The 35-room Wauwinet has an enchanting setting—an ensemble of 19th-century gray, shingled houses fronting a remote private beach. It also has a superlative restaurant, Topper's. From the different breads (perfect blueberry cream-cheese scones, buttery coffee cake) and unusual entrées served at breakfast (such as a Nantucket lobster, leek, and basil frittata) to the oysters with fennel, apple, and curry and a luscious lobster navarin at dinner, the food is exceptionally good. There's also a strong wine list—1,000 choices from the 25,000-bottle cellar, a selection unheard of in a small hotel. The service in both restaurant and inn is extraordinary too. And the room decor is pleasing—sweet floral fabrics and painted furniture.
The room size is the catch. Thirty-one of the 35 are claustrophobically small. (Good luck trying to take a bath in the tiny tubs.)
The room to get is 302 —"Everyone wants it," says innkeeper Mark Pequingot—because it is 50 percent larger than most of the others, secluded away on the top floor, and has sweeping views of Nantucket Bay. Runners-up: 105, the Coatue Suite, is the largest room in the house but has a bay view that isn't as good as 302's; and the two-room cottage suites, Idlewild A and B, which have sharp, designer decor and fireplaces but no water views.
If you can't get one of the big four (repeat guests book them a year in advance, but there are scattered openings throughout the season), go for the consolation prize—a waterfront vista. Request 101, 103, 104 (all are on the ground floor and have terraces) or an odd-numbered room from 201211; you might also choose 301 or 303. Room rates at the Wauwinet vary with the season: $540-$1,010 in midsummer. 508-228-0145; fax 508-325-0657. Reservations: 800-426-8718. www.wauwinet.com