Travel options for Americans, especially international ones, are limited during the COVID-19 era. So why not indulge in a luxury holiday here in the United States as soon as you (and the CDC) feel it’s safe and responsible to travel? Below are five properties that we’ve visited at one time or another—some on multiple occasions. Each has initiated rigorous health and sanitation standards in response to COVID.
The Grafton Inn Grafton, Vermont
Grafton is one of Vermont’s most beautiful and historic small towns—and a great base from which to explore other towns in Vermont and New Hampshire. If you’re planning a road trip through New England stop here and enjoy a stay at the atmospheric Grafton Inn, which dates to the early 19th century. Its antique-filled rooms and impeccable service invite guests to take a deep breath and relax. On the first floor is an elegant fine-dining restaurant with an outdoor patio. Next door, a barn-turned-pub (formerly a carriage house) offers casual fare and craft beers. On weekends, the inn is the place to enjoy live folk music. The inn has its own swimming pond and offers access to a nearby outdoor center where guests can hike, kayak, bike and swim. Guests have access to tennis courts as well.
For more information: graftoninnvermont.com, 802-843-2248
The Swag Waynesville, North Carolina
We’ve been going to The Swag for years and have never been disappointed. Located in Waynesville (not far from Asheville), this all-inclusive mountaintop inn is at once luxurious and rustic. There are many ways to enjoy oneself at The Swag. Hiking and picnicking are the obvious choices. Some trails are on The Swag’s property; others are in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which shares a mile-long boundary with the inn. You can even take guided hikes with renowned storytellers and naturalists (and enjoy their presentations in the evening). Apart from hiking, there’s badminton and croquet. Less strenuous activities include reading, relaxing in a hammock built for two, indulging in the inn’s redwood sauna or contemplating the panoramic mountain views from an Adirondack chair. Wonderful selections of wines and craft beers complement gourmet meals in an award-winning restaurant.
To learn more: theswag.com, 828-926-0430
The Gasparilla Inn Boca Grande, Florida
“There’s something terribly attractive about life in a place like this … it has a nice easy-going atmosphere, the kind of atmosphere I prefer to live in,” said the late actress Katherine Hepburn. She was speaking of tiny Gasparilla Island and its only town, Boca Grande, located on Florida’s southwest coast. (The island and town together are often referred to simply as “Boca Grande.”)
Boca Grande’s historic Gasparilla Inn & Club, heralded as “Florida as it was meant to be,” is a special place that takes guests back in time to the Florida of yesteryear. One of the state’s first resorts, it’s the largest surviving wooden hotel in Florida. In 2016, The Gasparilla Inn won three places on Travel + Leisure’s “best of” lists for resort hotels, ranking #1 in Florida, #14 in the United States and #49 in the world. In 2019, it appeared again at the top the list of Florida’s best resort hotels.
Luxurious, cozy suites and stately public rooms are superbly decorated in a soft, tropical pastels. The living and dining rooms are operatic in scale yet warm and intimate. You can also rent the inn’s separate cottages—with three- and four-bedroom layouts, fireplaces, parlors, porches and lanais—or the larger Sharp Houses with up to 3,850 sq. ft. They feature a full kitchen, washer, dryer, dining and living areas and a front porch.
Amenities at the inn include gourmet dining, a lap pool, spa, fitness center, personal trainers for yoga and fitness classes, croquet, golfing and tennis. Guests can also arrange boat excursions to nearby islands, as well as fishing charters, kayaking, paddle boarding and more.
The inn is family friendly and appeals to all ages. Whether you’re planning a romantic anniversary weekend, a wedding or a vacation for the entire family, you’ll find the inn’s amenities and superior hospitality make for an ideal “home away from home.” the-gasparilla-inn.com, 877-764-1420
The Breakers Palm Beach, Florida
The Breakers hardly needs an introduction. For decades it has been Palm Beach’s premier accommodation with its seaside glamour, unsurpassed luxury and world-class service. Having been Palm Beach residents for years, we never tired of visiting the hotel, even if for nothing more than morning coffee and pastries. on a colonnaded terrace that overlooks immaculately landscaped grounds planted with with royal palms, tropical flowers and herbs. This raises a point. If you happen to stay elsewhere in the area, such as a bed-and-breakfast or a smaller hotel, at least stop at The Breakers for morning coffee or, better yet, lunch or an elegant dinner overlooking the sea.
During a stay at the hotel, you can enjoy a private beach, four oceanfront pools, 10 restaurants and innumerable other amenities. And note this summertime deal: From May through September, complimentary benefits include an enormous breakfast buffet, meals for children 12 and under, unlimited access to the oceanfront fitness center and its outdoor classes, unlimited tennis court time and a sixth night free when you stay six consecutive nights.
Beyond the hotel, the town of Palm Beach offers outstanding restaurants, upscale boutiques, galleries, museums and access to a long—and historic— bike path. A short drive away are excellent nature trails, boating and scuba diving. (We confess, we love the area in the off season, when the ocean is calm and the tourists have flown north.)
For more information: thebreakers.com, 561-655-6611
Belmond Charleston Place Charleston, South Carolina
In the heart of historic Charleston, the Belmond Charleston Place is known for its ultra-luxurious accommodations and distinctive Southern-yet-cosmopolitan style. Personally, we have found it hard to resist a sunset cocktail on the hotel’s rooftop terrace or a jazz- filled evening at the hotel’s Charleston Grille. In case you don’t know, Belmond, formerly known as the Orient-Express, owns nearly 50 iconic, one-of-a-kind hotels, trains and river cruises in 24 countries. Before the COVID era, we had occasion to also experience two of Belmond’s properties in Peru, where we discovered that, as in Charleston, one of the secrets to Belmond’s success—apart from unsurpassed service—is its ability to draw inspiration from local history and culture.
For more information: belmond.com, 843-722-4900
The Governor’s House Inn Charleston, South Carolina
Our stay at this historic inn in Charleston was such a pleasure, we are compelled include it in this post. Built in 1760, it was the home of John Rutledge—the youngest signer of the Declaration of Independence—until his death in 1800. He also served as South Carolina’s 10th Governor. Today, this bed and breakfast inn is a National Historic Landmark and listed on the Select Registry of Classic Inns of the South. Its relaxed ambience offers the perfect blend of past and present Charleston.
Located in the heart of Charleston, the inn is conveniently located near the waterfront and the City Market, fine dining restaurants, the city’s best boutiques and much more. If you stay here, don’t miss taking your complimentary wine outside on the piazza (veranda) to enjoy an evening breeze and watch the horse-drawn carriages clip-clop down Broad Street— the perfect way to unwind after a full day of exploring the Holy City.
To learn more: governorshouse.com, 843-720-2070
We’re always interested in any accommodation or getaway suggestions you may have!