The lodging equivalent of a warm hug, these are places where the owner greets us at the door, perhaps accompanied by a friendly dog or two. Rooms range from funky to fabulous, but are always unique, with bonus points for a full cookie jar and a wood-burning fireplace. We know we can count on a tasty, indulgent breakfast (innkeepers take great pride in this) and that our fellow guests will be an interesting lot — even if we choose not to mingle much these days. (Make sure to check COVID policies before you go; proof of vaccination may be required. The rates listed for inns are subject to change.)
From Cape Cod to Maine, New England is blessed with a bounty of these convivial abodes, often situated in towns tailor-made for relaxation, exploring, and, of course, dining. Here are four of the finest B&B areas in the region, all of which are perfect destinations for the spring — before the summer hordes.
The northern tip of Cape Cod isn’t an obvious choice for a spring getaway, but there’s no better way to shake off winter than to inhale giant gulps of fresh, bracing ocean air. For a big dose of briny, feel-good vibes, an early season whale-watching excursion can’t be beat. Ashore, the raw beauty of Cape Cod National Seashore snaps into focus when there are no people in the picture — just sand, surf, and seals. At galleries, bold art adds a jolt of welcome color to the season. Go now — before the crowds converge on Commercial Street in May — and you’ll get an extra-warm welcome.
Cher slept here — that’s a claim-to-fame for the 10-room White Porch Inn (rooms from $179; whiteporchinn.com, 508-364-2549), which hosted the Goddess of Pop in 2016. But there’s plenty more to boast about, from rooms with views of the ocean or the stately Pilgrim Monument. Most rooms have fireplaces; some have roof decks.
It may be too chilly to take advantage of the outdoor Zen garden, but Carpe Diem Guesthouse & Spa (from $209; carpediemguesthouse.com, 508-487-4242) is still all about relaxation. The 18 bright, airy guest rooms are decorated in Asian-nautical style; some have vaulted ceilings and gas fireplaces. Plus, the on-site Namaste Spa is one of the best on the Cape. Perhaps a CBD-enhanced massage would relieve that post-winter funk?
For a bit of luxury and glam, there’s no place like Land’s End Inn (from $235; landsendinn.com, 508-487-0706). Located atop Gull Hill in Provincetown’s West End, the inn’s 18 guest rooms are lavishly appointed with antiques, eclectic furniture, and local art.
A whale-watching trip is a great way to celebrate the first sun-kissed days of spring. One fleet to consider is the Dolphin Fleet ($67 per adult; whalewatch.com, 508-240-3636), which has trips starting April 16. Meanwhile, Provincetown’s artsy soul is on grand display at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum ($12.50 per adult; paam.org, 508-487-1750), a collection of over 3,000 pieces created by artists with connections to the Cape.
For those who like to go home with a little added gloss, there’s no shortage of local day spas. In addition to Namaste, check out the award-winning Shui Spa (shuispa.com) at the Crowne Pointe Hotel & Spa. Facials there, using Kiehl’s products, expertly purify the pores.
Jimmy’s Hideaway (jimmyshideaway.com, 508-487-1011) is a go-to joint for comfort food with a side of ocean views, and if the weather permits, the patio will be open. Owned by a Wellfleet fisherman, Mac’s Fish House Provincetown (macsseafood.com, 508-487-6227) specializes in fresh, glistening seafood, from its raw bar or beautifully prepared as sushi, sashimi, or maki rolls.
For arts lovers, there are few better destinations than the Berkshires. Tanglewood, the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s summer home in Lenox, is back this year after a shortened season in 2021. And the actors at Shakespeare & Company will be hitting the stage in June.
In spring — before the cultural calendar is in full swing — this pretty, walkable town is an engaging spot for those who want to hike and gallery-hop by day, and enjoy live music and fine dining by night.
If you’re familiar with the brands Pine Cone Hill and Dash & Albert, you know home furnishings maven Annie Selke. The Berkshires’ answer to Martha Stewart has the perfect showcase for her wares: 33 Main (from $329; thirtythreemain.com, 413-400-3333), a Federal-style inn that dates back to 1836.
The property’s eight guest rooms are filled with the entrepreneur’s designs. Other lovely touches include freshly baked cookies upon arrival and homemade granola.
Living the lush life is easy at Brook Farm Inn (rooms from $198; brookfarm.com, 800-285-7638), built in the 1880s, where a Gilded Age-themed room features an antique marble sink and a claw-foot tub. Amenities include new fire pits and a full breakfast. Fifteen guest rooms are set in the main Victorian-style “cottage” as well as a carriage house, surrounded by gardens. The inn has a full bar, a dining room, and a library of poetry.
For an extra dose of history, try the 11-room Gateways Inn (from $180; gatewaysinn.com, 413-637-2532). Known as the Orleton Estate, the house was built in 1912 by Harley Procter of Procter & Gamble. It’s said the mansion was designed to be rectangular and white, like the company’s Ivory Soap bar. Today, the dining room is a major draw, thanks to executive chef Jeremy Berlin, former executive chef at Blantyre.
Wandering recently along the carriage roads at Kennedy Park (lenox.org/kennedy-park), we noticed the first tender green shoots of the season. This town-owned hardwood forest is laced with nearly 15 miles of trails. There’s more great hiking at Mass Audubon’s Pleasant Valley Sanctuary (massaudubon.org), set on the slope of Lenox Mountain. If money was no object, we’d fill our homes with playful pieces from the Wit Gallery (thewitgallery.com, 413-637-8808), a contemporary art lover’s dream. Nearby, Cassandra Sohn’s Sohn Fine Art (sohnfineart.com, 413-551-7353) is a treasure trove of stunning photography. For live music, settle in at Firefly Gastropub (fireflylenox.com, 413-637-2700) or the Apple Tree Inn (appletreeinnlenox.com, 413-637-1477).
Church Street is the restaurant row of Lenox, with some great choices including top-rated Alta Restaurant & Wine Bar (altawinebar.com, 413-637-0003). The menu, which changes with the seasons, includes a grilled tofu with caper coulis, fingerling potatoes, and sautéed spinach that will make anyone a soy fan. For a special night, the best option is 1894 Fireside Bistro & Bar (miravalberkshires.com, 800-232-3969) at Wyndhurst Manor, which becomes part of the Miraval Berkshires resort in April. For a post-hike treat, head to the Chocolate Springs Café (chocolatesprings.com, 413-637-9820), located near Kennedy Park, for a perfect salted caramel truffle or two.
NORTH CONWAY, NEW HAMPSHIRE
Spring is the quietest time in this Mount Washington Valley town, when the crowds of winter fun-seekers are gone and the summer hordes have yet to descend. Everything is still open — bars and restaurants, shops and outlet stores — but you’ll have a lot more elbow room when you visit. Don’t be surprised if shop owners and innkeepers want to chat and share some insider tips.
It’s not so serene in the local woods and mountains, when snowmelt sends water gushing down the slopes, engorging rivers and waterfalls. You’ll have nearly 800,000 acres of White Mountain National Forest at your doorstep — wet, lush, and green. Bring your mud boots.
We love the homey ambiance of Cranmore Inn, located smack dab in the center of the village (from $99; cranmoreinn.com, 603-356-5502). The inn, built in 1863, has original woodwork, glossy wood floors, and 18 sunny guest rooms, some with fireplaces. The backyard hot tub is the place to be on cool spring evenings.
On warm days, we’ll happily snag a wicker chair on the wraparound deck of the Eastman Inn (from $135; eastmaninn.com, 603-356-6707). The Georgian Colonial, built in 1777, oozes Old World elegance and is filled with antiques, plush fabrics, and original art. The Inn at Ellis River (from $159; innatellisriver.com, 603-383-9339) just up the road has upscale, antique-
laden rooms, some with jetted tubs, fireplaces, and private patios or balconies. There’s also a pub, outdoor pool, and sauna. One of guests’ favorite things to do is to sit on the Adirondack chairs by the river and enjoy the sights and sounds of the water, says innkeeper Mary Kendzierski.
Don’t miss the easy, half-mile-or-so walk to Diana’s Baths (northconwaynh.com/dianas-baths), a series of cascades that are gorgeous (and raging) in spring. Catch a live performance at the historic M&D Playhouse (mdplayhouse.com, 603-733-5275), where Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical runs March 24 to April 10. You’ll find an outdoor public art trail (and tax-free shopping) at Settlers Green Outlet Village, featuring the paintings and sculptures of six artists (settlersgreen.com, 888-667-9636).
Abenaki Trail Restaurant & Pub is a local hangout for hearty casual fare, cold drafts, and strong drinks (603-356-6565). May Kelly’s Cottage (maykellys.com, 603-356-7005) is a hoot, complete with Irish-themed and vintage memorabilia and a can’t-miss Reuben sandwich. And check out The Valley Originals (thevalleyoriginals.com), a band of locally owned restaurants dedicated to serving locally sourced food.
THE KENNEBUNKS, MAINE
Spring seems especially bright and beguiling in this southern Maine region, where the Kennebunk and Mousam rivers meet the Atlantic Ocean.
A perfect day starts with a walk along Gooch’s Beach, listening to seabirds squawk and waves crash. We like to browse the shops and art galleries surrounding Dock Square in the village of Kennebunkport, and take a scenic ride along the rocky coastline or inland through the farmlands of Arundel. Inevitably, we’ll grab a lobster roll and a stroll through the streets of Kennebunk to admire the architecture. One thing is certain: The day will end at a comfortable B&B — the Kennebunks have plenty of them.
We’ve had many memorable breakfasts at The Inn at English Meadows (from $289; englishmeadowsinn.com, 207-967-5766). Highlights include the spring veggie hash with poached egg, crispy prosciutto, and lemon ricotta pancakes with blueberry sauce, as well as fresh baked scones and house-made granola. The sprawling Greek-Revival-home-turned-inn has comfy digs, too, with 11 sunlit updated rooms and suites and a two-room bungalow. Guests are pampered with high-end mattresses, Frette linens, and plush towels and robes.
The Kennebunkport Captains Collection (from $181; kennebunkportcaptains.com, 207-967-3141) includes four restored historic homes, combining original details with up-to-date flourishes. The William Jefferds House, an 1805 Federal-style mansion, is our favorite, with gleaming wood floors, bold wallcoverings, and glossy white paneled walls.
We also love the intimate vibe of The 1802 House Bed and Breakfast (from $229; 1802house.com, 207-967-5632). The neighborhood is quiet, but lively Dock Square is a short stroll away. The inn offers six guest rooms with traditional decor and modern amenities, including gas fireplaces, flat-screen TVs and, in some rooms, spa tubs.
History buffs will enjoy poking along The Museum in the Streets (themuseuminthestreets.com), a DIY tour connecting 25 historic sites. Laura Dolce, executive director of the local chamber of commerce, recommends a visit to St. Anthony’s Franciscan Monastery (framon.net, 207-967-2011). “It’s peaceful and beautiful, with easy paths with a glimpse of the Kennebunk River. It’s a world unto itself,” she says. Spring is our favorite time to walk along Gooch’s Beach. Families prefer the tucked-in and protected Mother’s Beach; look for sea critters in the pools at low tide.
We could try to point you toward the best lobster roll in town, but that’s a tough call. Instead, hit the official Lobster Roll Trail of the Kennebunks (gokennebunks.com/lobster-roll-trail, 207-967-0857) — a self-guided restaurant crawl put together by the chamber of commerce — and decide for yourself. Warning: There are 24 recommended stops. Earth at Hidden Pond (earthathiddenpond.com, 207-967-6550), with rustic wood decor, offers an upscale farm-to-fork dining experience, set among trees and twinkling lights. The menu changes frequently but expect dishes such as farro risotto with local mushrooms. Don’t forget to treat yourself to the best handcrafted ice cream in town at Rococo Ice Cream (rococoicecream.com, 207-251-6866).
Diane Bair and Pamela Wright are frequent contributors to The Boston Globe’s travel section. Send comments to [email protected].