thingsespecially when they're this darn cheap. The seaside village of Freeport has more than 170 retail outlets and shops, including the ginormous flagship store of L.L. Bean (800-559-0747, ext. 37222; www.llbean.com). It's been sitting on Main Street since 1917, sees 3.5 million visitors every year, and never closesin fact, there's not even a lock on the door. It now has three separate stores at the Freeport campus: one for active wear and casual apparel; one for hunting and fishing gear; and another devoted to bikes, boats, and skis. When you're beat from shopping, check out (or check into) the Harraseeket Inn, which has a tasty Sunday brunch and 84 rooms with canopy beds (207-865-9377; www.harraseeketinn.com) or Harraseeket Lunch & Lobster.
See + Do
Beaches of Maine
Yes, Maine's known for its rocky coves, but there are enough beaches to keep even a Bain de Soleil addict happy on a warm summer day. Thirty minutes south of Portland, you'll find the most famous: Old Orchard Beach (not far from the Portland Harbor Hotel and the Pomegranate Inn), which is seven miles long and filled with old-fashioned amusement rides and food stands. Be aware, though, that it's often crowded and frat-boy boisterous. Quieter options nearby are Scarborough Beach off Route 207 (it has rough surf, but the lifeguards make it popular with families) and Ferry Beach, off Route 9 in Saco (a mile of white sand and dunes).
Around Kennebunkport are six separate public beaches, including Gooch's Beach and kid-friendly Mother's Beach, with soft sand, lifeguards, and gentle waves (about a 20-minute walk from the White Barn Inn and Captain Lord Mansion). Beachgoers join runners and even surfers at six-mile Popham Beach (pictured), near Bath, where you'll find the Rock Gardens Inn and the Inn at Bath. Acadia's Sand Beach, a five-minute drive from the Bar Harbor Inn, is the park's only soft strip.
See + Do
Seafood Celebrations in Maine
Sure, Maine's official nickname is the Pine Tree State, but it could be the "Land O' Lobster": 90 percent of these American crustaceans are caught in Maine. And all spring and summer long, there are parties for the prickly little fellows and their undersea buddies. The Fisherman's Festival in Boothbay Harbor kicks off the seafood-festival season in April with the Miss Shrimp Princess pageant, a lobster crate race, and enough fried seafood to sink the Gorton's guy (207-633-2353). You'll also dig the Yarmouth Clam Festival, which starts the third Friday in July just north of Portland (207-846-3984; www.clamfestival.com) and go crackers for the Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland at the beginning of August (207-596-0376; www.mainelobsterfestival.com). And to fuel you up for fall colors in the mountains, in September there's the Chowdah Cook-off in Bethel, just minutes from hiking along (207-824-2282). Another fun outing is lobster-boat racinga watery NASCAR for 100-plus working vessels sponsored by the Maine Lobster Boat Racing Associationin eight coastal towns, including Boothbay Harbor, from mid-June to mid-August (888-333-8379).
Five Gables Inn, Maine
East Boothbay, Maine 04544
Tel: 800 451 5048, Tel: 207 633 4551
Sometimes, all the whale-watching, antique-shopping, ice-cream-slurping hoopla of the Maine coast can create a Calgon moment. That's when you take yourself away to East Boothbay, a tiny historic boatbuilding town on Linekin Bay with only the necessities: a seafood restaurant, general store, marina, and the Five Gables Inn. Three miles from Boothbay Harbor, the 16-room B&B was built in 1896. Innkeepers Mike (a Culinary Institute graduate) and De (a Southern belle from Atlanta) Kennedy restored the hillside retreat in the 1980s and earned a cultlike following among vacationers who'd prefer Five Gables remain a secret. (Sorry!) Ask for Room 10, with the best views, or go for a third-floor gable room like 14, which has a four-poster king bed and wood-burning fireplace. Not that you can go wrong, as all but one of the rooms overlook the bay, whose bracing cobalt waters are ideal for a morning dip. Then find a sun-splashed spot on the wraparound porch and dive into mint pancakes with Chambord syrup or artichoke-and-portobello frittata. And when you're ready to reenter civilization, undertake the half-mile walk to the East Boothbay general store to buy the Times.
Closed seasonally (mid-October through May).
Inn at Bath, Maine
Bath, Maine 04530
Tel: 800 423 0964, Tel: 207 443 4294
Maybe it's because innkeeper Elizabeth Knowlton used to run a fly-fishing lodge in Montana, but the Inn at Bath, along Maine's Midcoast area, is one of the least stuffy B&Bs in New England. The 1810 Greek Revival home—a 20-minute drive from six-mile-long Popham Beach and just north of Freeport—has eight rooms, each with a private bathroom and crisp white bedspread. For burrowing under the covers during a nor'easter, the Fo'c'sle and Captain's Cabin, with wood-burning fireplaces, are especially cozy, while the upstairs Lavender and Green rooms are more typical inn accommodations. Plenty of couples are romanced by the fireplaces and Jacuzzi tubs, but the Inn at Bath also sees a number of kids and business travelers. Everyone takes to the morning smells of pumpkin bread French toast with caramelized pears and pecans (with organic ingredients rather than an orgy of whipped cream). Pets may stay for $15 extra, provided they'll tolerate the companionship of Atticus, Knowlton's Spanish water dog.
Pomegranate Inn, Maine
Portland, Maine 04102
Tel: 800 356 0408, Tel: 207 772 1006, Fax: 207 773 4426
If Persephonewhose statue graces the black-and-white-checked foyer of this Italianate mansionwas queen of the underworld, the Pomegranate Inn retains a queenly grandeur. Vibrant pieces of eclectic contemporary art acquired by owner and designer Isabel Smiles contrast with stately antiques that make staying here feel like a night at the museum. Five out of the eight rooms have colorful, mosaic-tiled gas fireplaces; the most spacious lodging is in room No. 8, with an adjoining sitting room and rice-paper accents. Located in Portland's well-heeled Western Promenade district, the Pomegranate is at once an escape from the city and an immersion in its artsy scene. (The I.M. Peidesigned Portland Museum of Art is just a short walk away.) It will also grow in the hearts of even the Grinchiest B&B haters, as there's no granny creaking along squeaky floors to serve overly sweet treats. Instead, boyish assistant innkeeper Peter pours afternoon wine in the lush garden courtyard. (The inn has a no-child policyguests must be at least 16 years old.) Breakfast, cooked by former sailboat captain Kim, is a leisurely affair of delicately cooked eggs and, naturally, pomegranate juice.
Two-night minimum on weekends.
Bar Harbor Inn, Maine
Bar Harbor, Maine 04609
Tel: 800 248 3351, Tel: 207 288 3351
The best place to slumber on Mount Desert Island is in a sleeping bag under the stars at an oceanfront campsite in Acadia National Park. If pitching a tent ain't your thing, though, or you're traveling in the black-fly season of late May and early June, book a room at the Bar Harbor Inn. Yes, the ho-hum decor and five-o'clock-shadow sheets should be tossed into the ocean. But the views are stunning, the service excellent, and the location—downtown, and a short drive from Acadia—ideal. The Bar Harbor Inn splits 153 rooms among three buildings: the Main Inn (best for convenience), the Oceanfront Lodge (best for balconies), and the Newport Building (best for a budget). A new, lighthouse-shaped spa and fitness center and a heated pool sit in the middle, while the inn's own pier hosts cruises on the Margaret Todd, a four-masted schooner. Don't miss sitting under a yellow umbrella at the outdoor Terrace Grille, cracking open a lobster.
Closed seasonally (December through March).
Portland Harbor Hotel, Maine
Portland, Maine 04101
Tel: 207 775 9090
The Portland Harbor Hotel is a trompe l'oeil. Though only built in 2002, it blends seamlessly into the ancient brick buildings and cobblestone streets of the captivating Old Port District. Despite the ample number of rooms97it still has a feeling of creative intimacy: chocolate lobsters on the pillows at turndown, and a concierge who takes to special requests with gusto. Meanwhile, the bartender chats up regulars and fills dishes of nuts at Eve's at the Garden restaurant. (Think Mediterranean cuisine from Portland star Jeff Landry, lauded as one of Maine's top chefs.) This is the place to stay for easy access to Portland's best restaurants and shops; for longer day-trips to, say, the Yarmouth Clam Festival or Freeport, it's also just a few blocks from Interstate 295. The rooms are painted a cheerful yellow; beds are topped with feather pillows and blue-and-white bedspreads. Ask for a garden view, which overlooks a lovely central courtyard where one may dine al frescothe "city view" may result in another trompe l'oeil, as you find yourself face-to-face with nothing but a next-door building.
White Barn Inn, Maine
Kennebunkport, Maine 04043
Tel: 207 967 2321
Like the varsity athlete who has a good personality and gets straight As, the White Barn Inn is blessed with plenty. The setting near downtown Kennebunkport. The Relais & Châteaux restaurant. Moulton Brown toiletries, a brimming infinity swimming pool, and a spa with outsize treatment chambers. There's even a 44-foot Hinckley for Champagne picnics along the Maine coast (Gooch's Beach is a ten-minute walk). The White Barn has been around since the Civil War but began life as an inn in 1973. In 2006, it added the spa and a new marina with a dock for boaters on the Kennebunk River. Of the 28 rooms, we recommend one of the seven junior suites with king beds, fireplaces, and Jacuzzi-equipped marble-and-granite bathrooms. If you'd prefer to be near the river, opt for an Arts and Crafts–style wharf cottage near the new marina—they have kitchenettes and private patios. Though everything is clustered together, it's peaceful (a Franciscan monastery is across the street). There are also goodies galore: fruit and water in the rooms; afternoon tea, port, and brandy in the sitting room; touring bicycles and canoes for excursions. The highpoint is dinner at the restaurant set in a restored barn, where whimsical wooden animals straight out of Charlotte's Web overlook candlelit four-course prix-fixe, unforgettable meals.