Follow your hearts to one of Connecticut's great destinations for romance.
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Whaler’s Inn, Mystic
Mystic’s aura of romance is enhanced by its famously informal nature. Indeed, it’s not really a town on its own; it’s a community cobbled together from picturesque chunks of Groton and Stonington. To our minds, Mystic’s rakish charms differ from the elegant coherence of, say, Litchfield or Greenwich, or even certain other towns on the Connecticut shoreline.
Which is why, given a couple of days of freedom there’s no place in Connecticut we’d rather sail away to. We think it has something to do with the endearing details: downtown Mystic’s historic bascule drawbridge, quaint stores like Whyevernot and Company of Craftsmen, the endless allure of the Mystic River and the overwhelming sense, no matter where you go, that you’ve just stepped into the pages of a Victorian novel.
No hostelry in “town” seems to better reflect the irresistible crazy quiltiness of its environs better than the 49-room Whaler’s Inn, an establishment with a checkered past all its own. A mashup of five different structures that includes the 1865 House (formerly a private homestead) and what was once the Hotel Mystic—now the main inn building—its most lore-rich piece is inarguably Hoxie House.
Originally built in 1819 and allegedly quite luxe for a “public house” of the era (complete with barn, stables, ice house and shops), Hoxie—then called the Mystic Bridge Hotel—burned down in 1858, only to be resurrected by local entrepreneur Benjamin Franklin Hoxie. Possessed by the drive to turn his inn into the centerpiece of a bustling summer resort community, he spent $6,000 on furnishings alone. Little did he know that for the next half-decade the area would be more invested in the cause of the Union Army than tourism; even when peace returned, his brainchild never became the booming business he’d hoped. Still, it remained a downtown fixture till consumed by flame once more, in 1975.
The current proprietors of Whaler’s Inn (who came aboard in 1991) rebuilt Hoxie House in 2002, and it currently houses the inn’s eight luxury rooms, all appointed with whirlpool tubs, fireplaces and river views. But our preferred choice for an overnight stay for two is the Morgan Suite on the first floor of the 1865 House, the Whaler’s largest accommodation and an homage to Mystic Seaport’s whaling ship the Charles W. Morgan. Decorated in rich red Waverly florals, blessed with extra-high ceilings and overhead track lighting, it features a spacious living area as well as a queen-size bed and full bathroom, all unified with nautical artwork (including rope stenciling on the moldings and images of the Titanic and the seaport’s steam-engined Sabino).
From here, you don’t have to muster much energy to avail yourself of downtown’s best dining: Acclaimed Italian/seafood restaurant Bravo Bravo is but a few steps away, in the inn’s main building (we heartily recommend the superb champagne risotto with lobster and asparagus). This can be a boisterous environment, perhaps too much so for those seeking a cozy dinner for two—so to them, we also recommend the New England cuisine of the Daniel Packer Inne, built in 1756 and still graced with its original fireplaces and hardwood floors. Dinner at either is a feature of Whaler’s one-night Special Occasion package, which also includes flowers and a bottle of wine. (Be sure to inquire, too, about February’s “Sweetheart Special.”)
You can keep yourself mightily entertained by simply strolling the downtown streets (or making the short drive to Mystic Seaport, Mystic Aquarium and Olde Mistick Village). Should the weather outside be frightful, don’t despair. Treat yourself to an in-room massage, or a session at the inn’s brand-new fitness center (just opened last October). Or just hang out in the lounge and watch the world waft by. —Patricia Grandjean
Whaler’s Inn, (800) 243-2588 or whalersinnmystic.com.