Low-key cool in Cambria

White Water Cambria on Moonstone Beach
White Water Cambria on Moonstone Beach © Jonny Valiant

You’ll find this underrated little town where Route 46, which traverses some seriously majestic Steinbeck country, meets Highway 1. It’s technically in San Louis Obispo county, but situated almost right at the border with Monterey, so puts you in striking distance of San Simeon (gorgeous walking beaches, sea lion breeding sites and, of course, Hearst Castle) and, beyond, the lower reaches of Big Sur. Not that Cambria’s own surrounds won’t provide the nature hits: long, flat, wind-whipped Moonstone Beach has a mile-long boardwalk, and Fiscalini Ranch Preserve has 430 acres of rare Monterey pine woods, meadows, and high oceanside bluffs for exploring (wildflower season in April and May can be a proper spectacle here). Cambria, long a retreat for artists and LA and San Francisco escapees, evinces a bit of Carmel’s weird Tudor-twee aesthetic in its shops, cafés and galleries; but more of it is Old California hitching-post style, which is what you want. Stay at White Water Cambria on Moonstone Beach, whose 25 lovely rooms are the work of Nina Freudenberger, an interiors and book editor (see Surf Shack: Laid-Back Living by the Water, Bibliostyle: How We Live at Home with Books), who aptly describes the vibe she’s created here as “Danish seaside”. whitewatercambria.com, from $329

Massachusetts modern

Hatch House, part of the Cape Cod Modern House Trust
Hatch House, part of the Cape Cod Modern House Trust © Antoine Lorgnier

The Outer Cape, and specifically Wellfleet, has long been a semi-secret retreat for New Yorkers – writers, artists and museum directors, a disproportionate number of psychoanalysts – who eschew the social obligations of more famous Eastern Seaboard summer destinations in favour of solitude and nature (Francesca Amfitheatrof, Louis Vuitton’s artistic director of watches and jewellery and an Outer Cape regular, once described it in HTSI as “the most extraordinary time warp”). As part of the 44,600-acre Cape Cod National Seashore (its singular light may be familiar from the works of Edward Hopper, who used to paint here), the landscape is totally protected. Wellfleet’s flea markets, coffee shops and lobster shacks are the anti-Hamptons. The holiday draw is the collection of four 20th-century modern houses available to let through the Cape Cod Modern House Trust (which come up all too rarely, so book in advance, or off season). They look out onto woods, beaches or one of the 20 or so kettle ponds across the seashore, and are totally dreamy, right down to the last vintage Fiestaware bowl. Just note the “slow to decent internet” designations. ccmht.org

Off-radar on Orcas

Eastsound Village and Fishing Bay on the coast of Orcas
Eastsound Village and Fishing Bay on the coast of Orcas © Getty Images

You can’t actually say it’s the prettiest of the 170-plus San Juan islands in Washington, but Orcas’s tiny downs, clear, cold water and enchanting hybrid landscape – part Sweden, part New Zealand, but in its whole unmistakably Pacific northwest (there are still no traffic lights anywhere) – definitely lodge in the memory. It maps roughly as two lobes connected by a slender isthmus; the east lobe has freshwater lakes (and their attendant cliff-diving and bridge-jumping thrills) and protected pine forests. Inland, there is undulating farmland dotted with yellow and red barns; on the west lobe are rugged cliffs and a scrubbier landscape. There are shamans and crystal purveyors aplenty, but also a handful of film industry escapees and Seattle money. Also organic markets and farm stands, and really good tacos and wood-fired pizzas. And some very nice rental cabins and houses (most hotels here skew fusty, so a holiday let is the way to go). vacationdoorways.com, from $179

A time warp in southern Georgia

Grayfield Inn, the only hotel on Cumberland Island
Grayfield Inn, the only hotel on Cumberland Island © Emily Dorio

Cumberland Island – Georgia’s largest, and probably still wildest, barrier island – is long, flat and thick with atmosphere and history: some complicated by its role in the slave trade. In the late-19th century it was owned almost in its entirety by Thomas M Carnegie, brother of Andrew; fiercely defended by their descendants against a late-20th-century onslaught of development, it’s today largely a protected national seashore, and people (very few of them; numbers are limited, so plan a visit carefully) come here to do a whole lot of not much except immerse in its relative emptiness. Wild horses and feral pigs roam unfettered; loggerhead turtles, herons and pelicans nest. Its 16 by 3 miles are perfect for exploring: beaches, long lanes lined with oaks dripping in Spanish moss, or the ruins of Dungeness, a Carnegie mansion abandoned some 90 years ago and later almost destroyed in a fire. But its secret weapon is the colonial revival Greyfield Inn, another Carnegie home converted into a beautiful hotel, the only one operating on the island. You can stay in one of the main house suites (Persian rugs, Tiffany lamps) or the more rustic cottages on the property; the food is world-class, thanks in part to the hotel’s extensive kitchen gardens. greyfieldinn.com, from $765

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