The country's northern coastlines inspire romantic movie scenes and make it to the screens for the views and rugged vibes that are unreplicable by the southern portion of the nation. These hundreds of miles of coast are where artists set up their easels and city respite seekers seek their tranquility to the sound of the roaring ocean. Catch this idyllic scenery on your next getaway to the northern shores, with easy access from big cities.
Cape May, New Jersey
Cape May is a small city with big character at the southernmost tip of New Jersey’s coast. Complete with waterfront but without your regular Jersey Shore vibe, Cape May is laden with Victorian-era architecture that gives it an exquisite look and a spot on the National Historic Landmark list. Stop by the beautiful museum and main Victorian-era building of Emlen Physick Estate for a look into the past, and head along Beach Avenue amid some of the quaintest buildings in the whole state on one side and the roaring Atlantic on the other.
This town, an "ideal in America's collective imagination," is one of the best beach destinations in New Jersey. Cape May is your dreamy summer destination, full of beach town charm along its lively promenade like regular festivities, melting ice cream as you stroll down for a day at the beach, and Fourth of July picnics. Cape May is also a "bird funnel" for songbirds during their spring and fall migrations, including 20 different species of colorful warblers. Watch this feathered fashion show at dawn along Higbee Beach, followed by the most spectacular sunset.
Edgartown, an atypical beach town and Martha’s Vineyard's oldest settlement, has been nestled along the island's beautiful easternmost shores since 1642. The charming town reminisces through historic sights along the streets, like the island's oldest Vincent House from 1672 and the late 19th-century Old Whaling Church. Stroll around this marvelous Greek Revival architectural feat, one of New England’s finest, before making your way over to the beach.
Edgartown’s sandy beaches are scenically remote and made even more picturesque by the two historic lighthouses. Enjoy serene sunbathing and pristine waters, followed by a stroll through downtown for the evening scene with great eats and upscale dining. Reserve a whole other day to explore the unique island culture and stop by the Martha’s Vineyard Museum for some intriguing history veiling this magical place.
Long Beach, New York
The upbeat coastal town amid rolling sand dunes is wonderfully refreshing, along with its brand new boardwalk, while maintaining the authentic Long Island vibe. Take a 45-minute train journey from Penn Station for a quick getaway to regroup in the peaceful setting of the former home of mobster Michael Corleone. The barrier island teems with classic eateries and quirky shops to discover on a bike cruise through the town. Despite its proximity to Manhattan, Long Beach feels like a whole other world away from the hustle, complete with a beach strip that lives up to its name.
Long Beach is your ideal day trip or weekend escape from work to relax on the beach and stay at the modern Allegria Hotel right on the boardwalk for a restful night before hitting the beach again the next morning. Make your way over the Long Beach bridge to Jordan’s Lobster Dock, a hidden gem, a local favorite, and a must-try for the freshest lobster rolls, crisp fried clams, and a classic shrimp cocktail. Enjoy dining with a scenic view of fishermen reeling in their catch along the pier, and grab some soft serve or Italian ice on the way to the beach sunset.
The seaside town of Madison is charmingly tucked in between Boston and New York, with easy access from both right off the I-95. Escape for the weekend to this picture-perfect beach enclave in Connecticut and relax in the hush-hush atmosphere that locals hold dear to their hearts. Madison's idyllic scenery, trendy shops, and great restaurants, together with the gateway to Hammonasset State Park, are a real gem. Find the park with over two miles of pristine sandy beaches to enjoy your favorite pastime at the sight of Long Island Sound.
Stay at the elegant Madion Beach Hotel with balconies for some R&R and quick water access, and choose Bar Bouche for the best dining in town, decked out in a classic French bistro style with a seasonally changing menu and a few to-die-for specials like the hearty cassoulet. Head to Moxieexudes for a lively cocktail evening amid some funky décor and traditional American fare with international flair like bacon and bourbon PEI mussels, and wash it down with a "Hooch and Juice."
Montauk, New York
Montauk is perched on the easternmost tip of Long Island, with a complementing moniker as the "End." Despite strong winds and rough surf, the charming town tames the daunting nature, and there is plenty of preserved land around that is worth a visit for the real edge of the world feel. The endless waters sure inspire likewise possibilities when you stand on a bluff overlooking the water with the vast unknown in front of you.
Montauk is a remote town with a low-key vibe on one side and a luxurious flair on the other. The multifaceted town will hold your attention away from the sceney Hamptons, while every visit to Montauk will inspire a unique adventure. The local and tourist favorite Montauk Point Light House, commissioned by President George Washington in 1796 and operating amid panoramic views, is worth the drive alone.
The famous town of Mystic, where Julia Roberts waitressed in "Mystic Pizza," is a favorite coastal getaway for water fans, movie enthusiasts, and foodies. Stop by the legendary pizza joint and the many nearby beaches for an ideal weekend getaway or summer vacation in the northern part of the county. Stroll down the main street with a vibe unlike any other town in the US, amid charming boutiques and restaurants. Stay at the notable Whaler’s Inn for sublime views of the Mystic River and all the downtown hotspots nearby, or choose the popular Hoxie House with lush leather sofas and cozy fireplaces.
Immerse yourself in the town's quirky culture at one of the popular eateries or cafes, like the Old Mistick Village with artisanal grilled cheeses or Bleu Squid with cupcakes. The Oyster Club serves the best seafood for dinner, like freshly shucked oysters, while the Captain Daniel Packer Inn is a historical relic from 1756, where you can enjoy marine-themed dishes and atmosphere like lobster lollipops and fresh ale in a cozy pub setting.
Newbury Port, Massachusetts
This charming seaside town is your portal to the past, offering a classic coastal setting with a rich nautical history. Established in the 17th century, Newbury Port is a dream for mariners at heart, complete with architecture and quaint mom-and-pop shops. Discover Newbury Port's shipbuilding role in the northeast and seafaring exhibits at the Custom Maritime Museum with an entire gallery of meticulously crafted model ships. The Plum Island beach, just 10 minutes away, is a literal treasure find, littered with shells along the tidal creek and bound by sand dunes.
Check into the new Blue Hotel for a cozy stay at one of the beachfront cottages and frolic around Plum Island until the hunger pangs strike. Stop by the award-winning Brine at dinnertime for a seafood feast like fresh-caught oysters, an array of crudo dishes, and caviar. Save room for dessert with some freshly made chocolate and strawberry hand pies from Buttermilk Baking Company. Their famed roasted peach muffins are summertime favorites, while the bourbon pecan pie has nation-wide followers in the fall.
Translated as the "beautiful place by the sea," Ogunquit really is a beachside haven along a picturesque barrier peninsula. As a historically significant artist's colony and fishing village with easy access to its scenic east coast location, Newport is a popular weekend getaway for every taste. Check out the bustling downtown area filled with awesome boutiques and attractions like the Ogunwui Playhouse for highly esteemed productions, which is not surprising for such a creative clan of an enclave.
Take an art stroll through a plethora of galleries and dine on the best lobster rolls of your life at Perkin's Cove Lobster Shack, prepped fresh from the sea and served alongside piping hot fries or crisp chips. Return in winter for their famous New England clam chowder and stay at the renovated Cliff House. Its new dining areas and enhanced amenities include a coffee shop that serves locally brewed blends for your morning Java fix. The rugged Bald Head cliff setting with spectacular views is worth ordering in for, especially on those chilly evenings with the howling sea wind outside the window while you are cozily tucked away enjoying the scenery.
Port Townsend, Washington
This northeastern town in Washington is a dreamy escape along the scenic Olympic Peninsula, made even more charming as a former Victorian-era seaport that holds its heritage close at heart. Immerse yourself in the historic vibe with the mid-19th-century sights and the small-town atmosphere. Port Townsend is a real hidden gem and a thriving arts community, with a wealth of art galleries.
Stroll along the downtown waterfront, along Victorian buildings to one side and seawater on the other, and visit in time for the popular Port Townsend Film Festival, held annually since 1999. Find tons of other attractions and events in this cultural heart of the region, like the Northwest Maritime Center and the Wooden Boat Festival, for everything about the maritimes.
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
Visit Rehoboth Beach and fall instantly in love with everything the town offers in a candy-wrapped charm setting. Take endless trolls along the nameake beach to Dewey Beach, immediately to the south. The beach scene and culture along the streets are the backbone of Delaware’s tourist economy, with pristine sands well-kept by the locals and few visitors to this part of the US even during the summer.
The town's boardwalk, one of the east coast’s best, hosts a number of annual festivals, like jazz, independent film, and the unique Sea Witch festival, which includes some crazy parades, costumes, and dancing. Enjoy the beaches to the north of the city, publicly designated since 1682, and take a curious stroll through the beautiful Cape Henlopen State Park and nature preserve. The park is a former military base from the American Revolution, complete with Fort Miles' observation towers and some artillery.
This enchanting beach town is truly one of the best coastal places for sight-seekers on a weekend escape or a whole summer vacation, just 40 miles from Boston. Rockport comes complete with rugged shores behind its scenic name and wild sea views that made it onto the screen with movies like Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island and Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester-by-the-Sea. This North Shore town in Greater Boston will charm anyone with everything from its excellent seafood to its beautiful beaches and historic landmarks.
Artists are consistently drawn to Rockport's creative flair, particularly its most-often painted building in America, the Motif Number 1 pier fishing shack, built in 1840. Sightsee this regional treasure, representative of New England’s nautical character, and rebuild promptly after it was destroyed by a historic blizzard in 1978.
Cannon Beach, Oregon
This charming seaside town in the northern US was named one of the world's most beautiful places by National Geographic Magazine. Cannon Beach is the gateway to Ecola State Park and home to beautiful rock formations along its many sandy beaches, as well as several beach parks with welcoming picnic areas. The less developed beachfront fits thematically and would not be the same were it not as pristine. Stroll the seashore for views and relax at the beachfront, perhaps the most unique in the country.
Enjoy traditional activities like swimming and watersports, and snap a selfie with the precipice crowning high through the waters. The charming town with a cute downtown area and a relaxed vibe, where the sea breeze tickles your nostrils all the way from shore, is a must-visit place for any season getaway in the northern US. Check out the plenty of places of interest, like the 15 art galleries with local works, and stop by the Cannon Beach Museum for the cultural and natural history of this unique town. Catch a show at the Coaster Theater Playhouse for an evening pastime.
Visit one of these charming towns that tame the rugged nature that encloses them on all sides along the scenically wild US Northern Coast. Immerse yourself in unforgettable experiences with views and emotions, leading to the sensory overload that you desire on a city respite. Peruse the beaches for sea shells and visit charming boutiques to bring back your own lucky charm or a souvenir for a loved one.
Much like its southern counterpart, the northern US coasts are replete with marine life, but with more rugged views and wilder waters—a joy for scenery seekers. Foodies, beach lovers, and sightseers rejoice when visiting the undulating shores of northern beach towns and charming centers with something for everyone.