So, my 3-year anniversary is coming up, and this year Mike and I want to do something special! We always go to dinner, but I think it’s time we get out of the state (not that there isn’t plenty to do in New York- but I’m sure you guys will be able to read all about that on the blog later)!
Having spent my childhood in New England, I have a particular fondness for the coastal towns of Maine, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, but I also know that the “East Coast” covers a much larger swath of states than that.
I thought it could be fun (and great for my vacation research) to pull together a list of beach-y towns on the East Coast, perfect for a romantic weekend getaway.
1. Bethany Beach, Delaware
A glittering little gem of a town along the Delaware Coastline, Bethany Beach has been a summer spot for families and couples alike for decades. From renting a bike at The Bicycle Connection and cruising the boardwalk and the various shops, to embarking on a magical bayside cruise at sunset through Bay Back Tours, there’s plenty of romantic fun to be had! For dinner, hit up Cottage Cafe for classic seafood dishes and drink specials that won’t break the bank.
2. Ogunquit, Maine
With a 3.5 mile stretch of pristine beach, peppered with gems like Marginal Way, a picturesque trail walk winding its way along the shoreline, the quintessential working harbor of Perkin’s Cove, and the bustling shops on Shore Road- it’s no wonder this quiet little place is widely considered to be the best beach town in New England.
For all the affordability in the scenic attractions and local dining experience, Ogunquit’s hotels book up, fast- you’d even be hard-pressed to find a decent Airbnb under $140 (trust me, I looked). Definitely splurge on the accommodations if you can- this town is one of the highest on my list, and I’m sure if it ends up being the go-to, it will be so worth it!
3. Emerald Isle, North Carolina
As we make our first virtual foray into the South’s coastal offerings, I have to say- WOW! Considered the “Gateway to the Crystal Coasts”, Emerald Isle has had a reputation for being a family vacation spot since the community was developed in the 1950s. Small-town charm and hospitality draw you in, but the sheer bang for your buck is what keeps you coming back.
With budget hotels as low as $90 a night, and plenty of affordable rentals listed on Airbnb (I particularly love this one), there’s definitely room to stay and play on a budget.
4. Bar Harbor, Maine
Aaaaand, just like that, we’re back to Maine again (I can’t help it, I have a soft spot for all things Maine-y). Another quintessential New England treasure, Bar Harbor is a wallet-friendly rugged outpost for the active & adventurous. Situated firmly between the Atlantic Ocean and Acadia National Park, there is plenty of free and low-cost outdoor fun to be had (and the lobster tail at Galyn’s doesn’t look half bad either)!
5. Chincoteague Island, Virginia
The quieter, less congested cousin of Virginia Beach, Chincoteague Island is home, like so many of the other spots on this list, to stunning beaches and affordable vacation villas, but what I think is special about the island in particular is this- it serves as a gateway to the Chincoteague Wildlife Refuge (located on neighboring Assateague Island), which is home to…. WILD PONIES!! You can even go on “Pony-Watching Boat Tours”. Yes, I also fell on the floor when I read that. I may have to go here just for the pony tours. Well, the cheap food and the beach, but mostly for the ponies. (I die, I die) 😉
6. Westmore, Vermont
If you’re into nude beaches, this is the place to go! (I’m joking, but not about the nude beach, because apparently there really is one along the picturesque shores of Lake Willoughby, which is pictured above, sans nude people of course).
Westmore’s has been a well-kept secret since the late 1800s, and according to Thrillist, Robert Frost was a fan of spending his off time here. With an average hotel price of $124, and many rentals clocking in way lower than that, it’s safe to say that you’ll have plenty of money left over to make the most of your trip, even if you don’t decide to get naked.
7. Cumberland Island, Georgia
Another beachfront getaway complete with cute (but, important to note, feral) horses, Cumberland Island is a true budget getaway. With nearly 10,000 acres of federally preserved land, there’s not a lot here- providing the perfect environment for backpacking, if you don’t mind sleeping a little rough. Just remember, there isn’t a single restaurant on the island, so plan accordingly. Make sure to rent a bicycle from the Sea Camp Dock in order to explore the Dungeness Ruins, the eerie skeleton of a once-grand mansion built by the brother of Andrew Carnegie.
8. Brewster, Massachussetts
Oh, this one reminds me so much of my childhood! A charming little town in Cape Cod, Brewster is everything you’d want in a Massachusetts beach, from the sand, to the seaweed, to the stiff, tall grasses. There’s plenty to see and do- from Crosby Landing (pictured above) and Breakwater Beach, to the Cape Cod Rail Trail and the Old Higgins Farm- check out that windmill!
Round out your trip with an exquisite lobster roll from Cobie’s Clam Shack– they must know a thing or two after 71 years in business- and make sure to check out some of the neighboring Cape Cod attractions. Town-hopping in this part of Massachusetts is an inexpensive way to be transported off on the perfect New England getaway.
9. Cape May, New Jersey
Classified as “the oldest seaside resort in the country” by TripAdvisor, Cape May is known for its grand Victorian architecture and unassuming coastal elegance that is reflected in every single solitary tourist that eagerly floods (get it) its shores come peak season. And with budget hotels starting at just $90 a night, there’s more than enough reason to choose it as your next destination.
Locals recommend hitting up Cape May City Beach and the Cape May Lighthouse, and visiting historic landmarks like the Emlen Physick Estate. There’s plenty of nature-y stuff to do also, like the Garrett Family Preserve, and also an Alpaca Farm (if you’re into that sort of thing) 🙂
10. Rye, New Hampshire
The last spot on my list belongs to this quiet beachfront town, and rightfully so. Only an hour away from the frenetic streets of Boston, this place seems worlds away. With pleasant family neighborhoods and a camera-ready view of the Atlantic, it’s as perfect a spot as any to rent a cottage and stay awhile. And while there certainly is an air of wealth amongst some of the beachfront mansions, there’s plenty of fun in the sun to go around for us mere mortals.
I hope this post gave you as much inspo as it did me- maybe I did too good of a job, because now I’m conflicted all over again! I can’t wait to show you guys what we decide to do, but with so many gorgeous, affordable options, we really can’t go wrong!
Don’t see your fave town on this list? What are some other well-kept East Coast vacation secrets? Drop me a line below or shoot me a message!
Keep it real,