We had gone on a day trip last summer, taking the high-speed ferry from Manhattan to Sandy Hook. It was fun, but I do question the name of that peninsula (island? I really should look at a map), there were far more rocks than sandiness. We wanted to go back there but couldn't find a room available within our price range, so I looked further afield along the train line that runs down the coast (it was very nice to NOT rent a car for this one, as I'm the only licensed driver in my household and I enjoy drinking alcohol on vacation, or pretty much anytime I'm not driving). I searched like mad for the right town and a B&B that wouldn't break the bank. All the towns I have spent time in on the shore are too distant for a train and there is nothing worse than a longish-distance bus ride to me, so I was going in rather blind.
Well, somehow it all came together and we ended up visiting Spring Lake, my new favorite shore town. Most of the people were older than us (which I like, a lot), it was quiet and peaceful without too many kids dominating the atmosphere. I like children but in shore towns they just get way too loud for me to take for long. There were quite a few on the beach itself, where they were delightful to watch and the waves were still the main sound. The beach was fantastic, soft sand with big waves thanks to Bill's recent presence.
I'm not usually a big public recommendation person, and part of me wants to keep my new spot a secret, but we were treated so well and had such a wonderful trip that I feel I should support everyone who made it that way. The White Lilac Inn was our home-away-from-home and the best B&B I've ever stayed in. Good food, comfortable places to relax including loads of porches and balconies, beds that made me sleep like a baby, and all brought together by the funny and thoughtful owner, Mari. Many times I have stayed in a place like that and felt like I was intruding in a stranger's home, but Mari and her staff made us feel like long-lost and very welcome family members rather than just paying customers. The other guests were also friendly and we had quite a bit of fun just hanging out on the porch with them. It was almost hard to leave the inn and explore the town, even though we were very much there for beach time!
The truly great meal of our trip was at The Mill at Spring Lake Heights. The food was very tasty, on par with some of the famous restaurants I've been lucky enough to dine in. Even better was the friendly waitstaff and the view of a pond filled with painted turtles. The only bad part was waddling home feeling like we had just been through a Thanksgiving meal (yes, Souphead, I did have the baby bump from overeating).
It's also amazing how relaxing a trip that involves no driving or flying can be. Most vacations end with aggravation purely because those modes of travel can be so stressful, whereas the train was pleasant and conveniently half a mile from both our home and the inn. It was lovely to come home still feeling refreshed and even nicer to come home from the beach when a storm was rolling in after our time there had perfect weather for swimming.
Happy on vacation, happy to be home. Does it get any better than that?