If you need to squeeze in a few more days of summer — far enough from home to say “vacation” but not so far you forget where home is — here are some places where you can still jump in a lake, ocean, or river. The water might be a little cooler now, but it also comes with more aquatic elbowroom. Offseason prices are lower, too, so you won’t get soaked.
BLOCK ISLAND, RHODE ISLAND
If the Hamptons are a nonstop party, Block Island is New England at its casual, screen-door-slamming best. Don’t look for a scene — there isn’t one. Instead, visitors disappear down hiking trails or jump on bikes and mopeds (rent from Old Harbor Bike Shop, 401-466-2029, blockislandmoped.com) to find a favorite beach, like the endless strand stretching off from the ferry dock.
For sheer fun, Payne’s Dock and Mahogany Shores (401-864-3832, paynesdock.com) at Old Harbor serves light meals dockside with a friendly bar scene. For finer fare, nothing beats The Oar (401-466-2421, blockislandresorts.com; click “dining”) at New Harbor, with terrific burgers and glorious views of the marina. The 1661 Inn (800-626-4773, blockislandresorts.com) is a grand Old Harbor hotel with grand ocean views. A few blocks away, the low-key Sea Breeze Inn (401-466-2275, seabreezeblockisland.com) has a couple of rooms and two cottages with porches near the sea.
Car ferries (866-783-7996, blockislandferry.com) run daily from Point Judith, Rhode Island, while Long Islanders can hop on the Cross Sound ferry from Orient Point to New London to transfer immediately (Friday-Sunday) to a passenger-only ferry (860-444-4624, goblockisland.com for both boats).
LONG BEACH ISLAND, NEW JERSEY
Uncluttered beaches are just down the block from your cottage (or house) on this half-mile-wide barrier island that’s 18 miles long. Pick the community that’s right for you — and “you” includes everybody under the beach-going sun. For peace and quiet, head north of the Causeway, between upscale Harvey Cedars and the Barnegat Lighthouse (609-494-2016, state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests) where climbing Old Barney is a rite of initiation. Farther down the island, the LBI Foundation for Arts & Science (609-494-1241, lbifoundation.org) has a packed September schedule of art classes and exhibitions, as well as Italian lessons.
Just off the Causeway, there’s more action in Surf City, with a high concentration of galleries. SwellColors Glass (609-494-7600, swellcolors.com) sells stained glass and shows you how to make a night-light with sand. All the way south, Fantasy Island Amusement Park (fantasyislandlbi.com) has a 65-foot Ferris wheel that reaches new heights for sunset viewing.
Renting’s the thing on LBI — often up to 50 percent cheaper after Labor Day — so check out Mary Allen Realty (800-524-4786, maryallen.com) and Van Dyke Group (800-222-0131, vandykgroup.com). For dining, Arlington (609-494-8848, arlingtonlbi.com) in Ship Bottom is a favorite for burgers, fish, ribs, you name it; while Neptune Market (609-494-2619, neptunemarketlbi.com) has the seafood shanty atmosphere of the “real” Jersey Shore.
LITCHFIELD COUNTY, CONNECTICUT
In Connecticut’s northeast corner, Litchfield County has so many Ye Olde buildings and barns to make you wonder where they found enough historical plaques. First, though, lead yourself to water at Lake Waramaug, where the Hopkins Inn (860-868-7295, thehopkinsinn.com), a 19th-century manse with high ceilings and an elegant dining room, faces the lake and the low Berkshire foothills. Guestrooms start at $125 (shared bath) and run up to a $250 per night for an apartment with its own kitchen. Not far away, in Washington, GW Tavern (860-868-6633, gwtavern.com) is the place for a grass-fed burger by the warming hearth, all under an “authentic” thrift-shop portrait of the first President.
The beach is still open for swimming at Lake Waramaug State Park. ( ct/gov/deep) Clarke Outdoors (860-672-6365, clarkeoutdoors.com) can set you up with a canoe or kayak on the lake or on the Housatonic River, which runs under a one-lane covered bridge (drive across it on Route 128 through West Cornwall). Just south of the lake, the village of New Preston (newprestonct.com) comes stocked with antiques shops and a waterfall to sit beside. Big, beautiful Litchfield, the seat of the eponymous county, is a snapshot of Colonial America. Check out the amazing green before grabbing a booth at the Village Restaurant (860-567-8307, village-litchfield.com), a retro dining room with 21st-century food. Tiny Norfolk (norfolkct.org) is a gem, where musicians jam every Sunday at Infinity Music Hall & Bistro (866-666-6306, infinityhall.com).
INFO 888-288-4748, ctvisit.com/litchfield
DELAWARE RIVER, PENNSYLVANIA AND NEW JERSEY
Floating down a river in an inner-tube sounds like a Mark Twain fantasy, but you can do it on the Delaware — between New Hope, Pennsylvania, and Lambertville, New Jersey — through a pristine landscape of greenery with towns and bridges popping up here and there. River Country (215-297-5000, rivercountry.net) provides the gear, gets you started and collects you later downriver .
NEW HOPE The Salt House (267-740-7908), a new gastropub in a classic stone building, sits right on the river. It’s a short drive from the center of town, but Bowman’s Tavern (215-862-2972, bowmanstavernrestaurant.com) has live piano music each evening. Factory Girl Bake Shop (267-740-2354, factorygirlbakeshop.com) is the place for morning pastries. For overnight stays, Porches on the Towpath (215-862-3277, porchesnewhope.com) has a perch on the historic Delaware Canal, a favorite with cyclists and strollers.
LAMBERTVILLE: Liberty Hall Pizza (609-397-8400, libertyhallpizza.com) is BYOB and serves wood-fired pies, while More Than Q (609-773-0072, morethanq.com) specializes in Texas-style barbecue. The Bridge Street House (609-397-5900, bridgestreethouse.com) has only five guest rooms and a gallery downstairs.
LAKE CHAMPLAIN, VERMONT
It’s a schlep, a five-hour drive (once you’re off Long Island), but the trip gets prettier, the closer you get to Vermont’s Green Mountains, on one side, and New York State’s Adirondacks, on the other. The reward at the end of the trek: Basin Harbor (800-622-4000, basinharbor.com) in Vergennes, a rambling resort on a spit of land that juts halfway across Lake Champlain. Park the car and leave it. You’ll find everything you need on the 700-acre spread: an 18-hole golf course, tennis, swimming and paddleboats. Those who crave less activity can plop themselves into brightly colored Adirondack chairs on the lawn. Accommodations are in the Main Lodge, plus three guesthouses and numerous pet-friendly cottages and studios, with a wide range or prices and meal plans for every budget.
On the drive home, consider taking the ferry across the lake to Essex, New York. Have a bite at the Old Dock Restaurant (518-963-4232), right next to the dock, and stop off at Fort Ticonderoga (518-585-2821, fortticonderoga.org), which was captured by Revolutionary War hero Ethan Allen, his Green Mountain Boys and Connecticut troops.