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Twenty-twenty has been a year like none other, which means this year’s fall getaway options aren’t exactly classic leaf-peeping road trips. With ever-changing restrictions on overnighting in some neighboring states, it’s worth trading the crackle of leaves for the crackle of a fireplace and the crash of waves on a North Shore escape. Whether you choose to kick back with a good book and your significant other, or bring the family along for some fun, there are plenty of seaside spots to chase away the work-from-home blues. 

Photograph by Rare Brick

Blue — Inn on the Beach

Plum Island

Aquamarine has always been the hue of choice for Lark Hotels design director Rachel Reider, so the 13 guestrooms and cottages at this aptly named boutique property couldn’t use a more perfect palette. The vibe is all modern cottage minus pedestrian seaside kitsch; cream and sand walls get extra splash with just the perfect pop of seaglass-colored accents.

But perhaps what’s most memorable isn’t visual—the sound of the morning tide coming in along the main building’s private beachfront serves as nature’s alarm clock. The day starts with breakfast in bed, when a collection of savory and sweet bites are delivered with a blissfully steaming pot of coffee. Delivery is contactless, as it is with many of the restaurants from nearby Newburyport that deliver to this intimate enclave. That city is just 5 miles but a world away, and while bundling up in a sweater for a stroll there sounds tempting, the Adirondack chairs, fireplaces and waffle-knit robes at Blue may ultimately win out for those seeking the ultimate in relaxation. 

Other travelers up for a little adventure may enjoy one of Lark’s signature Instagram scavenger hunts, which introduce local landmarks and highlights like Bob Lobster, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, and Chococoa Baking Company. While Chococoa’s fall whoopie pie flavors (including apple cider with cinnamon cream, and pumpkin with ginger cream cheese filling) are worth a trip alone, it’s best to save room for another sweet treat. Lark gives tasty prizes to those who complete the hunt checklist, along with the opportunity to win a free stay. Anyone who’s been to Blue will already be dreaming of their next time. blueinn.com

Photograph by Rare Brick

The Merchant

Salem

There’s no place more appropriate for masks than Salem in autumn, but this year offers more elbow room than ever before. “There are definitely tourists, but with numbers reduced, this is really the year of the local,” says Kate Fox, executive director of Destination Salem. 

Schooner cruises at 50 percent capacity are among the many activities still running, although their boisterous intent differs from the exploits of one of the city’s most intriguing residents: wealthy 18th-century sea merchant Joshua Ward. His stately former residence in the heart of the central historic district once hosted George Washington, and today the three-story Federal-style brick house has been transformed into a chic boutique hotel that pays homage to Ward’s livelihood.

Much of the original woodwork has been restored, and fanciful “floating” staircases from noted architect Samuel McIntire take guests to their rooms. Along with spacious common areas, each is beautifully embellished with jewel tones, lush textiles, and Asian accents befitting a titan of the seas. 

Salem museums are open (most have timed-ticket sales) and the city’s contributions to Indian Ocean trade are chronicled at Peabody Essex Museum, just a five-minute walk from Merchant. Fox is also excited about a new exhibit there featuring original documents from the Salem Witch Trials. “A lot of people have been waiting 30 years for that experience,” she says. Art lovers can explore further on historic Derby Street, where Artists’ Row has recently switched the lineup of which studio/shops are in residence. 

As Ward’s biggest imports were pepper and rum, it would be fitting for Merchant guests to check out Salem’s haute dining and cocktail scene, too. More than 50 restaurants have outdoor dining, with new boardwalks and barricades until at least November. The city’s investment in outdoor heaters should help stretch Salem’s signature season, says Fox. themerchantsalem.com

Photograph by Peter Vanderwarker

Beauport Hotel

Gloucester

Fall may add a nip in the air, but deep into autumn it’s a balmy 86 degrees high atop Beauport—in the heated swimming pool, that is. The hotel rooftop is just as much a Cinderella story as the formerly working-class city itself, with daytime chants of Marco-Polo from the younger guests; come nighttime, the scene is much spicier, with an adult beverage menu that warms the blood (the spicy margarita features house-made habañero syrup and a cayenne salt rim).

Capacity restrictions mean tableside service is speedy, and the perfect place to tuck away should reservations at hotel hotspot 1606 Restaurant get gobbled up. It’s easy to see why, with prime beachfront real estate, heat lamps, and a stellar menu from acclaimed new chef John Welch that not surprisingly features some of the city’s freshest catch.

Main Street and the periphery presents myriad other options for seafood, including mainstay Tonno and its covered patio for outside seating. There’s plenty else to do, with coffee shops, boutiques, and a bookstore should Beauport guests need a read to curl up with near their fireplace.

The more adventurous can opt to download the HarborWalk app for a walking tour of fishing port history, or grab a complimentary bicycle from the hotel and head out a bit further. Stacy Boulevard hugs the Atlantic coastline and offers stunning ocean views, along with vibrant colors carefully curated to pop spring through fall. Hearty dahlias give oak and maple trees a run for their money, with a kaleidoscope of ochre, ruby, and gold fringing the path to Gloucester’s iconic Fisherman’s Monument. beauporthotel.com

Harbor Light Inn

Marblehead

Fire chases away the chill inside and outside at Harbor Light Inn, thanks to the intimate poolside pit installed for the coziest of seasons. Nestled in the garden with just six by-reservation-only seats, innkeeper Carolyn Pyburn calls it an “in-house oasis” where guests can enjoy drinks from the on-site Tavern. More bubbles of the adult variety are available courtesy of the jetted tubs in several of the 20 guestrooms and five apartments, too. 

The bountiful breakfast buffet has been replaced this season with personalized trays, each day with a different hot offering (some fall highlights include brown-butter-glazed pumpkin bread). But for those who haven’t had their fill, Pyburn recommends filling up one of the inn’s picnic baskets with a feast from Shubie’s, where a lip-smacking array of gourmet cheeses and charcuterie awaits.

Looking for indulgences of the chocolate variety? Stowaway Sweets has installed a new walk-up window for those who want a nibble from the confectioner that’s served every White House administration since President Roosevelt.

Either way, a walk on the beach is in order to work off some of those calories. Marblehead Harbor is among myriad landmarks on Harbor Light’s self-guided walking tour map. “When you walk through downtown, it’s kind of like walking through a free open-air history museum,” says Pyburn of her native town’s colonial charms. harborlightinn.com

Luxury Staycation

Boston Harbor Hotel

Boston

If you’re looking to enjoy a five-star stay in a safe environment, head to the Boston Harbor Hotel for a memorable getaway close to home. 

Safety has become the new luxury in travel. And with many of us having to cancel far-and-away plans this season in light of restrictions during the pandemic, a getaway close to home can be just the restorative ticket we need. 

One particular five-star hotel in Boston has taken cleanliness and guest safety to the next level. The waterfront Boston Harbor Hotel on Rowes Wharf—complete with a full-service 34-slip marina—has partnered with Bureau Veritas, and earned its SafeGuard Hygiene Excellence Label certification to safely reopen. In fact, the hotel has thought of every touch point right down to water service at the restaurant. 

Since June, the hotel has been welcoming back guests safely. “Boston Harbor Hotel’s highest priority remains the health and safety of our guests and staff and their families. Collaborating with Bureau Veritas, we have developed our Enhanced Health and Safety Guidelines that ensure we consistently meet the most stringent hygiene and safety standards across our property,” says Stephen Johnston, managing director and general manager of Boston Harbor Hotel.

This iconic waterfront hotel with its grand archway and domed rotunda along the Rose Kennedy Greenway has been in the business of luxury for more than 30 years, putting guests' every want and need front and center. The hotel is known for its high standards of personalized luxury, offering an array of thoughtful amenities to guests. Concierge and around-the-clock staff will arrange every detail of your visit. “Minutes matter for our guests—luxury is time,” says Johnston. 

Along with its 232 well-appointed guest rooms detailed with luxury linens, plush robes, handsome furnishings, nautical accents, marble baths, and soaking tubs, many rooms offer breathtaking panoramic views of Boston Harbor and the Boston skyline. Windows in the rooms are operable so you can enjoy the salty air and mesmerizing views while relaxing with a glass of champagne from the minibar. The indoor saltwater pool and a full service gym are available to guests on a by-appointment basis. 

Along with its own stellar Sea Grille restaurant serving up perfectly prepared seafood and steaks with both indoor and outdoor dining options along the Harbor Walk, the hotel is in walking distance to the best in Italian outdoor dining in the North End. 

Other attractions include the reopened Institute of Contemporary Art, the Boston Common, and a host of other favorite spots in the city—not to mention the Harbor Walk.  bhh.com