There’s a reason why so many romantic ballads have been written about New England, from “Moonlight in Vermont” to “Old Cape Cod.” All six New England states—Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine—have limitless charms to delight newlyweds, whether they’re looking to recover quietly from the big day, or dabble in a dose of mother nature. Here, experts Bryan Rafanelli and Amy Finsilver weigh in with their favorite places to stay and things to do in this iconic region, as well as everything you need to know for planning the perfect New England honeymoon.
Meet the Expert
- Amy Finsilver is the general manager of XV Beacon, a chic Boston hotel that hosts numerous honeymooners in addition to movie stars, moguls, and royalty. A former Clefs d’Or concierge, Finsilver’s expertise has been guiding the most discerning travelers to premium spots in the northeast for decades.
- Bryan Rafanelli is the visionary principal behind Rafanelli Events, the party planning company responsible for many of the region’s most memorable galas and impeccable weddings. Rafanelli is the author of A Great Party (Rizzoli) and has planned such celebrity nuptials as Chelsea Clinton’s wedding and Naomi Biden’s November ceremony and reception at the White House.
Why Honeymoon In New England?
The most obvious answer is: “Why not?” It all comes down to topography; New England has sandy beaches and rocky coastline, rolling hills and rugged mountains, thick forests that turn dizzyingly colorful in autumn, lakes straight out of a summer camp rom-com, and highly historic, picturesque towns around every bend. “There’s everything you could ask for,” says Finsilver. “It depends on your preferences and interests. Sometimes I’ll tell people to go antiquing in a town in Vermont. Other times, I’ll tip them off about my favorite, off-the-beaten-track seafood shack. Everyone’s different, but New England has something to satisfy literally anyone.”
How to Get There
According to Finsilver, “Logan Airport is one of the best-run airports in the U.S., and it’s a short drive (three miles) to downtown [Boston]. Also, one can conveniently pick up a rental car and take a scenic drive to so many gorgeous places, fly directly to Nantucket, or add in a fun ferry ride from Cape Cod,” she explains.
Whether or not you plan to take the scenic route, check not only the closest airports (Burlington, Vermont, or Portland, Maine, might be more convenient) but also the route you’ll take. For instance, Interstate 89, which begins in New Hampshire and snakes through Vermont to the Canadian border, is one of the most beautiful highways in the U.S., and a pleasure to drive. While Hartford, Connecticut, might be 10 minutes closer to Litchfield County, the marginally longer drive from White Plains, New York, is infinitely more charming and less congested. As for ferries, be sure to book well in advance. The Steamship Authority to Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard begins accepting reservations in early January and spaces fill up quickly.
When to Visit
New England is essentially a three-season destination—summer, fall, and winter—since the period from roughly mid-March to the end of May is what many locals (especially the further north you go) refer to as “mud season.” That said, it’s also a four-seasons-in-a-day climate, and the old saying is true: “Don’t like the weather? Wait five minutes; it’ll change.” That means that even if you’re visiting in July, pack some warm clothing, and if you’re coming in January, be sure to bring a bathing suit for that hot tub in the snow.
In terms of an ideal honeymoon time, Rafanelli suggests September or October, otherwise known as “second summer. It’s truly breathtaking. There’s often unseasonably warm, dry weather that creates a stunning opportunity to enjoy the coastal towns and all they offer, without the hustle and bustle of the high season. And of course, it’s the spectacular start to the fabulous foliage season. The ocean’s still warm from the summer sun, and prices tend to go down.”
If you’re looking for a Currier and Ives kind of honeymoon, the holidays are a wonderful time to visit, and although ski destinations are at peak occupancy, seaside gems like Rhode Island’s Ocean House go all out with décor and special programming. Says Rafanelli: “December through February is gorgeous if you want to experience your own winter wonderland. There are so many different cozy ski destinations, as well as beautiful spas to visit after you hit the slopes.”
Finsilver notes that vacancies are easiest to come by during the winter and shoulder season, and both she and Rafanelli still see the charm of New England in Spring. “The anticipation of things blooming and new beginnings,” says Finsilver. “The coastal towns are invigorating, strolling on a beach and soaking in the roar of the ocean waves, before going back to a cozy room.” Rafanelli concurs: “There’s nothing like a long hike and a beautiful picnic in the fresh Spring weather! Experience the blooming flowers, take long bike rides, and enjoy the flower festivals in Connecticut, Nantucket, and Newport, Rhode Island.” Finally, aside from peak tourist times, something to keep in mind is that New England is extremely college-centric, so it’s best to avoid move-in day, commencement, or large sporting events like the Head of the Charles Regatta at the end of October.
Things to Do
Summer days can begin with freshly baked blueberry muffins and a bike ride, include everything from swimming and sailing, to fishing and hiking or horseback riding, and finish with a spectacular sunset over a clambake on the beach, or s’mores around a roaring campfire. In the fall, the trees turn into a kaleidoscope of red, yellow, and orange, with seasonal activities like apple picking, corn mazes, and gorging on cider donuts. (Pumpkin spice was invented here!) In the wintertime, there are sports like Alpine (downhill) and Nordic (cross-country) skiing, with appropriate terrain for everyone from wobbly beginners to seasoned snow bunnies, as well as romantic pastimes like sleigh rides, sledding or snow-tubing, snow-shoeing, snowmobiling, and curling up with a good book next to a fire.
With its inexhaustible history, New England is also an unparalleled place to hunt for antiques or comb second-hand shops and bazaars. However, some less obvious activities include skijoring (being pulled on cross-country skis by a dog or horse), zip-lining above the forest canopy, tapping trees for maple syrup, or accompanying a local fisherman to go lobstering, clamming, or scalloping. Above all else, Finsilver advises visitors to “embrace the culture and history of the town; be it ocean, mountains, or lake. Every place has such rich traditions, and there’s also nothing wrong with enjoying intimate time alone in your sensational suite.” Whether you’re admiring the wood-shingled mansions of Watch Hill or the rose-trellis-covered cottages of Sconset on Nantucket, the covered bridges of New Hampshire and Vermont, or the rolling hills of Connecticut, one thing is mandatory (barring any allergies): sampling the amazing seafood. It’s always fresh, and even in Vermont, the lobsters were still likely caught that morning. Need we mention that oysters—for which New England is justifiably famous—are a known aphrodisiac?
New England has one of the highest living indexes in the country, and subsequently, visitors will find themselves paying more for even mundane things. However, that’s not to say that there aren’t any deals to be found. If you’re contemplating a beach honeymoon, consider waiting until September or even October, when the days are still halcyon, but the hotel prices drop sharply.
“Plan and establish a budget that you feel comfortable spending. As we like to say, ‘Time gives you choices.’ If you can be flexible on your dates (weekdays over the weekend), your dream honeymoon can be done for less than you might imagine,” Rafanelli advises. Within that framework, things are still highly variable. Prices at Twin Farms, for example, begin at $2,500 a night and go up to $5,000 during peak times, but it’s important to note that the resort is all-inclusive. The Pickering House Inn in New Hampshire, meanwhile, runs around $635 per night during the holidays but can increase during the summer months. In general, Finsilver points out, hotel prices are reduced in the winter (with the exception of ski areas), and November and March also offer lower rates. She also advises: “It’s best to call the hotel or resort directly to inquire about availability and special occasion rates. Certain travel sites add booking fees that can add up.”
Where to Stay
We’ve chosen one iconic property in each of the six New England states, ranging from beachfront to mountainside, representing all the area has to offer, regardless of season.
Massachusetts: The Wauwinet
Located on a secluded neck near Great Point Beach and the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge, it may be the granddaddy of Nantucket resorts but it’s as modern and luxurious as it gets. A launch that ferries guests back and forth to town, the Wauwinet Lady, is also available for charters, and the hotel’s restaurant, Toppers, is widely considered one of the island’s best. “The wine list is exceptional,” notes Finsilver. “Two other things are mandatory: a visit to the quaint town of ‘Sconset and a jeep ride out to Great Point for a sunset picnic.”
Tennis courts, complimentary bikes, kayaks, and paddleboards are among the other amenities, but you might find yourself quietly lounging among the deep blue hydrangeas and gazing peacefully out to sea. Rafanelli adds: “Nantucket isn’t just for summer. In December, it’s home to the ‘Christmas Stroll,’ a weekend-long extravaganza filled with carolers, holiday shopping, and other festivities. And in April, the Chamber of Commerce holds their annual Daffodil Festival—a weekend of events to celebrate springtime awakening on the island.”
Vermont: Twin Farms
Consistently ranked as one of the finest hotels in the country, this adults-only property is set on 300 acres and consists of the main inn and 20 cottages originally designed by famed decorator Jed Johnson (Andy Warhol’s longtime lover). The cabins each have their own themes and are adorned with art by the likes of Kara Walker, Jasper Johns, David Hockney, and Jim Dine. The all-inclusive property also features its own private ski mountain with six runs, a Japanese furo, hiking trails, a fishing pond, a croquet court, archery, and axe throwing. “They have an exceptional food and wine program,” says Finsilver, “and the rustic luxury of your own private cabin makes it feel as if you’re the only ones at the resort. It’s stunning in the fall. However, winter allows in-room massages after a day of cross-country skiing or ice skating.”
Rhode Island: Ocean House
A native of Rhode Island, Rafanelli enthuses, “The sunsets in Watch Hill are unlike anything I’ve ever seen!” Since the Gilded Age, Watch Hill has been Rhode Island’s less ostentatious answer to Newport, but iconic wealthy American families like the Mellons and Fords have made room for such privacy-seeking present-day plutocrats as Taylor Swift, whose house is three doors down from this grande dame hotel. The stately but understated lemon-yellow façade with white pillars gives way to interiors embellished with the world’s largest collection of work by famed children’s book illustrator Ludwig Bemelmans (of Madeline fame). With dining options ranging from an outdoor terrace serving hearty New England fare to a Mexican-inflected eatery, to the toes-in-the-sand beach club, the food is superb, and the croquet pro is one of the top-ranked players in the world. “A beautiful setting, exquisite service, and luxurious amenities,” Finsilver says. “All the guests are treated like VIPs in their own mansion. Be sure to arrange a dinner for two in their Veuve Clicquot Gondola.”
Maine: Cliff House
“With crashing waves and stunning ocean views, it’s rustic-casual but elegant,” says Finsilver of this coastal paradise. “There are nice fire pits to snuggle up to at night, roasting marshmallows under the stars, and listening to the surf.” She suggests taking a walk along Marginal Way, one of New England’s most stunning scenic coastal walkways, in nearby Ogunquit.
One of Rafanelli’s favorite activities, meanwhile, is the challenging golf course adjacent to the property at Cape Neddick Golf Club. The sprawling resort is perched atop Bald Head Cliff and overlooks the famed (and much-Instagrammed) Nubble Lighthouse, and while it’s been wooing couples since 1872, a recent facelift has given the 226 rooms and suites a dose of contemporary chic. On-site amenities include indoor and outdoor swimming pools, extensive hiking trails, a spa, a screening room, an art gallery, a sculpture garden, and endless places to contemplate the ocean from a chaise lounge or Adirondack chair, but it’s the dramatic views of the north Atlantic from every room that set the scene for romance.
Connecticut: Mayflower Inn
Rafanelli calls this elegant country inn “a true retreat for honeymooners looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. An added plus is that your pets are welcome to join you, and the renowned spa, ‘THE WELL,’ offers customized couple services.” Fifty-eight beautifully landscaped acres, including The Shakespeare Garden (featuring plant species mentioned by the Bard), surround the exquisitely appointed inn, which was recently redone by celebrity designer Celerie Kemble. Activities range from archery and fly-fishing lessons to hiking along the Mayflower Trail and guided tours of the Ripley Waterfowl Conservancy. The exceptional dining draws gastronomes from as far away as Manhattan, and tucked into the surrounding hills are numerous twee little towns straight out of Christmas in Connecticut. “Another favorite activity of mine is antiquing,” says Rafanelli. “Litchfield County is a literal bonanza.”
New Hampshire: Pickering House Inn
The quintessential New England Inn, this converted historic 1813 home on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee has only ten luxurious guest rooms, guaranteeing the utmost intimacy. Whether relaxing on the wraparound porch or playing a board game in the library, the service is attentive without being hovering, and lightyears beyond most B&Bs. The staff delights in planning off-the-beaten-path excursions, and the food at The Pavilion is nothing short of a revelation. “I love all the personal touches they provide,” says Rafanelli, “including the innkeeper knowing every guest’s name, the fresh coffee and homemade pastries delivered to your door every morning, and the old antique keys for your room.” Delightful in every season, it’s short on formality and long on charm.