>> I researched Spring Lake for Fodor's Travel Guides in late September, 2003, just after the tourist season ended, but while the beach was still warm and accessible.
Unfortunately, I visited on two consecutive weekends that book-ended a major Florida hurricane front. That weather disturbance produced spectacular waves and hoards of happy surfers (yes, bad weather in Florida is good for the Jersey Shore). Gray skies, however, interfered with my effort to capture sparkling pictures of the community and its inns.
NEW JERSEY SURFERS LOVE BAD WEATHER IN FLORIDA.
During my research period, I stayed at three historic, 1800s inns. They were the Spring Lake Inn, a crisply-decorated inn with a fireplace in every room, the Ocean House, a bright, pastel inn that wins the hearts of Waverly-fabric fans, and The Breakers Hotel, which is actually a world-class, full-service, beach-front hotel.
All three came highly recommended and, as I personally discovered, were worthy of that distinction. For more detailed historical information, read "The Hotels of Spring Lake: a Brief History," which you can obtain from the Spring Lake Historical Society at the local library.
The Spring Lake Inn
I reached Spring Lake from my home in Weehawken, New Jersey, in less than 90 minutes. To give you an idea of Spring Lake's distance from New York City, Weehawken is located directly across the Hudson River from 42nd Street (Times Square) and hosts the western outlet of the Lincoln Tunnel. Spring Lake's proximity to New York via the New Jersey Turnpike and pretty Garden State Parkway makes it a fabulous day trip as well as a relaxing weekend or seasonal vacation. (For a map, see Part One of this article.)
The Spring Lake Inn was my first destination. Located on Spring Lake's southern boundary via Salem Avenue, it is just a block from the ocean, two blocks south of Devine Park (which encircles Spring Lake), and one block north of Wreck Pond. Interestingly, Wreck Pond, Spring Lake, and Lake Como on the north side of the community are home to flocks of flying swans, an added visual bonus.
THE SPRING LAKE INN IS A RESTORED 1800S FACILITY
The Spring Lake Inn, which is a year-around bed-and-breakfast, was completely refurnished in 2003. Decorative attention was especially paid to the angles its exterior buttresses (protruding windows) imposed on its interior walls. The result is that there are no box-like bedrooms anywhere! In addition, all bedrooms feature gas fireplaces and a non-Victorian, bold decor that suggests a woodsy, up-scale, country manor. To see photos of all its rooms, visit www.SpringLakeInn.com.
MY ROOM IN THE SPRING LAKE INN AND INN OWNER ANDY HELPING WITH MY BAGS
The owners, Andy and Barbara Seaman, take pride in offering breakfast and make sure their kitchen is run by a professional, gourmet baker. Pastry, bread, cookies, and jam are all made on the premises and smell great in the morning when served in the inn's large, sunny dining room. Guests choose their meal from a small menu, and when Banana Foster is available, I recommend you request it (pictured on the right, below).
Note that since my last visit one year ago, the Seaman's have had two babies (now one year old and just born). They've always welcomed kids in the past, but now that they have two children, perhaps there'll be special play areas in the future. Be sure to ask about this.
BAKING IS HEAVENLY AT THE SPRING LAKE INN
The Ocean House
TShe seasonal Ocean House (below) was built in the late 1870s, with an annex added in 1914. Today's reception area retains features from the original establishment, including an old switchboard (check Google's image area under the word "switchboard" for more information), carved woodwork, and a grand staircase. Although this inn has a sunny, flower-filled dining area, when I visited, it was not operated as a bed-and-breakfast, however, guests did receive a continental meal in the morning.
THE OCEAN HOUSE IS A TYPICAL HISTORICAL JERSEY SHORE RESORT HOTEL
The owners, Nancy (pictured below) and Dennis Kaloostian take pains to keep their inn sweet and clean. All their rooms are interesting (especially the mini-suites) with a semi-Victorian, "American Girl" look about them. If you love sleeping in a pretty, pastel room, or are looking for a decorating ideas, this is the place to stay.
While the Spring Lake Inn feels like a country manor, complete with lavish furnishings in the hallways, the Ocean House is a large, old-fashioned hotel, with clear hallways leading to fancy rooms. Both places welcome well-behaved kids and, with the beach only being a block away from either, both are a good choice for families. Neither, however, has a play yard and children must be supervised when in common areas.
THE FRONT PORCH OF THE OCEAN HOUSE
The Ocean House's rooms are all pastel, and each is beautifully coordinated with matching bedding and window fabrics. When I visited, the inn was about to close after the main season and everything was in terrific shape. Fortunately, because I was the only guest, I was invited to look at all of its rooms and I loved every one I saw. Think of this inn as a live-in decorating magazine. The biggest rooms, of course, are the best, with extra seating areas in interesting nooks. For more views of the inn and its rooms, visit www.TheOceanHouse.net.
BRIGHT, BREEZY ROOMS - OCEAN HOUSE INN KEEPER NANCY KALOOSTIAN ON THE PORCH
The Breakers on the Ocean
Rooms in The Breakers (below) are typical of a full-service, first-rate hotel, except that location, location, location makes an especially a big impact. The beach is directly across the street!
This four-story hotel, built in 1882, is beautifully impressive when viewed from the beach. Unfortunately, because it rained while I visited, I wasn't able to photograph it. That said, when I return in 2005, I'll update this article with more pictures, which are particularly needed as The Breakers' website does not provide enough pictures of its facilities: www.BreakersHotel.com.
Not all of The Breakers' rooms have a direct view of the ocean, however, and obtaining one requires planning. Given that I'm a Weehawken resident with views of the Hudson, Manhattan sunrises, the Empire State Building, and the Queen Mary 2 chugging out to sea, I am an expert on breathtaking views, so please trust my advice...it's worth making an effort to book The Breakers' best rooms, even if it means you are put on a waiting list.
Of the all inns I've reviewed for Foders, only The Breakers has elevator service, which is an important consideration for handicapped visitors, or the elderly. It also has several on-site dining rooms, a piano lounge, and full room-service. My understanding is that it is the only dining establishment in Spring Lake with a liquor license; a license won after a hard fought battle with the town government.
THE VIEW FROM ONE OF THE BEST ROOMS IN THE BREAKERS
All rooms in The Breakers are sunny and feature whirlpools and small refrigerators. Although not all rooms have direct ocean views, many have side-views, so make sure you ask about room orientation before finalizing your reservation. Happily, my room was ultra-deluxe, with panoramic ocean viewing. I also enjoyed a multi-person whirlpool, a huge shower, and a half-circle bathroom window that also overlooked the ocean.
THIS IS A SNUGGLY, MULTIPLE-PERSON WHIRLPOOL.
The bottom line for The Breakers and your bank account is to always rent one of their very best rooms, even if you need to stretch your budget more than a bit. Rooms with ocean views like this are precious and significantly add to your ocean resort experience. If, however, you stay with children, you may find that the proximity to the beach is premium enough without opting for a full frontal view of the water itself.
That said, no matter what inn you chose in Spring Lake, always ask for the best and biggest rooms as interior atmosphere is an important part of your resort experience. These facilities provide more than overnight lodging convenience.
As I mentioned earlier in this article, I will visit Spring Lake in 2005 on bright, blue days to capture more pictures of Spring Lake's stunning beach, inns, and local architecture. I'll also try to review a few more inns, plus report on shopping and eating, two of my favorite pastimes.
For my current list of recommendations, including dining and shopping, pick up a copy of Fodor's Where To Weekend Around New York City and check out my article on Spring Lake. To find out more about the community at large, visit www.SpringLake.org, a site run by the Spring Lake Chamber of Commerce.
And now, here is a brief list of other notable, year-around Spring Lake facilities:
About a block inland, not too far from The Breakers on the north edge of town, is Sea Crest by the Sea and the Normandy Inn. Both of these year-around inns are extremely up-scale, catering to adult getaways. Sea Crest features incredible breakfasts, fabulous mid-afternoon nibbling, and special tidbits throughout the day. Every room has a fireplace, whirlpool, rubber ducky, and fluffy bathrobes, with one suite resembling a chalet. The Normandy is filled with real antiques, arranged in a light-handed way. I especially like The Normandy's covered alcove porch and would not mind nesting there on bad and good days alike. Both are highly recommended.
The historic Hewitt Wellington Hotel is a resort condominium that rents rooms when its owners are away. Situated across from Devine Park, overlooking Spring Lake, it is a lovely building that has a corporate feel about it. It appears to be a great place for conducting business, and for housing families who do not seek Victorian decorations or antiques, but who like a refined atmosphere. Extremely well behaved, older children might like the freedom to romp in nearby Devine Park as well as surf in the ocean four blocks away. Visit this site (www.SpringLake.org) for photos and other information.
Nearby the Hewitt Wellington Hotel is the Victoria House Bed and Breakfast, which is four blocks from the ocean and a block from Devine Park. Although I didn't stay here, I was taken by the smell of bakery and a beautiful stained-glass window positioned at the head of a grand staircase. I was especially impressed by an English garden and covered patio where summertime breakfasts hold forth. Although majestic, this appears to be kid-friendly place, assuming that those kids are very well-behaved.
Note that on a whole, Spring Lake lodging is not appropriate for children who run hallways with abandon, or who scream, yell, and jump on beds. There are no utilitarian motels in the community, so if that type of behavior describes your children, consider staying at clean-but-simple establishments nearer the Garden State Parkway (a nearby highway), or day tripping, using one of Spring Lake's pretty bath houses for changing and showering.
Return to Part 1 - Spring Lake, New Jersey - A Jersey Shore Resort Near New York City.
Article and photos by Karen Little. First published on 12/26/2004. All rights reserved by www.Littleviews.com.