Bar Harbor, USA. Editorial Credit: Kristi Blokhin /

9 Picture-Perfect Towns on the Atlantic Coast

The Atlantic Coast is the perfect travel experience for diverse opportunities to explore the complete cultural, historical, and natural nuances of the United States. From the shipbuilding histories and beautiful rocky coastlines of northern states like Maine and Massachusetts to the dense greenery and distinct culture of southern states like North Carolina and Virginia, the Atlantic Coast is on full display in this catalog of nine picture-perfect towns on the Atlantic Coast. 

Rockport, Massachusetts

Rockport Harbor aerial view in Rockport, Massachusetts MA, USA.
Rockport Harbor aerial view in Rockport, Massachusetts, MA, USA.

On the farthest outcropping of land along Ipswich Bay in Massachusetts is Rockport, a widely-sought small-town destination known for its quaint New England sentiments, its storied culture, and its beautiful rocky coastline. The town's staple symbol is Motif #1, a replica of an 1840 fishing shack and now a staple of New England culture that sets the relaxing but vibrant environment of the surrounding Rockport Harbor. Nearby is the busy Back Harbor and downtown area, complete with the popular Rockport Music-Shalin Lieu Performance Center live music venue, the Rockport Art Association and Museum, and the iconic, cozy, and pleasant Front Beach, where many families gather to enjoy the mild waters in the summer. 

Bar Harbor, Maine

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

It's difficult to experience all the opportunities that Bar Harbor, Maine, has to offer. It's placed amidst the state's scattered coastline on the scenic Mount Desert Island and is directly adjacent to the tranquil Acadia National Park, where moderate hiking and camping offers superb exposure to dense woodlands and granite peaks. The town's lush forests can also be explored more accessibly through the Wild Gardens of Acadia, which are turned especially magical in the red and yellows of fall foliage. Aside from outdoor activity, the town offers fantastic variety in its downtown streets. There are refined seafood restaurants like Geddy's, unique attractions like the ethnographic Abbe Museum, and fantastic seaside walking trails like the Bar Harbor Shore Path. 

Isle of Palms, South Carolina

Sunset on The Isle of Palms Pier.
Sunset on The Isle of Palms Pier.

Isle of Palms is a small town getaway of wide-open beaches, seaside sunset walks, and tropical flora and fauna. Isle of Palms Beach is the most recognizable white-sand beach, stretching 7 miles with 56 access points along the town's secluded island. The northern portion of the island features champion golf courses, including the Wild Dunes Harbor Golf Course and the Wild Dunes Links Golf Course. The best walks at sunrise, sunset, or even mid-afternoon include along the dories, ferries, and schooners of the Wild Dunes Yacht Harbor or more along the paths of the more popular Boone Hall Plantation & Gardens, one of America's oldest working plantations. 

Annapolis, Maryland

An aerial shot of Annapolis harbor and Chesapeake Bay at sunset.
An aerial shot of Annapolis Harbor and Chesapeake Bay at sunset.

Annapolis is popular because of the naval history of the town that informs its attractive current culture and activity. Its harbor at the mouth of Severn River is capitalized by the picturesque Annapolis City Dock, where many bars and restaurants like the popular Boatyard Bar and Grill are housed and where the impressive buildings of the United States Naval Academy and the waterside beauty of Acton's Cove Waterfront Park and Eastport Yacht Club make impressive statements. It's popular to spend afternoons in the waterside Truxton Park or explore the city's extensive history in the Annapolis Maritime Museum & Park. Outdoor enthusiasts can also be satisfied by the paved trails of Quiet Waters Park or the unique views from Jonas and Anne Catherine Green Park. 

Cape Charles, Virginia

Aerial view of the town of Cape Charles Virginia. Editorial credit: Kyle J Little /
Aerial view of the town of Cape Charles, Virginia. Editorial credit: Kyle J Little /

Cape Charles is a town in the mouth of Chesapeake Bay that's filled with charm and easy living. The heart of activity follows the Cape Charles Historic District, where Central Park acts as an epicenter of community activity and leisurely greenspace, while character-filled boutiques like Buskey Cider on The Bay and the Cape Charles Coffee House fill the district's brick buildings. Nearby are the calm, white-sand beaches of the Cape Charles Beachfront that attract all travelers in search of seaside relaxation or pristine swimming. For a taste of Virginia's lush and dense outdoor greenery, walk through the wooden bridges of the Cape Charles Natural Area Preserve. Another more active form of tranquility can be found in the private Bay Creek golf course that offers a top-quality housing and golfing experience. 

Lewes, Delaware

Lewes, Delaware, U.S.A. The aerial view of the beach town. Editorial credit: Khairil Azhar Junos /
Lewes, Delaware, U.S.A. The aerial view of the beach town. Editorial credit: Khairil Azhar Junos /

Lewes is a small, unique, and colorful seaside town in Delaware. Its most recognized and striking scene is in its Cape Henlopen State Park, where the Fort Miles Historic Area is filled with large, cylindrical defensive fortifications that impressively contrast the long and sweeping beaches. Visitors to the park should also walk along the Fishing Pier at Cape Henlopen and enjoy the fishing at the end of Gordons Pond Trail on Herring Point. The town's center of activity, characterized by the Lewes Historical Society and popular stores like the Hopkins Farm Creamery, also holds a very modest but extremely majestic sunset view walking along the wooden stilts of the Pilottown Marina or on the beach side of the Lewes Yacht Club. The most unique attraction is the Zwaanendael Museum, which commemorates Delaware's first settlement by the Dutch.  

Cape May, New Jersey

Cape May is considered one of the most beautiful towns in the US. Editorial credit: JWCohen /
Cape May is considered one of the most beautiful towns in the US. Editorial credit: JWCohen /

Cape May Beach has pristine sand and water and a long boardwalk bordered by Victorian-style homes. Many travelers recommend staying at the Rhythm of the Sea if you want to experience the sounds and sights of the beautiful coastline. The Emlen Physick Estate showcases the historic Victorian life of settlers in 1879 with interactive exhibits. The Washington Street Mall is a nostalgic shopping center tightly packed with boutiques, stores, and restaurants of all kinds. Cape May Point State Park has beautiful lowland walking trails, long and secluded beaches, and an iconic old-fashioned Cape May Lighthouse and museum. Cape May is a destination of impressive variety and endless opportunities for relaxation, activity, and exploration. 

New Bern, North Carolina

A Popular Café in the New Bern Historic Area is Shaded by Trees. Editorial credit: Wileydoc /
A Popular Café in the New Bern Historic Area is Shaded by Trees. Editorial credit: Wileydoc /

At the intersection of the Trent and Neuse Rivers, you'll find New Bern, North Carolina. This town is famous as 'The Birthplace of Pepsi Cola,' and it is available for sale at the town's historical landmark and boutique. The other popular attraction of note in the downtown New Bern area is Tryon Place, a replica of a 1760 mansion complete with full gardens and tours. Baker's Kitchen Restaurant and Bakery and The Chelsea are the popular dining spots nearby. Travelers looking for fresh air should enjoy the open fields of Lawson Creek Park, where events, monuments, and bridges space the river's many tributaries. For more seclusion under Spanish Moss trees, visit Glenburnie Park instead. 

Old Saybrook, Connecticut

Old Saybrook, Connecticut. Editorial credit: Rachel Rose Boucher /
Old Saybrook, Connecticut. Editorial credit: Rachel Rose Boucher /

Old Saybrook elicits feelings of relaxation and quiet all throughout, largely owing to the soft ocean breeze that follows from the calm Harvey's Beach Pavillion and follows up Oyster River towards the middle of town. Travelers will always stop at the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat historical landmark, tour the Florence Griswold Museum and its focus on American Impressionism, or listen to a live performance at the Katherine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center. The Connecticut River Museum also has important artifacts that document the area's shipbuilding history. A top-rated accommodation overlooking the Old Saybrook Marina is the Saybrook Point Resort & Marina, with easy accessibility to the Fenwick Golf Course. 

Despite the best efforts of this article to highlight the top attractions on the Atlantic Coast, there is always something more to explore on its long and diverse journey. Try the pristine beaches of Cape May, New Jersey, and plan a visit to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, but don't be afraid to get lost in the other bountiful towns and landscapes that magnetize all types of travelers on their adventures along the Atlantic Coast. 

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