Located in a colonial home in the center of historic Marblehead , the 1721 Brimblecomb Hill B&B (33 Mechanic St., Marblehead, 781/631-3172 or 781/631-6366, www.brimblecomb.com , $95–125) was once owned by a close friend of Ben Franklin. The two less expensive rooms share a bath, while the pricier room has a private bath, four-poster queen-sized bed, and a wall full of books. Depending on the season, a continental breakfast is served by the fireplace or out in a small garden.
Rockport  abounds with bed-and-breakfasts situated in captain’s houses and colonial homes. One of the most welcoming is Inn on Cove Hill (37 Mount Pleasant St., Rockport, 978/546-2701, www.innoncovehill.com , $120–235), a lovingly restored Federal-style home crowded with antiques and original architectural flourishes. The rooms are named after members of the family of the original resident, Caleb Norwood, and feature a range of antique beds, including an iron trundle bed and Shaker low beds for children. The sense of humor of the current owner, Betsy Eck, is evidenced by her own line of “Inn Sane” clothing.
Situated smack dab on Salem’s  common, the Hawthorne Hotel (18 Washington Square West, Salem, 978/744-4080, www.hawthornehotel.com , $114–315) is a miniature grand European hotel, with a marble lobby and ballroom. Rooms are individually furnished with a rich, gender-neutral palette. Rates at Halloween include coveted tickets to the hotel’s annual costume ball.
You can’t get any closer to the water than at the Cape Ann Motor Inn (33 Rockport Rd., Gloucester, 978/281-2900, www.capeannmotorinn.com , $80–275), a three-story family-style resort located right on the curving sands of Long Beach, on the Gloucester-Rockport line. All 31 rooms offer views of the water, and include mini-fridges and breakfast in the rates; kitchenettes are only slightly more expensive.
Newburyport’s premier lodging, the Clark Currier Inn (45 Green St., Newburyport, 978/465-8363, www.clarkcurrierinn.com , $125–195) is a grand Federal-style mansion once owned by a shipbuilder and silversmith. The eight rooms contain individual flourishes, including lace canopies, antique Victorian couches, and mahogany furniture. Several also offer separate entries for privacy.
Offering a chance to stay on the historic Crane Estate, the Inn at Castle Hill (280 Argilla Rd., Ipswich, 978/412-2555, www.theinnatcastlehill.com , $115–385) brings alive the Victorian era with grand dimensions and a wraparound verandah. The overriding atmosphere, however, is one of pristine quiet, with elegant all-white and pastel furnishings, and an absence of televisions or radios on the grounds. Add a walk under the stars with the sound of the surf, and you could be miles from civilization.