Five charming fall getaways across the Adirondacks
Summer ends with movement and metamorphosis: migrating birds, changing leaves, a sense that something different is afoot. That’s the appeal for many Adirondack visitors who come to experience the drama of fall. They also ﬂock here for the rarest of commodities—peace.
We searched around the park to ﬁnd exceptional accommodations that offer tranquility and comfort. They’re also great base camps from which to launch autumn adventures. Our picks include a stone-beautiful boathouse, a 200-year-old inn, a lavish water’s-edge bed-and-breakfast, a grand village home and a well-appointed cottage colony. At each place you can relax in a lovely room and get a good taste of the Adirondacks’ signature season.
Boathouse Bed and Breakfast
(44 Sagamore Road, Bolton Landing; 518-644-2554; www.boathousebb.com)
Lake George’s millionaire’s row was lined with manicured estates, but today many of these mansions have been demolished, subdivided or disguised by commercial roadside ventures. Bolton Landing’s Boathouse Bed and Breakfast, built in 1914 by speedboat racer George Reis, harks back to that heyday in its architecture and ambiance. Tucked onto a slice of shoreline with a fantastic view of Dome Island, the stone castle was Reis’s private aerie and home to his Gold Cup winner El Lagarto, which set speed records in the 1930s.
Patti and Joe Silipigno fell in love with the boathouse as summer renters. They bought the place and, after signiﬁcant renovations—including ﬁnding stone from a regional quarry to match the original exterior—opened the bed-and-breakfast in 2000.
Rooms: Three suites and four guest rooms. Fall rates range from $250 midweek for the Allayla Room, with a queen-size bed and woods view, to $395 for a Saturday night in the George Reis Suite, with its king-size four-poster bed and private porch overlooking the lake.
Autumn Adventures: It’s only ﬁtting that a place that was once home to a Gold Cup racer would have a snazzy boat of its own for guests to enjoy. Miss Boathouse is a 33-foot mahogany Hacker-Craft that can seat 12 people for a stylish cruise of the lake. Bolton has antiques and other shops within walking distance; a drive north to Hague introduces another lakeside community with ﬁne views. The Sagamore Golf Course, about a mile away, is a classic 18-hole track designed by Donald Ross.
(2297 Main Street, Essex; 518-963-4400; www.essexinnessex.com)
Built in 1812, when the village was a shipbuilding center, this structure has seen it all—war, prosperity in the 1850s and decline in the 20th century. That the huge wood-frame building has survived at all seems extraordinary.
Historic preservation is a source of community pride in Essex: the entire hamlet is on the National Register of Historic Places. Painstakingly restored in 2010, this hotel has a cozy restaurant and bar with ﬁreplace, a secluded garden dining area, private meeting rooms and spacious porches overlooking tree-lined Main Street.
Rooms: Seven bedrooms and suites. All but one are on the second ﬂoor, with elegant decor, private baths, inviting nooks and access to the second-story porch; on the ground ﬂoor a handicapped-accessible room is tricked out Adirondack-style. Rates range from $195 to $425 per night.
Autumn Adventures: Innkeepers Gladys and Josh Archer rent bikes for exploring back roads and kayaks for paddling Lake Champlain. Josh also points guests to the Champlain Area Trail System, with miles of excellent hiking routes along and above the lake. A sister business across Main Street, Live Well, offers yoga, massage therapy and wellness workshops. The ferry to Vermont is about a block away. For a descriptive walking tour of the village, with architectural styles from Federal and Greek Revival to Carpenter Gothic, purchase the pocket guide published by Essex Community Heritage Organization, put on comfortable shoes and travel back in time.
Prospect Point Cottages
(3381 Route 28, Blue Mountain Lake; 518-352-7378; www.prospectpt.com)
In the 1880s the three-story Prospect House hotel stood on this lovely promontory with a full-frame view of Blue Mountain. In daylight the massive inn dominated the lake, and in the evening, when electric lights shone from every window, the sight was even more spectacular. Thomas Edison himself supervised the project, making this the ﬁrst hotel in the country to have an electric light in every room.
There are a few remnants of the old hotel—quaint artifacts in display cases in the post-and-beam library. Today’s Prospect Point is a cluster of new and extensively renovated cabins that feel like the perfect vacation village, all with easy access to a nice beach, plus canoes, kayaks and rowboats. With shady patios and porches for socializing, the place is both family-friendly and great for couples. There’s even a ﬂock of hens to provide eggs for Sunday brunch, served October through June.
Rooms: Seventeen cabins and apartments, seven winterized. Fall rates range from $150 to $320 per night.
Autumn Adventures: Innkeep Carol Doherty suggests a visit to the nearby Adirondack Museum, open May to October, no matter the weather. Great Camp Sagamore is a 14-mile drive, with regularly scheduled tours of the Vanderbilt family’s former summer estate. Raquette Lake’s dine-and-cruise boat, the W. W. Durant, is another junket for afternoon or evening. Hiking up Castle Rock—trails lead from the lakeshore or from Maple Lodge Road—is a good two-mile round-trip. For a more serious outing, 3,759-foot Blue Mountain has an iconic view from its bald summit and ﬁre tower.
(46 Fiddlehead Bay Road, Chestertown; 518-494-7238; www.thefernlodge.com)
Sharon and Greg Taylor have kept house—amazing houses for guests, that is—for more than 25 years. Now their Fern Lodge, opened in 2005, distills all they’ve learned about what visitors love in an Adirondack getaway: comfort, privacy, elegance, great food and superb hospitality.
Nestled on 70 acres on Friends Lake’s shore, the lodge has hiking trails, a ﬁtness center and a 24-foot Elco launch that purrs down the two-mile lake for daily cocktail cruises. The evening wine-and-cheese ritual happens by the ﬁreside in bad weather, though the Taylors take the boat out long after the leaves have fallen.
Rooms: Five, all with king-size beds, ﬁreplaces, Jacuzzi tubs and private porches. Rates in fall range from $325 to $525.
Autumn Adventures: The lodge has kayaks for exploring pristine Friends Lake, especially the inlet where great blue herons nest. In fall the Taylors recommend a gondola ride at Gore Mountain, in nearby North Creek, where the foliage is spectacular. Hiking Crane Mountain, in Johnsburg, rafting the Hudson River from Indian Lake to North Creek or renting a mountain bike at North River’s Garnet Hill Lodge are other options.
(350 Park Avenue, Saranac Lake; 518-891-5160; www.theporcupine.com)
Set amid pines, balsams, birches and maples in a quiet Saranac Lake neighborhood, the shingle-style Porcupine was built in 1902 by Thomas Bailey Aldrich, poet, editor and close friend of Mark Twain. Aldrich’s son Charles suffered from tuberculosis, and two of the guest rooms include glassed-in cure porches, glorious perches for viewing fall foliage. The staircase and public spaces are Victorian-era grand, and upstairs rooms are comfortably large, decorated with antiques and queen- or king-size beds.
Proprietor Meg Amy makes apple-walnut wafﬂes, croissant french toast or omelets with local eggs and produce, balancing healthy fare with elegant presentation in the inn’s breakfast room overlooking the garden. One sitting room has a big ﬁreplace while another has a billiard table and honor-system bar.
Rooms: Five, all with private bath. Two have wood-burning ﬁreplaces. Rates in fall range from $170 to $283 per night.
Autumn Adventures: Amy sends walkers to the well-marked trails at the Paul Smith’s College Visitor Interpretive Center. She also suggests the corn maze at Tucker Farms, in Gabriels; the Adirondack Carousel and the scenic railroad (a ﬁve-minute stroll from the front door); and Saranac Lake’s shops and galleries.