Hay Creek Hotels Travel Series Stay 5 of 6
Written by Stavros
The New England Travel Journal visited The Exeter Inn, in Exeter, New Hampshire as the fifth hotel in our travel series partnership with Hay Creek Hotels (HCH). HCH manages a collection of timeless boutique hotel properties largely in New England. To book a future stay at any of the HCH we visited or any of the many hotels in their portfolio use Promo Code NETJHCH20 for 20% off the best available rates.
The Exterior and Grounds
Residing on the corner of Front and Pine St, the Exeter Inn boasts a gorgeous Georgian brick facade. Originally built in 1932 to house the parents and guests of students at the Phillips Exeter Academy, it’s now a perfect stay for those traveling through New Hampshire. There are six types of rooms offered, some include an in suite fireplace and others even an in suite jacuzzi. The inn is modeled to give the look and feel of the nearby academy, but with an updated and boutique ambiance.
One of our favorite parts of staying at the Exeter Inn was the large backyard full of lush gardens. There was plenty of lawn space for yard games or just sitting and relaxing in the gazebo while enjoying the gardens. The yard was surrounded by tall shrubs that made the whole place feel like a secret escape from the hustle of Front street. We took a few trips down toward the center of town, by car and using the hotel’s bikes. Both times when we arrived back at the hotel, we entered the backyard through the garden entrance on Pine St. and felt like we were escaping into our own private getaway.
The Epoch Gastropub has outdoor seating that is on the patio right next to the gardens. We were lucky enough to enjoy our dinner on our first night stay and our breakfast the next morning on the patio. Then, we moved only a few steps away and found some relaxing seats right next to the blooming gardens.
We stayed in a European style room on the second floor of the main building of the Inn. Right above Front street, we had a great view of the entire front yard of the Inn and could see almost as far as Phillip Exeter Academy. We had some of the school buildings in sight but were too far to actually see the campus itself. Our luxurious queen-sized bed was perfect for a restful night’s sleep. We also loved the subway tile in the bathroom which gave the room a very modern and artistic feel. To our surprise, the staff at the Inn gifted us the movie kit which had an assortment of favorite movie theatre candies, gourmet chocolate, and caramel covered popcorn from a shop right downtown and a few drink options. We enjoyed a movie in bed to end our night before snoozing off.
Epoch Gastropub is located to the left of the front desk of the inn. After you check in you can head straight through the bold wooden door frames and right into the inviting bar area of the restaurant. Tall, red barstools surround the U-shaped bar with trophy display cases on either end of the bar full of premium liquors for many of the craft signature cocktails. From the bar, you can walk down the red lit stairs into the dining room that is flooded with sunlight from the ceiling high windows. There are plenty of seating options between the many plush, green booths, and yellow top dining tables.
We opted to have our dinner on the iron chairs outside on the patio just as the sun was setting. We enjoyed our Blinker and Strawberry Lemongrass Spritz just as the day was coming to an end and the night was starting. To start our meal we opted for the heirloom tomato and burrata cheese salad and then had the chicken under a brick and mushroom ragout over polenta. For dessert, we finished our meal with a warm peach cobbler served in a hot mini cast iron top with granola and vanilla ice cream.
The next morning we also had our breakfast at the Epoch Gastropub and it was just as delicious as the dinner from the night before. Knowing that we had a full day of exploring ahead we opted for tall glasses of orange juice and one bagel and lox, and the blueberry cream-cheese filled French toast. The lox and bagel were served with plain cream cheese, pickled red onions, and tangy capers. The French toast was sprinkled with powdered sugar and served with local New Hampshire maple syrup and local butter.
During our visit to Exeter, we really enjoyed exploring the quaint downtown. There is a myriad of small shops, restaurants, coffee shops and ice cream parlors right on Water Street. Some of the many stops we made were to Water Street Book Store, Donut Love, and Trends Gift Gallery. We walked up and down almost all of Water Street, all the way from High Street bridge to Swasey Parkway. On our second trip downtown, we rode the bikes from the Inn down the parkway and right alongside the Squamscott River. The bike ride through downtown was completed with some ice cream from Stillwells.
About a 15-minute drive from Exeter, we visited Smuttynose Brewing Company in the town of Hampton. They had a great selection of hoppy beers and lagers, and plenty of fruity saisons and specials on tap. We enjoyed lunch at the bar but then spent some time on their patio listening to the live music. Our trip to the brewery ended with a visit to their store where we picked up a few variety packs of their beer and sours to take home with us.
On our way back from Exeter, we made a stop at Rockport, Massachusetts to visit a local celebrity. Motif #1 and Rockport have been on our list of places to visit for many years. It’s a nice little fishing town that’s also very well known for the local art community and the many galleries spread out among the town.
We had one of our favorite breakfasts at the Epoch Gastropub and were lucky enough to enjoy the perfect pairing between the beautiful weather and the restaurant’s patio that allowed us to enjoy our breakfast on the outside next to the gardens. The blueberry cream-cheese stuffed French toast and bagel with lox was a breakfast we’ll remember for a long time. We also loved the privacy and the backyard and garden and how it created an escape from the surrounding town. The Inn seems like a private oasis right just a few minutes’ walk from downtown.
To read about the rest of our Travel series Partnership with Hay Creek Hotels Visit our Season Wrap Up Story