Romantic Beach Getaways
Sure, strolling hand-in-hand along the beach is cliché. But there’s an undeniable romance to being by the ocean.
It’s in the salty air, the relaxed pace, small-town charms, and sunsets—preferably enjoyed while on a boat ride. Beach getaways continue to woo couples, and you don’t have to fly halfway across the world to find that perfect stretch of sand.
In North Haven, ME, you can bike the island’s 30 miles of roads, climb to the top of Ames Knob, laze on the beaches of Mullen Head Park, or explore Main Street, whatever says romance to you. On Georgia’s St. Simons Island, the inns overlook historic lighthouses, and pristine white sand stretches for miles.
And the appeal of a seaside vacation continues long after summer ends. For couples eager to avoid sunburns or tired of finding sand in everything they own, smelling the breeze from a bluff high above the Pacific Ocean can be enchanting. Case in point: the private decks at the Brewery Gulch Inn in Mendocino, CA, three hours north of San Francisco.
To help inspire you, we pulled together some of the most romantic beach getaways within driving distance from major U.S. cities. Just make sure you take the right person along for the ride.
Santa Barbara, CA
Santa Barbara lures couples with its perfect climate, plus art, nature, and beaches. Check in to one of the Mediterranean-style oceanfront villas set on 78 acres between the Pacific and the Santa Ynez Mountains at the Bacara Resort & Spa. Then slip into your suit and hit the beach, hike trails in Los Padres National Forest, or take an afternoon to wander through the 65 acres of more than 1,000 species of plants and flowers at the botanic gardens. While you’re there, stop at the Japanese teahouse. It’s the kind of place where you can’t help but feel good—thanks only in part to the year-round warmth of the sun.
East Hampton, NY
Getaway from: New York
Long Island’s eastern end is the destination of choice for wealthy society types, and its penchant for the luxurious and low stress translates into a great beach getaway for lovers. Book the Americas Cup Suite at Mill House Inn for its two-person, glassed-in shower beside a six-foot bathtub, a private wooden deck, a mosaic-framed gas fireplace, and featherbeds. The inviting Wölffer Estate Vineyard hosts free Friday jazz at sunset, overlooking the vines. If you’d rather be on the water, go for a romantic sunset sail on a catamaran with Sailing Montauk cruises to end the day just right.
Rehoboth Beach, DE
Rehoboth Beach is an old-fashioned resort town perfect for a getaway à deux. Some cozy rooms at the Victorian-era Boardwalk Plaza Hotel have wrought-iron balconettes overlooking the ocean; leave your windows open, and let the sound of the surf lull you to sleep. Dine on duck confit or paella in one of the private curtained booths at Eden. Afterward, win a prize for your honey at one of the sweetly corny arcade games along the boardwalk, and stroll along the wide, sandy beach. Before heading home, tuck into diver scallops and champagne in the romantic breezeway at the Back Porch Café for brunch on Sunday.
Located at the tip of Cape Cod and popular among gay and lesbian travelers, “P-Town” affords beautiful beaches, seafood dished up along the wharf, and gently graded nature trails. And it’s not just a warm-weather beach destination—Provincetown becomes an especially romantic and tranquil place when the summer crowds disperse. At the Red Inn, the view of the sun setting over the bay is so spectacular that you almost don’t even notice how good the food is. For jazz, rosé champagne, and the freshest raw oysters around, spend an evening at Victor’s.
Port Townsend, WA
Getaway from: Seattle
The entry point to the wilderness of Olympic National Park, this artsy enclave also has a lovely Victorian-era downtown. Dubbed the City of Dreams, Port Townsend certainly is a bit dreamy: chic boutiques, a cluster of seafood restaurants along the waterfront, and a yacht- and sailboat-dotted harbor. Take it all in, then explore the surrounding beaches and wilderness on foot. For even more solitude, hike about five miles to the end of the Dungeness Spit and tour the Dungeness Lighthouse. At close of day, retreat to your four-poster bed in the turreted Ann Starrett Mansion.
Kennebunkport was, historically, a village defined by shipbuilding and fishing. Today, the coastal town takes summer tourists in graceful stride, treating them to New England charm and expansive stretches of sand. Book a stay at the White Barn Inn for its gardens, hand-painted furniture, sleek marble baths, and sleigh beds perfect for curling up on a cool Maine night. The centerpiece—a white barn with wide-plank floors and soaring exposed beams—is the inn’s restaurant, renowned for its Maine-inspired American and European dishes. Come sunset, take an excursion on the two-masted Pineapple Ketch, which sails daily from the Nonantum Resort.
Key West, FL
Getaway from: Miami
While Key West certainly has its unromantic side, away from rowdy Duval Street there’s a quiet charm that appeals to couples. On the island’s backstreets, you can find Old Florida at its swooning, romantic best. Rita Hayworth and Gregory Peck are among the stars that once stayed at the Casa Marina Resort. A $43 million makeover in 2007 returned the 1920 hotel to its Deco-era shine. Hidden behind an unassuming stucco exterior, Seven Fish is the most secluded and intimate restaurant in town. After your meal, enjoy one of Key West’s famous deep orange–hued sunsets.
St. Simons Island, GA
Getaway from: Miami
For an unspoiled Deep South hideout on the Atlantic Coast, spend a weekend on St. Simons Island, the largest of Georgia’s four Golden Isles. Base yourselves at St. Simons Inn, one block from the water, where the Atlantic meets St. Simons Sound, and with rooms overlooking a historic lighthouse. The island offers two pristine white-sand beaches and, for the more active, excellent golf courses, two public tennis courts, and trolley tours that explore the island’s plantation ruins.
Getaway from: Seattle
South of the town of Yachats lies some of the Oregon coast’s most beautiful scenery—including pristine forest trails and towering inland sand dunes. Set your own pace and adventure level, and explore by car, on foot, or by dune buggy. Warm up with an easy walk leading through coastal forest to a bluff overlooking the Pacific in the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area. You won’t find more dramatic coastal views (ask for one of the Mariner’s Rooms) than those at Heceta House, a B&B at the base of an old lighthouse.
Ocracoke Island, NC
Getaway from: Washington, D.C.
Set 26 miles off the North Carolina coast, windswept Ocracoke is a secluded escape, with long stretches of beach and cozy, romantic inns like the Castle B&B, where the spacious, gabled rooms invite lingering for long, lazy mornings. Book the Lighthouse Suite for its private fourth-floor cupola with panoramic water views. And enjoy a gourmet picnic on the beach with club sandwiches, homemade chocolate chip cookies, and other provisions from the Back Porch Lunchbox.
Amelia Island, FL
Getaway from: Miami
An easy island escape for two off the northeastern tip of Florida, Amelia Island lets you experience the Florida that enchanted lovers in the Astor-Vanderbilt era. More than 13 miles of sand ring the barrier island. When you’re not lounging at Fernandina Beach, stroll around the 19th-century town full of lovingly restored Victorian mansions. Stay at the veranda-rimmed Florida House Inn in one of its 22 individually decorated en suite rooms, half with working fireplaces.
Martha’s Vineyard, MA
Indulge in the sublime experience of vacationing at Martha’s Vineyard, one of New England’s upscale island retreats—full of candy-colored homes, dockside restaurants, and extensive cycling trails that lead to panoramic ocean views. Summertime draws countless visitors, but the quieter off-season can be equally as enjoyable. Combined with gracious service and a no-young-children-allowed policy, the Charlotte Inn is a fine choice for couples in search of a civilized, romantic getaway. Comprising ivy-draped historic houses secreted among gardens, the inn offers 25 rooms, each with a marble-top dresser, a goose-down comforter, Wi-Fi, and its own luxurious bath.
This idyllic community is a favorite of golfers, beachcombers, and gourmets. Tour the 17 Mile Drive—preferably in a convertible—around the legendary Pebble Beach Golf Links, ogling fantasy mansions with ocean views. Exploring the village of Carmel is easy from the sunny base of Carmel Valley. Abutting the rugged coastline, the once-bohemian town evokes Europe, with its cobblestoned paths and pretty houses; streetlights, billboards, and even numbered addresses aren’t allowed. Throw in cozy bistros and small wineries, and romance is practically inescapable.
The industrialists of the Gilded Age left their status symbols behind in Newport. Happily, there’s more to the maritime town today than marble halls and yachts, but the romance of the age endures. Take it all in from the Chanler at Cliff Walk, a former summer home built in 1873, set along the windswept and craggy coast. Each guest room is individually decorated—some in the French provincial style, others with Greek Revival details—and all have heated bathroom floors, wet bars, and antique prints or original oil paintings. From the oceanside trail you can trace the shore, enjoying views of majestic boats along with mansions.
Captiva Island, FL
Getaway from: Miami
For a remote destination wedding—or just an anniversary weekend—Captiva Island off Florida’s southwestern coast is an idyllic location. It lacks the flash of Florida’s many other beach resorts, which means couples can stroll the undeveloped dunes without the crowds of nearby Sanibel, savor the day’s catch, and watch the sunset. In addition to the free bike loans, Captiva Island Inn has a range of accommodations, from a five-bedroom house to a cozy en suite room. Be sure to make time for the jazz brunch at Keylime Bistro.
North Haven, ME
Getaway from: Boston
An hour’s ferry ride from Rockland, this tiny Penobscot Bay island has been a vacation spot for everyone from actor Oliver Platt, novelist Susan Minot, and artist Eric Hopkins to various members of the Bush clan. It’s the perfect romantic beach getaway, with a touch of adventure too. Bike the island’s 30 miles of roads, climb to the top of Ames Knob, laze on the beaches of Mullen Head Park, and stroll along Main Street. The nine-room Nebo Lodge inn has all the trappings you’d expect from a classic New England island escape—gray wainscoting, shady porches, cast-iron beds, and claw-foot tubs—with the added perk of chef Amanda Hallowell’s fantastic hyper-local food.
Getaway from: San Francisco
Maine lumberjacks built the 19th-century saltbox-style houses that make up the little bluff-top village of Mendocino. When the logging industry dried up in the 1930s, artists started moving in; eventually, they founded the nonprofit Mendocino Art Center, which continues to host exhibitions. A mile south of town, on a bluff bordered by pine, fir, and hemlock, the Brewery Gulch Inn overlooks the Pacific Ocean. All 10 bedrooms have ocean views, Craftsman-style furniture, down comforters, and fireplaces; most have private decks. After 30 years and two changes of ownership, Café Beaujolais is still Mendo’s answer to Chez Panisse: the Dungeness crab cakes are winners.
Lopez Island, WA
Getaway from: Seattle
Sparsely populated, agricultural Lopez offers the beauty of the San Juan Islands without the crowds—or the high prices. Book one of the charming bungalows at Lopez Farm Cottages with a kitchenette and a fireplace (the largest cottage has a hammock and its own Jacuzzi), and spend your afternoons exploring the island’s farm roads and coastal trails by bike. Catch the sunset at Bay Café, a waterfront restaurant that serves simply prepared seafood and grass-fed beef.
Embrace 1950s nostalgia in Wildwood, one of the Jersey Shore’s barrier islands. Here, the romance is in playing in the waves of the two-mile powder-sand beach, or walking along the boardwalk with an ice cream in hand. Stay at the funky Starlux resort straight out of The Jetsons (don’t worry, though: the retro lines and colors of the bright rooms are in fact new). Woo your love with Black Angus burgers served under neon lights at the classic Doo Wop Diner, and for dessert, head to the old-fashioned ice cream shop, Cool Scoops, for a classic banana split among jukeboxes and vintage Cadillac front-ends.