Most Romantic Summer Destinations
“It’s great to get away to a place where there are few activities besides walking around and exploring and relaxing together. On trips like this, John and I remember why we like each other so much!” says New Jersey resident Jeanellen Vapsva, who hopes to re-create a romantic kid-free weekend she and her husband spent last summer near Pennsylvania’s Delaware Water Gap.
Blame it on the heat, the relaxed schedules, or barefoot attitudes, but summer is when romance—be it a weekend fling or honeymoon—blossoms. Weather tends to be a key factor in choosing a destination for weddings, with summer being the most popular time of year to tie the knot and take a honeymoon, or just get away from it all. And the options are plentiful.
“Summer is the ideal time to travel because the weather is great in most of the popular destinations,” says Travel + Leisure A-List Agent Peter Lloyd, president of Century Travel, who’s been crafting romantic trips for his clients for more than 20 years. “We always see Europe on a big surge in summer, for example. Lush, vineyard-filled Tuscany and the scenic Amalfi Coast are meant for summertime—and for couples. It’s the place to live la dolce vita.”
Landing on the ideal romantic summer getaway, for some, is easy. For others, there’s Travel + Leisure’s list of favorite spots that are sure to get travelers in the mood for love this season.
Come summer in the U.S., the islands off of Bar Harbor, ME—many of which are a short boat ride away from the mainland—are a perfect spot to celebrate the season, Vacationland style. At the Spectacle Island Estate, guests can take in the salt air from suites overlooking fir-lined Frenchman Bay; warm up on cool Maine mornings with a wood-burning fireplace; and feed each other lobster. The Down East fantasy extends to the gorgeous rugged surroundings and nearby Acadia National Park, on Mount Desert Island.
Moony-eyed twosomes might also be interested in checking into a cliff-side lodge in Vico Equense, Italy, on the Sorrento Coast. This undiscovered village comes complete with a castle, a secluded pebble beach, and gourmet finds like chef Gennaro Esposito’s risotto with cod and fig at Torre del Saracino, a restaurant housed in a seventh-century tower.
Essaouira, Morocco, is another far-flung affair to remember. The UNESCO World Heritage Site offers travelers every conceivable kind of activity—from world-class kiteboarding and arts to bustling medinas and hotels whose courtyards are perfumed with oleander.
Whether you take off for parts unknown or rediscover your own proverbial backyard in the coming weeks, one thing is certain: romance is where you find it. —Adrien Glover
On the Waterfront: Whidbey Island, Washington
Though it’s only a 20-minute ferry ride from Seattle suburb Mukilteo, this island oasis feels like the Pacific Northwest’s last frontier—a lost-in-time place of towering redwoods and sparkling coves overlooking Puget Sound. Take refuge at the 28-room Inn at Langley, in Langley, a pint-size town on the island. Each suite has a Jacuzzi with views of the evergreen-lined Saratoga Passage waterway. In the historic center, the Clyde Theatre, a 1937 movie house, screens the classics and contemporary films. Drive 30 miles north to Ebey’s Landing to walk the coastal bluffs, or make your way to Coupeville, known for its Penn Cove mussels, which no-frills Toby’s Tavern serves right.
Secret Village: Vico Equense, Italy
A crenellated castle, pink-washed clifftop church, and pebbled beach make Vico Equense perhaps the most dramatic—though surprisingly undiscovered—village on the Sorrento Coast. On the main coastal road, Annamaria Cuomo and Salvatore De Gennaro serve cured meats and cheeses at their epicurean market La Tradizione. At Torre del Saracino, try innovative dishes, such as risotto with cod and figs, in a seventh-century tower. Stay just outside the village at the Hotel Capo La Gala, a stone-studded cliffside lodge. The hotel has a nautical theme: porthole windows and hurricane lamps in the lobby, blue-and-white guest rooms accented with miniature model boats. Book one of the Classic rooms, and take your breakfast (cappuccino and croissants) on the roomy balcony overlooking the Bay of Naples.
Oceanside Oasis: Bar Harbor, ME
Down east Maine is dotted with private islands—Oar, Clapboard, Chanterelle—where couples can play Yankee castaways. One of our favorites is the four-acre Spectacle Island, a short boat ride from Bar Harbor. Book Spectacle Island Estate, a three-bedroom cottage on this spruce-covered spot in Frenchman Bay. The wraparound porch makes for good afternoon bird-watching, when gulls and osprey swoop along the shoreline. Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island offers rugged hiking trails (or walk along the beach and watch the lobster boats). The island rental also includes a seaworthy 36-foot boat manned by a licensed captain. Catch the boat back to Bar Harbor and have a jumbo baked lobster at La Bella Vita, in the Harborside Hotel.
Paradise in the Pacific Northwest: Vancouver Island
Off the west coast of Canada, this windswept isle has pristine beaches surrounded by old-growth rain forests, and a buzzing food scene in its chief city, Victoria. For a true end-of-the-road experience, head to Tofino: all forest, beach, and mountains. Cantilevered over the surf, Wickaninnish Inn is the place to hole up and watch romantic storms. If you’re tempted outside, Shell Beach, a hidden alcove on Chesterman Beach, is an ideal place to watch the sun set.
A Lighthouse Hotel: Devon, England
Set high on a mile-long headland with sweeping views of the Channel, the 1863 Start Point Lighthouse is flanked by keepers’ quarters, which were transformed into two charming cottages. Inside you’ll find pillowy beds, modern kitchens, fireplaces, and a basket filled with English Breakfast tea and freshly baked bread. Don’t miss the spectacular walk along a stretch of the adjacent South West Coast Path trail. —Amy Traverso
Back to Nature: Denali National Park, AK
In the land of the midnight sun, one of the best things to do is hike, baby, hike. At Denali’s Sable Pass, you can meander through willow brush and cross Igloo Creek in plain view of glacier-sheathed Cathedral Mountain. Book a one-room log cabin on a hillside at Camp Denali, close enough to the main lodge for comfort and far enough for privacy. Cabins have gingham curtains, a big wooden bed, and gas-powered lamps. Ask for one with a view of Mt. McKinley. —Jeff Wise and Kathryn O’Shea-Evans
Vineyard Views: Michigan’sWine Country
Flanking West Grand Traverse Bay, in the state’s Lower Peninsula, these 850 acres of vineyards are finally turning out wines, particularly Pinot Blancs, worthy of the stupendous views. Among the best: bracing renditions from Left Foot Charley and Brys Estate. Check in to the stately eight-room inn at the hillside Black Star Farms, a luxurious B&B complete with a farmers’ market, creamery, and stables. For dinner, try the roast quail stuffed with foie gras at Blu, overlooking Lake Michigan.
Bucolic Bliss: Chassignolles, France
Lost at a head-clearing elevation of 3,000 feet in the Livradois-Forez, France’s largest national park, 100 miles southwest of Lyons, Chassignolles invites long, extravagantly lazy days spent communing with cows, admiring the accidental land art created by a farmer with some hay bales, and stopping to smell the rockroses that fringe the lanes. There is only one place to stay: Auberge de Chassignolles. The eight rooms are basic, but the views are ravishing, whether of the village’s 12th-century church or the surrounding wildflower meadows. The English chef-owner Harry Lester, an early and important crusader in the gastropub campaign, will be chalking his menu board with dandelion-and-marigold salad dressed in sunflower oil, a citrusy fresh goat cheese, and a cherry-and-almond tart. If Chassignolles isn’t heaven on earth, it will have to do.
Atlantic Adventure: Nova Scotia
Acadian fishing villages stud the province’s French shore, and the craggy coastline roads have nonstop panoramas. Behind almost every cove are candle-lit restaurants in salt-worn wooden houses. From the art galleries in Peggy’s Cove to the tidal changes in Digby, this rugged shore offers meandering drives, inviting B&B’s, and a sound track of crashing waves. Don’t miss a sunrise sail on Halifax Harbour. (If you’re on a budget, the $2 harbor ferry ride offers a shorter, but still stunning, view from the water.)
Remote Boat Trip: Patmos, Greece
Just 14 square miles, this tiny island of the Dodecanese archipelago is only accessible via boat. The rewards, however, are well worth the trip. From the port of Skala, head to Chora, a walled hilltop village that’s a maze of interlinked courtyards, chapels, and whitewashed mansions—one of which serves as the town’s only hotel. At the 17th-century Archontariki you’ll find six modern-rustic suites with stone archways, teak furniture, and private rooftop terraces overlooking the Aegean Sea. Patmos has countless hidden coves and deserted beaches along its jigsaw coastline. Don’t miss a stroll on secluded Diakofti Beach—then try the fried zucchini balls at the shorefront food stand. At dusk, make your way to Benetos, on the edge of Sapsila Bay, for fresh fish dishes such as grouper fillet with caramelized onions, and herb-crusted seared tuna with wasabi and seaweed.
West Coast Wonderland: Northern California
On the Waterfront North of San Francisco, past Muir Woods, the Marin roads wind through Ewok forest that opens into deer-, sheep-, and cow-studded farmland and then magically folds back into dense forest, until eventually you come to the Pacific spread out under the cliff—as if someone has tried to cram all of America into one place. Check into Manka’s Inverness Lodge, which specializes in awesome food in the dining room, and coziness (fireplaces, flannel curtains, shelves of old books, and an arkful of taxidermied animals) in the guest rooms. The next morning, explore Point Reyes Station, an Old West–meets-crunchy yuppie town lined with cutesy storefronts. When the lodge’s extensive breakfast finally wears off, load up on picnic supplies at the Cowgirl Creamery, inside Tomales Bay Foods, and have a picnic table at Dillon Beach, a 150-year-old summer resort and surfing cove. —Joel Stein
North African Dreams: Essaouira, Morocco
With its strong breezes, this Moroccan beach town—known as Wind City, Africa—is one of the world’s top windsurfing and kite-boarding spots. But there’s more to it than water sports: the local calendar is studded with world-class music and arts events, and galleries show internationally known artists. Wander the restored ramparts of the medina and past charming (though often crumbling) palaces and mansions of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. —Richard Alleman