Getting away from it all takes on a whole new meaning when you’ve got to grab a ferry to get there. Kids love boarding the boat and adults enjoy a true sense of sanctuary in fun vacation spots like these.
Vacation like the Obamas on this Massachusetts island about 40 minutes off the coast. There’s plenty of old-fashioned fun in the form of the country’s oldest platform carousel, Flying Horses, designated as a landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior. Rent a bike or car to discover the sleepy island’s hidden corners, including Gay Head Lighthouse, Chilmark Chocolates, Alley’s General Store (including the penny candy section) or the t-shirt shops, arcades and ice cream shops that made the perfect backdrop for a sleepy town in Jaws. You can’t beat a charming stroll through Oak Bluffs’ colorful neighborhood of “gingerbread cottages,” but you can’t stay in these historic homes so check out Summer Camp, a new Oak Bluffs hotel with cool throwback touches and a nifty design that pays tribute to the property’s former use, welcoming grade-schoolers. There’s a game room for kids of all ages with ping-pong, video games and beanbag chairs. For longer stays, Winnetu Resort on the other end of the island in Edgartown is located right on the beach with suites and cottages, a library, pool, massive lawn and more.
The recently remodeled Inn at Diamond Cove in Portland, Maine, is just a short ferry ride from the mainland but feels delightfully far away from the hustle and bustle. Kids can easily pretend they’re pirates on a deserted island, since there’s plenty of small private beaches and neat remnants of the island’s history as part of 1890s-era Fort McKinley (built as part of the country’s coastal defense system to protect Portland) abound for exploring. Only bikes and golf carts are allowed here, or travel miles of easy hiking paths on foot. With a fire pit, general store, outdoor pool, restaurant and activity center for just 44 rooms and suites (the latter of which include family-friendly fireplaces, parlors and separate dining rooms with kitchen facilities), Diamond Cove makes for a great reunion weekend, too. Parents who are foodies should try to tack on at least a day in Portland to grab snacks at the Holy Donut, with local flavors like blueberry and maple.
Replace the sound of car motors with that of horse’s hooves on Mackinac Island, where equine friends and buggies, bicycles and foot will transport you back in time and into the life of a living Victorian village. Downtown, homemade fudge gets its own festival each summer, a tradition that started just after the Civil War. Going further back in time, the Revolutionary-era Fort Mackinac’s fascinating history as a strategic position and living-history museum with Victorian games, a blacksmith shop and tearoom keep kids (and history buffs!) busy for hours, or go sailing, fishing, kayaking or parasailing on the Straits of Mackinac. Rainy days are best spent in the kids club playroom at Mission Point Resort, 18 acres set along the banks of Lake Huron.
Sure the San Juan Islands sound like someplace you’d grab a tropical drink, but this archipelago in Washington State offers plenty of the best of Pacific Northwest landscapes and wildlife. Look to Orcas Island for 57 square miles of hills that challenge cyclists and roads curving through forests, apple fields and past artists’ studios. Moran State Park’s impressive 5,200-plus acres feature several lakes for swimming and 38 miles of hiking trails. Bike, drive or hike up to Mount Constitution, the islands’ highest point, for a view of the sea and snow-capped Mount Baker. Summer’s also great for horseback rides, kayaking, whale watching or just lying low on a beach.