CAPE MAY, NEW JERSEY
Cape May is the oldest seaside resort town in the country, with exceptionally restored, colorful homes and inns on tree-lined, gaslit streets. Here, the Victorian-style Virginia attracts couples: Its wide veranda, lined in white ginger- bread latticework and tailored couches, is a charming spot to toast your special someone with a signature cocktail.
Behind the cherry red front doors, a red carpet leads upstairs, where the look is sophisticated seaside chic thanks to high ceilings, plush sea foam–hued armchairs, and beachy artwork. Couples spend their days in the shade of one of the property’s striped cabanas and chairs planted on Steger Beach, which is sprinkled with polished blue and green sea glass.
For perhaps the most romantic table on the shore, the hotel’s dimly lit farm-to-table Ebbitt Room restaurant dishes up mouthwatering treats such as tuna tartare with shallots and ponzu, plus sweet ricotta donuts. Rates start at $129; 800/732- 4236 or virginiahotel.com.
Tip: Chef Anthony Micari will place berries, prosciutto, and a bottle of sparkling cider into a picnic basket so you can go watch the sun set over the water. You could easily walk there, but why bother? A friendly attendant will escort you, and your gourmet bounty, by golf cart.
Cantilevered over San Francisco Bay, The Inn Above Tide has glass doors and glass-railed balconies that provide what is likely to be the bay’s best front-row seat: a panorama of Angel Island, the city skyline, and beautiful blue herons coasting above the sea.
Inside the 31 rooms and suites, serene earth tones rule. Spending the day lounging in bed in front of the wood-burning fireplace is tempting, but the weathered, brown cedar–shingled inn is also a minute’s stroll to the galleries, boutiques, and candlelit eateries downtown, as well as the Golden Gate Ferry. Back on your balcony, the sunset is epic—you may spot a gray whale breaching in the deep channel near Tiburon. Rates start at $350; 415/332-9535 or innabovetide.com.
Tip: Craving the beach? There’s an oasis of fine sand a few miles west at Tennessee Valley. Take the inn’s mountain bikes there.
Past white, wicker lawn chairs and rolling greenscape, a sea grass–lined path to the shore reveals the Wauwinet’s trump card: its location, with private beaches on both the Atlantic Ocean and Nantucket Bay.
At this shingled, Nantucket-style mansion, you can experience the kind of blissful seclusion only found on the northeast tip of the island, nine miles from town. The inn is a destination in its own right, with a 1,700-square-foot spa with a couples suite; in the rooms, the plaid and floral prints are grand but cozy.
The inn also houses one of the island’s very best foodie havens: Topper’s. A table for two on the deck is the place to savor butter- basted lobster with truffles, along with a bottle from sommelier Craig Hanna’s collection of 1,450 wines. Rates start at $595; 800/ 426-8718 or wauwinet.com.
Tip: Book a lunch or dinner reservation at Topper’s and get a complimentary one-hour ride on the Wauwinet Lady. On board, try the Rob Roy cocktail spiked with Woody 25 whiskey—the Wauwinet’s single malt Scotch– style whiskey released in honor of the inn’s 25th anniversary.
Among the stone paths, Spanish moss–draped trees, and emerald landscape of Forsyth Park, it’s nearly impossible not to fall in love (or do it all over again). Like the city it inhabits, the regal, 18,000-square-foot Mansion on the park’s east side has character in spades. Beyond the Victorian redbrick facade are gold chandeliers, faux-leopard Versace armchairs, and gleaming onyx and Verona marble surfaces.
In the blue-tinted Poseidon Spa, “relaxed” takes on deep new meaning: The signature side-by-side Privai massage combines English aromatherapy with traditional Thai stretching techniques. You really don’t have to leave the Mansion for anything, but if you want to get out on the town, grab a bottle of wine for a private carriage ride through the heart of the city, which puts the Historic District’s antebellum mansions, antique curios shops, and art galleries on display. Rates start at $189; 912/238-5158 or mansiononforsythpark.com.
Tip: It’s just a 20-minute drive east to Tybee Island, known as “Savannah’s Beach,” where you can watch for scuttling sea turtles or paddle to Little Tybee Island for a stretch of sugar white shore summed up in three words: perfect sand dollars.
The stately Inn at Stonington overlooks an idyllic scene of yachts and lobstermen plying the harbor of this historic New England seafaring village. It’s the kind of place where couples can meet the fishermen who caught their dinner, and amble past friendly shops and lapping sea. Inside the clapboard inn, 17 of the 18 guest rooms have flickering gas fireplaces, and French doors open to balconies with views of Fishers Island Sound.
Each evening, a complimentary wine-and-cheese reception in the red-painted parlor amps up the already romantic vibe; sip Chardonnay and plot your next day’s adventure: a five- minute walk south leads you past the Old Lighthouse Museum to tiny DuBois Beach, where you can take kayaks out on the gentle water. Rates start at $225; 860/535-2000 or theinnatstonington.com.
Tip: The inn does not have a restaurant, but fresh Stonington oysters are a short walk away at Water St. Café.
EAST HAMPTON, NEW YORK
A manicured garden sprouting hydrangeas and crepe myrtle trees gives this whitewashed, seriously cute inn with black shutters and a picket fence a home-away-from-home feel—helped along by the fact that the property has just six guest rooms, along with a two-bedroom Carriage House.
Inside the inn, there’s romance in the carefully crafted details: Original oak ceiling beams and paneling wrap the Tavern and the candlelit upstairs dining room. There, the best table for two is, fittingly, No. 2, in front of the crackling fireplace. Chef Michael Rozzi serves standout dishes like Montauk striped bass with lobster sauce, tarragon, and local peas, and the 16-page wine list focuses on French and American vintages. Rates start at $295; 631/324-1770 or 1770house.com.
Tip: It’s a quick drive to the beach at Louse Point, where the water is beautifully calm, and the sunsets over Napeague Bay are sublime.