The Sweet Smell of Love: White Lilac Inn

Spring Lake, New Jersey

By Stacy Lytwyn Maxwell

Love is in the air!  Fragrant ribbons of flowering bushes blossom around the Victorian inn.  Throughout the year, fresh ocean breezes dance poignantly.  Anyone can fall in love with the White Lilac Inn; but more accurately, most couples who visit cannot resist magic realized, their romance rekindled by such auspicious surroundings.

“Very peaceful.  Very Clean.  Very Victorian,” innkeeper Mari Kennelly says, explaining the feel that she strives to evoke at the circa 1880 inn.  In fact, she conceived of the inn’s name before planting the lilacs!  After a one-year renovation, she opened the inn in 1994.  Today, the enterprise continues to leave one with a delightfully pungent sense, or shall we say scent—especially when Mari brings lilac bouquets indoors! 

Upon arrival, the three-tiered porches—about 180 feet of outdoor space—command attention.  The architecture with a southern flare makes you think twice.  No, this isn’t New Orleans.  This is Spring Lake, an easy jaunt from Manhattan, Philadelphia, Princeton and Atlantic City.  This charming, tree-lined affluent community is named after its numerous sparkling underground water springs.


The White Lilac Suite has a queen size canopy bed, fireside sitting area and double French doors leading to a private second-floor porch.


Adjacent to Wreck Pond, the inn has the added advantage of being less than five blocks away from the Atlantic Ocean.  Quite memorable is a stroll through two miles of secluded beach on the two-mile boardwalk, the longest non-commercial boardwalk in New Jersey.

Back inside the inn, the magical setting continues; enhanced further by a friendly staff.  Mari’s eye for style is apparent; she lists the title of art teacher among her previous occupations.  Furnishings, while Victorian, often antique and eclectic, are always comfortable.   

The common area includes a spacious parlor.  Cooler months entice intimate interludes in front of the fireplace.  “In the parlor is probably one of our most unusual pieces.  We have a dual octagon; it predates Lincoln,” Mari says, describing two of the tables.

The library inspires quiet reflection.  In the morning, the garden room accented with a fireplace stirs the taste buds with such signature fare as peach-baked French.  Diners can relax at a cozy table setting or on the enclosed porch.

Couples who reserve the Victorian Treasure Suite, one of the eight guestrooms, have the benefit of breakfast delivered to their room.  Soak and unwind in the double whirlpool bath, a feature available in some of the other rooms.  The two fireplaces will surely take the chill out. 

Whether you choose Gatsby’s Getaway, Victorian Treasure Suite, Vermont Cabin or any of the other aptly named guestrooms, with or without the Romance Package, memory making is the house specialty in an environment that draws many repeat guests.  The inn’s own history is distinct, like that of the former residents who once lived here and the many travelers who have frequented it since the 1920s when it became a guesthouse, first known as the Rainbow Cottage.

“My favorite story is about a woman named Sally Mann Randock Francis.  She had the inn the longest period of time.  It was about 46 years.  Her idea of a summer vacation started at Easter and ended at Thanksgiving.  So that’s how we got the fireplaces in all the rooms,” Mari says.   

Sally, as it turns out, was a New York model.  Out of her three husbands, her second husband, Steven Randock, was in advertising and they were notorious entertainers to such notable company as the Ziegfield Follies!  During the prohibition era, the original butler’s pantry served as "the bar.”

Mari, the 13th owner, has every deed to the house down to the original blueprints and is knowledgeable about the house’s history as well as the area. Her personal itineraries create a special touch.  Perhaps, for instance, a visit to the Spring Lakes Historical Society Museum or the Sea Girt Lighthouse, minutes away.  The local boutiques are irresistible; of course, premium outlets define New Jersey.  Point Pleasant, home to the Antique Emporium, is yet another interesting day trip.

Then there’s canoeing on the Manasquan Reservoir, hiking at Allaire State Park, boating or deep-sea fishing at Belmar Marina or horseracing at historic Monmouth Park.  Golf enthusiasts can tee off at Spring Meadow or Bel Aire’s public golf courses.  Tennis anyone?  Games are convenient at Devine Park or Marucci Park.  Back on premises, everyone loves to scout for the secret garden!

“I’ve lost count of how many proposals we’ve had and the same thing with brides,” Mari says.

Recalling one story, she adds, “We had a couple that had been coming and meeting here because they lived in two different directions.  They decided to get married on Valentine’s Day.  They actually got married on the boardwalk and came back to the inn; it was an impromptu wedding.”

This goes to show, lilacs may only bloom in the spring, but the inn manages to create a sweet sensation season after season.  Smell the magic at the threshold.



Lodging Type: Bed & Breakfast

Guest Rooms: 8; Suites: 1

Meals: Breakfast

Facilities: Meeting Facilities, Internet Access, Fireplaces, Jacuzzis

White Lilac Inn
414 Central Ave
Spring Lake, NJ 07762 USA
Phone: 732-449-0211 
Web Site: www.whitelilac.com
Email: mari@whitelilac.com 


About the Author: Stacy Lytwyn Maxwell


© 2009 By McKenzie Communications/Stacy Lytwyn Maxwell

Anyone can fall in love with the White Lilac Inn; but more accurately, most couples who visit cannot resist magic realized, their romance rekindled by such auspicious surroundings.