Cozy luxury at made-over Inn at Perry Cabin

We were lucky; our drive into St. Michaels was, somehow, sans traffic, despite the fact that it was Friday evening and we surely were not alone in our desire to escape the city for a relaxing getaway on the Eastern Shore.

As we drove through the downtown, stopping to let families cross the street for a dinner cracking shellfish at the Crab Claw, we looked for the turnoff for the Inn at Perry Cabin, our destination for the weekend. Beneath an umbrella of large linden trees lining the driveway, we eagerly anticipated seeing the results of the inn's four-month, $2.7 million renovation.

The valet greeted us in front of the historic manor house, showing us inside, where more eager-to-please hotel staff appeared to be at our beck and call. I looked around the renovated library and morning room, beautifully appointed in luxurious fabrics and Victorian furniture. And then I saw the view: A perfectly groomed yard, filled with lush gardens and white lawn chairs where people sat swirling wine and watching the sunset, flanked the harbor.

We headed up to our room, a suite in calming sage and blue tones, complete with a large bathroom with a soaking tub and an expansive balcony overlooking the water. The inn offers guests 77 rooms, 38 of which have been renovated with new furniture and fixtures and amenities like iHome clock radios and iPod players.

After watching from our balcony as the sun set, we headed to dinner at the resort's restaurant, Sherwood's Landing.

We decided the best way to see what the ktichen could do would be to order the tasting menu, and our waiter's knowledge on wine persuaded us to add the wine pairings. It was the right decision.

The foie gras with potato and red pepper gelee was expertly paired with a sweet sauternes; but it was the perfectly seared scallop with pea coulis and unexpected golden raisins that sent our taste buds soaring. You could have cut our next course, a grilled beef tenderloin, with a spoon; it was that tender. By the end of our dinner, we were completely satisfied and looking forward to dining again at Sherwood's, which is also open for breakfast and lunch daily. Foodies looking for a diversion can sign up for the restaurant's cooking classes or wine and beer tastings. We learned that our server was teaching a class the next day about how to open champagne with a sabre. (A skill that might not come in handy that often, but could certainly add some pop to a party.)

The next morning, we ordered room service and enjoyed a perfectly simple breakfast of eggs, bacon and coffee on our balcony. After a noisy thunderstorm the night before, the day was ripe for our garden tour.

Joanne Effinger, dubbed the "Queen of Green," has been the inn's gardener since 1994. We met her out front, where she explained that the grounds at The Inn at Perry Cabin have been cultivated for almost 200 years. Home to what is billed as the state's oldest holly tree, which serves as the official Christmas tree of St. Michaels, the inn has six gardens, including a kitchen garden. You'll find kitchen staff snipping herbs there in the morning, while Effinger tends to the lettuces, sweet peas, roses, and blueberries. Guests on their way to the 94,000-gallon heated infinity pool will find an arbor draped with wisteria and iceberg roses at the entryway.

As Effinger showed off her work, she motioned to the new beach the inn recently created, which offers kayaks for rent. It's near the new bocce and croquet courts. Perhaps the inn's most unusual new addition is an apiary featuring five hives housing more than 80,000 bees. The honey was harvested for the first time in September and is now incorporated into dishes at Sherwood's, including the honey-glazed lamb shank, honey waffles with lemon curd and Ms. Gussie's honey-lemon cookies. It will also be an added ingredient to treatments at the Linden Spa such as the "Linden Ritual," which infuses linden flowers, black birch, sage, blackberry leaves, eucalyptus and rosemary into a herbal wrap to detoxify.

The beautiful white-and-yellow blooms from the linden trees, which are prized for their medicinal purposes, are used in other treatments at the spa, including the "Five Flower Solace," which infuses five local flowers into white clay that is slowly massaged into the skin to moisturize and exfoliate.

During my visit to the spa, I opted for a traditional massage; it turned out to be one of the best I've had. The indoor and outdoor relaxation rooms and the detoxifying steam room helped, too. Don't miss the spa boutique, which features Perry Cabin logo wear from Vineyard Vines, botanical gifts, skin care products and handcrafted jewelry.

After my massage, we headed into town, which was an easy five-minute walk from the hotel. Complimentary bikes are also available as part of the resort's new amenities. The Inn at Perry Cabin has also added amenities for pets and features a home-made, gourmet menu for pets. Items include lamb stew, beef and barley, chicken and rice, and beef burger.

Our visit ended with dinner on the terrace. Lanterns were lit, wine was poured and the cool night air breezed lightly past our shoulders. The chicken and crepes were divine: Perfectly roasted farm-raised chicken atop savory cheddar and bacon crepes was served alongside crispy kale in a sweet maple and mushroom broth. I'd return to the Inn at Perry Cabin just for another bite of that dish.

If you go

Getting there

St. Michaels is less than a two-hour drive from Baltimore. From the Bay Bridge, follow U.S. 50 east and bear right onto the Easton bypass/Route 322. Follow Route 322 through three traffic lights. At the fourth light, bear right onto Route 33, St. Michaels Road. Follow that road for nine miles into town.


The Inn at Perry Cabin, 308 Watkins Lane, St. Michaels 21663, 410-745-2200, This Orient-Express Hotels property offers newly updated luxurious rooms and suites. Now through Nov. 30, you can book the "Fall Into St. Michaels" package, which includes luxury accommodations, a $50 resort credit per stay (per night), access to the Linden Spa, afternoon tea, and complimentary Wi-Fi and daily newspaper, for $335 per night, Sunday through Thursday. Regular rates start at $315 per night. Another seasonal package, "Winter Indulgence," is available December through March 14. It includes accommodations, daily breakfast for two, a $50 resort credit per stay, access to the Linden Spa, and complimentary WiFi and daily newspaper, for $245 per night. Regular rates start at $315 per night.

Five Gables Inn, 209 N. Talbot St., St. Michaels 21663, 410-745-0100, This 20-room (eight suites, 12 guest rooms) inn is composed of three circa-1860 homes that have been renovated to offer an elegant and cozy getaway, complete with an extended continental breakfast. The inn also features the full-service Aveda Spa, indoor pool, sauna and steam room, and B's Stitches, a needlepoint shop, and Flying Fred's, an upscale pet boutique. Four rooms and one suite are dog-friendly, and all rooms feature fireplaces. Flat-screen TVs have been added to eight rooms, with more to come. Rates average $170 per night, but packages, like the Spa+Sail deal, offer great value.

Harbour Inn, Marina & Spa, 101 N. Harbor Road, St. Michaels 21663, 410-745-9001, This full-service, harbort resort located off the Miles River features 46 waterfront suites and guest rooms, as well as a 52-slip marina, restaurant and lounge, pool, and spa. Earlier this year, the property became pet-friendly, allowing well-behaved pets to stay for a flat fee. The inn also underwent a renovation, which included new siding on the exterior, a redecorated Club Room and a new chef, before the start of the summer season.