There are so many beautiful coastal towns in New England that when it comes to picking the best, it’s a tricky job.
In this post, I have eased the decision with the help of fellow travel bloggers with insider experience of travelling to some of New England’s most beautiful coastal areas.
The result is a superb mixture of seaside towns offering visitors a chance to discover rich heritage sites, charming shopping streets, excellent fresh seafood restaurants, outdoor pursuits, wildlife opportunities, dreamy beaches and incredible coastal views.
Join me as we visit nine of New England’s best coastal destinations.
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Block Island, Rhode Island
Block Island is a small coastal island located off Rhode Island and easily reached by ferry. It’s known for its natural beauty, with stunning sandy beaches, historic lighthouses, and the famous Salt Lake in the middle of it all.
On our first trip to Block Island, we immediately understood why visitors loved it so much. In addition to being very beautiful, it has a local, relaxed vibe that instantly puts you at ease.
Touring the island by bike or moped is one of the best things to do on Block Island and a great way to acquaint yourself with this charming island. Stop at the most popular beaches like Crescent, Ballard’s, and Mansion Beach. Don’t miss the Mohegan Bluffs, with amazing views, and the Block Island National Wildlife Refuge, where you can see the protected wetlands and walk to the North Lighthouse.
When you’re ready for a delicious lunch, head over to The Oar. You can sit on the Adirondack chairs overlooking the Great Salt Pond while enjoying a lobster roll and their signature Mudslide drink.
Summer is the best time to visit when the weather is warm, and there are fun summer events like the Block Island Triathlon. If you want something more lively, check out the live music at Ballard’s. Walking around the quaint coastal town to check out the shops and have ice cream is also fun.
In addition to being one of the best islands dotting New England’s coast, Block Island is one of those places you will want to return to again and again!
Activities and Tours in Rhode Island
Watch Hill, Westerly, Rhode Island
With beautiful beaches, classic New England restaurants, and boutique shopping, Watch Hill in Westerly, Rhode Island, is the perfect New England coastal destination for an ocean getaway.
It is a peaceful, upscale community with soft sand beaches and historic sites like Watch Hill Lighthouse and The Ocean House, and it avoids many of the summer crowds that plague Rhode Island’s other beach spots.
Spend the day soaking up some sun on Watch Hill’s many beaches. Watch Hill has plenty of activities to do, such as fishing, kayaking, paddle boarding, clamming, or sailing. Visit nearby Napatree Point Beach and take a dip in the sea.
Shop for unique boutique or art gallery finds downtown, and finish off your evening with a delicious meal at one of Watch Hill’s seafood restaurants. I’d recommend Olympia Tea Room, a classic New England family-owned restaurant from the 1930s with a bistro-style menu and a “famous, not fancy” motto.
Watch Hill is also the summer residence of Taylor Swift. For visiting fans, the best view of her white mansion overlooking the water is from East Beach!
Boothbay Harbour, Maine
Boothbay Harbour is one of the most beautiful coastal towns to visit in New England. Sitting along Maine’s Midcoast region, this cute little town makes for a perfect weekend getaway when visiting the Pine Tree State and is surrounded by stunning scenery and coastal charm at every turn.
One of the best things to do in Boothbay Harbour is head out on the water. This coastal town offers so much in the way of fantastic boat tours, including lighthouse tours, wildlife cruises to see puffins and seals, and even scenic sailing tours. The puffin tour is unique and takes you to Eastern Egg Rock to see the local puffin colony.
For the picture-perfect Maine experience, book a traditional clam bake on Cabbage Island. This excursion departs from the docks in Boothbay and takes you to a gorgeous island where an expertly prepared clam and lobster bake dinner awaits!
Lastly, don’t leave without strolling through the charming downtown. The colourful storefronts offer the perfect Maine souvenirs to take home, and the pedestrian footbridge provides some of the best views of the harbour (this is best enjoyed with ice cream from Downeast Ice Cream Factory!). While shopping downtown, you’ll also stumble upon Sherman’s, Maine’s oldest bookstore.
For a delicious lunch or dinner, Shannon’s Unshelled is a must. This casual seafood joint serves traditional Maine-style lobster rolls and some of the freshest seafood in town.
The best time to visit Boothbay Harbour is in the summer, between late June and Labour Day. This is when you’ll experience the best weather, and all the businesses will be open for the season. If you prefer to avoid the crowds, early June and late September are also great times to visit.
The beautiful village of Lubec, Maine, is the most eastern coastal town in the United States. It is located along Maine’s Bold Coast on the Bay of Fundy, a vast body of water with the largest tides in the world. Lubec is known for iconic lighthouses, small-town charm, and amazing sunrises.
West Quoddy Head Lighthouse can’t be missed. It’s painted in unique red and white candy stripe colours. My favourite part is the walk across the ocean floor at low tide to get out to the lighthouse. There are breathtaking views of the coast here, and I’ve seen whales spouting and feeding in the seas around the lighthouse. Hikes on the trails through the fragrance fir forests have brought me to bogs with rare carnivorous plants.
Lubec is on the Canadian border, so take a day trip across the international bridge to Campobello Island to visit the Roosevelt Campobello International Park. Here you can visit Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt’s magnificent summer home. I’ve particularly enjoyed Eleanor’s Tea, a special event where you learn the story of Eleanor Roosevelt’s life while enjoying tea and homemade cookies.
Lubec is the perfect place to see working lobster boats and enjoy the freshest seafood. The fisherman’s platter at the historic Fisherman’s Wharf restaurant is amazingly fresh and served dockside with a view of the open ocean. We rent kayaks from the Wharf for sea kayaking on the Bold Coast. Just be aware of the huge tides here when taking a boat out.
My favourite time to visit the beautiful coastal town of Lubec is the summer when the lupines are in bloom, and the wild blueberries are ripe.
Activities and Tours in Maine
With its portside streets, rich maritime history, and bustling harbour location, it’s hard to beat Camden, Maine, for sheer New England charm, and when you think it can’t get more Americana, the layers reveal even more to enjoy.
Located in the heart of the midcoast, around a safe harbour location off Penobscot Bay, Camden, Maine, is one of the coastal towns in New England with plenty of things to do and sites to see.
Downtown, the multi-coloured building facades beckon you to come and spend the day strolling and browsing the many cafes, coffee shops, tourist shops, antique stores and galleries.
Then, walk a few more paces down to the harbourfront, where you can spend a few more hours exploring or relaxing on the lawn, watching the antique windjammer cruises sailing in and out. For a panoramic harbour view, drive uphill to Mount Battie, just a few minutes away.
Camden is a beautiful 3-season destination, although winter isn’t too harsh on this part of Maine’s coast and can offer excellent price breaks for accommodations that remain open year round.
Summer in midcoast Maine starts on the 4th of July, so before this, you’ll have warm days with cooler evenings. July and August bring warmer nights, with unbeatable culture and food festivals like the Maine Lobster Festival in nearby Rockland.
Oak Bluffs (Martha’s Vineyard), Massachusetts
Located just 11 km (seven miles) from the mainland of Cape Cod, the idyllic Martha’s Vineyard is the third-largest island on the East Coast. Here you will find the picturesque coastal town of Oak Bluffs that effortlessly combines historic charm with modern allure.
Known for its vibrant gingerbread cottages, pristine beaches, and lively downtown area, this holiday destination offers an enchanting blend of relaxation and excitement for visitors from near and far, captivating the senses and leaving you yearning for more.
With its rich cultural heritage, breathtaking natural beauty, and a plethora of recreational activities, Oak Bluffs stands out as a must-visit coastal location in New England. Head to Oak Bluffs Town Beach for calm, shallow water, Long Point Beach for great swimming or Katama Beach if you prefer a few waves.
Oak Bluffs has a wide range of eateries, from seafood shacks serving fresh catches from the Atlantic Ocean to upscale eateries offering delectable farm-to-table dishes; there’s something to satisfy every palate. Whether you’re a foodie seeking culinary adventures or simply looking to taste traditional American dishes at places like the Barn Bowl and Bistro, you will find a restaurant in Oak’s Bluff that you’ll love.
Book a room at the historic Summercamp Hotel for the perfect place to stay. It is located in a renovated 1879 property and offers superb oceanfront views.
Cape Cod Activities and Tours
Cape Cod is the premier destination for a beach vacation in New England, and its most picturesque town, Chatham, is one of the best places to stay. Between beautiful beaches, a charming downtown, excellent restaurants, and postcard-worthy scenery at every turn, it’ll be hard not to think about moving there during your visit.
One of the best things to do in Chatham is to walk along the gorgeous Lighthouse Beach. Backdropped by Chatham’s lighthouse, this beach offers incredible views of the sand dunes and ocean, and if you’re lucky, you could also spot seals swimming in the water during your visit!
If you’re looking for a definite seal spotting location, you’ll want to head over to the Chatham Fish Pier & Market, where there are always seals swimming right by the docked boats, hoping for snacks from the local fishermen. There’s even a superb viewing platform to enjoy the water views and watch the seals up close. The Fish Market is also the perfect place for amazingly fresh seafood, so this is a great spot to plan a casual lunch.
If you visit during July, Chatham is the best town on Cape Cod for hydrangea gardens. Walking around to see the fluffy blooms bursting with pinks and blues is such a treat to experience. Combine that with picture-perfect cottages and stunning oceanfront mansions, and it’ll feel like a dream.
For a memorable dinner out in Chatham, book a table at the Impudent Oyster, which serves elevated seafood dishes that are to die for.
One of New England’s most beautiful coastal towns is also one of the easiest to get to. Located just a 30-minute train journey from Boston, Salem, Massachusetts, is a must-visit!
Salem blew me away with its beauty. Winding cobbled streets and gorgeous historic buildings look straight out of a storybook, and the ocean is just a few minutes walk from the town centre.
Of course, Salem is most famous for its connections to the Salem Witch Trials, and most of the best things to do in town revolve around this. The Salem Witch House is visually fascinating, with its black wooden panels bringing all the spooky Halloween vibes. Head over to the House of the Seven Gables, and you’ll be met with yet another creepy-yet-gorgeous historic mansion.
The best time to visit Salem is in spring and summer when you can enjoy the town’s charm without the Halloween craziness. Autumn in New England is the most beautiful time of year to visit; however, you can barely move through the streets of Salem in late October and November due to all the Halloween tourism!
There are plenty of fabulous independent restaurants in Salem, but for some Italian food that’s the real deal, look no further than Bambolina. The pasta here is to die for!
Salem Activities and Tours
Located on the Long Island Sound, Mystic, Connecticut, offers a unique combination of history, stunning natural beauty and culture. It’s one of my favourite New England coastal towns for a girl’s getaway or a mother-daughter day trip.
The city’s main attraction is the Mystic Seaport Museum which features interactive exhibits, historic ships, and a variety of educational programs. The museum is a great place to learn about Mystic’s maritime past and gain an appreciation for the city’s cultural heritage.
Olde Mistick Village is another popular spot in Mystic. This outdoor shopping centre is home to unique stores and restaurants, perfect for exploring on a sunny day. For a break from shopping, visitors can head to one of the cafes or restaurants in the village.
The Mystic Aquarium is a world-class facility with touch tanks and interactive displays for visitors to explore. It also offers activities and educational programs for both children and adults. After exploring the aquarium, visitors can take a boat tour of the harbour.
Thanks to its location on the coast, you can explore several local beaches and hike through Bluff Point State Park in nearby Groton, Connecticut.
One of my favourite restaurants in the city is Red 36, which is right on the water with beautiful views and excellent seafood.
Mystic Activities and Tours
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