Haute Motor Court
Before franchises ruined it, the motel concept was brilliant: efficient, drive-to-your-door convenience. Now, thanks to a new breed of retro motor courts, you dont have to sacrifice style for simplicityor the backcountry for the front.
1. In Marfa, Texas, the newly revamped Thunderbird Motel plays gateway to Big Bend National park. Doubles from 0; thunderbirdmarfa.com
2. Palm Springs Orbit In, 45 minutes from Joshua tree, oozes 1950shipster charm. Rooms from 9; orbitin.com
3. The Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, Arizona, is a kitschy oasis nearPetrified For...
Come summer, the stingray-shaped island off Cape Cod may be crammed with tourists, but the waters of Nantucket Sound and the Atlantic provide all the elbow room you need. Base your adventures from the eco-chic Hotel Green, an 1835 white clapboard house in the middle of town. The inn, which opened in 2006, has ten guest rooms, each with hemp shower curtains and robes, organic bedding and towels, bamboo rugs, walls painted in peppy shades with milk-based paints, and nifty recyclables such as 1970s rotary phones and corrugated-cardboard loungers. Lest you forget that the environment you're saving is the reason you're here, concierge-booked surf camps, bluefish charters, bike rides to the outer beaches, and catamaran sailing will keep you inspired. Doubles from $250; vanessanoelhotelgreen.com
The Resort at Paws Up
This 37,000-acre family-owned wilderness retreat, which opened in 2005 to freak-out acclaim in the Bitterroot Valley, east of Missoula, has perfected the art of rugged luxury. Take Tent City: six canvas-walled platform tents artfully decked out with downy beds (there's bourbon turndown service), western oil paintings on the walls, and dense-pile rugs underfoota little bit of African safari living in Big Sky Country. New this summer is an even wilder alternative: the Encampment at Bull Creek, a posh base on the edge of the Bob Marshall Wilderness, four hours by horse from the main resort. While there, you'll settle into your own swanky tent for two days and nights of trail riding, guided fly-fishing, peak bagging, and full-service drinking and dining. Tent City, doubles, $595; the Encampment, $600 per person, all-inclusive; pawsup.com
Medawisla Wilderness Camps
This is the rustic Maine woods at its best. Screened porches and bunk beds, wood-burning stoves, a fishing lake out the front door, and woods out back make this simple seven-cabin camp an incomparable base for classic New England excursions. Medawisla keeps a small fleet of fishing boats, canoes, and kayaks on hand. And just outside the bunkhouses of this 30-acre getaway, more than 35 miles of hiking trails fan out from the mess house, making possible a 30-mile mountain-bike linkup with the Appalachian Mountain Club's 133-year-old Little Lyford Pond Camps. Whatever your activity, you'll want to keep your eyes and ears open for bald eagles, black bears, moose, and a certain ever-present waterfowl (Medawisla means "loon" in Abenaki), before returning to camp for homestyle meals like blueberry pancakes for breakfast and baked Atlantic salmon for dinner. $120 per person, all-inclusive; outdoors.org
Clayoquot Wilderness Resort
Vancouver Island, British Columbia
Founded in 1997, nine miles north of Tofino, this decadent, 20-tent hideout is based on the owners' claim that the best way to appreciate Clayoquot Sound is to sleep under canvas at the mouth of the Bedwell River. They were right. Inside each of the resort's tents you'll find antique beds, Persian rugs, and remote-controlled gas fireplaces. Outside, there's sea kayaking on the intertidal Bedwell and among gray whales and porpoises in the sound; hiking on the six-mile Walk the Wild Side trail on Flores Island; and angling for spring steelhead in Clayoquot Sound or cutthroat trout on Tranquil Creek. Three-night packages, including 30-minute floatplane flight from Vancouver, gourmet meals, and activities, from $4,210 per person; wildretreat.com
Sequoia High Sierra Camp
Giant Sequoia National
The backcountry's granite peaks and alpine lakes are the big draws at this new camp, located at 8,282 feet among a forest of pine and fur (the sequoias are actually found at lower altitudes here), but the exquisite touchesbeds made snug with down comforters and wool blankets, gourmet meals, and daily maid serviceare the bonuses that will lure you back. With a two-million-acre wilderness buffer, this 36-tent retreat is an ideal jumping-off point for longer outings like the 11-mile Twin Lakes Trail. You'll need to hike to get to camp (no cars allowed) via an easy one-mile trail, but once you're there, the adventure options are nearly limitless: Try summiting 10,249-foot Mitchell Peak for views of the Sierra's sea of sheer rock mountains or hiking to one of seven giant sequoia groves. $250 per person, all-inclusive; sequoiahighsierracamp.com
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