George Eliot – a renowned English novelist during the Victorian era, also known as Mary Anne Evans – once wrote the following: “Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.” Eliot had some early insight to what many travelers already know here in the U.S. Follow the burnt ashes of amber and golden hues of yellow to the eastern seaboard, unveiling the tranquility and splendor of autumn’s arrival.
An East Coast getaway is a wonderful way to witness the allure of nature’s palate and experience a crisp, autumn breeze under a blue streaked sky. Take a hot air balloon ride over the rolling mountains of North Carolina; ease into the slow beauty of a horse and carriage in the Dutch Amish communities of Pennsylvania; take a stroll along the shore of East Hamptons; meander historical New England landmarks, shops and eateries rich with character and excitement; and simply enjoy the 85th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in the heart of one America’s iconic cities.
With this in mind, here is your guide to fall and winter travel along our eastern coast. Find luxury, simplicity and a unique stay at one of these boutique hotels among the “successive autumns” that Eliot so elegantly described, inspiring one and all to travel well.
1. Pentagöet Inn
Location: Castine, Maine
The Pentagöet Inn – recently described as the “Quintessential Maine bed and breakfast experience,” was first established in 1894, and is undoubtedly known for its authentic nature and ambiance. Perched along a seaside bluff in Castine, Maine, the Queen Anne Victorian-style home offers peaceful and romantic getaways for a three day weekend. The setting of the town itself is located on a peninsula and is one of the oldest communities in North America, dating back to the early 1600s; more than 100 historic landmarks are home to Castine, including Fort George, built by the British in 1779. Additional activities of note offer antiquing, biking and boating, as well as exploring the wind-swept beaches and a nearby lighthouse.
The walls of the Inn are dressed in light floral patterns with antiques and various knick-knacks, adding a bit of New England charm. If you love to soak in a deep claw-foot tub with bath salts and a good book, many of the rooms can accommodate this must-have travel luxury. And while the beauty of the fall and winter seasons may seem to be the foremost attraction, local dining featuring lobster and seafood catches are widely acclaimed along the coast of Maine.
2. Hydrangea House Inn
Location: Newport, Rhode Island
Rated as a “Top 10 New England Inn” and known for its exceptional gourmet breakfast service, Hydrangea House Inn affords a French Country setting in the lure of Newport, Rhode Island. Hosting seven suites and three rooms, guests enjoy en suite accommodations, with optional Jacuzzi and fireside lounging. Each space is styled in rich textile fabrics, florals and French Country opulence, with plush duvets and pillows for pure luxury.
Each morning as you wake, imagine you and your guest seated in the formal dining room with fine sliver, four-foot candelabras and crystal chandeliers overhead; now envision home-baked breads, raspberry pancakes and puff pastries with fresh orange juice. Along with a complimentary wine and cheese buffet in the afternoons, the gourmet breakfast service is a Hydrangea House signature.
After a full breakfast, you can quietly retreat to the privacy of your personal suite or take full advantage of exploring the city of Newport. From vineyards and ghost tours, to bird watching and windsurfing, this harbor-side town offers a rich, historical background among the crispness of the autumn season.
3. The Mill House Inn
Long Island, New York
Lauded as one of the “Top 10 Romantic Inns” in the U.S. by American Historic Inn, The Mill House Inn is simply “Your home in the Hamptons.” This charming boutique bed and breakfast was first established in 1790; and hosts intimate accommodations with six suites and four rooms, set near the historic East Hampton Village – known for its array of shopping, art galleries, fine dining and Atlantic shoreline.
“Gradually the nights cool, but the days say warm well into [autumn]. Our foliage lingers long after the flash of New England in muted colors of burgundy and dark gold. As the leaves start to fall, we rejoice in the bounty of the harvest — from sea to land,” notes Inn Proprietor Sylvia Muller. “Our attentive staff will help you plan your day — a trip to the museum with the family, at the Montauk Downs, a fishing trip in Montauk or a wine tasting in Wolffer Estate, or maybe just a picnic basket and a bottle of wine at a deserted beach with your dog. Could it be any better?”
There are world class restaurants in walking distance, art galleries and a wonderful farmers market in Amagansett to explore. If you are seeking a weekend of refuge and relaxation, bring a book to read and you can enjoy this upscale bed and breakfast – ranked also by Zagat among the ‘Top Small 50 Hotels USA.’ The Mill House Inn is also dog friendly.
4. Franklin Hotel
New York City
The Franklin – a stylish and intimate boutique hotel on New York’s Upper East Side and a short walk from Central Park – offers European-style living for its guests. Recently renovated, the hotel’s design affords both class and character with muted colors and soft contemporary accents. And with 50 well-appointed rooms, guests enjoy Bylgari bath products, original photographic works by internationally acclaimed fashion photographer Deborah Turbeville and a library with titles from Dostoevsky and Dumas.
Plan your getaway for Thanksgiving weekend and enjoy the legendary 85th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade; but book in advance as more than three million spectators line the streets each year to watch this celebrated historic event. With many NYC destinations and opportunities, The Franklin neighbors designer shops along Madison Avenue, with easy access to The Met, the Guggenheim and the Neue Gallery as well.
5. King’s Cottage Bed & Breakfast
“Leave your world and come to ours” literally captures the warmth and open invitation you will receive at King’s Cottage, allowing you to unwind and simply indulge. Located in Lancaster, Pennsylvania amidst an Amish community, King’s Cottage is a true gem for an autumn excursion. Innkeeper Janis Kutterer offered her insightful depiction of the ‘world’ you can find at this elegant bed and breakfast: “When you travel the back roads of Lancaster County, the beauty and the serenity of the Amish farmland is a reflection of the peaceful and graceful lives they live as stewards of the land God gave them.”
The name King’s Cottage is befitting to the décor and style of each room, tailor-made to reflect their very nature, including ‘Duchess,’ ‘Contessa,’ ‘Duke,’ ‘Queen’ and ‘Princess.’ From floral print wall paper to gold cushioned pinned walls, do not confuse the surroundings with your retreat at the Cottage. You can enjoy the simple life of the farming culture just outside your door under the rustic colors of fall, while having a 60-minute massage. Or how about a rose petal bath with chocolate covered strawberries, fresh and made-to-order. You can also take a covered bridge picnic tour, which includes a personal picnic basket with assorted cheeses, warm breads and fresh fruits.
King’s Cottage was recently featured in “1000 Places to See in USA and Canada Before You Die,” and awarded the “Certificate of Excellence” by Tripadvisor earlier this year.
6. The Biltmore Village Inn
Asheville, North Carolina
If you are looking for spectacular mountain views for your East Coast getaway, The Biltmore Village Inn – home to Asheville, North Carolina – is the perfect choice. Not only will you find a wide array of excursions – including a romantic hot air balloon ride over the mountains that unveil a technicolor of beauty, you can also tour one of the last remaining landmarks from the Gilded Age – the Biltmore Estate. Built by George Washington Vanderbilt II during the late 1800s, the expansive estate spans an estimated 175,000 square feet and has 250 rooms to explore.
The Biltmore Village Inn is the closest bed and breakfast to the Biltmore, giving you easy access to any of their tours. For the fall and winter seasons, you have the option of two wonderful packages for a two night stay; choose either the “Luxury” or “Romantic Collection,” which will include a cocktail at check-in, a three-course gourmet breakfast, a pair of Biltmore Estate tickets, turn-down service and a complimentary wine and cheese tasting. Enjoy phenomenal views of the Smokey’s while lounging on the Inn’s wrap-around porch. You can also upgrade your package by adding a massage to your itinerary.
This feature cover story on travel in the east coast originally appeared in FINE LUXURY MAGAZINE in Southern California.