The champagne in my glass barely budges as our Hinckley yacht purrs across the Chesapeake, handling any swell that dares to sweep its gleaming hull as if it were a mere ripple. We are en route to Inn at Perry Cabin as part of the posh St. Michaels waterfront resort’s Skip the Bridge program. For those like me who dread driving across the 4.3-mile Bay Bridge, this sumptuous arrival option is a blessing. From the moment we leave our car at Pier 7 near Annapolis, reality is left behind, and our fantasy weekend of decadence begins. Luxury travel is all about escaping the day-to-day world, and the inn’s yacht is the perfect way to begin our journey to paradise.
My memories of this idyllic Miles River getaway go back to the frou frou days when the inn was owned by Sir Bernard Ashley of the Laura Ashley design empire. At that time, the inn was filled with enough chintz to decorate an entire English village. Thanks to the current owner, Richard Cohen of the high-end hotel management company Capital Properties and Belmond, the inn has been undergoing major updates.
Leading the charge of change is Michael Hoffmann, the Swiss-born general manager. With prior positions at name-dropper hotels such as Claridge’s and Waldorf Astoria, he is overseeing every detail right down to the cookies left nightly on your pillow. All 78 guest rooms have been freshened and contemporized while maintaining a nod to history and nautical charm. “Even though the mattresses are new, we are adding featherbed toppings, new duvets, and we’re going from five pillows to seven,” says Hoffmann enthusiastically. His motto seems to be that a luxury experience is all about details. He has no time for ordinary.
The most significant addition is the recent opening of the Links at Perry Cabin, a new Pete Dye-designed 18-hole golf course. A new clubhouse with eight golf simulators in the pro shop, plus 98 lodge rooms adjacent the course, will open in 2020.
The addition of a golf course has been the vision of Cohen ever since he bought the inn in 2014. To turn this dream into reality, he purchased the nearby Harbourtowne Golf Resort and Conference Center plus adjacent property to create a driving range. His next call was to Dye, a world-famous golf course architect, to redesign the course. Dye, 92, says this is the last course with his fingerprints. (Fans of his work should take note: His legacy will continue since many of his designs are family affairs. Dye’s wife, Alice, has been involved in the design process for years, and son P.B. is following in dad’s footsteps.)
“The four par 3s are as strong as on any golf course in the world,” P.B. says “Each one is magnificent, and the starting and finishing holes have views of the Chesapeake Bay that are fantastic.”
Perry Cabin’s 17th hole, an island green, is reminiscent of the one Dye designed at TPC Sawgrass, the most photographed golf hole in the world. “When people come down for vacation, they like a little excitement, and playing Perry Cabin’s island green is exciting,” P.B. adds. In keeping with Dye’s tradition of naming his favorite golf holes, he named the last three, The Goodnight Kiss. Why? Because you never forget the goodnight kiss on your first date, and you won’t forget these holes either.
Other resort updates include the addition of three new Har-Tru tennis courts and a revitalized spa. And there’s a new chef in the kitchen revamping the entire menu. Yes, Chesapeake crab remains, but the addition of suckling pig with saffron chorizo rice and wild striped sea bass with Jerusalem couscous deserve a round of applause, along with the polished service and wine finds.
While change may be in high gear at the inn, some things have remained the same. The postcard-perfect dining room and outdoor patio with jaw-dropping vistas of the Miles River remain intact. The formal Boxwood Gardens has been renamed the Cove. But there is still an herb garden that provides the chef with a fresh supply and a greenhouse, where many of the resort’s flowers are grown. Fishing and crabbing excursions guided by local residents are a mainstay, plus paddle boarding, sunset sails and a sailing school. Not to mention the pleasure of taking a cocktail cruise on an elegantly appointed 33-foot French canal boat.
For oenophiles, the informal — and fun — wine competitions between
California and French wines continue. So does seasonal port-tonging demonstrations (extracting the cork of a vintage bottle with tongs) and sabraging (opening champagne with a saber). My favorite pastime? Daydreaming by the open fire pit while watching the moon’s reflection on the Miles River, glass of pinot noir in hand.
On our last night, I savor memories of every detail, from blissfully quiet mornings lingering over hearty omelets to the delicious scent in the air as we stroll through the serene gardens. Isn’t it the little things that make for great experiences?
People throw around the word “luxury” but rarely think about what it means. In this case, it was accessible beauty, comfort at every turn and the stuff of memories that won’t be gone too quickly.