[Dream Weekends cover]Six Beach Bargains

When Beach Hotels Can Top $200 a Night, True Bargains Are Rare. But These Inns Are a Very Good Value.

By Eleanor Berman

Eleanor Berman is author of Away for the Weekend: Mid-Atlantic.

Summer bargains at the beach are rare; even ordinary lodgings can top $200 a night. But good values do exist. Here are some of the best: bed-and-breakfast inns that are comfortable and convenient while offering a bit of charm. A homemade breakfast is included, so you should have enough cash left over to splurge for dinner.

Rates are for two during high season. Unless noted, all rooms have private baths.

AFFORDABLE GEMS IN CAPE MAY

Twin Gables, Cape May, New Jersey; 609-884-7332; www.twingables.com; $85 to $160. On Columbia Avenue, the street that includes many of Cape May's most lavish Victorians, this more modest summer cottage, circa 1879, has a big screened porch where afternoon tea is served and three guest rooms with queen-size beds, ceiling fans, air conditioning, and baths with stall showers. The inn is two blocks from the sand, and guests have use of beach chairs and towels.

Cliveden Inn, Cape May; 609-884-4516; www.clivedeninn.com; $100 to $165. This 1884 gingerbread-trimmed cottage stands out on Columbia Avenue for its pointy roof and its wraparound porch shaded by burgundy awnings. Most of the ten guest rooms are decorated with floral wallpapers, tall Victorian headboards, and flowing drapes, and all are air-conditioned.

TWO DEALS CLOSER TO HOME

Royal Rose Inn, Rehoboth, Delaware; 302-226-2535; www.royalroseinn.com; $110 to $160. This 1920s beach cottage, still with much of its original wainscoting and wood trim, is an unpretentious B&B. The location is priceless—on a tree-lined street right in town, 1H blocks from beach and boardwalk. Guests gather for a buffet breakfast on the screened porch and for conversation or TV in a small, comfortable common room. The inn provides off-street parking, a big plus in Rehoboth.

Blue Water House, Lewes, Delaware; 800-493-2080; www.lewes-beach.com; $130 to $165. Bright, bold colors and whimsical decor make for a cheerful inn, which sits on stilts above the marsh grass in a secluded location that's a quick walk to town or a quick drive to the beaches of Cape Henlopen State Park. The six rooms have king- or queen-size beds and French doors that open to a porch. The window-wrapped Lookout at the top is a great place to watch the Cape May ferry sailing in or simply to relax, read, or watch TV. Guests have use of a grill and picnic table, bicycles, beach chairs, towels, and boogie boards. Children are welcome.

BANKING ON THE OUTER BANKS

Berkley Manor, Ocracoke Island, North Carolina; 800-832-1223; www.berkleymanor.com; $119 to $189. Beach lovers dream of a place like Ocracoke. Because the island is a 40-minute ferry ride from Hatteras Island, its 17 miles of dune-backed beaches remain pristine. There are no accommodations at the beach; for that, you drive to town. Berkley Manor is the place to stay, a complex of shingled buildings on spacious lawns, built in the 1950s as a corporate retreat and refurbished by new owners in 1998. The 12 rooms in the main house and adjoining Guest House have paneled walls, Caribbean-flavored furnishings, and air conditioning. For romantics, one room comes with a fireplace, three offer two-person Jacuzzis, and a four-story tower provides memorable views.

Roanoke Island Inn, Manteo, North Carolina; 877-473-5511; www.roanokeislandinn.com; $108 to $168. Across the causeway from Nags Head but far from its crowds, Manteo offers a picturesque harbor and nice inns, including this laid-back lair that began as a family house belonging to the present owner's great-great-grandmother. Enlarged by each generation, it is now two buildings connected by a second-floor breezeway, where you can settle into a rocker and watch the boats go by. Most rooms have king-size beds and water views. Furnishings are beach casual, with some antiques and scattered maritime accents. Breakfast is help-yourself continental, and free beverages are available all day.

From the May 2001 issue.

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