St. Augustine, Florida at the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument.

These 9 Towns in Atlantic Coast Have Beautiful Architecture

A collection of 14 US states with coastlines face the majesty of the Atlantic Ocean, often called the Atlantic Coast or the Eastern Seaboard. The Atlantic Coast includes a host of notable cities like Miami, Boston, and New York City, known for their artistically beautiful architecture. These Atlantic Coast cities host a collection of beautiful architecture—from towering skyscrapers to modern spaces—that attracts travelers with an affinity for design. Outside these cities, travelers who love architecture—and history—can still appreciate beautiful buildings in small Atlantic Coast towns!

Beaufort, North Carolina

North Carolina Maritime Museum sign in Beaufort
North Carolina Maritime Museum sign in Beaufort. Image credit karenfoleyphotography via Shutterstock.

North Carolina's town of Beaufort originally existed as a fishing village and small port along the coast bordering the southern tip of the Outer Banks. Beaufort is the state's third-oldest town with roots dating to the 1600s! Mariners, patriots, privateers, merchants, and skilled craftsmen walked the streets of this quaint town in the past, some of them constructing temporary homes in Bahamian and West Indian-style architecture for the first few centuries.

Today, visitors have the pleasure of admiring about 150 restored homes from a few centuries past, with many of them honing plaques bearing the names of the earliest-known owners and the building's original construction year. Some of these buildings can be seen in the Beaufort Historic District, some of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Tourists can stop by notable sites like one of the state's oldest cemeteries at the Old Burying Ground or the mid-19th century Gibbs House.

The Beaufort Historic Site is also at the heart of the town's historic district and showcases a collection of buildings reflecting life on coastal Carolina in the 18th- and 19th centuries. Visitors can admire the architecture from the past restored to its former glory, including the Federal-style John C. Manson House from 1825 or the Victorian home of Josiah Bell.

Edenton, North Carolina

Aerial View of the Roanoke River Lighthouse in Edenton North Carolina
Aerial view of the Roanoke River Lighthouse in Edenton, North Carolina

Known to some as "the South's prettiest town," Edenton is located on Edenton Bay at the head of Albemarle Sound. Its origins date from the late 17th century. Edenton was North Carolina's first colonial capital and offered slaves a means of escape through the Maritime Underground Railroad. Today, tourists with a penchant for architecture will love Edenton's collection of historic buildings, many of which boast a reputation as some of North Carolina's oldest buildings.

The town's historic district hosts buildings with diverse architectural styles spanning 300 years, some of which are considered National Historic Landmarks or listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Tourists can also board the historic Edenton Trolley and picture what life was like during colonial times by admiring the collection of Victorian houses along Edenton Bay. Throughout the journey, visitors may come across other historic attractions like the home where Harriet Jacobs hid as a runaway slave or the Penelope Barker House.

Visitors may find interest in stopping by the 1767 Chowan County Courthouse, which is America's oldest operating courthouse and is one of the most preserved colonial courthouses around. Another architectural gem within walking distance of downtown Edenton is the 1886 Roanoke River Lighthouse. This popular attraction in Edenton displays a unique architecture of earlier times: this lighthouse is the last-surviving screw-pile lighthouse in the country, reflecting a design that was popular at the time with lighthouse construction in the Chesapeake Bay area.

New Castle, Delaware

The New Castle Historic District and the First State National Historic Park is filed with colonial era homes, iconic buildings, roads and historic markers.
The New Castle Historic District. Image credit George Wirt via Shutterstock.

Only a few miles south of downtown Wilmington will take visitors to New Castle, the oldest continuously occupied town in Delaware Valley. The town was originally settled in 1651 by the Dutch West India Company atop the site of "Tomakonck," a former Aboriginal village. History buffs and architectural mavens can discover New Castle's collection of historic and authentic structures, especially in its historic district. The town boasts 500 historic buildings constructed between 1700 and 1940 and spans four blocks!

Visitors can enjoy a day of museum hopping and visit New Castle's three historic museums operated by the New Castle Historical Society—the 1690 Dutch House, the 1738 Amstel House, and the 1892 Old Library Museum. Each site highlights unique building traditions and influences of the time, retaining its intricate architectural details, from its original woodwork to exteriors painted with earthy hues.

The New Castle Court House Museum—a registered National Historic Landmark—is another must-see attraction in town. This Georgian-style courthouse was built in 1732 and is within the First State National Historical Park. In 1776, it was in the courthouse that New Castle, Kent, and Sussex counties declared independence from Pennsylvania and Great Britain, prompting the creation of the Delaware State.

Marblehead, Massachusetts

Sites of historical homes and buildings in historical downtown district
Sites of historic homes and buildings in the historic downtown district.

The town of Marblehead in Massachusetts is only 17 miles north of Boston. The picturesque town is a beaming art and cultural center, famous for being the yachting capital of America and the birthplace of the American Navy! Many of Marblehead's beautiful architecture is a historic gem that is also worth a visitor's admiration.

Tourists can tour the grounds of the elegant Jeremiah Lee Mansion & Gardens. This Georgian home is beautifully preserved in a near-perfect state and was built for Jeremiah Lee, the wealthiest merchant in Colonial Massachusetts. The building today remains as a tribute to the country's ties to England and its independent commercial success, though its architectural details are also notable. The home is covered in rare 18th-century English hand-painted wallpapers and intricate mantle carvings!

Another architectural gem in Marblehead is the King Hooper Mansion, home of the Marblehead Arts Association. This historic property was built in 1728 and includes six galleries, a third-floor ballroom, galleries, two kitchens, and an original wine cellar. The property also has the beautiful King Hooper Garden to enjoy.

Before embarking on another architectural adventure across the Atlantic Coast, visitors should soak in the sights of Marblehead Harbor at Fort Seawell. Formerly, the site was an armed fort the Americans used to defend against British Invaders and stood as the oldest fort on the Northeast Coast. Today, it serves as a peaceful park for visitors and locals alike.

Oxford, Maryland

The Oxford Museum in Oxford, Maryland.
The Oxford Museum in Oxford, Maryland. Image credit JE Dean via Shutterstock.

Oxford in Talbot County is an Eastern Shore port town and remains one of the oldest towns in the country. This tree-lined and water-bound community was a former colonial port. Centuries later, Oxford has retained its historic charm with its melange of architectural attractions.

Visitors can relax in Oxford by booking a room at the Robert Morris Inn, the oldest full-service inn in America. They can also ride the historic Oxford-Bellevue Ferry as it operated in 1683! Before embarking on their next adventure, a walking tour in Oxford is an essential experience to see the famous Oxford Picket Fences painted by local artists. In the summer, these artistic fences are displayed for everyone to enjoy. In the fall, these fences are auctioned off to benefit various charities chosen by the artists themselves.

Georgetown, South Carolina

Historic Hampton Plantation in Georgetown, South Carolina. Editorial credit: ehrlif /
Historic Hampton Plantation in Georgetown, South Carolina. Image credit: ehrlif via Shutterstock.

According to USAToday, Georgetown is America's 'Best Coastal Small Town'—only an hour's drive from Charleston and 45 minutes north of Myrtle Beach! Georgetown in South Carolina offers a refreshing atmosphere from hectic city traffic, boasting a cozy community with a picturesque coastline. The town's architecture is mostly historic and beautifully preserved.

Travelers can take a tour of the historic Hobcaw Barony, a 16-000-acre privately-owned research reserve filled with rich wildlife and over 70 cultural sites. Georgetown's downtown area is a treasure trove of discoveries for curious visitors, and it has five museums along Front Street and over 50 historic homes. The Rice Museum educates its visitors about Georgetown's rice cultivation history, with its headquarters inside the historic Old Market Building and Town Clock. Travelers can also return in time by visiting the Kaminski House Museum overlooking the Sampit River. The home is one of Georgetown's 60 antebellum homes and reflects the typical, low country "single house" style of the mid-18th century.

Stonington, Connecticut

An American flag blows in the wind with a vintage car in background in
An American flag blows in the wind with a vintage car in background in Stonington. Image credit Joe Tabacca via Shutterstock.

Stonington is comfortably located between New York and Boston on a peninsula that spills into Fisher's Island Sound and Little Narragansett Bay. This Connecticut town is famous for its beaches, historic seaside homes, and a history filled with Maritime and agricultural activities. Many travelers regard Stonington as one of the prettiest coastal towns in New England!

Lovers of historic architecture should explore the home of Captain Nathaniel Palmer—the first person to sight and chart Antarctica—to admire period tiles and the home style of the mid-19th century. Alternatively, the Old Lighthouse Museum is equally impressive, proudly standing for over 170 years and adorned with intricate stonework, ornamental orifices, granite lintels, and a gabled roof made by local craftsmen. The day can be ended by watching the sunset at Dubois Beach, which sits on the southern tip of Water Street at Stonington Point.

Lewes, Delaware

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

Lewes is a paradisiac escape for many beach-seeking tourists. It is located where the Delaware Bay and the Atlantic Ocean meet at Cape Henlopen. This historic walking town has been around since 1631, offering visitors an eclectic collection of attractions, from its coastline to historic homes.

A visit to Cape Henlopen State Park would be a day well spent, offering two designated swimming beaches, the Fort Miles Historic Area, a historic Observation Tower, and the accessible Gordons Pond Trail that winds through the park's coastal habitat, from dunes to wetland environments. History buffs can experience some colonial vibes while perusing the historic homes at the Lewes Historical Society Main Campus, including exhibits and educational programs.

Zwaanendael Museum is an outstanding Lewes icon that plenty of architecturally inclined tourists can enjoy. This colorful museum was built to commemorate the arrival of the Dutch, who established the area's first European colony—'Swanendael'—in 1631. This colorful building was crafted after the former city hall in Hoorn, the Netherlands, and is adorned with terra cotta roof tiles, decorated shutters, and carved stonework. The museum building even has a statue at the tip of David Pitersen de Vries, the leader of the Dutch who founded the colony.

St. Augustine, Florida

Castillo de San Marcos in St Augustine, Florida
Castillo de San Marcos in St Augustine, Florida

St.Augustine is one of the oldest-founded towns to visit on the Atlantic Coast and is recognized as the oldest continuously occupied settlement with European and African-American origins. This Floridian town was founded 55 years before the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock! This Atlantic Coast town offers visitors a collection of architecture that ties to its storied past.

Many visitors flock to the 327-year-old walls of the Castillo de San Marcos every year, and it stands as the oldest masonry fort in the continental US. The Spanish used this stone fortress as protection in the New World. History buffs who love historic architecture will undoubtedly enjoy visiting Colonial Quarter. This 2-acre property displays four centuries' worth of history by offering living history demonstrations, countless exhibits, period-appropriate restaurants, and more. Natural attractions await adventurous travelers in St. Augustine, with its 42 miles of sandy beaches and the 1,600-acre space at Anastasia State Park.

Atlantic Coast cities like New York City and Boston are famous may be famous for their outstanding architectural marvels like towering skyscrapers or creatively designed spaces. However, the towns along the Atlantic Coast have plenty of beautiful architecture that visitors ought to discover and explore for themselves!

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