Sunset in Marathon, Florida.

7 Breathtaking Towns to Visit on the Atlantic Coast

Spanning the entire length of America’s eastern coast from the tip of Maine’s border with Canada to the end of the Florida Keys, the Atlantic coast covers 14 states. As one might expect, the further south you travel along the coast, the warmer the climate. But, regardless of where you end up on your visit, these seven breathtaking towns along the Atlantic coast provide you with a wide variety of entertainment.

From the colonial histories of New England to the sun-soaked beaches of Florida, uncover the most breathtaking towns on the Atlantic coast.

Bar Harbor, Maine

Bar Harbor historic town center aerial view at sunset.
Bar Harbor historic town center aerial view at sunset.

Sitting just outside the gates of the renowned Acadia National Park and along the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, Bar Harbor is a must-see destination along the northeast coastline.

Venture into the park to enjoy scenic hikes and pristine campgrounds and explore the 50,000 acres the park has to offer. Visitors can also see some of nature’s most majestic creatures in their natural habitats. Schedule a whale-watching tour in the coastal waters of the town to get up close and personal with the whales of the Atlantic. Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co. is highly recommended by those who visit.

Relax in the town’s calm environment, choose from local histories like the Abbe Museum, or enjoy a delicious seafood meal at world-class restaurants like 2 Cats Bar Harbor.

Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Piscataqua River in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Piscataqua River in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Travel back in time during your visit to one of the most historic towns, not only on the East Coast but in America as a whole. Portsmouth was founded in 1630, meaning that 394 years of history await your exploration.

Immerse yourself in the colonial past at the Strawbery Banke Museum, which is an outdoor living history museum showcasing centuries of New England life. Afterward, learn more about life in the depths of the ocean at the USS Albacore Museum, offering a unique glimpse into America’s submarine history and the many deep-sea expeditions launched from the town.

Enjoy the seaside breeze as you walk to the Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse, which has been guiding sailors to safety since the town’s beginning. Cap off your day by watching the sun retreat at the scenic Isles of Shoals; the island is only accessible by boat but promises a serene retreat into nature.

Manchester-By-The-Sea, Massachusetts

Marina in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts.
Marina in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts.

Not to be confused with the similarly named city across the Atlantic Ocean, this town was officially named Manchester-By-the Sea in the 1980s to help mitigate any confusion.

As the name suggests, the town is a premier spot for those seeking a relaxing seaside vacation. During the warmer months, dip your toes in the water at popular beaches such as White Beach or Singing Beach. Visitors can even become their first mate by booking sailing lessons with Frayed Knot Sailing charters which helps even the most inexperienced sailors cruise along the coastal winds.

To learn about the town’s fascinating past, visit the Manchester Historical Museum, which showcases everything from maritime artifacts to the legacies of the town’s prominent figures. Just outside the town sits the Hammond Castle Museum. This is the perfect place for a scenic drive or a mid-afternoon excursion.

Stonington, Connecticut

Summer sunset over the waterfront in Stonington, Connecticut.
Summer sunset over the waterfront in Stonington, Connecticut.

As one of the only Connecticut towns that sits along the banks of the Atlantic Ocean, Stonington has long served as a vital access point for the state. Explore the town’s maritime ambiance by touring throughout the Stonington Borough. Walk amongst the cobblestone streets and take your pick from the variety of cafes, restaurants, and rare shops that line the renowned water street.

Learn about the trials and tribulations of being a seafaring captain at prominent attractions like the Captain Nathaniel B. Palmer House Museum, which pays tribute to one of America’s most celebrated explorers. Nathaniel B. Palmer led groundbreaking expeditions to Antarctica and his former estate now serves as a testament to his endeavors. Nearby Mystic also features the largest maritime museum in the country, so be sure to save time for the exciting exhibits at the Mystic Seaport Museum.

After a day of excitement, enjoy a glass of grapes at the Saltwater Farm Vineyard while you overlook the acres of the lush vineyard.

Lewes, Delaware

Canalfront Park in Lewes, Delaware.
Canalfront Park in Lewes, Delaware.

The town was the first settlement in the state of Delaware, founded by early Dutch settlers in 1631. Lewes has been able to preserve its unique past while continuing to develop the town with modern amenities that accommodate every type of traveler.

Claiming the unofficial title of Delaware’s most beloved town, the town has amazing attractions that can’t be replicated elsewhere. History and heritage come to life at landmarks such as the Cannonball Maritime House, Fort Miles, and Lewes's downtown core.

Visitors can also get their steps in as they march along the beautiful seaside trails at Cape Henlopen State Park. Don’t forget to stop by the nature center located inside the park to learn about the diverse ecosystems of Delaware’s coastal regions. Visitors can even walk the plank as they board a real pirate ship at the Pirates of Lewes expedition.

Manteo, North Carolina

Roanoke Marshes screw-pile lighthouse on Shallowbag Bay in Manteo, North Carolina.
Roanoke Marshes screw-pile lighthouse on Shallowbag Bay in Manteo, North Carolina.

This seaside oasis is settled on Roanoke Island, which rests between the mainland of North Carolina and the state’s Outer Banks. Start by exploring the local legacies of Manteo by visiting the Outer Banks History Center or the Pea Island Cookhouse Museum.

Take your chance at the fish of a lifetime by scheduling a day trip with one of the town’s many chartering services. A highly recommended charter is Little Shell Charters which promises an adventure on the sea. If fishing isn’t your forte, you can still see some inhabitants of the sea at the North Carolina Aquarium, which is fun for all ages.

Marathon, Florida

Beach and waterfront in Marathon, Florida.
Waterfront in Marathon, Florida.

Located in the luxurious Florida Keys, Marathon is one of the last stops along the Atlantic coast. The town attracts all kinds of travelers ranging from avid anglers to those seeking a relaxing stay in the quiet ambiance of the town. Check local calendars before visiting, as you do not want to miss exciting events like Marathon’s Original Seafood Festival.

One of the best things to do in the town is to lather on sunscreen, fill up the picnic basket, and head out to nearby Sombrero Beach. The beach is accessible and is known for its soft sand and crystal blue water.

Perhaps you want to stay on the pavement and check out awesome attractions that showcase the town’s history and creative culture. Stop by the Crane Point Museum and Nature Center to learn about native species and their impact on the region or explore local artists' creations at the Shady Palm Art Gallery.

Pack your bags, set your sights on adventure, and let the Atlantic breeze guide you down America’s east coast. Whether you are a history buff, a nature enthusiast, or simply seeking a seaside escape, the East Coast has something to offer everyone. So, from when the sun rises to the time it descends, fill your days with the many exciting attractions in these seven breathtaking towns.

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