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The words “Catskill Mountains” conjures up a number of images: Tuxedoed comedians entertaining the dinner crowd at a Borscht Belt resort. Hippies living off the grid. Mountain men grabbing trout out of a freezing-cold stream with their bare hands (okay, maybe a fishing pole is the preferred method). And, most recently, a nearby escape (see Upstate.Brownstoner for details) that feels worlds away, populated by quirky motels and inns where you can sip coffee outside while a brook babbles in the background.
Indeed, the Catskills’ reawakening as a vacation destination has been a long time in the making. For a couple of decades after the rise and fall of the Borscht Belt, the mountain towns languished. These days, the hills are dotted with inns, motels, hotels, resorts and campgrounds just waiting for the Weekend Warrior crowd to settle in for the night. From far and wide they come: The swimmers, hikers, hunters, fishers, kayakers and amateur nature photographers, looking for a place to stay that’s special, a place that’s off the beaten path. Are you one of those? Looking for the perfect hidden spot that’s also within driving distance? Then today’s your lucky day….
Our friends at Carpingo have put together a great list of nine offbeat spots to stay, divided by county, during your Catskills getaway, and when you’re ready to roll with them, they’ll give you $75 in driving credit. Just use the coupon code “Getaway75”.
Location: Northern Catskills, Southern Tier region of New York State. Distance from Brooklyn: 3 hours, 17 mins.
Roxbury Motel, Roxbury:
If you’ve never been to the town of Roxbury in Delaware County, you’ve been missing out on a wee Catskill Mountains gem. Quaint, quiet, and home to one of the best local parks we’ve seen, Roxbury may seem like Maybury, but the existence of the Roxbury Motel ups its cool quotient to 10. The Roxbury Motel features studio rooms, king rooms, suites, and a cottage. What’s so special about it? All the accommodations are based on themes like Wizard’s Emeralds (Wizard of Oz theme), Maryann’s Coconut Cream Pie (think: DESSERT), and the Mod Pod (Austen Powers, baby). The Roxbury also has a spa and cocktail lounge. Take our word for it: This place has to be seen to be believed.
Turquoise Barn, Bloomville:
While the Roxbury bathes you in luxury, the Turquoise Barn B&B, located in the small community of Bloomville, swaths you in well-being and nourishment. Styling itself as a “green-certified eco-friendly bed and breakfast,” the Barn offers breakfast that’s veg/vegan, raw, organic, and gluten-free. The artists and Williamsburg ex-pats who run the place, Michelle Premura and Michael Milton, do not skimp on the room awesomeness. Accommodations are rustic, yes, but elegantly so. Or, you could go super-rustic and avail yourself of their camping accommodations (don’t worry, you can still get breakfast).
Location: Southern Catskills, a stone’s throw from the Hudson Valley region. Distance from Brooklyn: 3 hours, 30 mins.
Twilight Lodge, Haines Falls:
Haines Falls, located about 10 miles west of the town of Catskill, is where you’ll find North South Lake, which is a great place to go camping. The kind of camping where you bring in your own everything, pitch some tents (or set up your camp trailer), and sleep outside. If that’s not your thing, check out the Twilight Lodge. This retro motor lodge/antique store/used book and record store is funky with a sophisticated streak. That close-up photo of the homemade croissants on the Lodge’s breakfast page is buttery torture. Don’t worry, you can still take a day trip to swim or hike at North South Lake, or explore the trails at Kaaterskill Falls.
Ruby’s Hotel, Freehold:
Ruby’s Hotel in Freehold has the sass of a 1930s Prohibition-era speakeasy and flophouse but with much nicer beds upon which to flop. The popular Greene County hangout is a boutique hotel with one room, one suite, and a menu of locally sourced, delicious-looking options. Speaking of the 1930s, there are no TVs, just lots of games and radios. However, there is Wi-Fi, just in case dominoes don’t quite take the place of YouTube.
Location: Foothills of the southwest Catskills, borders Pennsylvania to the west. Distance from Brooklyn: 2 hours, 7 mins.
Willowemoc Wild Forest Yurt, Willowemoc:
Let’s say you do want to go camping, but tents leak and campers are cramped. You know what is neither of those things? A yurt. And the yurts at Willowemoc Wild Forest Yurts are the ultimate in “glamping”: Sweet, unique accommodations situated on 50 acres within the Willowemoc Forest. It’s also private and has showers, composting toilets, solar lights, and BBQ grills for cooking al fresco. Sounds like the perfect way to explore the Catskill Preserve, especially if you love sleeping close to nature.
Location: Southeastern Catskills, bordering the Hudson Valley. Distance from Brooklyn: 2 hours, 29 mins.
Kate’s Lazy Meadow, Mt. Tremper
The B-52s’ resident redhead Kate Pierson’s fun, kitschy mid-mod lodge is a candy-coated, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Kate’s Lazy Meadow features a three-bedroom Lazy Cabin for families and large parties, nine suites, the two-bedroom Lazy Lodge, and the studio-size Lazy Shack. The main property is on the shores of the Esopus Creek, about 5 miles from Woodstock and 4 miles from the Town Tinker Tube Rentals in Phoenicia. Whitewater tubing down the creek in a rubber tube is the best, most exciting way to take in the gorgeous surroundings.
Graham & Co., Phoenicia
The brand-new Graham & Co. Motel in the Esopus Creek village of Phoenicia has got the whole “1960s motor lodge with a great pool” thing down to a science. The rooms are understated and crisp, and the pool is, indeed, impressive. Graham & Co. also provides free bikes so you can go check out Main Street in Phoenicia. The motel is next door neighbors with the Phoenicia Diner…and now we’re craving one of their signature skillet breakfasts.
Blue Pearl, Woodstock
The tucked-away Blue Pearl cottage has all the hallmarks of a romantic weekend escape in the Catskills: Beds draped in dramatic hues, chandeliers, a private lawn, bicycles for exploring the village of Woodstock, and even a complimentary flask of sherry for an evening nightcap. Proprietress Evelyne Pouget will hip you to the nearby swimming holes, should you decide to come up for air to go for a refreshing dip.
Saugerties Lighthouse B&B, Saugerties
Looking for something truly off the beaten path, perhaps a place you can’t even drive to? The B&B at the Saugerties Lighthouse is the perfect hiding spot, right on the Hudson River. Visitors hike in using a picturesque path, and although the walkways around the lighthouse are open to the public, you’ll have the lighthouse all to yourself. When the tide goes out, the area around the lighthouse transforms into a sandy beach. Just make sure you make your reservations well in advance: The Lighthouse B&B fills up months, sometimes years, in advance. It’s no wonder: It’s one of those incredible Catskills destinations that make the drive up north worth it.