Maybe what you really want to do is head for the Caribbean, and that azure blue water and sunshine.  Or perhaps you’re dreaming of a romantic getaway on a cruise ship, complete with lots of pampering and partying. But the budget says, “No way!” and the time frame just won’t fit. That’s just fine, because those proverbial “acres of diamonds” exist nearby. Less than an hour from SJ – or even closer – you can kick back this winter, and feel restored, refreshed, revitalized and romantic – in just one weekend.  Come with us to some local B&Bs and inns where romance is alive and well, and the pampering quotient is high.


Bed, Breakfast and Beyond

That’s the anthem at the Isaac Hilliard House, where small is beautiful, historic – and pampering, too. Four charming guest rooms exist for the pleasure of visitors in tiny Pemberton, a dot on the map and a quiet retreat from the surrounding bustle of SJ.

On the edge of the Pinelands, Pemberton was the spot Phyl Davis and Gene R. O’Brien chose for their B&B over a decade ago, and “regulars” return to it precisely because it’s quiet, serene and enchanting.

The house dates back to 1749, and was built in the Federal style. In the 1800s, it was altered to greet the highly ornamental Victorian era. A parlor with an ornate ceiling, a traditional dining room that can seat 20, and an overall air of gentility and order prevail here.

Phyl Davis, who spent 25 years with Lucent Technologies, enjoys greeting guests from near and far. Many come year after year on anniversaries or special occasions, loving the intimacy and attention to detail that the place offers.

A favorite choice is the handsome Isaac Hilliard Suite with its four-poster canopied bed and fireplace. The suite has its own dressing room, and a lavish bath with a sweetheart tub. It’s often an oasis for local couples who want to get away – but not too far – from home.

The Hilliard House also has a charming Cranberry Room and Raspberry Room, aptly named for their prevailing colors and handsome décor. The Roses Room also lives up to its name, and is delightfully romantic and cozy.

Breakfast here is so customized that even vegetarians can happily dine, and by special request, candlelight dinners also can be arranged.

Adventure-seeking guests can avail themselves of the Pinelands, which are close enough to explore via canoe or hiking. There’s a gorgeous outdoor pool and garden, off-street parking and yes, wireless Internet. The Isaac Hilliard House may reach back several centuries, but the amenities are strictly 21st century.

“Visitors love our mix of old and new, and the personal attention they receive here,” says Phyl Davis. “This is a small place in a small town. And in a frenzied world, that’s a good place to be to forget the rest of the world, and remember each other.”


The Isaac Hilliard House B&B
31 Hanover Street, Pemberton
$95 to $180 per night


Breeding Comfort

Diana Lee Black feels like the luckiest woman in the world. She left a state job last year to become innkeeper in one of the lushest settings in all of New Jersey. The Dancer Farm Bed and Breakfast Inn in New Egypt is one of those places you may have thought existed only in dreams.

The 19th century farmhouse-turned-inn sits on a 250-acre working farm, surrounded by nature trails, vineyards, meadows and unmistakable evidence that standard-bred racehorses are also part of the landscape here.

The name “Dancer” will be familiar to those who know horse lore. Stanley Dancer and his brother, Vernon, were legendary horse trainers. They owned the land, which was divided into two horse farms in 1938. The name – and heritage – live on.

The property was purchased in 1999 by the present owners, Randy Johnson and Ray Shea, and an extensive restoration turned the stately farmhouse into a ten-room B&B, recapturing New Egypt’s early 20th century reputation as a celebrated hotel area. The project was completed in 2002.

Today, guests can enjoy what innkeeper Diana Black wisely calls “the best of the past and the future.” Fully 85 percent of the B&B’s furnishings, art and architectural elements have been “repurposed,” a nod to the new owners’ commitment to preservation and recycling.

Antiques abound, and Black, herself a native of nearby Jackson Township, sees to it that guests, too, are treated just as they were in gentler times. “Our taglines are ‘The perfect getaway, not far away,’ and ‘In any season for any reason.’” she says.  “I greet every guest personally, and every guest can learn the history of the place and tour it.”

Visits to the Laurita Winery and Laurita Equestrian Center, both on the property, are popular, once guests can pull themselves away from the charmingly decorated rooms.

Room 4 – dubbed “Romance in the Air” – is a particular favorite of visitors from as close as Cherry Hill, and as far away as Europe.
A queen-sized bed with brass headboard, double-sided fireplace, rustic wood floors and in-room bubble-jet tub for two are some of the amenities, along with a balcony overlooking the lawns, and a view of the horses as they take to the track nearby.
Another guest favorite is the Lighthouse Keeper’s Quarters (Room 5). A loft suite that looks and feels like a seaside retreat, this special place is full of nautical appointments and has its own sitting room and a bath with a hydro-massaging tub.

“Up in the loft is a queen bed with a very special reading nook draped in sailcloth and equipped with a comfy rocker,” says the innkeeper, who finds that seashore lovers often choose this unique setting.

Stressed couples, especially parents who want to be far removed from stray socks and cries of “He hit me first!” also enjoy the inn’s gazebo, just beyond the dining room, in season.

The Dancer Farm Bed & Breakfast Inn
19 Archertown Road, New Egypt
$135 to $310 per night, with full breakfast

Charm in College Town

Nestled on one of Glassboro’s quiet streets, Founders Inn is a decidedly upscale retreat that has attracted guests from all over the world – and yes, it’s an unlikely setting.

“We know that people don’t think of charming inns when they think of Glassboro, but my husband John and I are determined to change that perception,” insists Tracie Sperratore, who took the plunge with John and bought a 6,000-square-foot historic house in the town several years ago.

The building they purchased was in rough shape, but had quite a history. Built in 1855, the house at 124 State Street is on the plot of ground where Stanger Glassworks once stood.

The original owner, Joseph Iszard, had a colorful background first as a schoolteacher, then a real estate operator, owner of a sawmill and later, a judge who also owned and managed a general store. His descendants occupied the house until 1934, when it was no longer in the family.
Turning the nine-bedroom home into a B&B was a perfect challenge for Tracie Sperratore, who has earned a reputation as a designer in the region. “Friends always told me I should have a B&B or an inn, and they were right. It’s fun to turn a passion into something tangible. Each room becomes a kind of showplace for my design work.”

A former nurse, Tracie has designed the inn to evoke peace and relaxation, with antique accents throughout, and elegant furniture that still manages to impart warmth and comfort. “As far as the public spaces go, I particularly love the music room, with its Steinway piano and antique violins encased in shadow boxes,” says Tracie. Adjoining the music room in a 40-foot sweep is the grand dining room.

But it’s the inn’s upstairs rooms that guests reserve, sometimes months in advance. Guests find Amish touches, more antiques, artful mixes of fabrics and styles that vary from the romantic to the reserved. All rooms feature private baths, queen-size beds, high-speed wireless Internet. The second floor also boasts a butler’s pantry where snacks are available 24/7. “Our goal is to make people feel totally at home. If you get hungry for a snack, you should be able to have one, just like you can in your own home.”

The inn’s most popular rooms are the Stanger on the third floor, done in rich golds and browns, and the inn’s softly lush bridal suite on the second floor. In this suite, hand-painted murals, bed linens hand-woven in Maine, and Victorian-lace window treatments create a heavenly interior landscape. “There’s even a bridal form wearing a bridal dress on display, hopefully reminding our guests of how their romances began,” says Tracie Sperratore, innkeeper and Cupid.

No wonder guests from places as far-flung as Dubai, Ireland and Germany have visited this inn just a short distance from Rowan University’s lively campus, and a mere 15-minute ride from the quaint shops of Mullica Hill.

“Everybody needs a little beauty and romance in their lives,” says this innkeeper. “They just don’t expect to find it in Glassboro – and when they do, they really appreciate it.”

The Founders Inn
124 State Street
$189 per night, includes breakfast


Just Around the Bend

The only indication that the Inn at Fernbrook Farms is ahead is a discreet sign on Georgetown Road in Bordentown that indicates where to turn. Then visitors proceed up a magnificent winding, tree-lined road until the property itself comes into view. And what a property.
Three generations of the Kuser family have occupied this land, with Susie and Lawrence “Q” Kuser the current proud owners of these lush 280 acres. The land falls under the provisions of the Farmlands Preservation Act, so the sprawling paradise will always remain as it is – no development or additional building.

Little is known about the former owners of the rambling white Georgian house – the centerpiece of the property – built in 1750. The home was actually the servants’ quarters, not the original main house, an elaborately gabled Tudor that burned to the ground in the early years of the 20th century. The servants’ quarters, unrecognizable as such today, were gradually expanded and improved by the Kusers.

“In 1996, we built our own farmhouse on the property and turned this main house into a bed and breakfast,” explains Susie Kuser. The couple has kept the integrity of the historic house even as they transformed it into a beautiful mecca for overnight visitors, weddings and parties.

From the gracious entryway, rooms fan out. A drawing room with a fireplace is the mansion’s most formal spot, and features antique chairs and sofas in period fabrics, complemented by an Oriental rug. The library, with its exposed wood and yet another fireplace, has the cozy feel of a private club, and features a large collection of Royal Doulton figurines.

Then there’s a formal dining room, a den with leather furniture and a large billiard room with – what else – an antique billiard table that draws visitors like a magnet.

Walk upstairs at Fernbrook, and you pass a second-floor landing window with a breathtaking view of the grounds. Another magnificent vista punctuates the walk to the third floor. In all, there are seven bedrooms, each painstakingly decorated by Susie Kuser in colors that give the rooms their individual names, from the Cranberry Room to the Yellow Room with coordinated bedspreads and curtains.

Perhaps the most enchanting space of all is the Master Suite, a complex of sitting room/bedroom/dressing room and bath done up in pinks and greens with wicker furniture and a magnificent antique four-poster bed.

But visitors to Fernbrook should also plan to explore the expansive grounds, lovingly cultivated and tended by Q Kuser, who has even resurrected a buried garden from the original plans found in the house.

“The Cottage,” a tiny structure built in the 1920s and straight out of a fairy tale, has been the site of small weddings and parties. Everywhere you turn, there are trees, shrubs and, in season, bursts of flowers. An original pergola/arbor on the property is believed to date back to the 18th century.

The Inn at Fernbrook Farms
142 Georgetown Road
125 to $165 per night, includes breakfast

February 2010
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