Let’s face it, there comes a time for every island-lover when you just need an escape. With that in mind, N Magazine has consulted some of the island’s biggest travel junkies to create an ultimate getaway guide taking you to places off the radar. Whether it’s spending the night in a helicopter, tasting world-class cuisine in the mountains, bungee jumping in the adventure capital of the world, or checking into a truly revolutionary hotel in Boston, here’s some of our top tips to getting off the beaten path this off season.
Thousands of visitors every season stay in hotels in Boston to see the sights but the new Revolution Hotel in the city’s South End is an attraction in and of itself. According to developer Bruce A. Percelay, the hotel reflects the concept that the American Revolution did not stop in 1776 but was just getting warmed up. As it turns out, there have been more new innovations, products, movements, inventions and thought-leading pieces of literature created in Boston over the last several hundred years than perhaps any city in the world.
Recently named by Condé Nast Traveler as the top-rated hotel in Boston, the Revolution thoughtfully showcases hundreds of life-changing innovations throughout the property. A ninety-foot-long mural done by America’s top graffiti artist Tristan Eaton wraps around a thirty-foot-tall “Innovation Tower” and features everything that originated in Boston from the telephone and typewriter all the way to Bose headphones and the iRobot. In a city that often sees hotel rates above $600 per night, the Revolution also has revolutionary pricing starting as low as $150 for admittedly small, compact rooms but offset by some of the most visually interesting common spaces of any hotel in the city. Some of Boston’s best restaurants are located nearby on Tremont Street, including the popular Beehive Restaurant. And now the hotel itself is home to a new Mexican restaurant from the Beehive team: Cósmica, which features a large private outdoor patio. If you’re into staying at a cool hotel at a reasonable price—and one that might teach you a thing or two about Boston’s history—the Revolution is the perfect choice.
Hidden in the White Mountains of New Hampshire is a world-class dining destination that you won’t find in the pages of Gourmet or Food & Wine— at least not yet. Over the last two years, the Thompson House Eatery in Jackson has quietly earned a reputation among foodies for farm-to-table perfection. The talented husband-and-wife team of Jeff and Kate Fournier are on a mission to create a five-star restaurant in a converted barn in the sleepy ski town. Once named “Best Chef in Boston” by Boston Magazine, The Boston Globe and the Improper Bostonian, Jeff Fournier came up the ranks working alongside such culinary legends as Lydia Shire before opening two award-winning restaurants of his own in Massachusetts. But after years in the grind, Fournier decided to trade his celebrity chef status in the city for a quieter life in the mountains where he and his wife now grow all their own produce right behind the restaurant. To work up an appetite for the Fournier’s hard-to-find food, you can hit the slopes fifteen minutes up the street at Wildcat Mountain, which was just acquired by Vail Resorts this September. Injecting more than $10 million into old school resorts like Wildcat, Vail will now be bringing a five-star après ski experience to this quiet corner of the White Mountains.
Newport might not be the first place that comes to mind when considering a winter getaway, but there’s good reason to put the “City by the Sea” on your list come mid-February. Beginning February 14th, the Newport Winter Festival kicks off for a ten-day extravaganza of live music, food cook-offs, ice sculpture demos, standup comedians, cocktail competitions, children’s programming, specialty dinners, disco nights, car shows, helicopter tours, horseback riding, wine tastings and over a hundred other uniquely Newport events. Not to be missed is the two-day polo match held during low tide on Second Beach, which draws hundreds of spectators and some of the world’s greatest polo players and their Thoroughbreds. For those looking to be treated like royalty during their time in Rhode Island, check in to The Chanler, one of the most historic mansions in Newport perched at the very beginning of the legendary Cliff Walk. This regal property, which Condé Nast Traveler recently declared the No. 1 hotel in New England, boasts classically appointed rooms, warm staff and a cozy restaurant and bar that will make you feel a king or queen for the day.
Off a densely wooded stretch of Connecticut farmland, a non-descript set of gates gives way to one of the most wildly imaginative weekend retreats in the country. If you’ve ever dreamt of hunkering down in a beaver’s dam, hiding away in a treehouse, or living in a lighthouse, Winvian Farm in Litchfield Hills will make it a reality. Along with a five-star restaurant and luxury spa, Winvian Farm has eighteen extravagantly designed cottages, each transporting guests to enchanting fantasylands, from a hobbit’s home straight out of Lord of the Rings to a tree house fit for Swiss Family Robinson. For the adventurous, there’s the Helicopter cottage, complete with a fully restored 1968 Sikorsky Sea King aircraft inside that houses a lounge and wet bar. Or for those seeking a feel of the coast, there’s the Maritime cottage with its lighthouse-inspired lookout. Crafted by fifteen different architects, Winvian Farm’s cottages are truly out of this world.
NOSARA, COSTA RICA
Nosara is off the beaten path by design. It’s a place that could easily be ruined by over-zealous fans of its beauty. Instead, those early admirers of this Costa Rican town had the wisdom to keep it low-key and preserve its original simplicity. In a bold and visionary move, the town’s patrons designated miles of the beautiful shoreline as a protected nature preserve. Everyone can enjoy the beach equally, and the result is a palpable sense of harmony. Thus, many choose to stay at the Harmony Hotel, a small, quaint eco-lodge owned by Nantucketer John Johnson that offers the comforts of an elegant European hideaway. A short stroll from the hotel down a lush canopied path is Playa Guiones, a beach with world-class surfing where the entire town turns out to watch the sunset—like a communal exercise in gratitude. Restaurants abound, from dive bars to elegant eateries on the beach. Everywhere the food is fresh, local and delicious. Favorites include La Luna, overlooking the beach of Playa Pelada, as well as Lagarta Lodge, a sleek eco-lodge perched on the cliffs over the Ostional Wildlife Refuge. For all of its simplicity, Nosara offers a crazy array of activities: horseback riding through the rainforest, yoga under a palapa (open-air thatched roof hut), surf lessons, world-class music at K-Rae’s Black Sheep Pub, spa treatments. For those with more than a week to explore, visit the monkey sanctuary, go zip-lining, visit the turtle hatchlings at the Ostional Wildlife Refuge, go mountain biking or trek to the Arenal Volcano and surrounding hot springs. If you want to be off the grid, Nosara is the place to do it. It’s hard work to get there, but the rewards are plentiful. Just don’t tell anyone. — Ellie Gottwald
You don’t have to go all the way to Europe for a taste of trans-Atlantic adventure. Just head to Iceland. After an easy four-hour flight from Boston, stay right on the water in Reykjavik at the Marina Residence, where two-room suites come with a personal concierge who will cook you breakfast, guide you through maps and book your dinners. Just outside the city, hike Mount Esja, a nearly 4,000-foot peak known as the “city mountain” that looks over the Atlantic as well as the whole of Reykjavik. After the hike, eat at either Apotek or Fish Company. Make sure to get out of town to explore Iceland’s otherworldly landscape by driving the Golden Circle, a 190-mile loop that cruises through Pingvellir National Park before hitting the massive Gullfoss waterfall and Geysir Geothermal Area. Wrap up the trip by taking a massive bubble bath at The Blue Lagoon, complete with mud masks and geothermal treatments.
When considering a trip to a city in Europe, most people think Rome, Paris or London. Maybe even Amsterdam. But rarely does Vienna, Austria make the list. Yet in recent years, Vienna has quietly worked its way up the ranks to be regarded as the “World’s Most Liveable City,” as awarded by The Economist two years running. Around every corner of this immaculately clean, supremely safe city is a theater or concert hall where a new performance commences each night. After touring the Vienna State Opera, Academy of Fine Arts, or the staggeringly beautiful Austrian National Library, the top secret spot for dinner and a cocktail is the dazzling rooftop perch of SO/Vienna. Amongst all the historic hotels, The Ritz-Carlton takes the crown as the premier luxury lodging option in the city, with its museum-quality Caravaggio replicas adorning its walls. After a few days, an insider move is to board one of the first high-speed trains heading west from Vienna and into the Austrian Alps. Known as the City in the Alps, Innsbruck is a charming Old World town that twice hosted the Winter Olympics. Check into the trendy AC Hotel Innsbruck and gear up for some high-alpine ski adventures in the surrounding mountains.
While Hawaii might not seem like a particularly novel vacation destination, one island in particular is worth putting on your list this winter. Unlike the traditional Hawaiian hotspots of Maui, Oahu or the Big Island, Kauai has defied development and protected its raw natural wonder so that you can still find unspoiled beaches without another person in sight. Driving north from Lihue Airport, you’ll quickly appreciate why Steven Spielberg chose to film Jurassic Park in Kauai’s breathtakingly beautiful Waimea Canyon. A number of Airbnb options provide opportunities for you to stay in the town of Hanalei with its dazzling beaches, hiking trails and must-try restaurants like Red Salt and Bar Acuda, or you can head to the resort hotels five miles up the road in Princeville on the island’s northern coast. For those looking for the cushy, family-friendly resort stay, The Westin Princeville Ocean Resortand Villas checks all the boxes. And there has never been a better time for Nantucketers to make this trip thanks to Hawaiian Airlines offering new direct flights from Boston that launched this past spring
Many hidden gems in the once wild west are now overrun with tourists come ski season, making it harder and harder to find mountain towns where you can still smell the rawhide of its cowboy roots. One exception to this trend is Alta, Utah, which has literally excluded half of the snow-riding population by upholding a ban of snowboarders and only allowing skiers on its slopes. Located in the hard-to-reach crook of Little Cottonwood Canyon, Alta is an old mining town whose main riches now come from 500 inches of deep, light powder snow that falls each winter. While the mountain itself might still be rough around the edges, a slope-side lodge reopening this January will bring a level of luxury never seen in these parts. The Snowpine Lodge originally began as one of the first structures built in Cottonwood Canyon to house miners before later becoming an army barracks. In 1938, the lodge started hosting pioneering skiers. Now after a complete redevelopment, the reimagined Snowpine Lodge boasts cushy amenities, five-star dining, and a heated pool and hot tub that look up at the mountain. After a day skiing some of the most exquisite snow in the American West, guests at Snowpine can grab a cold one at the rustic Gulch Pub and then retreat to The Nest, the first fully-stocked game room in Alta where the fun continues.
While New Zealand has landed on the top of many Americans’ bucket lists, there’s still a handful of locations that remain well off the tourist trial. A Nantucketer ought to begin their Kiwi adventure to the north at the Bay of Islands where Nantucket whalers once found safe harbor in the 1800s. Here you can stay at one of only six Relais & Châteaux properties in New Zealand, Robertson Lodges at Kauri Cliffs with its PGA-worthy golf course—recently named one of the 100 Greatest Golf Courses in the World by Golf Digest. From the Bay of Islands, take a seaplane south to Waiheke, a tiny island off the coast of Auckland that’s reminiscent of Nantucket fifty years ago. Cap off the adventure in Queenstown on the South Island. The birthplace of bungee jumping, this lakeside town bustles with adrenaline. The newly opened QT Queenstown offers the perfect jump-off point for adventuring—quite literally. Guests can walk directly out the entrance to the trailhead leading up the Ben Lomond, the 5,735-foot peak looming over town—where the legendary Ledge Bungy Jump is located. For a cushier adventure, hop on the Fiordland Jewel, a luxury liner equipped with on-deck hot tubs, three-course dinners and nine king cabins that will tour you from Queenstown to the mesmerizing natural wonder of Milford Sound.
Anyone reading this likely considers Nantucket to be the pearl of the North Atlantic, but in the South Pacific, that gem is Turtle Island, Fiji. Upon arrival by seaplane (a stunning one-hour trip from Nadi, Fiji), guests are greeted on the beach by the entire front-of-house staff, flowers in their hair, singing, hugging and saying (without a trace of irony), “Welcome home.” The private island where The Blue Lagoon was filmed, Turtle Island has space for only thirty guests, housed in luxurious cottages called bures. Each couple is assigned a personal concierge, or Bure Mama, who coordinates private days on spectacular beaches, dine-outs at absurdly romantic vistas, spa treatments, afternoon snacks, bubble baths, perfectly chilled martinis and more. The Yasawa islands boast some of the best diving, snorkeling, fishing and relaxing in the world. Insider tip: Kava, a drink made from a ground root mixed with water, is a mild hallucinogen that numbs the mouth and induces a euphoric buzz, and it’s central to Fijian daily life. You can ask for different strengths, with “high tide” meaning weak, “low tide” meaning strong and “tsunami” meaning fill ’er up. Always observe the etiquette of bowing your head, clapping once and saying “Bula!” (“Cheers!”) before drinking, and then clapping three times upon draining your cup.
Few places can make you feel so buzzingly alive as East Africa, not only because of the astonishing assortment of wildlife that populates one of the earth’s most dramatic landscapes, but also because it becomes clear, very quickly, that if you walked off on your own, in any direction, you probably wouldn’t get very far before something killed you. But safaris can feel canned and constrained when limited to national parks, where vehicles have to stick to established paths and sightings of the “Big 5” (rhino, elephant, lion, leopard and African buffalo) are often shared with hordes of others. The solution? A private conservancy, like Mara Naboisho, which borders Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve to the northeast. Within its 50,000 acres, visitors experience unparalleled wildlife viewing. Yet the privacy of Mara Naboisho is what gives it its extra dose of magic. A cooperative effort between five hundred Masai landowners and a consortium of conservation-minded, ecologically exemplary safari outfitters, Mara Naboisho limits visitors, and entrance fees go toward community initiatives that protect and preserve the locals’ way of life. As a result, guests experience the Kenya of Karen Blixen, Ernest Hemingway and Beryl Markham, walking out on the plains accompanied by a Masai guide or exploring by four-wheel-drive the hidden corners of one of Earth’s last great wildernesses. After exploring Kenya’s interior on safari, there’s no better way to unwind than a few days on Lamu, an island off the northeast coast of Kenya. Family owned and operated, the remote resort of Kizingo is a toes-in-the-sand, ends-of-the-earth eco-nirvana with twelve kilometers of untouched beach fronting the Indian Ocean. For aspiring Robinson Crusoes only.
— Jonathan Soroff