By Jane Marie
Sure they’re packed with bikini-clad visitors from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but who would think to go to the beach in the winter? No one! Which makes it the perfect time to head to the coast and find deals on hotels, restaurant reservations for large parties at reasonable times, and unobstructed views of the crashing waves—or chunks of ice. Honestly, if you’ve never seen snow-covered sand and frozen, frothy waves, that alone is worth the trek. And you can do it all without crash dieting first!
Check out these summer hot spots this winter, where the locals will be waiting by the fire with hot toddies to toast your arrival.
Grand Harbor Inn, Camden, Maine
The first thing you’ll hear about Camden is that it’s where Peyton Place was filmed. The next is that it’s not a winter vacation destination. That second thing is a lie! Stay right on the water at the Grand Harbor Inn, which is walking distance to all the great boutique shopping and world-class restaurants this quaint town has on offer.
The Inn at Bay Harbor, Bay Harbor, Michigan
If the beautiful views of Lake Michigan don’t tempt you to this five-star resort, maybe the award-winning food will? The Inn has rooms for two as well as town homes equipped with kitchens where you can do the cooking if you’d rather stay in and snuggle up to a fire. Nearby are the area’s best ski hills and hiking, too.
Big Sur, California
For outdoorsy-types, winter offers a great time for sky—and stargazing as the cooler weather here means less fog. Big Sur’s location—far from many of California’s major cities—means that there’s very little light pollution, too, so the views are unbeatable. In January, enjoy watching gray whales migrating south from the Bering Sea and condors in flight! If you can swing it, end your trip with dinner and a night sleeping atop seaside cliffs at the Post Ranch Inn.
Land’s End Resort, Homer, Alaska
So, exactly how far west can you drive on America’s highways? This far. This is the end, and it’s a beautiful ending indeed with rooms overlooking the ocean off the tip of the Homer Spit. The resort’s website claims winter activities include salmon fishing, cross country skiing and “snow machine tours,” whatever those are. Go find out! And get a massage at the oceanfront spa when you’re done.
This winter, go against the grain, head north and see where the sea takes you.
Bring along a crew of friends in your 5-passenger 2014 Chevrolet Equinox, a vehicle as versatile as your favorite all-weather shore destination. One crossover fits all—combining the fuel economy of a car with the spaciousness of an SUV, so you can enjoy the best of both worlds.
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Jane Marie is a former public radio producer, current writer and editor and future coffee table book author.