Is there anything finer than a view of a lighthouse and the sea from a rocking chair on a wraparound porch? Why yes, as it turns out, there is. It's all this with a perfect lobster roll and a cold glass of pinot grigio. It's luxurious, for sure, but it's the kind of luxury that you used to be unable to buy. Did I mention the dress code? Frayed khaki shorts and a T-shirt, canvas sneakers, no socks. You're at a summer "cottage" in Martha's Vineyard and it's like being the guest of that friend with the trust fund, but better. The woodwork gleams with new paint, the air is lightly scented by salt and some kind of delicious botanical candle, and best of all, your time is your own: Take a spin around town on your bike. Take a sail. Or just take a nap. You're on vacation.
The Harbor View Hotel and Resort in Edgartown on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, is like the dream of an old Yankee summer vacation. It is, in fact, the largest resort on Martha's Vineyard, but it resembles a slightly rambling shingled house-and it has for more than 100 years now.
The sense of comfortable luxury starts the minute you step into the beadboard lobby with seagrass carpet- it's dotted with slipcovered armchairs and ship models and seems more like a living room than a sterile reception area.
Outside, a couple of bikes lean against the porch and a path leads back behind the inn. In the center is a grassy quadrangle, a favored spot for summer weddings. Across the path are the "Captain's Cottages," the kind of perfect little bungalows you'd build yourself if you had a million dollars and a piece of property in Edgartown. My cottage had a small porch, a cozy living room with a flatscreen TV and full stereo system, connected to a bedroom with a vaulted ceiling and a fireplace by a chic, wide pass-through kitchen with all the appliances discreetly tucked away. As I sank into an armchair and watched the last golden rays of sunshine light up the painted plank walls, I wondered if they ever had to pry guests out with a crowbar?
Harbor View is a perfect getaway for families. They offer a Harbor Kids Program, where trained activity leaders show children ages 3 to 12 (divided into age-appropriate groups) the wonders of the island. There are nature walks at Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary, underwater explorations with masks and fins, and trips to the FARM Institute, where youngsters get to experience a working farm firsthand and end the day with a hayride. Meanwhile, you can enjoy the resort's spa services, guilt-free.
My favorite of the inn's offerings, though, is their waterfront program. Take a sunset cruise aboard Stardust, Harbor View's restored Bunker & Ellis picnic yacht. Or charter their 31-foot center console and explore the island. There's a junior sailing program and kayak rentals can also be arranged. Alan Worden, Harbor View's owner, is an experienced yachtsman, and it's clear he's designed the recently renovated inn to reflect his genuine love for the traditions of Martha's Vineyard-that extends to Harbor View's Water Street restaurant, where local produce, fish, and game is used whenever possible. In fact, the whole property has made a commitment to maximizing its green practices.
Worden says that generations of families return to Harbor View for vacations each year. Maybe this will be the year you start your own tradition.
Harbor View Hotel & Resort, (800) 627-7000; www.harbor-view.com