12 Boutique Hotels Outside Major U.S. Cities That Make the Case for a Road Trip

Castle Hill Inn

Newport, Rhode Island’s Castle Hill Inn is the reimagined hotel version of its former status as a summer home to Alexander Agassiz, a prominent Harvard University marine biologist and naturalist. Agassiz built the shingle-style mansion in 1875 and filled it with Chinese and Japanese bronze sculptures and delicate porcelain, many of which are still scattered throughout the space. When Agassiz died, his son and daughter-in-law inherited the house, enjoying it every summer until 1938 when the Great New England Hurricane swept through Rhode Island and cut off the peninsula from the mainland. After that, Mrs. Maximillian Agassiz said goodbye to her beloved summer home, and, four years later, it became an impromptu base for naval officers during World War II.

After the war, however, Castle Hill was transformed into a spectacular hotel to the stars, providing a much-needed beachside retreat for everyone from Grace Kelly to playwright Thornton Wilder. Even all the years later, the elegant inn’s charm is relatively untouched, save, of course, for modernizations designed to accommodate 21st-century travelers.

Each of the 33 guest accommodations, which range from beach cottages perched atop sand dunes to a 560-square-foot lighthouse suite on the third floor of the original Agassiz mansion, boasts unparalleled views of either the water or the immaculately manicured grounds.

Highlander Mountain House

Less than three hours outside Atlanta, Highlander Mountain House is where Victorian elegance meets contemporary style. Tucked within the Highlands, North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, the 18-room hotel is a design-centric Anglophile’s dream: The walls are adorned with original Cherokee, Joseph Albers, and Sally Mann art; the interiors are equal parts rugged Appalachian lodge and refined English estate; and there are countless plush textures and colorful patterns at play. As for the aesthetic, owner Jason Reeves explains, “Hospitality is storytelling, so once I found the right historic property in Highlands, I knew I needed to immerse myself in the context of the area and pull on some threads that would help define the space and the experience.”

Whether you book your stay in the effortlessly elegant 150-year-old main house or in the cabin-inspired bunkhouse, you’ll hardly want to leave—except, maybe, to lounge by the wood-burning stone-surrounded fireplaces in the lobby or dig into the wild boar ragu at The Ruffed Grouse, the hotel’s seasonally inspired eatery.

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