By offering local charms, access to adventure, and more intimate service, boutique hotels give luxurious chains a run for their money – especially among travelers in the know. From a two-suite lighthouse escape on a private island off the Maine Coast to an unexpected art haven in the Bluegrass State, here are the best small stays in the country.
Equinox Resort, Manchester
From points south, Equinox, a Luxury Collection Golf Resort and Spa, in Manchester suggests that drivers take Historic Route 7A, a winding country road lined with Victorian inns and shops selling Christmas ornaments despite the season. There's a faster way to get there, via Route 7, but like so many other New England resorts, the Equinox puts you firmly in charm's way. In spite of its quintessential Vermont quaintness, however – the liveried bellhops and colonial-era buildings, the rocking chairs on the front porch, the presidents on the guest register – the hotel encourages visitors to get down and dirty with an encyclopedic roster of activities. There's a golf course, naturally, designed in the traditional heathland Scottish manner by Rees Jones; a spa and fitness center with an indoor pool; and an accumulation of outlet stores down the street, if that's your cup of tea. But there's also kayaking, tennis, trapshooting, mountain biking, and hiking in the Equinox's 955-acre wilderness preserve. Staying busy is as easy as getting some rest. [Rooms start at $229; equinoxresort.com]