That windswept whispery welcome is one of New England legacy and lore. The Atlantic coast, pebbly and perfect, that is Cape Cod quintessence. Some say the soul of such is carried in the salty air, the saltier history, the sound of sails slapping against the gale. I found it a lot less simple to define. But I brought my family, and I gave it a shot.
Flying in from the west, spending one night in Boston before ascending to the sea makes good logistical sense. Spending the night in uninspired lodging never does. In New England, where coastal come cottage style prevailed long before trend dictated they should, this is hardly a problem.
Brick laden and grounded in great history, the Beacon Hill Hotel & Bistro sits ever so unassumingly on Charles Street, a scenic staple in Americana and a tribute to timeless good taste. Its charms are abundant, its lure manages something both ageless and contemporary. Bearing a Bostonian Brahmin that could define a grace celebrated and cemented in museums and history books, Beacon Hill Hotel & Bistro is refinement with a hefty helping of hominess. Book early, this beauty of boutique boarding houses but twelve guest rooms and one suite, and in a mission to absorb historic Boston in as little time as you have, is idyllically located. Families, be sure to request the Beacon Hill Suite, where you and yours can watch the Beacon Hill bustle, perched from above. A balcony above another time, where kids, if so craftily inclined, can find their way in from the fire escape on up. A bonus challenge.
Before departing Boston and heading to the New England coast, breakfast at Tatte Bakery & Café is an absolute must. My head almost exploded here. Too much perfection to take in at once. Visually it is Pinterest on steroids, aromatically it is resistance kryptonite. With the mismatched pendants, pyramids of pastries and wonderous waft of what I don’t know but please, Tatte. Let me take you home with me.
But first, to the sea.
Anchoring the elbow of the Cape, Wequassett Resort and Golf Club is a sun dappled hideaway so sentient in the sirens of resort retreating that comparisons could only pale. Capitalizing on a coastline that won’t quit (quite literally, the property features not one but two beaches), this sun dusted Shangri-La is the clam baking, beach combing, alfresco movie watching, and weathered wood board walk over the sea we dream New England to be. A soothing salve for whatever stressors stowed away with you, the decadence is by decree. It infuses the air and is felt in all those Five Star finishes. The Good Humor truck that makes its rounds, delivering complimentary treats throughout the day. The little private boat out to the little private island. The scent of the saltwater while watching the sails beneath the setting sun, from the Outer Bar & Grill. The balconies overlooking views that will make you emotional. Wequassett is a five-course feast in laid back luxuriating. Experientially, it is exceptional in every imaginable measure.
And while we had visited once before, if I’m being honest, leaving isn’t any easier the second round. Which is why I highly recommend softening the blow with continued exploration of this intoxicating coast.
Boutique B&B’s are abundant, and I recommend booking one of them next, with Wequassett being the unequivocal epitome of New England resort retreating. We chose to transition from the manicured Wequassett sprawl to the something equally serene, yet more sequestered, secluded. The eastern seaboard is peppered with a plethora of lodging options, some more precious than others. We opted for a renewed relic in Wellfleet, at The Wagner at Duck Creek, a 27-room boutique hotel marrying modern amenities and an homage to heritage. White clap boards and wooden beams, skylights and white billowy bedding, all overlooking the marsh, this quiet seaside celebration of life by the bay is an education in quaint vacating, all set inside a town seemingly too adorable to be for real.
The property, comprised of the Captain’s House, the Carriage House, and the Cottage, is quietly, thoughtfully, delightful. Owners Erica and Leo have gone to painstaking lengths to preserve the essence and ethos of manse over marsh that turns town into temple. The softest sea blues and weathered woods set a palate pleasant enough to slow your breath and preserve what you came to absorb.
On-site dining is casual, come as you are fun. The Well Tavern + Kitchen serves east coast favorites in a setting suited for ease and memories. Cozy and clapboarded and fully house made, nothing is taken too seriously, and everything gives you reason to return. Tavern nachos, fish tacos, adult chicken fingers. This is what I’m talking about.
From Wellfleet we ferried over to the cedar shingled, white picket periwinkle wonderland that is Martha’s Vineyard. Stand back, friends. Here, hydrangeas come to multiply in cotton candy colors, blissful beaches are ubiquitous, and summer should live forever, particularly when it lives like this. On this island divine, comprised of six Adirondack decked towns, we stationed ourselves in Edgartown, at Kelley House. Anticipate muffins making mornings worth waking early for, and fresh from the oven cookies and milk to become an immediate evening ritual.
Bright whites and sapphire blues define the nautically themed décor, with suites and guest rooms making up the four freestanding buildings; the Main Hotel, the Chappy House, the Wheel House, and the Mizzentop Suites. Buoyed in botanica, each emanate a historic charm this summertime staple is infamous for. Definitely save at least one meal for The Newes From America. Post and beam ceilings, weathered brick, paper bags of sweet potato fries and pub food featuring a New England flair, it’s comfort food with an undeniable Cape quality. Yes to the onion rings.
With its legacies of lighthouses, lobster rolls, weather beaten beauty and status as socialite retreat before such a thing existed, Martha’s Vineyard is stepping inside a town (or six) tony enough to bring you to tears, and archetypal enough to justify it. Rent a car. You need to see the island end to end.
All in, Cape Cod is an analgesic; an ineffable amalgamate of restoration and relic. Nautical nuance pervades a feel that is free floating and curative, with scenery and greenery that will steal your breath at every turn. For a family vacation, it’s outstanding. Beach bound and breezy, cobbled streets of Kennedy playgrounds, ice cream culture, lighthouses and fried fish lined in red and white wax paper. A place painfully photogenic, where lobster and mac and cheese find their way onto most menus, where vistas don’t relent, a roving, seminal of scenic splendour, six stunning towns strung together by boundlessly beautiful backroads. An unforgettable getaway, an unregrettable choice, New England remains the insuperable classic it is reputed to be. Its legacy will always precede it. It’s actuality – it just might supersede it.
Beacon Hill Hotel & Bistro, 25 Charles Street, Boston, MA 02114.
Tel: +1 800 640-3935
Tatte Bakery & Café, Beacon Hill, 70 Charles Street, Boston, MA 02114.
Tel: +1(617) 723-5555
Wequassett Resort and Golf Club, 2173 Route 28, Harwich, MA 02645.
Tel: +1(508) 784-7978
The Wagner at Duck Creek, 70 Main Street, Wellfleet, MA 02667.
Tel: +1(508) 349-9333
The Kelley House, 23 Kelley Street, Martha’s Vineyard, Edgartown, MA 02539.
Tel: +1(508) 627-7900
Jolie Loeb is a Luxury Lifestyle columnist based in Los Angeles.
Photographs by Jolie Loeb