Family-friendly attractions like dude ranches or national parks offer full immersion into nature. Which is just fine until it storms. For those seeking a connection to nature, and an escape plan in case the weather — or tempers — don’t cooperate, the following new and improved hotels and resorts offer ready access to wild places and alternatives on the mild side, too.
Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Spa, Scottsdale
Few places combine access to nature and comforting bases from which to explore it as well as Scottsdale, the resort-filled suburb of Phoenix. Much of that outdoor space is devoted to golf courses, but there are plenty of Sonoran Desert preserves in which to hike, including the granite terrain of Pinnacle Peak Park. The new 201-room Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Spa occupies its own 23 landscaped acres with a relaxed style, from the glass-walled restaurant to spacious midcentury-designed rooms and two outdoor swimming pools. The resort offers tours in a local artists’ community. And downtown Scottsdale, with its walkable streets filled with shops, restaurants and unique museums, is a few miles away.
Rooms from $399; scottsdale.andaz.hyatt.com.
The Hideaway, Carmel-by-the-Sea
Beachcombers, surfers and boogie boarders will find plenty of fair-weather activity on the Monterey Peninsula along California’s central coast. Whale watching is good virtually year-round, and there are bike rentals for exploring. When the weather gets bad, visitors can seek a controlled communion with nature at the acclaimed Monterey Bay Aquarium. A handy base for coastal exploring, the new Hideaway hotel, a 24-room bed-and-breakfast in Carmel-by-the-Sea that opened last spring, from the PlumpJack Group, which is well known for its Bay Area restaurants. The lodging stocks playing cards and board games for rainy days and will arrange family surfing lessons and aquarium tickets.
Rooms from $220; hideawaycarmel.com.
The Inn at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Lexington
Between 1805 and 1910 the third largest community of Shakers, the Christian sect known for its spare architecture and furniture, lived on the 3,000 acres that now make up Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill in northern Kentucky. Spread over 13 original Shaker buildings with 72 guest rooms, the Inn at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill offers access to horseback riding and hiking on 37 miles of trails in the compound’s nature preserve consisting of prairie and woodlands. But there are also new cultural activities, including workshops in making your own Shaker broom. New nature programs include brunch with baby animals on the working farm and guided treks to identify spring wildflowers.
Rooms from $110; shakervillageky.org.
Nine River Road, Callicoon
Travelers go to the Catskill Mountains for nature, of course, but village life is a secondary attraction at Nine River Road, a riverside house that opened in August in Callicoon. The 1884-vintage house on the Delaware River, once home to a furniture store, holds eight rooms spread over three floors, some with clawfoot tubs and river views. Guests can borrow bikes to go exploring or sign up with an outfitter to go tubing or canoeing on the river. Spend time indoors lounging by the communal fireplace or playing board games. Town is a quick walk away and home to restaurants, galleries, antiques shops and a historic movie theater.
Rooms from $149; nineriverroad.com.
The Beach Club at Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina, Charleston
Seven miles from downtown Charleston, the Beach Club at Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina offers easy access to the historic attractions of the city along with the relief of two pools and a beach. The children’s club emphasizes nature in the coastal Lowcountry with adventures in crabbing, hunting shark’s teeth and investigating bugs. Bikes are available to take on area trails, and the marina offers opportunities to sail. Guests can get to Charleston’s historic center via a water taxi or a free trolley. There are three restaurants; on-site entertainment includes movies screened each Saturday at a private 30-seat theater. Ninety-two rooms include some family suites that feature two bedrooms.
Rooms from $229; charlestonharborresort.com/beachclub.
Chewton Glen Hotel & Spa, New Forest
In Hampshire, near the New Forest National Park in the south of England, Chewton Glen Hotel & Spa offers an aristocrat’s immersion in nature on an 18th-century estate encompassing 130 acres of gardens, forests and lawns just a few minutes’ walk from the sea. The 70-room country house hotel caters to families, with everything from treehouse suites to a children’s croquet court and an outdoor insectarium called the Bug Hotel. In April, Chewton Glen will introduce a new culinary complex, the Kitchen, that will offer Junior Chef Classes in truffle making, bread baking, sushi rolling and more for ages 8 to 17. Adults have their own cooking classes, as well as a spa; and attractions like Stonehenge are a day trip away.
Rooms from $470; chewtonglen.com.
Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel, Sydney
Few major cities are as outdoorsy as Sydney, blessed with ocean beaches, a vast bay and numerous parks. Its big attractions, including the Sydney Opera House and the Taronga Zoo, are accessible by ferry from Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel, a popular 19th-century inn that was fully renovated in 2013. Guests of its 31 rooms may use complimentary bikes. Just beyond the resort lie walking trails in part of Sydney Harbour National Park. On the hotel site, family-friendly loft rooms sleep four. The casual Beach Club restaurant specializes in seafood, pasta and fish and chips. For urban forays, the municipal ferry dock is just in front of the hotel.
Rooms from 239 Australian dollars ($184); watsonsbayhotel.com.au.
Moose Hotel & Suites, Banff
The lively mountain town of Banff in the Canadian Rockies was born to serve travelers who were tentative about scaling snowcapped peaks but excited about riding the Canadian Pacific Railway to some of the railroad’s most elaborate hotels, including the castlelike Banff Springs Hotel (now the Fairmont Banff Springs). Banff serves as base camp for excursions into nearby Banff National Park with its 2,564 square miles available for adventures ranging from soft to extreme. From town, visitors can ride the Banff Gondola to the newly renovated summit center that has a theater, interpretive center and restaurant at an elevation of 7,486 feet. The new Moose Hotel & Suites, with 174 rooms, family-friendly suites and rooftop pools indoors and out, puts many of these attractions within walking distance.
Rooms from 175 Canadian dollars ($130); moosehotelandsuites.com.
Schloss Elmau Luxury Retreat, Spa and Cultural Hideaway, Elmau
Built in 1916 as an artist’s retreat, Schloss Elmau in the Bavarian Alps, roughly 60 miles south of Munich, presents itself as a thinking person’s haven in the outdoors, as epitomized by the G7 Summit held here in 2015. That same year the 370-acre property opened the Retreat, with 47 family-friendly suites. Best known for its cultural programming, Schloss Elmau stages more than 250 concerts and performances every year. Its family offerings include a spa and a club with chess workshops and science labs. Half of the bookshop, which claims to be the world’s biggest hotel bookseller, is devoted to children’s literature. Families can hike or bike to Schachen, one of castles built by “Mad” King Ludwig II, and visit others nearby.
Rooms from 408 euros ($437); schloss-elmau.de.
Hotel Rodavento, Valle de Bravo
Water sports meet colonial heritage in the well-preserved town of Valle de Bravo, about 90 miles west of Mexico City. The town borders a vast lake, also known as Valle de Bravo, offering kayaking, paddleboarding and fishing. There are plenty of hiking trails in the surrounding mountains, and the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, where migrating butterflies stay from November through March, is nearby. On five acres here, the 28-room Hotel Rodavento is undergoing a renovation to be completed in December to add a spa and eight additional suites in the forest. The resort also newly offers seasonal excursions to the butterfly reserve. For a change of pace, visit the historic pueblo where shops and restaurants line the cobblestone streets.
Rooms from $255; hotelrodavento.com.