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When it comes to summer in New England (or any time of year, really) is there anything better than getting a little face time with the glorious Atlantic Ocean? Of course, just visiting cool beaches in the region is sure to be a good time, but an even better bet is to head to the most incredible beach towns New England has to offer, where you’ll find that salty sea breeze and lots of fun stuff to do on land, too!
There are several incredible beach towns in the Bay State and Nantucket is one that offers those quintessential New England vibes all across this beautiful island; pristinely preserved beaches and stunning scenery abound, like the ‘Sconset Bluff Walk that ventures along the gorgeous bluffs, providing fantastic views of the Atlantic and Sankaty Head Lighthouse.
There are plenty of fabulous beaches to choose from on island, depending on what you’re looking for, and oh, so many fun things to do outside of the sand and surf, too! There are wonderful restaurants like The Nautilus, downtown Nantucket’s spot for delicious delicacies like Grilled Wagyu Steak and savory Singapore Lobster Noodles.
The island of Nantucket has many lodging options, including lots of cool Airbnb and vacation rentals, but if you’re looking for a splurge-worthy resort option, check out the Nantucket Hotel and Resort, where you can enjoy all of the amenities (and romance!) your heart could desire in a spectacular location. Nantucket is a New England beach town that wouldn’t know how to disappoint if it tried!
Old Orchard Beach, ME
Seven miles of sandy beach await you in Old Orchard Beach (locally known as OOB)! This cute little beach town is known for its fabulous waterfront, which is so much more than just swimmable sandy beaches.
The Old Orchard Beach Pier is 500 feet of restaurants, bars, vendors, and live entertainment, with views that absolutely slay. You can enjoy your day at OOB in the sun and sand before heading on up to the pier to relax with a great meal and your favorite beverage.
OOB has more claim to fame than just your standard beachy fun, too, because it is also the home of Palace Playland, New England’s only seasonal beachfront amusement park, so you can have a blast playing games to your heart’s content.
There are many fun things to do in Old Orchard Beach, but when your day is done, consider a stay at Alouette Beach Resort, where you have a wide range of options between economy and luxury that can accommodate most all needs, including a need for incredible ocean views!
Madison is known as one of the cutest small towns in Connecticut, so this little New England beach town delivers big on quaint Connecticut charm. Home of the Hammonasset Beach State Park, one of the neatest state parks in CT and the longest shoreline beach park in the state, there’s plenty of space on the sand for your sandcastle construction and sunbathing needs!
If splashing in the Sound doesn’t sound like your thing, check out Meigs Point Nature Center, where you can enjoy educational activities like nature walks, touch-tank programs, and workshops about the wildlife and natural history of coastal Connecticut.
In Madison’s quietly quaint downtown you’ll find cute shops like R.J. Julia Booksellers, the independent bookstore and café/bistro that hosts literary events year-round, providing a warm and welcoming space to soak up all the small-town vibes.
As far as where to stay goes, Scranton Seahorse Inn is one of the dreamiest B&Bs in the state and is even walking distance to beaches and downtown. There are lots of fun little small-town things to do in this coastal cutie, and Madison has a lovely little restaurant scene, too.
This sweet little New Hampshire Seacoast town is home to beautiful beaches, seaside views, and some of the best seafood on the coast; does it get much better than that? Two of Rye’s most popular beaches attract visitors from all around for their sandy beaches, beach amenities, and spectacular scenery.
Wallis Sands State Beach has gentle surf and lovely views of the Isle of Shoals, and Jenness State Beach is typically a little more crowded, with Summer Sessions Surf Shop and Sandpiper Café conveniently located right across the street so you can get all your surfing and refueling needs taken care of with ease!
Rye is a tiny little town, but with attractions like Odiorne Point State Park (wait until you see the old WWII bunker remnants, so cool!) and the Seacoast Science Center with its interactive touch tanks, educational programs, and exhibits, there’s still fun to be had beyond the beach.
Another popular Rye activity is getting out on the water for a whale-watching excursion with Granite State Whale Watch or to catch a ferry out to Star Island (open June through September) to experience that Isle of Shoals serenity for yourself. Back on the mainland, swing by Ray’s Seafood Restaurant for some of the best seafood on the Seacoast with incredible ocean views before laying down your head for the night… you’ll be going to bed happy!
Of course, good ol’ Gansett had to make the list of best beach towns in New England with its popular beaches and picturesque views! Narragansett has several beautiful beaches that are popular for swimming, surfing, and sunbathing, and all offer gorgeous ocean sights, with Narragansett Beach being one of the most popular beaches in the state, known in part for its fantastic views of The Towers, the historical icon/event venue/preserved remains of the 1886 Narragansett Pier Casino, and Point Judith Lighthouse, one of the loveliest lighthouses in Rhode Island. It is also considered one of the most beautiful places in the Ocean State.
Head to the Narragansett Pier to check out the cute little shops like the Shell Boutique, where you’ll find all kinds of unique sea-themed goodies from the practical, like paper towel holders, to the indulgent, like turtle-shaped sparkling gem and glass jewelry. You’ll also find cool community events like Summer Concerts at the Gazebo and live music at the Pier.
There are plenty of options for where to stay and where to eat in Narragansett, but for a romantic getaway vibe with a boutique hotel experience, check out The Break Hotel and their on-site restaurant Chair 5; they have rooftop dining with ocean views, just saying!
One of the most colorful and vibrant communities on the Cape, Provincetown is the beach town that seems to never really slow down! Not only does Provincetown have gorgeous beaches that draw visitors in from near and far, but this beautiful beach town is also known for its progressively inclusive LGBTQ+ friendly culture and fantastic art scene.
Most everywhere in P-Town proudly displays rainbow flags and stickers, from the cool little shops and art galleries that line Commercial Street to the large collection of Cape-Codder art found in the Provincetown Art Association and Museum, and most everywhere else in this progressive spot.
Provincetown is also home to stunning natural scenery, like the Provincetown Dunes, one of the most beautiful places in Massachusetts. Biking is a popular activity in P-Town, with excellent trails like Province Lands Bike Trail that offer views of cranberry bogs, the sand dunes, and a beech forest.
There’s whale-watching, museums, community events and so many other terrific things to do in Provincetown, but once you’ve worked up your appetite, consider stopping by Zagat Rated Mews Restaurant & Café, where you’ll find fabulous food and beautiful beach views. Provincetown also has some great places to stay, including some excellent Airbnb options, with several offering incredible ocean views!
One of the cutest small towns in Maine, period, York is comprised of York Village, York Harbor, York Beach, and Cape Neddick, referred to collectively as “The Yorks,” with each offering its own distinct vibe for whatever you’re looking for in your New England beach town getaway! Obviously, there’s York Beach, with Long Sands Beach and Short Sands Beach being known for their sumptuously soft sand underfoot and incredible views; really, it’s one of the best places to catch the sunrise! You can also see the Nubble Lighthouse on Cape Neddick from Short Sands Beach if you’re looking for those lovely lighthouse views.
York Village is the historical section where gems like the Old Gaol, Maine’s first prison built in 1656, can be found. York Harbor is home to the scenic Cliff Walk and the Wiggly Bridge (yup, just how it sounds!) and several great places to stay, including the York Harbor Inn, which makes for a stay with that perfect balance of comfort and luxury.
Plus, major bonus, just steps away is 1637 Restaurant, with divinely delicious fresh-caught seafood and other decadent menu options. There are so many fun things to see and do in York, making this beach town one of the best places to visit in all of Vacationland.
Old Saybrook, CT
When you’re looking for a beach town that is less go-go-go and more “rest and relax a bit,” then Old Saybrook might be just what you’re looking for! With Harvey’s Beach being one of the most beautiful beaches in Connecticut, there is plenty to find here in the way of wonderful waterfront views; you can even work on your short game with Saybrook Point Mini-Golf, where they invite you to “Putt a Round by the Sound” and enjoy that sweet sea breeze while you play.
This super cute small beach town offers laid-back activities like antique shopping (you never know what kind of cool vintage treasures you might find) and taking in a show at the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center, lovingly referred to as “The Kate,” where you can catch all kinds of different performances, from dance to music to even magic.
Spend a little time at 30 Mile Brewing Co sampling some of the flavors of shoreline Connecticut before turning in for the day… if you’re looking for a splurge-worthy spot to stay, consider staying at Saybrook Point Resort & Marina; on-site full-service spa service, private balconies, stellar views of the Sound, and a killer on-site restaurant await you. After a stay like that, how could you possibly not feel rested and revitalized from your seaside vacation?
A beautiful beach town that has that famously sturdy Maine energy mixed in with a little bit of the posh, Kennebunkport has been the summer home of the Bush family for decades now; upon visiting there for yourself, you’ll quickly understand why. Soft sand beaches are a major draw here, and Goose Rocks Beach is one of the most popular for tourists and residents alike, with its white sand beach being protected by an offshore barrier reef, protecting swimmers from being battered from some of the bigger ocean waves. Stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, and canoeing are always a good time off of Kennebunkport’s shores!
There are plenty of other cool things to do in Kennebunkport, like perusing the local art galleries and cute shops in Dock Square, exploring quaint museums like the Seashore Trolley Museum, or even just driving by the Wedding Cake House, the ornate and whimsical historic home that really does resemble an old wedding cake!
Kennebunkport also has so many great places to eat and stay, but for a fun, kinda off-the-grid experience, consider glamping at Sandy Pines Campground where camping is a little more comfortable and amenity-filled than the average pitch a tent/sleep on the ground camping experience goes!
Kennebunkport is also the place to be if you’re looking for quintessentially New England Christmas celebrations when the entire town gives off major Hallmark Movie vibes, so if you can handle the cold, consider Kennebunkport for your holiday festivities!
Block Island, RI
While technically this beach town is called New Shoreham, the most popular way to refer to this gorgeous place is as Block Island. Beautiful Block Island is technically open year-round (with limited amenities during the colder months), but the best time of year to visit Block Island is during the warmer months when you can get outside and explore this fantastic place in all its glory! Of course, there are the beaches of Block Island, which are hard to beat both in Rhode Island and beyond.
Beyond just beaches, however, Block Island is also home to the gorgeous North Light, the granite and iron lighthouse that sits among the grassy dunes on the northern tip of the island, and the Southeast Light at the southern end of the island, dramatically perched atop the spectacular Mohegan Bluffs, one of the most impressive natural sights in the state (and included in this ultimate New England bucket list!)
There are so many cool things to do and wonderful places to stay on island, but if you’re looking for the ultimate in romantic settings, check out The Atlantic Inn, situated on a hilltop overlooking the town. Plus, their on-site restaurant, Restaurant 1879 offers fine dining with a fantastic view, which is hard to beat, isn’t it?
Of course it’s hard to go wrong when visiting any beach town on Cape Cod, but Wellfleet is an absolute gem of the cape with its fantastic beaches, like Marconi Beach, a favorite among residents and tourists alike on the beautiful Cape Cod National Seashore, featuring those quintessential New England beach views.
This is also the home to one of Cape Cod’s best hikes along the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail, where walking along the boardwalk into this lushly forested space just steps off of the sand dunes is often described as an ethereal experience.
Wellfleet also has kettle ponds that serve as freshwater beaches, but it’s kind of a “you have to know someone” type of thing as access is closely guarded by locals, unless you can make friends with a townie willing to share! Wellfleet has plenty of great things to do, like visiting the Wellfleet Drive-In Theatre or taking a Sunset Sail out at sea.
There are also plenty of wonderful Wellfleet restaurants to check out, but one fun option is the Wellfleet Bookstore & Restaurant where you can enjoy spectacular seafood before hunting through the second-hand bookstore for your new favorite book. As for where to stay, you might look into Event’tide Resort Motel and Cottages, the winner of “Best Motel on Outer Cape Cod” for 22 years and running! Plus, a stay at an Event’tide cottage can put you right beside your favorite beach!
When the town motto is “Beautiful Place by the Sea,” you can bet it’s going to be high on the list of beautiful beach towns in New England! Known for its soft white sand beaches and cute little Main Street, Ogunquit is a must-visit spot in Maine. Ogunquit Beach has excellent beach amenities including nearby restaurants and gift shops, and Footbridge Beach is a quaint spot with a picturesque wooden bridge that is a perfect backdrop for vacation photos!
Ogunquit is a gorgeous community with a lot of visual appeal, whether you’re shopping at Perkins Cove, setting sail on the ocean, or riding the Ogunquit Trolley around town. There are so many cute little shops in Ogunquit, like On the Main, a gift shop with local art and a diverse assortment of both handcrafted and commercially manufactured beach-themed goods so you can pick out the perfect souvenir from your beach town getaway.
Ogunquit has so many neat things to do, including taking in a show at the darling Ogunquit Playhouse. There are lots of great options for where to stay and what to eat while in Ogunquit, but The Front Porch is hard to beat, with a dining room, bar and lounge, and sing-along piano bar; not only can you enjoy some of the best flavors of the coast, but you can have a fabulous time doing it, too!
This little Seacoast beach town is home to Hampton Beach, the biggest and most popular beach in the state, and is even considered one of the most beautiful places in all of New Hampshire. The boardwalk may not be wooden like so many often are, but boy does it have a lot going on!
You’ll find all the beach amenities you could possibly need and then some, with snack bars, gift shops, restaurants, beachfront hotels, and arcades easily accessible during your day at the beach. There are also lots of great events in Hampton Beach, like regular fireworks shows, festivals, and even an annual sand sculpture contest that results in some pretty impressive sand art!
More than just the beach, Hampton also has cool things to do like visiting the Oceanarium, where you can explore marine wildlife with hands-on activities like touch tanks, or the air above in a 1930 open-air biplane at Hampton Airfield! You can even relax and have a little lunch at The Airport Café after your flight or head to Smuttynose Brewing Company at historic Towle Farm for a few brews and a bite to eat in a gorgeous location, with 17 acres to explore.
You have several choices for where to lay down your head at night, with a few being oceanfront; wherever you stay, Hampton is a beach town vacation that will put you to sleep with a smile on your face.
This seaside city is known both for its history of Gilded Age grandeur and its spectacular scenery that still exists today. Easton’s Beach, or “First Beach” as it is most commonly known in Newport, is beloved for its soft sand, gentle waves, and fabulous views. Newport is a beach town that is gifted in the amazing views department, with a Cliff Walk that offers dramatic up close and personal views of both the grand old Newport mansions and the incredible Atlantic Ocean. Newport also has a fabulous restaurant scene!
There are lots of fun things to do in Newport, but the absolute must-do on any Newport itinerary is visiting the glorious Newport mansions! You can just peek from the outside if you’re pressed for time, but touring these behemoth symbols of affluence and grandeur of the Gilded Age is the best way to see the scope of elegance, luxury, and mega-wealth that these giant homes were once a testament to.
If you can plan your visit for Christmas, you’re in for even more of a treat as the Newport mansions at Christmas are a positively lavish experience. Newport is also the perfect setting for a romantic Rhode Island getaway, with hotels like Castle Hill Inn that offer wonderful ocean views and world-class amenities like onsite spa services. With a stay at a place like Castle Hill Inn, you’ll feel like you’re getting a little taste of that Gilded Age opulence for yourself!
Bar Harbor, ME and Acadia National Park on Mt Desert Island
There’s just no two ways about it, Bar Harbor and Acadia both deliver big when it comes to great beach town sights and things to do! Beautiful beaches abound to enjoy those gorgeous ocean views, and Sand Beach and Echo Lake Beach are both popular summer swimming spots in Acadia National Park.
You can follow this ready-made 3-day itinerary for Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park or chart your own course, but there is so much to see and do at Acadia that this is a beach town getaway that can keep you on the move trying to see and do it all! Whether you’re into hiking and camping or more interested in finding a cute little cabin to kick back in, you’ll find what you’re looking for on Mt Desert Island.
When it comes to pristine beaches and spectacular scenic vistas to enjoy, Westerly wins the day! With beautiful beaches (although some don’t allow public parking and require a little more advance planning to get to) for swimming, lounging, and listening to the waves crash, and a lovely downtown with great places to eat, shop, and explore, Westerly is the perfect Rhode Island summer destination. Oh, and it also happens to be home to the village of Watch Hill, where Taylor Swift keeps her summer home!
There are lots of things to do in Westerly, including visiting the gorgeous Watch Hill Lighthouse, where you can ooh and ahh over both the pretty lighthouse and the spectacular views of the ocean beyond. Westerly is also one of those places that feels like it’s just made for romance, so if you’re looking to take your favorite person on a romantic getaway, look into staying at The Villa, a classic Mediterranean style B&B that offers tranquility and peace for any couple looking for a little alone time.
If it’s more pampering vibes you’re in the mood for, check out Ocean House in Watch Hill, which is one of the best spa getaways in New England. Regardless of where you stay, Westerly offers a beach town experience that won’t soon be forgotten.
Oak Bluffs, MA
One of the most charming small towns in New England, Oak Bluffs is one of the most visually distinctive beach towns on Martha’s Vineyard, with its whimsically fanciful gingerbread cottages at the Oak Bluffs Campground (these are available to rent, but come at a hefty price: you are renting a national historic landmark!) and beautifully preserved old works of art like the Flying Horses Carousel, built in 1876 and still functional to this day. You’ll even find some somewhat quirky fun at the Island Alpaca Company, a working alpaca farm and shop where you can find all kinds of alpaca-related goodies… including the alpacas!
Oak Bluffs beaches are some of the most popular beaches on Martha’s Vineyard, with sandy beaches and spectacular ocean views attracting swimmers, sunbathers, and sandcastle builders alike to come enjoy the sights and sounds of the sea.
Of course, you’ll also find some excellent restaurants on this beautiful island, as well as some very cool places to stay; Summercamp is a boutique hotel with an aesthetic that is lighthearted and breezy, offering fun add-on activities like a Glow Paddle Tour, which is a nighttime group paddleboarding tour with a glowing paddleboard. It’s the fun little extras like that that can really make the moment, right?
New London, CT
New London is the home of Ocean Beach Park, consistently voted one of the best beaches in Connecticut and a fabulously fun getaway for anyone craving those boardwalk beach town vibes! Splash around in the ocean or wiggle your toes in the soft, white sand of the beach before heading up to walk the wooden boardwalk that spans about a half-mile along the sand.
Ocean Beach Park also has other fun things to see and do like an arcade, a mini-golf course, rides, food stands, shopping, and there’s even an Olympic-sized pool if you’re not into those salt-water vibes!
New London’s historic waterfront district offers a little something for everyone, with shops, restaurants, art galleries, and more. Check out the Lyman Allyn Art Museum or the Garde Arts Center when you’re in need of a little arts and culture, and the Custom House Maritime Museum, the Nathaniel Hempsted House, or the Nathan Hale Schoolhouse when you’re looking for a little historical appreciation.
Whatever beach towns you end up visiting, it will be hard to have anything other than a good time exploring some of the most fun and fabulous beach town spots in New England!
Amy is the founder of New England with love. A proud Vermonter, she hopes to share her love of New England and help you find the best adventures in the region. Amy is also blogger/founder at Two Drifters, where she writes alongside her husband about romantic and couples travel, relationships, honeymoons, and more. When not working on websites, Amy is probably reading, cuddling with her husband and cats, & drinking a maple latte.