K.C. was a featured writer for Yahoo! Travel before joining trips to discover in 2013. She is the author of Best Travel Guide for First Time Visitors to Ireland, an Amazon bestseller every year between 2013 and 2016. She has been a featured expert on Newsweek, Travel + Leisure, Travelocity, among others.
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There are charming towns waiting to be discovered across New England. This region is famous for its captivating postcard-perfect scenery that can be found everywhere from the coast to soaring mountains. But if you’re looking for a beach vacation, you’ll definitely want to consider some of the New England’s cutest beach towns.
The name Ogunquit translates to “beautiful place by the sea” and this top destination in Maine boasts one of the prettiest beaches in the state. It stretches 3.5 miles from the center of town to more remote sands known as Footbridge and North beaches. In the summer, locals and visitors alike plan their day according to the tides – between high and low tide when the current of Ogunquit River flows out to the Atlantic, people head to the flat stretch of sand that rolls down the river bank carrying water toys like inner tubes and rafts. No matter where you decide to base your stay, you’ll be within a short walking distance to the shore along with classic seafood shacks and fun boutiques featuring items made by local artisans.
Provincetown, located at the northern tip of Cape Cod, offers it all when it comes to fantastic beach towns. It’s home to a long stretch of Cape Cod National Seashore beaches that are perfect for strolling, enjoy breathtaking sunsets, whale watching and a variety of other activities. Sunbathe at peaceful Herring Cove, walk Race Point Beach and explore the colorful downtown area, which features everything from mouthwatering seafood shacks and fudge shops to art galleries, grand mansions, fine dining eateries, bookstores and coffee houses.
Set along the northeastern shore of Martha’s Vineyard, Oak Bluffs may best be known for its unique, vibrant-colored gingerbread cottages that give the town a storybook feel. The picturesque harbor village evolved from a mid-19th-century Methodist campground, and eventually, the canvas tents were replaced with the hundreds of tiny whimsical cottages. They became a tourist attraction in their own right in the late 19th century – many are still family-owned and passed on generation to generation. The beaches here face into Vineyard Sound and usually have very minimal surf, which makes the water fabulous for swimming or for the little ones to enjoy wading. Taking a spin on the Flying Horses Carousel is a must. It’s a national landmark as the oldest carousel in the nation, putting smiles on riders since 1876.
A small beachfront community on the southwestern shoreline of Rhode Island bordered by the Pawcatuck River and Connecticut, Westerly is one of the most popular destinations in the state, with sweeping sandy beaches, pretty parks, and lots of opportunities to get out on the water, including sailing, surfing, fishing and swimming. In the summer its population nearly doubles with so many coming to take advantage of the warm weather. Downtown Westerly offers all sorts of shops, a variety of eateries and trendy bars, while Mystic, Connecticut is just minutes away for exploring the famous Mystic Aquarium.
Block Island can be reached with a scenic hour-long ferry ride from Galilee. Sailing in you’ll see the red-brick Southeast Lighthouse and dramatic Mohegan Bluffs. Venture north after arriving to get to beautiful three-mile-long Crescent Beach. This is a wonderful spot for a beach vacation with glorious stretches of sand, stunning ocean views and lots of recreational opportunities. Enjoy hiking, biking, horseback riding, bird watching, sailing, kayaking and snorkeling, fueling active pursuits with tasty clam chowder and lobster rolls.
Located 30 miles off the coast of Cape Cod, Nantucket is a place for fun in the sun. You can hop on the ferry to this beach destination, which attracts many with its stunning coastline open to the public. For big waves and jaw-dropping sunsets, head to the south shore. Coatue is popular for sea kayaking, while Children’s Beach is aptly named, ideal for families with little ones thanks to the lack of current on the sheltered waters of Nantucket Harbor. The island also hosts an array of excellent eateries, lighthouses, a whaling museum and bike paths that branch off in every direction for exploring.
Kennebunkport is a popular beach town in Maine, best known for Dock Square and its many places to shop and dine, where visitors can enjoy colorful eateries like Mabel’s Lobster Claw serving legendary lobster. But the true highlight when visiting Kennebunkport is a scenic drive on the backcountry roads searching for lobster traps piled high on Cape Porpoise, the small strip of sand at Goose Rocks Beach. Don’t miss one of New England’s best meals by visiting The White Barn with its delicious four-course menu or find respite in one of the charming hotels nearby.
Rockport is famous worldwide as the hometown of Andre the Seal, a harbor seal that spent winters at Boston’s New England Aquarium and summers here in the harbor. His story was the subject of a feature film, “Andre,” and a book, A Seal Called Andre. Take a selfie with Andre’s life-sized granite statue and then enjoy sandcastle building or a refreshing dip over at Front Beach. In the village itself, you’ll find colorful buildings that house a collection of boutiques, ice cream shops and outstanding eateries.
Chatham is home to a lighthouse and an attractive village green, complete with a gazebo that hosts summer concerts, surrounded by an excellent selection of shops and restaurants. There are several beautiful beaches but if you want to avoid the parking challenge and the crowds, hop on a motorboat shuttle that will take you to a deserted beach that’s part of Cape Cod National Seashore.
While it may be one of the larger destinations on this list, Newport is a beach town that offers something for everyone from its grand historic mansions to some of the world’s best sailing and the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Look forward to strolling the rugged shoreline along the Cliff Walk and spending time on Second Beach framed by Sachuest Bay.