Whether your idea of a romantic getaway is candlelight dinners and four-poster beds or a rustic retreat with a snuggle-up-close fireplace, California’s diverse collection of B&Bs and small inns lets you find the best fit for your amorous style. “The variety of lodging in California is as varied as California itself,” says Jenn Wheaton, program and events manager with the California Association of Boutique & Breakfast Inns. “When it comes to finding a spot for a romantic escape, there really is something for everyone—from desert spa retreats to high-end city shopping excursions and oceanfront cottages with fresh oysters.” Here are 10 uniquely swoon-worthy lodgings, listed north to south:
1. Carter House Inns, Eureka
In a North Coast town renowned for its historic Victorian-era architecture, the ornate, three-story Carter House Inns boasts a vintage pedigree. Owner Mark Carter built the mansion based on the original plans for an 1880s house in San Francisco, which he unearthed while browsing in a Eureka antique shop. The inn—with an adjacent hotel building and luxury cottages—lets you retreat into a world of bygone splendor exemplified by the Library Suite, with its carved details and wood-burning fireplace. Indulge in the locally sourced specialties like the wild mushroom risotto at the lodging’s highly regarded Restaurant 301. For more ambience, take a hiking or kayaking tour through the nearby redwoods.
2. Cedar Gables Inn, Napa
If you and your mate think food is the finest aphrodisiac, head to this elegant inn in downtown Napa. You can tie on an apron and learn from Napa Valley’s master chefs during hands-on cooking classes, creating (and then eating) a gourmet meal that’s perfectly paired with local wines. Food certainly plays a big role at Ken and Susie Pope’s 1892 Arts & Crafts style inn, from the multi-course breakfasts to evening wine pours by the fireplace. The antique-filled rooms, most with whirlpool tubs for two, are positively delicious too, especially with their complimentary chocolates.
3. The Inn at Locke House, Lockeford
Anyone who loves history will appreciate Lani and Richard Eklund’s results in preserving this National Register of Historic Places landmark on the edge of Lodi wine country—an 1865 home filled with Civil War–era character. “It really was a simple farmhouse, and you still appreciate how the family lived in the house when you stay here,” said Lani. Note the period details, such as three original fireplaces, Douglas fir floors, and beautifully detailed redwood trim and doors. Try the secluded Water Tower Suite for the ultimate couple’s escape: The window seat looks out across the property’s English-style gardens, and your suite’s private deck is the perfect spot to share a bottle of local wine.
4. Victoria Inn, Murphys
Looking at the shingled Victoria Inn, located on the Main Street of a classic Gold Rush town, you’d think it was built in the 18th century, not the 1990s. But its cozy interiors veer toward the traditional: Think window seats, four-poster beds, and flow-blue china on the mantelpiece—and no TVs, Wi-Fi, or even telephones. That said, you still get modern comforts like a whirlpool tub in your bathroom and a breakfast of stuffed-croissant French toast or polenta cake Benedict. And it’s just one of several classic Gold Country B&Bs.
5. The Inn Above Tide, Sausalito
Your heart will melt at this Sausalito stunner, where all of the waterfront rooms overlook San Francisco Bay. Take in views across the water to Alcatraz and San Francisco, especially if you splurge and book a stay in one of the many rooms or suites with private decks. Some rooms also have fireplaces and deep soaking tubs. Borrow one of the inn’s loaner bikes to visit Sausalito’s pretty waterfront, or hop on the ferry with your bikes. Spend the day exploring San Francisco, then pedal back to the inn via another heart-melter, the Golden Gate Bridge.
6. Chateau Du Sureau, Oakhurst
Only 20 minutes south of Yosemite National Park in Madera County, Chateau du Sureau brings a touch of European elegance to the rugged Sierra Nevada. Wth its stone turret, balconies, and rooms filled with Old World antiques, the chateau makes for a surprising gem in a region better known for rustic mountain retreats and modest motels. The nine-acre property includes lovely gardens, yoga classes, and a full-service spa. A full European breakfast is included in your stay, and certain packages include lunch and dinner at the outstanding Erna’s Elderberry House Restaurant.
7. Glen Oaks Big Sur
Fog? Who cares. A dose of misty coastal weather is just the ticket for romance at this compound of cabins and cottages set among redwoods and outfitted with thick quilts, cast-iron stoves, and curl-up-all-day couches. Outside, get cozy in Adirondack chairs on your porch or deck to enjoy your fire pit and the sound of the nearby Big Sur River. While all the cabins have their appeal (and nice touches such as heated bathroom floors), it’s tough to beat Glen Oaks’ Big Sur Cabin, with two outdoor soaking tubs in a private courtyard.
8. Sacred Sands Luxury B&B, Joshua Tree
This B&B near the west entrance to Joshua Tree National Park is both timeless and contemporary in design: Its eco-smart, straw-bale construction is reminiscent of an early adobe, but with a modern, organic feel. Split your time between hunkering down in the room’s cool, hushed recesses and basking in the warmth of the desert sun on your private terrace, where there’s an outdoor shower and meditation platform. After a day of hiking at Joshua Tree, give your muscles a break with a soak in your own outdoor spa tub—a decadent spot for stargazing in the region’s ultra-dark night skies.
9. Inn at Playa Del Rey, Los Angeles
With bed, breakfast, birds, and beaches, maybe we should think of this idyllic lodging as a B&B&B&B. Three blocks from the ocean and overlooking the protected Ballona Wetlands—a prime spot for birders on the Pacific Flyway—the Cape Cod–inspired inn combines its natural setting with easy access to Southern California’s urban scene; the restaurants and boutiques of Venice Beach’s Abbot Kinney Boulevard are just 10 minutes away. Some suites have sunken Jacuzzi tubs with adjacent two-sided fireplaces, and if you’re here for an anniversary or special occasion, just let the inn know: There will be complimentary champagne waiting for you when you arrive.
10. The Inn at Europa Village, Temecula
This elegant inn surrounded by vineyards was inspired by the romantic wine-country lodgings of Spain, France, and Italy—but it’s only an hour’s drive from San Diego and 90 minutes from L.A. The 10 rooms in the mission-style building are named for assorted varietals, and have private balconies or French doors that open to panoramic views. The Cabernet Sauvignon suite, for instance, with its heart-shaped spa tub and brick fireplace, makes for a particularly romantic couples escape.