New Jersey bed & breakfasts come up big in charm, amenities, and hospitality.
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The Doctor’s Inn
Cape May Court House
2 North Main Street
Number of rooms: 10
Innkeeper Haley Hoenke slowly opens the door marked “O” on the first floor. It is the medical office of the original owner of the 156-year-old Doctor’s Inn, Dr. John Wiley.
These days it is filled, as are the rest of the guest rooms, with Victorian period pieces, complemented by an ultra-modern bath. Under the staircase is Cape May County’s first indoor bathroom, which Hoenke says Wiley had to keep hidden lest his patients fear it was a festering ground for disease.
The Doctor’s Inn is just across from the court house, as in Cape May Court House, the inland county seat, not to be confused with the fiesta of Victoriana-by-the-sea that is Cape May, ten miles down the Parkway. Most visitors choose the small-town surroundings of Doctor’s Inn as an alternative to the hustle of the nearby beach scene.
Still, they do head for the beach on warmer days, primarily to tony Stone Harbor, just over four miles away, for which the Inn provides beach badges starting Memorial Day. The free Cape May Zoo is a mile and a half down the road, a wonderful shore secret with 85 acres and 550 mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians.
Gastronomes tend to migrate beachward to places like Green Cuisine, a salad-lover’s paradise in Stone Harbor, or north on U.S. Route 9 to Ocean View for the Southwestern fare of Red Sky Cafe.
Back at Doctor’s Inn, guests relax on the wide porch or enjoy the tended gardens separating the Inn from Main Street. For cooler spring nights, each room or suite has a fireplace. Afternoon tea is served, as well as full American breakfasts. Rates until Memorial Day weekend range from $110 to $200 and thereafter from $145 for the cozy Roger C. Wood room under the eaves of the third floor to $350 for the three-bedroom Crawford Suite with a double Jacuzzi and steam shower. A third consecutive night in any room comes at half price.—RS
The Woolverton Inn
6 Woolverton Road
Number of Rooms: 13
Guests at the Woolverton Inn might wake up to find themselves staring at a couple of sheep just outside the window of their cottage suite. Or, if they are staying in main house, they may take in the sweeping view of rolling fields or the Delaware River in the distance, all while luxuriating in a two-person whirlpool. Just a few miles up the road from the bustling river town of Lambertville, the Woolverton brings to mind a remote country manor in the British Cotswolds, albeit it with all the modern amenities.
Former Chicagoan Carolyn McGavin brought her urban and corporate background to the enterprise when she came east in 1999 and purchased the 1792 inn with two partners. When Bob Haas became McGavin’s business partner in 2004, he contributed a solid knowledge of the area, having run a family business in Lambertville for twenty years.
The partners have vastly upgraded the 10-acre property, building two structures that mimic the look of old barns and converting an 1860 carriage house into five cottages that include king-sized beds with feather tops, whirlpools, gas fireplaces, and an upstairs hammock in the rustic, bi-level Sojourn Loft. Most of the eight guest rooms in the three-story stone manor also have gas fireplaces and lavish decorating schemes, like the red brocaded walls and bedding in Amelia’s Suite, or the floor-to-ceiling bookcases framing the bed in Newell’s Library.
The multi-course breakfast might include Grand Marnier French toast or a fruit streusel. In addition to visiting Lambertville’s galleries and restaurants, visitors can bike or hike along the towpath that runs for miles between the Raritan Canal and the Delaware River. Drifting downriver in an inner tube or on a raft is also popular, and rental outfits are located in nearby Frenchtown and Point Pleasant, Pennsylvania. Rates range from $145 for a weeknight in one of the small, queen-bed rooms in the main house to $435 for a weekend night in the two-story loft cottage. Weeknight rates increase to the weekend rate September through November.—JPC
19 Archertown Road
Number of Rooms: 10
Dancer Farm Bed & Breakfast sits on a 250-acre working farm in South Jersey—remote yet not that far from the Turnpike and I-195. That accessible isolation is part of the beauty of this tranquil 1800s farmhouse. Originally the home of horseman Vernon Dancer, a renowned harness racer, the property was purchased by Randy Johnson and Ray Shea in 1999 and transformed into a ten-room B&B.
Filled with antiques and collectibles, each bedroom has a private bath and a different theme: There’s the popular Romance in the Air room, which boasts a two-person, hydro-massage tub; the Lighthouse-Keeper’s Quarters, a loft-style suite that evokes the Shore; the Beautiful Wildflower suite, a spring-like periwinkle space; and the Farm suite, which offers stellar views. “There’s something for everyone,” says innkeeper Diana Lee Black.
Breakfast, served in the dining room overlooking the meadows, can include such favorites as apple cinnamon French toast, stick-to-your-ribs blueberry pancakes, or Black’s favorite: prosciutto-wrapped asparagus and poached eggs on an English muffin with rosemary roasted potatoes.
Following breakfast, guests stroll the lush gardens and wildflower meadows of Johnson and Shea’s adjacent Laurita equestrian center (which offers horseback riding lessons), and their nearby Laurita Winery. The winery is a short hike down the “walkabout,” a meandering path through the vineyards. Guests can participate in tastings and tours, have a bite, and enjoy a picnic on the winery property.
Back at the Inn, several cozy common rooms, a shady patio, and a screened-in gazebo are places to unwind. For guests who want action, Six Flags is less than 20 minutes away, as are the Jackson Outlets.
Weeknight rates run from $135 to $215 until Memorial Day weekend. Weeknight and weekend rates beginning Memorial Day weekend through October 31 run from $190 to $310. —LP
Long Beach Island
212 Centre Street
Number of rooms: 5
The Gables is a romantic seaside treasure, located in the heart of Beach Haven on Long Beach Island.
Originally built in 1892 as a cottage to house lifeguards, the Gables has assumed various personas throughout the years, from a postal drop to an all-girls’ boarding house. With the most recent renovation in 2005, it now boasts five beautifully decorated guestrooms that meticulously meld Victorian period furnishings with modern amenities, resulting in a luxurious beachside weekend escape.
You’ll find antiques, wide-plank floors, fireplaces, marble bathrooms, and needlepoint rugs blending harmoniously with flat-screen televisions, Wi-Fi, fine linens, queen-sized beds, French toiletries, and whirlpool spa tubs. Spend the day at the beach (passes needed starting in June, towels provided) or stroll next door to a live performance at the Surflight Theatre, beginning Memorial Day weekend. Dine by piano and candlelight in the dining room, relax on the open-air porch, or enjoy the newly opened garden terrace.
While you won’t want to miss the Gables’ fantastic brunch (or their breakfast-in-a-basket for the beach), LBI’s legendary eatery Chicken or the Egg is just a block away. Rooms range from $185 to $275 during off season (April to mid-June and mid-September to December 31) and are $185 to $350 with a two-night minimum from mid-June to mid-September.—MT
Rhythm of the Sea
1123 Beach Avenue
(609-884-7788, 800-498-6888, rhythmofthesea.com)
Number of rooms: 9
Wolfgang Wendt says he wanted to live by the sea before he went toes up in the earth, so in 1995 he and his wife, Robyn, abandoned their beloved Colorado—where they had managed ski resorts for nearly 30 years—and bought the Rhythm of the Sea, just across Beach Avenue from the ocean in Victorian Cape May.
But as Robyn Wendt, a native New Zealander, notes, “We are outliers in the Victorian wonderland”—Rhythm of the Sea being a circa-1915 Arts & Crafts-style (if huge) bungalow. Decorations are a lot sparer than in the inns in the main part of town—with browns and blues dominating instead of Victorian reds and greens, and Stickley furniture throughout.
There used to be a grand piano in the front parlor, but the sea salt made it less grand, so when a customer offered an antique Stickleyesque pool table he couldn’t cart to a new home in San Francisco, the Wendts made it their new centerpiece.
All of the rooms in the main house are on the second floor, but there is also a suite above the carriage house out back. It has views of the sea (as do five main house rooms) and is where the Wendts encourage families with young children to stay, preserving the more adult atmosphere in the salons.
Miniature longhair dachshunds Otie and Lucy Luna (rising backwards in a splayfooted moonwalk) greet visitors cheerfully at the door. The season gets going during school spring breaks—not for students, but for teachers, whom Robyn says are attracted by the sea and the seafood. Try Louisa’s Cafe at 104 Jackson Street or the Mad Batter, with its front and back porches, a block closer to the ocean. Rooms range from $220 to $325 a night November to mid-May and $250 to $395 per night in season. —RS
Spring Lake Inn
104 Salem Avenue
Number of rooms: 17
Before the summer rush, this quiet beach town is particularly charming. Visitors can stroll the hushed, two-mile non-commercial boardwalk, enjoy public tennis and basketball courts, or visit Divine Park for fishing or a saunter across one of the footbridges, which cross the town’s sixteen-acre lake and connect to more than 60 downtown shops and BYO restaurants. All this can be enjoyed within walking distance of the Spring Lake Inn.
The atmosphere of this late-19th century mansion—just one block from the ocean—is genteel but never precious. The exterior is decidedly Victorian, but the manor’s seventeen guest rooms are an interesting fusion of that era’s baroque aesthetic with touches of contemporary minimalism. Sharp angles, eccentric window shapes, and primary colors abound, especially on the third floor.
Common areas include a first-floor parlor replete with a big-screen plasma TV, shelves of books, board games, and DVDs, and a cozy fireplace for chilly spring evenings. There’s also a gorgeous, 80-foot, wraparound Victorian porch, where visitors can sip a glass of wine while basking in the setting sun.
Innkeepers Andrew Seaman and his wife, Barbara, treat guests to daily breakfasts that can range from crème brulée French toast to the inn’s popular spinach pie. An exceptional variety of teas, fresh fruit, and cookies are also available throughout the afternoon. From May 1 to October 31, rates range from $199 to $599 a night, prices drop thereafter.—ND
The Wooden Duck B&B
140 Goodale Road
Number of rooms: 10
With duck decoys, porcelain ducks, duck paintings, even duck coasters gracing surfaces throughout the sprawling country inn, the Wooden Duck Bed and Breakfast never leaves you wondering how it got its name.
Yet despite the significant waterfowl presence, the ten-room inn just outside Newton is attractively modern. The large guest rooms are filled with light, both the natural kind that pours in through numerous windows and skylights and flickers in gas fireplaces, and the lightness provided by natural wood furniture, cream-colored walls, and white, fluffy bedding.
Beth and Karl Krummel bought the Wooden Duck in 2005, after their children went off to college and they were looking for a new business to take them into their retirement years. The previous owners had converted the 1970s country-style home into a B&B in 1995. Coming from a family of seven children, Beth Krummel says she was used to preparing elaborate meals, especially breakfast, her favorite part of running the Wooden Duck. One modification the Krummels made was to ditch the communal dining table in favor of several smaller tables.
“Most people coming here want to relax and reconnect, and they don’t really want to talk to other people,” Beth says.
For the adventurous, Sussex County offers plenty of sites to explore. The inn’s wooded, 10-acre property adjoins Kittatinny Valley State Park, where you can hike and bike. Elsewhere in the Skylands region, High Point State Park and Stokes State Forest provide good hunting and fishing; numerous restaurants can be found in Newton and on the lakes in Sparta and Walpack. Nightly rates year-round go from $139 on a weeknight for the Scoter, which sleeps four ($30 additional per person for more than two), to $279 for a weekend night in the deluxe Golden Eye suite, with its two-sided gas fireplace, two-person soaking tub and a private balcony.—JPC
44 West End Avenue
Number of rooms: 9
Make no mistake—Fred and Nancy Chorpita are Philadelphia fans. The flags they fly may not be Victorian, like their Haddonfield Inn, but lately they have been of the victorious, like the National League champion Philadelphia Phillies.
You need not wear knickers or even old Field of Dreams flannels to book one of Chorpita’s Sports Fan packages, perhaps unique in New Jersey B&B-dom. Chorpita’s season tickets to Phillies, Eagles, Flyers, and 76ers games are often up for grabs with a room at his attractive inn on a residential street in Haddonfield, one of the quaintest South Jersey towns. A Phillies package, for instance, brings a VIP parking pass, prime tickets in the Hall of Fame club, and a 10 percent discount on rooms, which are priced from $209 to $339 year-round. (Package rates dependent on stubhub.com ticket pricing.)
Chorpita loves travel, too. Most of the Inn’s eight rooms and the mini suite have international themes, from the modern Tokyo to the leopard-spotted Safari to the aqua-hued Cape May.
The Inn is two blocks from both Haddonfield’s pinch-on-the-cheek-cute downtown, with its specialty shops and corner bistros, and the PATCO line to Philadelphia ($4.70 round trip, 20 minutes to Center City, trains running all night). Try Mélange Café on nearby Tanner Street for the marvelous amalgam of Italian and Cajun dishes or the Little Tuna on Kings Highway, the main shopping street, for its array of tuna preparations. A block from the Little Tuna is the Indian King Tavern Museum, with weekend tours of the venerable building where New Jersey was declared a state. Or find local architectural historian Joe Haro at the Markeim Art Center (856-429-8585) and take one of his periodic tours of Haddonfield’s grand homes.—RS
Inn at Fernbrook Farm
142 Bordentown Georgetown Road
Number of rooms: 7
Fifteen years ago, Lawrence and Susie Kuser decided it was time to do something with the beautiful mansion that sat on 250 acres of sweeping farmland in Chesterfield. The building and property had been in Lawrence’s family for nearly 200 years, but the 37-room manor was falling into disrepair after nearly a century of neglect. They decided to renovate and open a bed-and-breakfast.
The result is a grand, sprawling Georgian-style estate, classically outfitted with hardwood floors, a cozy billiards lounge, elegant eighteenth-century sitting rooms, a red-brick terrace, and seven fireplaces (two in the master suite).
The décor is decidedly not Victorian. The Kusers favor a more robust, Colonial aesthetic over the frills found in so many bed-and-breakfasts.
The grounds feel fabled, with long, tranquil trails leading to secret gardens and shady canopies of trees. And while there are a few shops and restaurants in nearby Bordentown, the primary reason for journeying to Fernbrook is the seclusion. Susie says guests will often spend the day exploring the property’s lush gardens and restored outbuildings, or sitting on the grass with a light lunch or bottle of wine. At night, guests often venture down a trail that leads to a cottage house on the property with a bar and music.
The Kusers raise livestock and grow their own organic fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Each morning they collect fresh eggs for breakfast and serve meats from their farm. Come springtime, be sure to book early for weekend stays. Between April and October, the Inn at Fernbrook Farm hosts weddings on nearly every Friday and Saturday night. Weekday rates range from $100 to $135, weekend rates from $110 to $150, all year.—ND
Chimney Hill Estate Inn
207 Goat Hill Road
Number of rooms: 13
Chimney Hill suggests an English country estate, with soft lighting, bookish nooks, and wide-plank hardwood floors. Each of the estate’s thirteen guest rooms is decorated with Colonial period furniture and antique flourishes, but like everything else here the atmosphere is smart and understated (think Pottery Barn meets Bombay). Many of the rooms are outfitted with fireplaces, and some with Jacuzzi tubs.
In addition to the guest rooms, Chimney Hill boasts some breathtaking common areas. Wooden ceiling beams and a cozy fireplace accent the dining room. Gorgeous oriental rugs and a stylish baby grand piano highlight the living room. The Stone Room features leather sofas, fieldstone walls and floors, and three large French doors that look out onto the estate’s yawning eight acres.
The proximity to New Hope, Pennsylvania, and several downtown antique shops and BYO restaurants make it tempting to leave the grounds. However, the property surrounding Chimney Hill is rich with history and well worth exploring. Terry Anderson, innkeeper and owner with her husband, Richard, says guests will often take long walks down Goat Hill Road, or visit the nearby Goat Hill Overlook, where George Washington surveyed the Delaware during that famous winter of 1776.
The grounds are also home to beautiful English gardens. In spring and summer, the Stone Garden is a spectacular bloom of irises and peonies. There is also a garden terrace, a popular resting spot where guests can relax with a warm beverage and a book. Weekday rates range from $169 to $360, weekend rates from $225 to $419, year-round. —ND
Crossed Keys Inn
289 Pequest Road
Number of rooms: 5
Katherine Rodriguez and her husband, Celso, were looking to purchase a unique wedding venue in 1999 when they stumbled across the Crossed Keys Inn in Andover. With verdant meadows, English gardens, and magnificent mountain views, it’s no surprise the pair fell in love with the estate.
“We took it over because it was so beautiful and charming, and we knew that people would love it regardless if they were just coming for a weekend or if they were part of the wedding party,” says Katherine.
Crossed Keys has since become a popular venue for elegant garden weddings, yet the bed and breakfast is also a desirable location for just a weekend away.
Built in 1790, the estate offers five guest rooms – four in the main house, plus a secluded English cottage (typically used as a honeymoon suite) with a charming balcony and a Jacuzzi for two.
Every morning, guests are treated to a country-style breakfast made by Katherine herself that includes homemade pastries, fresh local fruit, and gourmet entrees such as Mediterranean frittata, stuffed baked French toast, or blueberry pancakes.
Guests can snuggle up to the fireplaces in the living room and library; read on the sun porch or the deck overlooking the property; or relax under the shade of the many trees that dot the acreage.
Crossed Keys’ 13 acres boasts European French lilacs, European beech trees, magnolia trees, dogwood trees – even a 60-foot dawn redwood and a 150-year-old white oak tree. “Whoever planted the property 150 years ago had to have been a real arborist,” says Katherine.
A barn “playhouse” on the property is full of history: during its summer theater days, Groucho Marx, Mae West, and Charlie Chaplin kicked back there. Today, the playhouse is home to a pool table, shuffleboard, a piano, and couches.
Andover is known as a major antiquing area, but for those feeling adventurous, Crossed Keys is only half an hour from the Poconos for skiing and hiking, and the Delaware Water Gap for canoeing and rafting. Waterloo Village, a historic village just 15 minutes away, often holds concerts, wine festivals, poetry readings, and more.
Rates range from $135 a night for a room in the main house, to $185 a night for the cottage, March to November. The Inn is typically closed in the winter, and the warm months fill up quickly with weddings, so be sure to reserve early. —DAS
The Southern Mansion
720 Washington Street
Number of Rooms: 25
Barbara Bray-Wildes, formerly of Philadelphia, was vacationing in Cape May in 1994 when she came across an abandoned property that was once a private estate and later a boarding house in the heart of town’s historic district. “It was actually dilapidated,” Bray-Wildes recalls. “But the place was huge, and it had a good chunk of land.” After noticing a “For Sale” sign, she purchased it and began a restoration project that took two and a half years to complete.
Inspired by Samuel Sloan’s original lithograph of the house titled “The Southern Mansion,” Bray-Wildes re-opened the historic home with that name in the spring of 1996, hoping to bring southern hospitality to Cape May.
Every morning, guests are served a full gourmet breakfast at private tables. Popular entrees include create-your-own omelets, blueberry hotcakes topped with fresh berries, and pouched eggs atop a grilled baguette with sun-dried-tomato rosa sauce.
The royal treatment doesn’t stop there. Each of the B&B’s 25 rooms offers a private bathroom with a hand-painted tile shower (some have claw-foot tubs), illuminated makeup/shaving mirrors, cable TV, full-maid and evening-turndown service, king-size beds (in most rooms), and original antique furniture. “I want guests to feel like it’s their own private mansion,” Bray-Wildes says.
But if you decide to leave your estate, the beach, shops and restaurants are only a five-minute walk. Also, Cape May is the top North American birding spot, and spring is the best time to cast an eye as more than a million shorebirds pass through the area during May.
May and June weekend rates range from $240 to $395, for two people per night. Weekday rates are discounted, ranging from $195 to $310.—AJC
The Tower Cottage
Point Pleasant Beach
203 Forman Avenue
Number of Rooms: 5
According to local lore, a hurricane devastated the Point Pleasant Beach area early in the twentieth century, destroying the Tower Cottage’s beloved tower, which housed a widow’s walk and cupola. When Tony Haddad’s father Jack, co-owner of the B&B, passed away in 2005, Haddad and his wife, Maureen, purchased it from his mother, Sally, hoping to re-build it.
In 2008, their aspirations became a reality, giving guests an opportunity to enjoy sunrises over the Atlantic Ocean from the tower once again. But this luxury B&B offers more than breathtaking views – it also has Maureen’s cooking. Every morning, guests are treated to a homemade gourmet breakfast. At 7:30 a.m., she provides coffee and a baked goody: blueberry muffins or a coffee or raspberry cake. Breakfast is served from 8:30 to 10 a.m., starting with a pineapple boat appetizer, cut in half or quartered, hollowed and filled with fresh fruit. The entrée varies. Her most popular dish is an asparagus frittata, made with fresh asparagus and Fontina cheese, and flavored with fresh herbs. In the afternoon, Maureen serves coffee or lemonade, depending on the season, and a scone, cake, or fruit and cheese platter.
Visitors may be tempted to cuddle up in front of their room’s gas fireplace wearing a micro-fiber monogrammed bathrobe and slippers (both provided by the Haddads). But is that why you came to the Shore? The Tower Cottage is only two blocks from the beach, making it easy for guests to venture to Jenkinson’s Aquarium, the boardwalk, or Martell’s Tiki Bar. In-season rates range from $315 to $425, depending on the room, for two people per night. After Labor Day, prices drop a bit, ranging from $275 to $375. —AJC
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