The desire to see and experience destinations in a more authentic way is trending in travel. Staying at a locally-owned bed and breakfast rather than a big chain resort is one of the more popular options that lets visitors experience the soul of a destination.
New England is home to many bed and breakfast inns, and the 100-year-old New England Inns & Resorts Association (NEIRA), a collection of 315-plus independently owned and operated lodging properties, many of which are inns, has long counted on travel agents as important partners.
"NEIRA and its members are happy to work with travel agents and value the role they play in trip planning," said Deborah Burns, executive director, NEIRA & NEIRA Educational Foundation, "Particularly for international or long-distance domestic travelers that may not be familiar with the geography and bucket-list sites of New England."
These 14 inns in New England are, for the most part, historic inns (and this being New England, many belonging to former sea captains) that have reimagined themselves with amenities and restorations to meet 21st-century standards without losing their historic integrity, and giving visitors a true taste of local – then and now.
Inn at Hastings Park
Lexington, Massachusetts knows a thing or two about revolutions, and the culinary program at this inn has put the town on the map for foodies, revolutionizing the food scene north of Boston. In fact, the inn is the only Relais & Chateaux property in the Boston area. The 22 guest rooms (the clapboard main house dates to 1888 and there's a barn and guest house, too) are outfitted in classic Victorian decor with working fireplaces in some. Continental breakfast is included – eaten on the porch, or in the inn's handsome, fine dining Town Meeting Bistro. The restaurant here is so well-regarded, inn owner and Le Cordon Bleu trained chef Trisha Pérez teaches cooking classes to locals and hotel guests.
Captain Mansion Inn
This historic sea captain's home in Mystic, Connecticut, once belonging to Captain Elihu Spicer, has had several lives. As of this spring, the eight-room inn belongs to new owners (they also own nearby Steamboat Inn), and a meticulous restoration to reveal the inn's finest features including mile-high, exquisitely detailed ceilings and craftsmanship was unveiled. The suites are bigger than some NYC apartments, and breakfast here is the talk of town – thanks to Chef Clay's applause-worthy dishes. A short stroll away is Mystic's Main Street and Mystic Pizza, yes that Mystic Pizza.
The Margin Street Inn
This gorgeous, historic bed and breakfast mansion in Westerly, Connecticut dates to 1849. (Taylor Swift owns a home in nearby Westerly's Watch Hill.) The 10 guestrooms (in two renovated 1869 houses) are stunning. The inn sits pretty across from the Pawcatuck River and is a short stroll into town. Daily breakfast (homemade yogurt, frittatas, baked goods) and late afternoon charcuterie and wine are included, as are kayaks (the inn has a riverside dock.) Lots of outdoor spots and towering Copper Beech trees grace the six-acre grounds, and there's a porch, too, for taking it all in.
The Old Harbor Inn
A skip from Chatham's shop-lined Main Street and a pitch away from the Cape Cod Baseball League's Chatham Anglers Baseball park, this boutique bed and breakfast inn dates to 1932. There are 12 elegant guest rooms (the hallways are wallpapered with blue hydrangeas, Chatham's unofficial flower) and made-to-order gourmet breakfasts that are served on the lovely porch or in the sunroom – homemade cookies and baked goods, and stocked refrigerators with cold drinks are hospitable touches. There's also a fire pit, pretty gardens, and patios for relaxing. The inn has been owned by the Braz family for decades.
The Emerson Inn
Ralph Waldo Emerson's quote, "Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air," is celebrated here – with a French accent. The sprawling Pigeon Cove, Rockport, fixture for 150 years has a new owner, Kimberly Voltero, who lived in Paris and brought her passion for French culture to the inn. You'll hear it in the music at breakfast, at the European-inspired Parlor Bar, and in food choices like the quiche served at breakfast. Sit on the back porch that overlooks the sea or swim in the seaside pool – and drink in that wild air. There are also monthly Moon Rise parties that Emerson would surely celebrate.
Harbor Light Inn
Location, location, location. This 20-room Marblehead, Massachusetts inn, originally built in 1729, is a quick walk to the lively, picturesque waterfront (boating is everything to Marblehead, it is one of the sailing capitals of the world) and galleries, restaurants, and shops. Daily breakfast is included in the stay, and can be enjoyed on the patio, by the pool or in the dining room. There is also an intimate tavern for evening cocktails and light bites.
This stylish 14-room boutique bed and breakfast had a cameo as a haunted house in Adam Sandler's "Hubie Halloween," thanks to its Victorian gothic architecture. The renovated guest rooms show off modern, smart Scandinavian decor, and the inn is walkable and bikeable (bicycles are complimentary to guests) to Marblehead's historic seaside harbor and village. A light, small plate breakfast (fruit, granola, etc.) is included in daily rates. The grounds are lovely, including a courtyard area with fountain.
Westbrook Inn Bed and Breakfast
Built in 1876 by a local sea captain, this 10-room inn is less than a mile to West Beach on the Connecticut shoreline. Complimentary bicycles and beach gear is available to guests, and a homemade daily hot breakfast is served (co-owner Meri's peach croissant French toast is a favorite) to eat in the dining room, gazebo, or patio. Afternoon wine and cheese, too. Hang out on the inn's pretty river dock or by the firepits. Plus, the inn is dog friendly.
The Hartstone Inn
Sea meets mountain at this 22-room/suite inn in Camden, Maine. Many of the rooms feature jetted soaking tubs and gas fireplaces. The outdoor fire pit and garden patios are a nice touch, and a complimentary buffet breakfast is included; there is also the popular on-site Electric Daisy restaurant. Book three-plus nights before October 15 (2023) and get a free two-hour sailing expedition on Penobscot Bay.
Stone Hill Inn
This mountain lover's inn in Stowe, Vermont is all about the fireplaces, two-person Jacuzzis, and private doors to gardens outside each of the nine guest rooms. A daily gourmet three-course breakfast (pear-Brie omelets, orange-pecan waffles) is complimentary in the dining room with dramatic 40-foot windows to watch the day wake up (Mimosas, too). Bonuses: Local beer and ciders are on tap, and massage treatments are offered fireside in guestrooms.
This renovated historic 1851 home in Rockport, Massachusetts, with eye-popping artwork, Persian rugs and whimsical pops of color in the seven guest rooms and suites, is listed on the National Historic Registry. The inn is walkable to Bearskin Neck's galleries, shops, and restaurants, as well where you'll find the most painted and photographed spot in the country, Motif #1. Buffet breakfast (including signature lemon-ginger scones) is complimentary.
Located on the campus of Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire, this inn dates to 1932 and is located near New Hampshire's seacoast and is just a stroll into town. Some guest rooms have fireplaces (decorative and working), and Jacuzzis, too. Complimentary continental breakfast is available daily, there's also a garden patio, lawn games, and a fire pit. High grades go to the handsome, lively Echo Gastropub, popular with locals and guests, especially for the Bloody Mary's. Bonus: The Picnic in the Park package.
Yankee Clipper Inn
This is your grandmother’s inn – it's unfussy, perfectly dated, and welcoming. There are 26 guest suites spread out through several buildings. The ocean views are incredible and there are many spots to enjoy it – endless decks off some guest rooms, a lovely gazebo at the sea's edge, and from the row of windows in the dining room where guests are served complimentary daily made-to-order egg dishes and other breakfast goodies. A stroll into Bearskin Neck where the shops, restaurants, and photogenic Motif #1 is a plus, too.
Briar Barn Inn
This chic 30-room inn is located in historic Rowley, Massachusetts, about an hour north of Boston. The inn shows off the original 1901-era Victorian farmhouse located at the entrance, and each guest room has a gas fireplace. A continental breakfast (baked goods) is complimentary. The inn also has a lovely spa, outdoor pool, the popular post-and-beam Grove restaurant, and pretty outdoor spots, including a fire pit.