Strolling along the Marginal Way under mid-winter moonlight, the sky comes alive, silver waves crash along the shore, and the night envelops you in mystery. This is when the locals come out of hiding, but don’t let them have all the fun.
In February, many guests head to the ski slopes, but for those who savor peace and quiet, romance is just a heartbeat away. Where do you want to be on Cupid’s favorite day?
Beach towns like Ogunquit and York are sleepy this time of year, but they are also dreamy. Fewer people on the streets means you can take a Sunday drive any day of the week and not have to worry about horns, headaches, and back ups.
Spending a day on the beach can still be done. But rule number one: Bundle up.
Take a short drive to York’s Long Sands Beach and be sure to bring your camera. Photographers will be drawn to the soft winter light that, on a brilliant, clear day, feels magical. The honey-colored, lemon-flecked sun punctuates the blue water, the white sand, and the charcoal rocks. Vistas are more in focus and you don’t have to tip-toe around blankets and families, just hold hands and forge ahead.
Photo: Chases Garage
This collection of artist studios, with an attached gallery in a former auto body shop, is a trove of quirky cool. Inside you’ll find a network of maker spaces and artists engaged in print-making, ceramics, photography, you name it. If you catch them at the right time, they are happy to stop what they are doing and talk about their craft. Within the old garage, this do-it-yourself space makes you feel more creative just by walking in.
Owners Ned Roche and Cait Giunta, an enterprising couple, are as welcoming as they come. Peruse the gift shop for offbeat jewelry, cards, canvas bags, and unique objects of art.
To get a real feel of this classic beach town, stroll by brightly painted homes—some of Victorian vintage, others 100-year-old beach cottages in the network of streets off the bluff. Fully exhilarated? Now it’s time for lunch.
The Union Bluff Hotel pub right off the beach beckons. Grab a seat by the window, order a few pints, and plan the rest of your stay. In the offseason weekly specials, like burger Mondays, entice.
Photo: The Wallingford Dram
With the spot’s European ambiance, the drinks don’t have to be as good as they are. Bartenders grab fresh herbs from pots right in front of you to concoct classics like Mai Tais and inventive beverages like Knock Life, a bourbon, coconut, bitters-fueled vacation in a glass. Couples flock here for cocktails and conviviality so get there early for a seat at the bar to catch the mixology show.
The following day, after luxuriating in your seaside suite and lingering over breakfast, set your sights on Portsmouth, N.H. This classic New England village, now bustling city, to the south is always thriving. For a touch of old-school romance, your first stop is Strawbery Banke. Peruse the 10-acre outdoor history museum and flex your legs on skates.
Photo: Labrie Family Skate at Puddle Duck Pond, Strawbery Banke
Labrie Family Skate at Puddle Dock Pond, located in the heart of this preserved American neighborhood, steps from the water, attracts families but can also be very intimate. Gliding around the rink is a peaceful way to keep your heart rate and love life in check. But soon, you’ll need to warm up, so head over to the new Fezziwig’s Food & Fountain one block away on State Street.
This childhood dream tricked out for adults, feels like a scene from a fairytale. Open only a few months, the pastel sweet’s parlor is the place to indulge in style. Share a decadent sundae like the Valentine, vanilla ice cream with birthday cake, whipped cream, cotton candy and a cherry on top. Too much? Go old-school with a float or classic New York egg cream. This modern soda fountain is a fancy uptown discovery loaded with charm.
Photo: Fezziwig’s Food & Fountain
After walking Portsmouth’s cobblestone streets and popping into independent shops dotting Market Square, it’s time to repair back to Cliff House. After a restorative nap, grab drinks in the Tiller Restaurant or Tidemark Terrace and sip by the fireplace for maximum results.
There are many intriguing dining options at the resort, but for a venture off property, it’s hard to beat Joshua’s Restaurant, between Ogunquit and Kennebunkport on Route 1.
There’s a reason this Revolutionary War house is packed year-round. Chef Joshua Mather is the best around, the produce is grown by his father Mort, and mom Barbara is a welcoming presence at the front of the house. The familial vibe means you’ll always feel good walking into the heavenly house. Bring your appetite for rack of lamb, wood-grilled mushrooms, and super fresh salads.
Food and family, spirits and ambiance—it’s a great way to cap off your stay.