Mountains, lakes and a scenic shoreline along the ocean — you could be talking about California, but all of these dreamy vistas are available to enjoy in New Jersey alongside someone you love. Many know the state for its Jersey Shore beaches, but you can also explore the countryside, the cities situated just a stone’s throw from Manhattan and even a stretch of the Appalachian Mountains. The Garden State, as New Jersey is romantically nicknamed, contains multitudes — many of which make ideal intimate retreats for couples seeking a sanctuary outside of the usual routine.
Pairing the obvious with the unexpected, New Jersey boasts the casinos and resorts of Atlantic City as much as a bed-and-breakfast in a town with few residents but lots of lavender. Nature is in abundance, with verdant trails to discover — fingers intertwined. History-loving couples will be dazzled by restored castle-like mansions surrounded by lush gardens. There are inns and boutique hotels aplenty, but also more modern offerings in the multicultural Jersey City.
Despite being a small state, New Jersey is an inviting place for all couples. You’re bound to find a romantic getaway here to suit any taste.
Love is music to the ears in the small coastal city of Asbury Park, known for a thriving live music scene that survives today at venues like the historic Stone Pony or New Orleans-inspired R Bar. Couples of all ages and orientations are welcome, and diversions can be found to satisfy any whim in Asbury Park and surrounding resort towns such as charming Ocean Grove. Spend a quiet beach day down the boardwalk, or make your way through an iconic retro arcade. You can always end the night cozied up with an elaborate cocktail under the romantic lighting of the speakeasy-style Laylow. Pascal & Sabine, meanwhile, serves rich French cuisine sure to make your mouth water — don’t miss the milk chocolate pot de creme.
For lodging, Asbury Ocean Club Hotel towers over Ocean Avenue and offers couples a resort-style retreat. Also consider the tucked-away St. Laurent, which opens summer 2022 and occupies the former Tides Hotel, a boutique and historic property that served local LGBTQ communities for more than a decade. All signs point to success for The St. Laurent, which will offer 20 renovated guest rooms; a restaurant by local epicurean expert and James Beard Award-nominated chef David Viana; and a mixology program by Ricardo Rodriguez, formerly of Miami’s world-famous Broken Shaker bar.
[Read: The Top Things to Do in New Jersey.]
The seaside Victoriana of Cape May oozes romance, but this historic resort town — ideal for a weekend getaway from New York City — is far from sleepy. Cape May maintains a busy events schedule year-round that welcomes artists like trumpeter Wynton Marsalis to its annual Exit Zero Jazz Festival or the band Dire Straits Legacy to its oceanfront Convention Hall. Book an idyllic farm-to-table dining experience at Beach Plum Farm and follow it up with a toast at Willow Creek Winery & Farm, whose Fire Pit Fridays feature live entertainment. You can also pass the time hiking to the Cape May Lighthouse, laying by the pool or watching the sun set at the beach. Cape May excels at date nights, from the moodily lit piano bar of The Ebbitt Room at the historic Virginia Hotel to the shops and treats along Washington Street Mall, where you can walk hand in hand — leaving one hand free for a Peace Pie gourmet ice cream sandwich.
There are accommodations aplenty in the area, but the Southern Mansion, originally built in 1860, is a lavish bed-and-breakfast surrounded by lush gardens — perfect for spoiling yourselves. Recent visitors say the small hotel’s Victorian charm creates a warm atmosphere, though some advise you may not find modern amenities like elevators or minifridges. Meanwhile, enjoy beach and seasonal pool access alongside complimentary tours and activities with a stay at Congress Hall, considered the first seaside resort in the nation. Couples can start the day with delectable brunch at the on-site Blue Pig Tavern and end it soaking in one of the hotel’s claw-foot tubs. And, of course, no visit to Cape May is complete without a nightcap at Congress Hall’s iconic Brown Room.
Come to Princeton — one of the best places to visit in New Jersey — when its ivy-draped schools are in session. This college town is romantic year-round, but you’ll want to stick even closer to your significant other with a slight chill in the air. Autumn is the ideal time to paddle along the Delaware & Raritan Canal, gliding under the colorful fall foliage, after your stroll through the Princeton University campus at the heart of the city. Just 10 miles away in Hamilton sits Grounds for Sculpture, a wistful sculpture park with hundreds of installations set on more than 40 acres. In the spring, peacocks roam under the cherry blossoms. Make reservations at the on-site Rat’s Restaurant, named for a children’s book character, or preorder a picnic to enjoy on the grounds.
You’ll find more mentions of peacocks back in Princeton at The Peacock Inn, a luxury boutique hotel with 16 rooms and a lovely afternoon tea service. If you want to be in the center of it all, you can’t be more central than the Nassau Inn in the heart of Palmer Square. Host to the annual holiday tree lighting, this square is burgeoning with shops and artisanal ice cream; impressive eateries such as Mediterra Restaurant & Taverna, which offers a tapas menu for happy hour, also sit close. Check out Agricola Eatery for a top-notch meal — recent diners applaud the restaurant’s use of fresh, seasonal ingredients from local farms.
You don’t have to leave the Garden State to live the lake life. Vernon, a town in Sussex County, welcomes couples looking for a lakeside getaway to ski lodges like Mountain Creek. Open in all four seasons, this resort offers wintertime skiing and snow tubing, while summer ushers in a chance to splash by the pool or water park, as well as a zip line course for bird’s-eye views. If you don’t want to share your space with families at the resort, consider a cozy cottage or cabin Airbnb rental in the Vernon Valley or along the Highland Lakes. You can also book a stay at the Crystal Springs Resort’s Minerals Hotel, nestled in the alpine Appalachian Valley and outfitted with a sports club, spa and nine-hole golf course. If you’re looking to bond with your significant other over a new shared experience, Crystal Springs Resort offers guests a range of activity options from ax throwing and painting to goat yoga and archery.
Challenge your partner to a hike on the Stairway to Heaven trail, which rewards some climbing with divine views over New Jersey. Or choose a more sedate stroll at the Pochuck Boardwalk, a section of the Appalachian Trail. Afterward, tame your appetite at The George Inn, a 19th-century establishment with an extensive menu and a tap room.
[Read: The Top Water Parks in New Jersey.]
Antiquing aficionados will want to book a long weekend in Lambertville. Myriad purveyors of old and interesting items have set up shop in this small Hunterdon County town, alongside inviting coffee shops and quaint residential streets. The Lambertville Station Restaurant and Inn is routinely referenced as a romantic destination, given the fine dining it offers on the Delaware River, complete with a wine cellar and herb garden. You can sample some cabernet and wind down at one of the 46 rooms here, which visiting couples say makes for a wonderful weekend getaway — or book a stay at one of the suites at the Bridge Street Guest House. Don’t miss Owowcow Creamery, tucked on Union Street, with scoops made from scratch using local and seasonal ingredients.
If you want to make a quick trip over the state line, New Hope, Pennsylvania, is just a half-mile across the pedestrian-friendly bridge over the Delaware River. This small town — equally overflowing with vintage clothiers, eclectic shops and eateries — will complement your Lambertville getaway perfectly.
A romantic weekend in Jersey City comes with scenic views of the New York City skyline. For an even better nighttime view of the city lights, check out the rooftop bar and lounge at Hyatt House Jersey City — or the Vu Restaurant and Lounge at Hyatt Regency Jersey City on the Hudson, which affords a glimpse of Lady Liberty. Many hotel chains have a presence in Jersey City, but Hyatt’s river vistas are difficult to surpass. Vacationers staying at the Hyatt Regency praise its convenient location, with a PATH train into New York directly in front of the hotel, and the views that make some guests opt never to shut their curtains at night.
Start your romantic getaway in Jersey City with a spa day at the trendy SoJo Spa Club in Edgewater (about 10 miles north). This Korean-inspired spa is open in all weather for treatments; its facilities include a pool and therapeutic baths with — what else — stunning city views. In good weather, book a cruise that grants access to Ellis Island and Liberty Island, where you’ll find the Statue of Liberty. Once back on land, take a sunset stroll from the Harborside plaza to the Colgate Clock. Head to dinner in the waterfront Paulus Hook neighborhood, rife with intimate restaurants: The rustic-chic Satis Bistro, for example, will elevate your date night with modern European fare such as charcuterie.
You don’t have to choose between staying in a state park or a castle — and you don’t have to leave New Jersey to do it. Skylands Manor was designed and built in the 1920s by American architect John Russell Pope, whose credits also include the National Archives and National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Though now a century old, the castle-style manor was intentionally built to look weathered and ancient, and all of the stone used was quarried on the estate. Today Skylands Manor sits on the grounds of the New Jersey State Botanical Garden in Ringwood, providing 100 acres of beauty you can explore on a self-guided tour.
A stay at The Castle at Skylands Manor hotel will make you and your loved one feel like royalty. Unsurprisingly, this site is a top wedding venue, able to host up to 600 guests in its formal gardens. The Castle at Skylands Manor offers 21 suites, but be sure to book a stay far in advance if you want to beat out lovebirds looking to tie the knot. Couples who have recently stayed here checked a castle stay off their list, but they caution that the property is privately maintained and occasionally experiences maintenance issues. Guests with mobility issues should know they will need to navigate stairs to stay at the manor.
Long Beach Island
The drive out to Long Beach Island — more commonly called LBI — will bring the peace of mind that accompanies leaving behind the bustle of the mainland and crossing the Manahawkin Bay. The 18-mile stretch of barrier island offers seasonal amusements and bayfront hotels in six tiny shore towns with fitting names like Ship Bottom, Surf City and Beach Haven. LBI’s white sand beaches aren’t free — each municipality requires its own beach badge — but they are pristine. You can easily spend your day sunbathing or cycling together to either of the wilderness areas that bookend the island. In the north you have the Barnegat Lighthouse State Park, while at the southern tip you’ll find part of the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, with views of Atlantic City. Be sure to also check LBI’s local schedule to see if any annual festivals (ranging from celebrations of wine to chowder) coincide with your visit.
While you’re in LBI, The Chicken or the Egg merits a visit to Beach Haven for a Buffalo chicken omelet or other fowl-related fare. This part of town tends to draw many families with kids in the summer, so if you’re looking to keep your trip adults-only you might consider booking a dinner — or a stay — at The Gables. This property looks like a seaside cottage set amid a garden teeming with flowers; candlelit three-course dining, five gorgeously appointed rooms and honeymoon packages make The Gables an epicenter of romance on the island.
Amid the casino lights you might associate with Atlantic City, you’ll also find this city to be a waterfront escape near top-rated restaurants and attractions. Even if you have no interest in gambling, couples come to AC to enjoy celebrity-headlining comedy shows and concerts alongside dining that ranges from the kitchen of an Iron Chef (Angeline by Michael Symon) to a landmark restaurant first opened as a private club in 1912 (the Knife & Fork Inn). Of course if you do fancy the slots, there are more casino options than you’ll be able to sample in one visit. And, as an iconic boardwalk destination above all, Atlantic City claims one of the oldest and longest boardwalks in the world with nearly 4 miles of boards, the first section of which originally dates from 1870. After spending an afternoon on the free beaches of AC, go win your sweetie a stuffed animal at one of the arcades.
A hotel within a hotel, The Water Club at Borgata is a couple-friendly oasis with 43 stories, five heated pools and a two-story spa, all conveniently connected to the amenities of the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa next door. Recent visitors rave that the property is clean and quiet despite being centrally located, though it does lack the ocean access typical of many other Atlantic City accommodation options.
Offering a wooded refuge along the Delaware River, Frenchtown is a darling destination for couples looking to commune with nature and the arts. The Delaware & Raritan Canal State Park starts here, and walkers or cyclists can pedal along the river all the way to the state’s capital in Trenton. The Lovin’ Oven will serve you a satisfying brunch that can either give you the energy to hit the D&R trail or reward you for your journey; the towpath sits adjacent to the restaurant. Fans of the Lovin’ Oven appreciate its funky atmosphere and flavorful food. Just down the road from the eatery is ArtYard, a contemporary art center and exhibition space.
The place to book in town is the historic National Hotel, originally a stagecoach stop and now a restaurant, hotel and tavern with frequent live entertainment. To really soak up the flavor of Frenchtown, plan a visit around one of the town’s unique festivals, such as the celebrations for Bastille Day (July 14) or the Riverfest street fair held in September.
Within Warren County’s Knowlton Township — right on the border with Pennsylvania in North Jersey — you’ll find the community of Columbia. Since its population is less than 200 people, you will be guaranteed privacy on a weekend getaway to the East Coast countryside. At The RoseMary Inn, a bed-and-breakfast situated on 17 acres, the first meal of the day is considered an event, with a multicourse breakfast menu that uses fresh and local ingredients. Many recent guests agree that the inn — especially with its breakfast offerings — is a hidden gem. Sip your coffee on the porch overlooking the pond and plan a slow-paced day. Maybe you’ll opt to visit the Orchard View Lavender Farm in Port Murray, about 20 miles south, whose weekend events may include dinner in the lavender fields or soothing evening yoga sessions.
Less than 10 miles from Columbia in the nearby town of Hope, The Inn at Millrace Pond is another well-reviewed lodging option. With 17 rooms — some pet-friendly and with whirlpool tubs — this fully remodeled inn was originally built as a stone gristmill in 1769.
Situated about 20 miles from Manhattan is the eclectic New Jersey suburb of Montclair, which boasts plenty of things for couples to do. Browse the Montclair Art Museum, which has a focus on Native American and American art, then stop by the Van Vleck House & Gardens to enjoy a green oasis amid this urban suburb. Kip’s Castle Park, a 9,000-square-foot mansion that resembles a Norman castle, features a scenic overlook and great bird-watching. Downtown Montclair is alive with shops and restaurants, which span cuisine from Brazil to Israel. If your sweetheart has a sweet tooth, Montclair is an excellent place to find French macarons, with a variety of bakeries peddling such fine confections among other baked goods.
Book a stay at the hip and modern MC Hotel, described as “part gallery, part gathering space,” or splurge on a king-size suite at The George, a boutique hotel with individually designed rooms styled in part by celebrity creative director Bobbi Brown. Guests at The George revel in its ambiance, enjoying details such as the wine hour or fluffy robes — and the hotel is dog-friendly, in case your furry friend plans to tag along on your romantic escape.
Back on the Jersey Shore, enjoy a table for two set along the Atlantic Ocean. Date night doesn’t just hit one note in Long Branch, a Monmouth County beach destination that’s been growing over the past decade. Pier Village is a shopping and dining mecca along the boardwalk, where you’ll find eateries such as the oceanfront Sirena Ristorante or Avenue, both with crackling fireplaces and cocktail menus. Perhaps you’ll opt for a glass of red wine paired with a delicious cut of meat at The Butcher’s Block, or you can be served a plate of poutine and craft beer brewed on-site at The Whitechapel Projects. This gathering space brings together food, drinks, art and community with occasional live music and collaborations with local vendors.
Book a stay at Bungalow Hotel, a small art-focused boutique accommodation at the entrance to Pier Village with in-room fireplaces and a cocktail bar. Bungalow guests can use the amenities of its sister property, Wave Resort, an oceanfront hotel and spa that is another great lodging choice.
The Wildwoods make for the beachside getaway of your dreams, with an abundance of what locals refer to as “Doo-Wop” architecture — and all the fudge you can eat. Choose a stay at the Starlux Hotel near Morey’s Piers for a 1950s-style boutique experience, complete with mini-golf, complimentary bikes and beach chairs, and an ice cream parlor. For something more intimate, find the Octopus Cottage on Airbnb. It’s a petite property located less than 10 miles west of the Wildwoods’ boardwalk that includes a hot tub, fire pit and Tiffany-blue kitchen. Recent renters say the amenities and experience at this cottage exceed expectations, and it provides an ideal setting for a romantic weekend.
And what could be more heartwarming than dolphins? Book a cruise for dolphin watching with your honey and breathe in that salty sea air hand in hand. The Starlight Fleet also offers sunset dinner cruises on the cape.
The Mansion at Natirar
In the Somerset County borough of Peapack-Gladstone, an elegant estate welcomes you. Its name, Natirar, is an anagram for Raritan — this Tudor-style, Gilded Age mansion sits about 10 miles from the Raritan River. Natirar was formerly owned by King Hassan II of Morocco, though he only visited it a few times. In 2023, the 400-acre property will join the Pendry hotel chain to become the Pendry Natirar, a full-service resort with a spa, tennis courts, pool, horseback riding trails and more. The estate’s working farm will still be maintained.
In the meantime, come to Natirar for its lauded culinary odyssey called Ninety Acres, which includes farm-to-table fare and signature cocktails unlike anything you’ve had before. Diners say the experience begins when you head up the winding driveway, and that it might be pricy but it’s worth the splurge. If you’re looking to re-create this special dining experience after your romantic getaway, consider signing up for a culinary arts class for you and your better half at the Ninety Acres Cooking School.
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