Best of Lists

Historic Hotels by Boat

The Great Indoors


Historic hotels are known for their excellent ambiance, and many also have top-notch services and amenities.

The five luxury, landmark properties listed here are accessible by boat, meaning cruisers can tie up for a trip back in time.

Jekyll Island Club Hotel, Jekyll Island, Georgia

J.P. Morgan, William Rockefeller, Vincent Astor and William K. Vanderbilt were all members of the exclusive Jekyll Island Club, set on the barrier island of the same name. Today you don't have to be a tycoon to vacation like one at the romantic Jekyll Island Club Hotel, rated among the "top 500 resorts in the world" by Travel+Leisure magazine. The National Historic Landmark, a low-country treasure full of traditional and modern comforts, has 157 rooms and suites in five unique settings. Among the accommodation options are the original Clubhouse, which is the main hotel building, and two stately Gilded Age cottages. The Grand Dining Room, where former members enjoyed each other's company over exquisitely prepared meals, features 1900s-era decor with original details such as leaded glass. More than 50 activities are available in and around the hotel, including historic tours, croquet, carriage rides, tennis, golf, bird walks, horseback riding and dolphin cruises. Jekyll Island boasts 10 miles of white-sand beaches plus maritime forests teeming with live oaks and unspoiled marshes. Guests can tie up at the historic Jekyll Wharf, conveniently located in front of the hotel, where deep-water moorings provide easy access to the Intracoastal Waterway. (71 Riverview Dr., 800-535-9547,

Where to dock:Jekyll Harbor Marina

The Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island, Michigan

It first opened its doors 125 years ago, but this National Historic Landmark still feels more timeless than dated. Extensive additions have grown the hotel from a summer retreat to a 385-room resort with modern amenities --- not to mention private cottages, legendary gardens, a spa, bocce ball and croquet grounds, clay tennis courts and a 500,000- gallon swimming pool. No guest rooms are the same: Famed designer Carleton Varney has decorated each one in its own charming style. Despite the hotel's evolving size and services, there are plenty of original details, including a 660-foot front porch that is reportedly the largest in the world. In a nod to heritage and the manners of a gentler time, guests still dress for dinner in the Main Dining Room, which overlooks the Straits of Mackinac. More casual dining can be had in the Gate House, the Jockey Club at the Grand Stand and Carleton's Tea Store. Mackinac Island is accessible only by boat or plane. Cars are prohibited on the island, so the favored modes of transportation are horse-drawn carriages and bicycles. Attractions such as Fort Mackinac and the Old Mackinac Lighthouse are easily accessible from the hotel. (286 Grand Ave., 800-334-7263,

Where to dock:Mackinac Island State Dock

Wentworth by the Sea Hotel and Spa, New Castle, New Hampshire

At one time, more than 400 grand hotels inhabited the coast and mountains of the Granite State. Today, just four remain with Wentworth by the Sea being the only one left standing on the New Hampshire shoreline. The Victorian wedding cake of a building, constructed in the late 1800s, is crowned by three distinct, mansard-roofed towers with suites inside. Each suite offers more than 600 square feet of space and multiple levels joined by a spiral staircase, along with views of the ocean to the south and east and the White Mountains to the north and west. Other guest accommodations include 161 deluxe rooms and suites and elegant Little Harbor Marina Villas in one- and two-bedroom configurations. The marina itself has 170 slips that can accommodate vessels up to 200 feet, and it can arrange harbor cruises, day sails, charter fishing and more. Other attractive amenities at Wentworth by the Sea include an on-site spa, indoor and outdoor pools, tennis courts and nearby golf courses and beaches. For foodies, the hotel serves up regional fare at three restaurants ranging from elegant to casual. Special events include a renowned Winter Wine Festival. (588 Wentworth Rd., 603-422-7322,

Where to dock:Wentworth by the Sea Marina

Renaissance Vinoy Resort & Golf Club, St. Petersburg, Florida

If it ran a personal ad, the Renaissance Vinoy Resort & Golf Club's would read: Perfectly preserved 85-year-old Mediter- ranean Revival resort with award-winning cuisine seeks recreation-loving guests with a taste for high style and flawless service. This National Register of Historic Places designee proudly claims to be the only luxury hotel on the west coast of Florida with a private marina, an 18-hole golf course and a 12-court tennis complex. Add to that an on-site health club, indoor and outdoor pools, a kids camp and a full-service spa, and you can see why the rich atmosphere isn't the only thing that lures guests. That atmosphere, by the way, marries tropical landscaping and waterfront views with Spanish archways, a grand esplanade and an iconic bell tower. The Vinoy recently underwent a $93-million renovation that introduced high-tech comforts, deluxe bedding and updated decor to its 361 guest rooms and suites, enhancing the already-elegant surroundings and thoughtful touches (such as complimentary coffee and daily newspapers). Marchand's Bar & Grill, one of the city's finest chophouses, is located on the lobby level and overlooks the bay. Directly across the street, the hotel's marina boasts 74 slips available for monthly, weekly or daily rental. (501 5th Ave. NE, 727-894-1000,

Where to dock:Renaissance Vinoy Marina

The Fairmont Empress Hotel, Victoria, British Columbia

Taking afternoon tea in the opulent Tea Lobby of the Fairmont Empress Hotel is one of the great traditions of visiting the city of Victoria on Vancouver Island. In fact, more than 800 people a day partake of the ritual during the summer months, and it has included kings, queens and celebrities.That's a lot of Earl Grey and crumpets. Towering over Victoria's Inner Harbour, the majestic Fairmont Empress does not fail to impress.The hotel opened in 1908 and has been lovingly restored to its turn-of-the-century beauty while also embracing modern amenities. Some 477 luxury rooms and suites allow guests to choose from a variety of sizes, along with views of the city, courtyard or waterfront. The Bengal Lounge has a famous curry buffet, and the Empress Room offers a selection of more than 800 wines. The full gym, indoor heated pool and Willow Stream Spa”not to mention the impeccable service”will leave guests feeling well pampered. The Inner Harbour is the vibrant center of action in Victoria. Stroll along the waterfront and enjoy the many street performers set against a picturesque backdrop of yachts. Ship's Point, in the shadow of the Fairmont Empress, has dockage for vessels up to 250 feet. (721 Government St., 866-540-4429,

Where to dock: City of Victoria --- Causeway Marina and Ship Point

Want to Stay In the Loop?

Stay up to date with the latest articles, news and all things boating with a FREE subscription to Marinalife Magazine!

Thanks for subscribing!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Marinalife articles