The 10 Most Scenic East Coast Cities

The Eastern coast of the United States is full of beautiful scenery, both natural and urban. There is something to suit everyone's style, from bustling cities and quaint coastal towns to beach villages and ports. Here is a list of ten of the most scenic cities along the East Coast of the United States of America.

Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Skyline of Portsmouth, New Hampshire at dusk, with tugboats on the Piscataqua River.
Skyline of Portsmouth, New Hampshire at dusk, with tugboats on the Piscataqua River.

As the name suggests, Portsmouth is a port city in New Hampshire that sits along the Piscataqua River. The city has ranked number six in the United States on National Geographic's traveler's list of historic places and has a rich colonial background. The city boasts scenic harbor views and a quaint colonial-style district full of historical buildings. The shores of Piscataqua River, in the harbor, was first settled in 1630 and named Strawbery Banke. This area is still home to notable 17th- and 18th-century houses, many of which are located in the Strawbery Banke Museum. North Church, which dates back to 1855, is another prominent building in the area which overlooks the Market Square forms a charming atmosphere and old-world feel. Other attractions include the Prescott Park riverside gardens, the harbor boat docks, and the USS Albacore research submarine. 

Ithaca, New York

A view of Cornell University's Uris Library and Mcgraw Tower in Ithaca, New York during winter.
A view of the Uris Library and Mcgraw Tower that is situated atop the Libe slope at the main campus of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York during winter. Editorial credit: Lewis Liu / Shutterstock.com

Ithaca is located on the edge of Cayuga Lake, part of the Finger Lakes area of the US State of New York. The city is full of scenic views and impressive natural sights and attractions. The city is notably home to the famous Cornell University, a stunning sight in itself, and the home of the luxurious Cornell Botanic Gardens. These gardens include both an expansive arboretum - particularly popular in the fall when the foliage changes color - and also the Cascadilla Falls. Other waterfalls in the area worth a visit are Ithaca Falls and the Buttermilk Falls, and in fact, the site has some 100 falls within less than 15 km of downtown. Other scenic outdoor spaces include the nearby Robert H. Treman state parks, which are full of lush forests, rocky gorges, and various pools and streams. 

Roanoke, Virginia

Roanoke, Virginia
The Roanoke City as seen from Mill Mountain Star at dusk in Virginia. 

Roanoke is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwest Virginia. It is surrounded by vast, beautiful park areas and is overlooked by Mill Mountain. The city is known for growing very rapidly over a short amount of time - gaining it the nickname 'Magic City' and being the home of the Roanoke Star. Sometimes called the Mill Mountain Star, this star is the world's second-largest illuminated artificial star. It was constructed in 1949 and is positioned at the summit of Mill Mountain. Roanoke is a scenic paradise for lovers of the outdoors. Hikers can enjoy hiking the iconic Appalachian Trail and take in the scenic views from the gorge and mountain range. Cycling is also popular in the city, and in fact, Roanoke is known as America's East Coast Mountain Biking Capital. Water activities include kayaking routes along the Upper James River Water Trail.

Annapolis, Maryland

Annapolis Maryland
A view of the city of Annapolis, Maryland from Annapolis Harbor at dusk. 

Annapolis is the capital city of Maryland and is located along the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. Its location in the bay makes for scenic views of the water and natural landscape, but the city is also full of picture-perfect historical charm. Annapolis houses the United States Naval Academy, which has beautiful waterfront grounds and monuments, and a naval history museum that is popular with visitors to the area. The city's oldest college is John's College, which dates back to 1696 and is the third oldest college in the United States after Harvard and William and Mary. These stately buildings have a strong presence in town, as do the impressive domed 1700s Maryland State House and St. Anne's Episcopal Church with its Roman style and beautiful stained glass windows. Many other 18th century buildings can be found in the historic district, which add character and charm to this bustling city. This small, beautiful colonial city has the feel of a friendly small town and is great for walking tours and strolls around the neighborhood, where tourists and locals alike can take in an array of gorgeous scenes. 

Block Island, Rhode Island

Block Island, Rhode Island
 The Brick Lighthouse on a cloudy day in Block Island, Rhode Island.

Block Island is a small island just off the shore of mainland Rhode Island. Its most prominent features are the distinct clay cliffs of the Mohegan Bluffs and the red Southeast Lighthouse, which looks out over the sea. Below, sandy beaches such as Crescent Beach make for an iconic Rhode Island scene that seems right out of a postcard. On the north end sits the 1867 North Lighthouse and Sachem Pond, a popular stopping ground for gulls and swallows. A wide variety of migrating songbirds also stop over tat the Block Island National Wildlife Refuge. The combination of beaches, rock cliffs, and soaring birds gives off an iconically New England vibe. 

Killington, Vermont

Killington, Vermont
A winter scene in Killington, Vermont. 

Situated in the Green Mountains of Vermont, Killington is a city that is a true scenic beauty. Its green-tinged hills are awe-inspiring during the winter, and the area is famous for the Killington and Pico Mountain downhill ski resorts. The area is also rich in old-growth forests, including the Gifford Woods State Park, which includes a variety of tree species such as sugar maples and beeches. Hiking is common in the area, and well-known pathways include the Thundering Falls trail, which features a gorgeous cascading waterfall, the Long Trail, and the iconic Appalachian trail, which run just outside of town. Killington is an outdoor lover's dream, and its rolling landscape and lush forests make for picture-perfect scenery year-round. 

Duxbury, Massachusetts

Duxbury, Massachusetts
A winter leafless tree along the Cape Cod Bay in Duxbury, Massachusetts. 

Duxbury is a small historic seaside town in Plymouth County, Massachusetts which sits along Cape Cod Bay. It is historically known as a shipbuilding town, especially in the early 1800s. During that time, Duxbury was extremely wealthy, and considered the largest and most famous shipbuilding center in the world. In large part because of this, the area still has a number of large, lavish homes which sit along the sandy beaches and shoreline. The town has beautiful scenic sand beaches such as Duxbury Beach which hug the iconic shores of Cape Cod. Combined with flying seagulls and fresh ocean spray, this area becomes a storybook beach town that cannot be missed. 

Brunswick, Georgia

Brunswick, Georgia
Aerial Cable-stayed Sidney Lanier Bridge in Brunswick, Georgia.

Much of coastal Georgia is rich with history and charm, and the city of Brunswick, on the southeast coast, is no exception. It is the second-largest city on the Georgia coast after Savannah. Its Old Town Historic District is full of Victorian-era buildings and estates. The city is also known for the Lover's Oak tree, which is hundreds of years old, and holds an impressive presence in town. Giant causeway bridges link the four barrier islands of the Golden Isles as Brunswick sits on a peninsula with the East River and the Turtle River to the west, the Brunswick River to the south, and the Mackay River and Intracoastal Waterway to the east. These rivers, and the various salt marshes crossed by the expansive bridges make for picturesque coastal views. The Golden Isles include Sea Island, known for its resorts and golf clubs, St. Simons Island which houses the Fort Frederica National Monument and St. Simons Lighthouse Museum, and Jekyll Island

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Skyline of the coastal city of Myrtle Beach in South Carolina.
Skyline of the coastal city of Myrtle Beach in South Carolina.

Myrtle beach is another coastal city, located in South Carolina. Popular with vacationers and golfers, Myrtle Beach is known for its nearly 100 kilometers of linked beaches on the Atlantic Coast. The city is a bustling hub of activity and tourist attractions, with a huge number of resorts and hotels overlooking the beaches. The prominent boardwalk is full of food stands, arcades and souvenir shops, as well as a SkyWheel and the Family Kingdom amusement park. 

East Haddam, Connecticut

The beautiful ruins of the Gillette Castle in the Gillette Castle State Park, East Haddam, Connecticut.
The beautiful ruins of the Gillette Castle in the Gillette Castle State Park in East Haddam, Connecticut. 

East Haddam is an adorable and charming town that sits on the east bank of the Connecticut River in Middlesex County, East Haddam, Connecticut. It was established in the 1700s and has a number of old, historic buildings. The area is full of beautiful landscapes including the Cockaponset State Forest, the Devil's Hopyard State Park. The latter features a beautiful waterfall where you can actually swim up to and climb behind the falls themselves. Chapman Creek and the Chapman falls are also popular stops along hiking trails in the area. In the town itself, must attractions include the Goodspeed Opera House, Allegra Farm, Nathan Hale Schoolhouse and Bust, and the beautiful ruins of the Gillette Castle in Gillette Castle State Park.

Whether checking out the fall colors in the lush forests, skiing in the mountains, or relaxing on a beach in the summer, the nation's East Coast is a beautiful example of the country's early history and natural beauty.

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