New England

The Best 5 Winter Ocean Weekends

See our picks for the best 5 winter ocean weekends in New England, and then hunker down to reflect and reset for the year ahead.

By Kim Knox Beckius

Dec 17 2016

Best 5 Winter Ocean Weekends

Newport’s genteel Castle Hill Inn.

Photo Credit : Vicki Juaron/Babylon and Beyond Photography/Getty Images

New England’s most reliable snowplow clears beaches day and night, keeping the band of land at water’s edge walkable—and enjoyable if you’re dressed right. Wintertime waves are mesmerizing; the ocean’s restorative energy a constant. So why not heed salt water’s call when lodging rates—and seashells—are the best you’ll find all year? These beloved coastal communities have quieter alter egos worth getting to know.

Best 5 Winter Ocean Weekends
Newport’s genteel Castle Hill Inn.
Photo Credit : Vicki Juaron/Babylon and Beyond Photography/Getty Images

Falmouth, Massachusetts
Unlike most Cape Cod towns, Falmouth never settles down for a post-holiday nap. Breeze across the Bourne Bridge to shop and dine … and even join the diehards who chase brightly colored golf balls at the Cape Cod Country Club long after the greens are not so green. At oceanside properties like Sea Crest Beach Hotel, room rates plummet 50 percent from summer—or even more, says Howard Grosser, whose Inn on the Sound is steps from Falmouth Heights Beach. Although gazing out to sea while sitting beside the inn’s roaring fire may seem, as Grosser admits, “incongruous,” it feels elemental, and satisfying. But do venture outdoors, says Woods Hole potter Joan Lederman, or else you’ll miss seeing Falmouth “all frosted” and hearing, when conditions are just right, the extraordinary sound of “granular slush” lapping the shore.

Gloucester, Massachusetts
When winter does its worst, even touring the Cape Pond Ice company can feel like an escape. But thanks to the coastal topography here, “you can always get out of the wind on a beach,” says local restaurateur Lenny Linquata. Of course, he would rather you dodge the weather by dining on fresh seafood, this historic port’s enduring claim to fame. Gloucester’s reputation as a winter bird-watching destination is soaring too. And if you’d like a front-row seat for winter’s best reality show, the owners of Blue Shutters Beachside Inn—with prime views of Good Harbor Beach—can add you to their list of guests who’ve asked to be alerted when storms swell the Atlantic.

Best 5 Winter Ocean Weekends
Pet-friendly Captain Jefferds Inn.
Photo Credit : Jumping Rocks Photography

Kennebunkport, Maine
Imagine parking for free at the beach and watching surfers ride storm-churned waves, or walking three miles of shore with little to disturb your reveries. More and more shops, restaurants, and lodgings—like the pet-friendly Captain Jefferds Inn, the Boathouse Waterfront Hotel, and the right-on-the-beach Seaside Inn—are keeping their doors open with off-season bargains. February’s “Paint the Town Red” promotion transforms this storybook village with warmth and whimsy.

Newport, Rhode Island
Now is when locals can sip coffee as they steer along Ocean Drive: no constant braking required. It’s when getting out on the water means etching your way across the Newport Skating Center’s freshly groomed ice. Stepping out on the Cliff Walk or Easton’s Beach is invigorating. Mansions, the Audrain Automobile Museum, Newport Vineyards’ Saturday farmers’ market, and other attractions offer indoor respite. And overnight guests appreciate the Chanler at Cliff Walk’s butler-drawn aromatherapy baths or afternoon tea at Castle Hill Inn all the more. The back half of February brings 10 days of Winter Festival fun, and Saint Patrick’s Day turns the city green long before spring does.

Stonington Borough, Connecticut
At the Inn at Stonington, draw a sense of calm from the in-room gas fireplaces and soaking tubs—or, if excitement’s what you’re after, just step out the front door. “The beauty,” says manager Susan Irvine, “is you park your car, and then you don’t need it anymore.” Petite duBois Beach remains one of the area’s finest places to watch the setting sun’s fiery finale; afterward, stroll hand-in-hand to dinner. When more than 100 British cannons were aimed at Stonington during the War of 1812, residents refused to evacuate. Now, their coffeehouses, shops, and restaurants remain resolutely open year-round. Take home Stonington Seafood Harvesters’ Bomster scallops, flash-frozen at sea and sold on the honor system. One bite and it’s a sweet summer day, even in bleakest January.

Best 5 Winter Ocean Weekends
Four-legged friends can join in on a winter escape to Kennebunkport at the pet-friendly Captain Jefferds Inn, and nearby Gooch’s Beach.
Photo Credit : Kennebunkport Resort Collection