Ever since the snowy beach scene in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, I’ve longed to vacation on the beach in the dead of winter. It just seems so romantic; towns that we’re used to visiting during the hectic tourist hubbub of July and August all tucked to bed and hushed under a blanket of white. No traffic. No agendas. Just the wind in the dunes, the silence, and the world’s greatest excuse to devour a tower of books. Or take a (bundled up) walk. Or put on your favorite record, pour a glass of wine, and cook something delicious.
Sure, some businesses close down for the season, but let’s just say you’ll have no trouble scoring a table at the best restaurants in town. And with most of your fellow vacationers escaping on more traditional seasonal adventures, the deals you’ll find (hotels, rentals, even flights) can’t be beat. Think of it as a chance to press pause on the hectic pace of your life. Sound good? Here are five spots on which to set your sights.
The Scarlet, Cornwall, UK
Dramatically situated on the edge of a cliff in Cornwall, England — a remote vacation destination that you can think of as the British equivalent to Cape Cod — the Scarlet Hotel defies eco-friendly resort stereotypes. Devised by three stylish sisters who set out to build their dream property, the Scarlet steers away from both the hippie casual and austerely minimalist aesthetics governing most environmentally conscious hotels. Instead, it’s quirky, luxuriously comfortable, and chic chic chic, complete with a to-die for restaurant serving organic and locally-sourced Cornish delicacies, an ayurvedic spa, and a friendly “house dog” named Jasper who’d be delighted to accompany you for a brisk romp to the beach below.
If you’re traveling with extended family or a larger group and want something even more private than The Scarlet, check out the Devon Beach House, a perfectly turned-out vacation rental an hour up the road in Devon. You’ll feel like you’ve scored your own English country estate, minus the traditional stuffy-ness — light and airy, the house is full of inspiring design details you’ll want to recreate at home.
San Juan Islands, Washington
An urban sophisticate like me is way too refined to swoon for the Twilight movies. Okay, so maybe I watched one once, but only out of the corner of my eye, and the only thing I liked about it was the lush, dreamy… scenery. If you’ve been bitten by the romance of the Pacific Northwest in winter, then consider a sojourn to the San Juan Islands (what, you thought I’d send you to Forks to mingle with the Twi-hards?). In the off season, this archipelago 100 miles north of Seattle makes for a dramatic background to indulge in an illicit love affair — in fact, doing so might be the only way to keep warm, what with all the swirling fog and bone chilling mist. Stage your tryst at Lakedale Resort on San Juan island surrounded by 82 scenic acres of eagles, orcas and frosty forest, or head to The Willows Inn on Lummi Island, a farm-to-table culinary hotspot that’s been hosting lovebirds since 1910.
Villa Las Tronas, Sardinia, Italy
During the summer, the azure waters and sandy white beaches of Sardinia’s Costa Smeralda morph into a swanky playground for the international jet set. In winter, you’ll count more sheep than tourists — but in this case, you’d do well to follow the sheep’s lead. Sardinian winters are sunny, blue-skyed, and ruggedly gorgeous — the perfect backdrop for exploring its historic coastal fishing villages and scenic cliff-side switchbacks. Situated in Alghero, an idyllic centuries-old town inhabited by the descendants of Catalonian colonialists, the Villa Las Tronas Hotel and Spa — a former Italian royal hunting lodge built at the end of the 19th century — now plays host to visiting dignitaries (like, you know, Madonna). But with off season rates at half the price of the summer months, you can afford to vacation like a celeb.