15 Top-Rated Romantic Getaways in New Hampshire
Author Barbara Radcliffe Rogers and her husband, photographer Stillman Rogers, grew up in New Hampshire, where they love its small towns and rural landscapes.
From the spring gardens of Portsmouth and summer nights camped under the stars, to the White Mountains ablaze in fall color and the snow-covered winter wonderland of Jackson, New Hampshire is the place to visit for a romantic getaway at any time of year.
The seacoast offers fine dining and harbor cruises or longer boat trips to the Isles of Shoals. Traveling west, you'll find lots of things to do in the idyllic towns of the Monadnock Region, where you can look for covered bridges ("kissing bridges" they were once called) and chocolatiers.
Couples can take a nostalgic moonlight cruise on Lake Winnipesaukee, or rent a cabin for two on pristine Squam Lake. Head north to the White Mountains to find grand hotels and luxury camping, or to walk through fields of colorful flowers. Whether you love the great outdoors, the luxury of a spa, fine dining, or mountaintop views, you'll find your ideal romantic getaway in New Hampshire.
1. See Fall Foliage in the White Mountains
Anywhere you go in New Hampshire in the fall will be full of bright foliage, but for the full show, head north to the White Mountains. Here, you'll have the dual show of colorful forests lining the roads and entire mountainsides in a mosaic of red, orange, yellow, and green.
What's more, here you can also see New Hampshire's fall foliage from on high with a 360-degree view. True, the color isn't as bright as it is when you can single out each sun-struck leaf on the maple tree overhead, but mile after mile of colors painting the landscape below is an unforgettable sight.
Any height of land will do, but for the most sweeping vistas, you can't beat the top of a mountain. Luckily you don't always have to climb under your own steam to get to the top. Thanks to skiers, several NH mountains have lifts designed for winter sports that also carry passengers to the top for foliage viewing.
The Aerial Tramway in Franconia Notch takes you close to the summit of Cannon Mountain, where the Rim Trail reveals jaw-dropping views into the notch below, where cars seem the size of ants. From the top are views of three states and into Canada.
Other mountain tops you can ride to include Loon Mountain, just south in Lincoln, and Mt. Washington, which you can "climb" via the historic Cog Railway.
Read More: Top-Rated Hiking Trails in New Hampshire
2. A Cottage for Two on Squam Lake
Looking across the placid waters of Squam Lake to its tree-lined shore, you'd never guess it's in the heart of one of New Hampshire's busiest tourist regions. Despite its location next to sprawling Lake Winnipesaukee, Squam has an air of solitude, a place where nature is left undisturbed.
Things to Do: From the porch of a lakeside cottage (most of these are set back in the trees for privacy and to preserve the pristine shoreline), you can watch loons fishing in the evening, and from a kayak or boat, you may see nesting eagles on the islands.
Learn more about the loons and eagles as you cruise the lake with a naturalist guide from the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center. You can visit the center to meet local wildlife and stroll among the flowers in neighboring Kirkwood Gardens. Follow the hiking trails through the protected preserve to the summit of Mt. Fayal for views.
Where to Stay: Squam lake was the setting where On Golden Pond was filmed, hence the name of the luxury inn, The Manor on Golden Pond. If an inn with a pool, spa, in-room fireplaces, and fine dining restaurant sounds more romantic than a shore cottage, you can still enjoy views of the lake from the inn's deluxe rooms.
3. Loving the Lupines in Sugar Hill
Tall stalks of blue, purple, and sometimes pink lupines flourished in the gardens of the grand hotels and private estates that brought summer tourists to the New Hampshire's White Mountains more than a century ago.
Most of these hotels, and many of the estates and their gardens, are long gone, but the lupines stayed — and spread. Now they paint the roadsides and entire fields in June, nowhere more than the little hilltop town of Sugar Hill.
This spectacular spring display, backed by layers of mountains, gave rise to Sugar Hill's annual June Celebration of Lupines, although the flowers bloom well before and after this one weekend. Near the top of the village, you can walk on a trail across a hillside meadow solid with blooms.
Where to Stay: Both the boutique Sugar Hill Inn and the larger Sunset Hill House overlook mountain views and fields of lupine. After wandering through the lupines, poetry lovers can visit the former home of Robert Frost, where he wrote many of his best-loved poems. You can sit on his front porch reading his poems and admiring the mountain view that drew him here and inspired his poetry.
4. Gardens and Fine Dining in Portsmouth
Spring is the time to see Portsmouth arrayed in bloom, from the tulips in every dooryard to the flowering trees of the harborside Prescott Park.
And what could be better after a day of strolling through the historic streets and gardens of this romantic colonial seaport than settling into one of Portsmouth's many fine restaurants. There's plenty of choice and variety in this city known for its dining scene.
In good weather you can dine al fresco just off market Street, or overlooking the colorful tugboats on the terrace of the informal River House. Or choose the more sophisticated menu and surroundings at nearby Black Trumpet for farm-to-table dining.
Row 34 is a sleek, open venue specializing in upscale seafood dishes, while the intimate Cure concentrates on brined and slow-cooked meats (it is quite small, so reserve well ahead). For live performances with dinner, head for the stylish Jimmy's Jazz & Blues Club, where the menu ranges from French provincial to creole.
For an ultra-romantic evening, with pitch-perfect service and an elegant décor of stone, brick, fine woodwork, and rich colors, reserve a corner table at the upscale Italian Ristorante Massimo.
Between meals, stop for a scoop or two of New Hampshire Pure Maple Walnut ice cream at Annabelle's, on Ceres Street, or at one of the cafés on Market Square.
Read More: Best Things to Do in Portsmouth
5. Take a Fall Covered Bridge Tour in the Monadnock Region
Nothing says New England quite like a covered bridge surrounded by fall foliage. These reminders of slower times are never lovelier than in autumn, when the bridges are suspended in a cloud of red, orange, and yellow foliage so vivid, it makes even the red walls of the bridges seem dull by comparison.
Where to Go: You'll find covered bridges throughout the state, but five of them are in the town of Swanzey, south of Keene. You can visit them all in a tour, following winding country roads that form an almost continuous tunnel of color in the fall. All five cross the Ashuelot River, which flows through this southwestern corner of New Hampshire.
You'll find two of them close to Route 32, one in the village of West Swanzey, and two more close to Route 10. All are marked by directional signs from the numbered routes.
The historic bridges are narrow and fragile, so traffic is one-way and only one vehicle should be on the bridge at a time. But you'll want to stop and take pictures anyway.
As you drive through each bridge, consider horse-and-buggy days, when young men signaled their horses to walk very slowly through the dimly lit interiors if the right girl was sitting beside them. You may still hear them called "kissing bridges."
Where to Stay: Complete your romantic getaway with dinner and a room with a fireplace at the Chesterfield Inn, overlooking the Connecticut Valley in nearby Chesterfield, NH.
6. Winter Wonderland in Jackson
You could easily believe you'd stepped into a Christmas card when you walk through Jackson on a winter day. And if you go during the Jingle Bell Chocolate Tour weekends in November and December, you might hear the bells of a horse-drawn sleigh echoing as it passes through the red covered bridge.
You can ride in an Austrian sleigh all winter at Nestlenook Farm, through the lantern-lit forest and around a pond filled with skaters. Or join the skaters on three acres of groomed ice surrounded by twinkling lights. Skate under the arched bridge, and warm up in the glass-enclosed gazebo or around a bonfire as you make s'mores.
Where to Stay: Other warming fireplaces await at The Inn at Thorn Hill and Christmas Farm Inn & Spa, or at The Wentworth, a historic hotel in the center of Jackson. All three of these romantic inns have spas where you can luxuriate, or you can get really active on the trails of Jackson XC, the top cross-country ski area in New Hampshire.
7. A Grand Hotel Spa Retreat
For a couple's spa experience imbued with the romance of the grand hotel era, New Hampshire's White Mountains offer two superbly luxurious choices. Along with the luxury and a full range of spa treatments, you'll find fine dining and golf-with-a-view at either The Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa or The Omni Mt Washington Resort.
Many more of these sprawling grand hotels once flourished throughout the White Mountains, the summer playgrounds of wealthy families escaping the cities' heat in the days before air-conditioning. These two grand reminders of a bygone era are updated with modern amenities and state-of-the art spas.
The venue for the Couples Reconnect Weekend at the Mount Washington is a new wing overlooking the mountain, and is purpose-built to house the spa. Mountain View Grand's spa perches grandly above the resort in the hotel's tower, with 360-degree views of the Presidential range and surrounding mountains. The Grand Tower Experience is designed especially for couples.
8. Cruise to the Isles of Shoals
Star Island is one of nine islands off the coast of New Hampshire and Maine that make up the Isles of Shoals. Described by Captain John Smith during his 1614 explorations, they have a long history of pirates, tales of treachery and buried treasure, ghosts, even murder, and as an art colony and home of Poet Celia Thaxter.
You'll hear all these stories and more on a cruise to these romantic islands with the Isles of Shoals Steamship Company in Portsmouth. Once here, you'll have time to explore Star Island and its chapel and 19th-century buildings. Or you can stay longer at Star Island's historic Oceanic Hotel.
For a shorter romantic cruise from Portsmouth, take a sunset cruise around the harbor to watch the changing colors of the sky and the lights of the city reflected in the water.
9. Be Happy in Littleton
On the lawn in front of the Littleton Public Library stands the statue of a little girl, arms outstretched, pigtails flying, and exuding happiness. She is Pollyanna, a perpetually optimistic character created by Littleton native Eleanor Hodgman Porter, and she has become the symbol of a revived downtown Littleton.
Each June, the seven-block Main Street takes on a festive air for Glad Day, with bright colored balloons, even a piano amid the downtown shops, where anyone is welcome to play a few bars or a happy song.
The Pollyanna Gateway and the entire staircase leading down toward the river are covered in colorful umbrellas, and at the bottom is Harmony Park, where five outdoor musical instruments invite passersby to make music. Below, a covered bridge crosses below the falls of the Ammonoosuc River. You can follow it to the RiverWalk or stop for lunch overlooking the falls and bridge.
This air of gladness pervades Littleton year-round, and the colorful umbrellas decorate the stairs throughout the summer and fall, when they are replaced by holiday decorations.
Independently owned stores, boutiques and antiques shops on Main Street, as well as the area's plentiful walking and hiking trails, invite staying a while.
Where to Stay: You'll be happy to know that one of the most romantic inns in the state, Adair Country Inn & Restaurant, is just up the road in neighboring Bethlehem.
10. A Chocolate Quest in the Monadnock Region
New Hampshire's Monadnock region is often called "The Currier & Ives Corner" for its idyllic villages and rolling landscapes that look as though they had stepped out of a 19th-century print. Country roads wind through forests and past family farms, perfect for a leisurely road trip sweetened by a quest for the perfect chocolate.
Begin in Peterborough, immortalized in the play Our Town and home to Ava Marie Handmade Chocolates. The dark and milk chocolate pecan turtles have won multiple prizes, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try the truffles, coconut clusters, or chocolate-covered cherries. A romantic spot for lunch is Waterhouse Restaurant, with large windows overlooking the river.
Take the scenic route to Keene, where you'll find Ye Goodie Shoppe on Main Street, a local favorite that's been supplying chocolate Easter bunnies and Santas to local kids since 1931. Chocolate buttercrunch and nut clusters are strong contenders, but the chocolates filled with raspberry crème or coffee-pecan are specialties.
Cross the wide Main Street for a quick cappuccino at Prime Roast, and pick up a bag of their chocolate-covered espresso beans.
Head north to the lovely village of Walpole and L.A. Burdick Handmade Chocolates, renowned for the chocolate mice. You can get these appealing little creatures singly (they come in dark, milk, and white chocolate) or in little wooden boxes for gifts. In addition to mice, there are chocolate penguins and chocolate bees flavored with honey.
Pastries served in the tiny café are works of art. Before indulging, it might be good to have lunch next door in The Restaurant at Burdick's, and go for a stroll around the village green, where there are often band concerts on summer evenings.
11. Take a Romantic Train Ride
North Conway is the base for the Conway Scenic Railroad, which you can ride through the beautiful wide Saco Valley or take a longer trip through dramatic Crawford Notch almost to the base of Mount Washington.
You'll have some of the best views of this side of the White Mountains, with a grab-your-sweetie moment as the train crosses the narrow trestle far above a plunging ravine.
On the western side of the White Mountains, the Cafe Lafayette Dinner Train adds the elegance of a dining car experience to a train ride, serving a five-course dinner as the restored mid-century dining cars glide through the woods and along the Pemigewasset River. The train leaves from a restored railway station in Lincoln.
12. Get Outdoors in the Great North Woods
Gazing at a sky full of stars without the glare of city lights, paddling a canoe on a moonlit lake, sleeping in a cozy log cabin, breathing in the fragrance of a balsam forest — New Hampshire's Great North Woods region is the ideal place to visit to get away from it all.
Outdoors and nature lovers will find plenty of things to do in the lakes, forests, and rushing streams in this thinly populated part of the state.
The five Connecticut Lakes and dozens of smaller lakes and ponds offer almost unlimited canoeing and kayaking, as well as fishing and wildlife watching. Moose and eagles are not uncommon sights, and at night, you'll hear the cry of loons across the lake.
Rustic resorts like Tall Timber Lodge offer lakeside cabins, where you can sit on your porch to watch the sunset or in front of a campfire to watch the moon rise in the evening.
Or if you prefer camping, you'll find lakeside campgrounds at Lake Umbagog and Lake Francis State Park.
Read More: Best Lakes in New Hampshire
13. Indulge in Nostalgia at Weirs Beach
Weirs Beach, on the western shore of Lake Winnipesaukee, seems like a throw-back to carefree summer days half a century past. The 450-foot stretch of sand is not the largest of New Hampshire's beaches (neighboring Ellacoya is longer), but the attractions and things to do around it make Weirs Beach a summertime tradition.
The lakeside boardwalk is the departure point for both the Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad and cruises on the lake. The railroad follows the shore to the town of Meredith, and the cruises tour the lake on the mailboat or the M/S Mount Washington. Either option reveals beautiful views of the lake, shore, and surrounding Belknap Mountains; sunset and moonlight cruises are especially romantic.
14. Summer Camp at Purity Spring
Remember carefree days at summer camp, swimming in a lake, water sports, evening campfires? At Purity Spring Resort, you can recapture all that fun, adult style.
Activities & Amenities: At the lake shore, you'll find kayaks, paddleboards, fishing equipment, and a sandy beach, and across the street are courts for tennis, pickleball, horseshoes, shuffleboard, volleyball, and basketball.
Use of all the equipment and facilities are included, and on Sunday mornings, you can join in the breakfast cookout on the island. Explore the long lake by kayak, go fishing, or follow some of the trails that meander through the adjoining Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary.
Although the resort caters to families, lakeside rooms with balconies are ideal for couples. To complete the summer camp experience, you can even make your own matching tie-dyed T-shirts.
Address: 1251 Eaton Road, Madison, New Hampshire
15. Castle in the Clouds
It's no wonder Castle in the Clouds is a favorite spot for weddings. Surrounded by gardens, the stone estate sits on a hilltop overlooking miles of forest, Lake Winnipesaukee, and a row of mountains on the far horizon.
Built in 1913, the 16-room mansion is an example of the Arts & Crafts architectural style popular in the early 1900s.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Castle in the Clouds is open from May through October (the views of all that forest in fall colors are even more spectacular) and for two November weekends when it is decorated for Christmas.
Along with touring the mansion and the gardens, you can dine in the former Carriage House and hike on the more than 30 miles of trails.
The most romantic of the trails at Castle in the Clouds is Shaw's Brook Walk, which leads to seven waterfalls, the largest of which is 40-foot Falls of Song. Signs along the trail show pictures of early visitors to the falls.
Address: 455 Old Mountain Road (Route 171), Moultonborough, New Hampshire
Read More: Best Waterfalls in New Hampshire