Three Inns for Cozy Comfort

No need to hibernate this season. We've found these great spots--from Maryland to Texas to Mississippi--where you can chase away the chill.
Mark G. Stith and Cassandra M. Vanhooser

The crackle of a sparkling fire alongside a basket filled with warm muffins and fresh juice. Gulf breezes rustling your room's curtains with sea air. A morning of songbirds and golden light on a long porch that smells of cedar and strong coffee. How do you want to wake up this season? The three inns we've picked are the perfect spots to avoid winter's blast. One is a splurge that's worth it in western Maryland, another offers two meals a day with its price tag, and a third provides an affordable break from the busy life. So give in to the nesting instinct, and make reservations at one of these great getaways.

Winter Wonderland
As night settles on the Savage River Lodge near Frostburg, Maryland, a storm rages outside. Yet the weather doesn't bother the guests at all.

Safely ensconced in the warmth of the resort's great Western-style lodge, lively compatriots gather around the fieldstone hearth with its roaring fire, toast new friendships with heartwarming S'moretinis, or linger over a fine meal and glass of wine in the restaurant. There's simply no better way to spend a winter evening.

Located in western Maryland, just 2 1/2 hours from Baltimore and D.C., Savage River Lodge is the brainchild of Mike Dreisbach and Jan Russell. They shared a dream to build a nature retreat with exemplary amenities and service. They've succeeded masterfully with their Maryland hideaway.

The lodge itself sits at the heart of the Savage River experience. A mile and a half off the main road, it's constructed of rough-hewn logs and boasts a floor-to-ceiling fireplace. A rustic fieldstone path leads to a wide wraparound porch with rocking chairs and a spectacular mountain view.

As guests arrive, Bodhi the lodge dog often bounds out to greet them. The yellow Labrador stars in Savage River Lodge's calendar, oversees the production of a line of dog biscuits, and has his own brand of beer.

Guests occupy 18 cabins that sit just up the hill and away from the lodge. Each features a gas fireplace, plush bedding, and simple furnishings.

Truly, there's much to recommend Savage River Lodge in any season, but winter can be the best time to visit. The lodge saw 192 inches of snow last year with 102 days suitable for skiing.

All that outdoor activity makes for ravenous appetites, but again, it seems the folks here have thought of everything. People come from miles around to sample chef Stephen Brown's Appalachian Plateau cuisine. While the menu changes seasonally, comfort foods dominate this time of year.

Guests always depart with a renewed sense of well-being. As visitors leave, Bodhi flops on the floor. His brown eyes are puddles of sadness. "He loves it when people arrive, but he doesn't like goodbyes," says Jan.

 


Hill Country Hideaway
Mornings arrive with a burst of color at The Inn Above Onion Creek just outside Kyle, Texas.

It begins with a smudge of orange and a flash of red in the darkened sky. In minutes, the golden light kisses the live oaks and low-lying prickly pear cacti covering these ranch country hills. A few guests come outside to meet the day. They're joined by a pair of cardinals racing through the gnarled tree branches and singing the glory of a Hill Country sunrise.

This charming inn boasts long, lumbering porches along both sides, sited to catch the prevailing southeasterly breeze. Most rooms have front and back doors to take advantage of this generous feature.

"This is our field of dreams," says owner Janie Orr, who built the inn with her husband, John. She had begun studying architecture when her youngest child entered junior high and was having so much fun that John suggested they undertake a pilot project. They decided to build an inn. "We had no family land, so we bought this property," says Janie.

To get to the cedar-sided lodge, guests wind through the country on an old farm road between Austin and San Antonio. A twisting driveway leads to a metal cattle guard and a tall ranch gate, announcing a parcel of true Texas.

The inn features nine guestrooms and suites plus a new guesthouse, all named for famous Kyle-area natives. While each has its own personality, all have fireplaces, fans, feather mattress covers, and luxurious bathrooms.

Guests convene in the dining room for breakfast and dinner. Tall cypress doors line two sides of the room, opening out onto the breezeway or the back porch for spectacular sunset views. Linens peek from the open door of an oak armoire. These details give the house the feel of an old-time ranch.

A nighttime stroll brings a perfect end to a day at Onion Creek. The city lights haven't yet reached this haven in the Hill Country, making Orion's belt and the Big Dipper seem brighter than ever. The only sounds come from a coyote howling in the distance and the wind tiptoeing through the trees.

 


Note: This article has been updated on October 31, 2005. At this time, we are unable to reach this business (or homeowner) after Hurricane Katrina. Please contact us if you have any information regarding its status.

Breeze Into the Bay
A huge sun melts into the horizon, drenching the massive live oak in the front yard of the Bay Town Inn with pink and gold. That's the view from the front porch of this eight-room, waterside bed-and-breakfast in Bay St. Louis, a charming little town 60 miles east of New Orleans on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

An overwhelming array of 118 hotels clamors for attention along busy U.S. 90, the highway connecting Gulfport, Biloxi, Pascagoula, and other towns along the coast. But the Bay Town Inn, just a half mile off of U.S. 90, sets itself apart as one of the few with an unobstructed view of the water. A quiet two-lane road, North Beach Boulevard, separates travelers from the sea--but just barely.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Bay Town Inn is a turn-of-the-century planter's house with high ceilings, huge cypress front doors, crystal chandeliers, and an eclectic mix of antiques. The guestrooms are plain, solid, and simple. They're comfortable, not cushy, without telephones and televisions. Guests who want to get away from it all have come to the right place.

What makes this B&B special is the location. A right turn just past owner Nikki Nicholson's white picket fence leads you to the center of town. All kinds of neat shops, boutiques, and restaurants line the street.

Guests amble into town for a leisurely dinner at intimate restaurants such as The Sycamore House on Main Street. Chef/co-owner Michael J.

Eastham conjures up treats with the catch of the day. He served redfish when we visited, lightly breaded and sautéed with wild mushrooms, artichoke hearts, and white wine ($17.95).

Then it's back to the inn's front porch, where bay breezes enhance a casual state of mind. Deep, relaxed sighs and long-distance gazes complete the unspoken thought: This is why guests come here.



This article is from the January 2004 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.

Note: This article has been updated on October 31, 2005. At this time, we are unable to reach this business (or homeowner) after Hurricane Katrina. Please contact us if you have any information regarding its status.

Savage River Lodge: 1600 Mount Aetna Road, Frostburg, MD 21532; (301) 689-3200 or www.savageriverlodge.com. Rates: $190 per night, double occupancy with a charge for each additional person or pet. The Inn Above Onion Creek: 4444 Farm Road 150 West, Kyle, TX 78640; (512) 268-1617, 1-800-579-7686, or www.innaboveonioncreek.com. Rates: $175-$275, including breakfast and dinner. Bay Town Inn: 208 North Beach Blvd., Bay St. Louis, MS 39520; 1-800-533-0407 or www.baytowninn.com. Rates: $100-$110, which includes full breakfast.